This week has been one of old friends. Vivian and I have been in South Dakota all week, first staying in Brookings and visiting with a friend of hers from their junior high school years. Over the intervening years, Vivian has kept in touch with her, and both she and her husband have remained our good friends.
I, myself, have not been so faithful to my past friends as has Vivian, but I think that there may still be hope even for me. After Brookings, we drove down past Sioux Falls to the little community of Springfield. On a ranch near that town lives a man with whom I have had far more adventures in the past than any other friend (except, of course, with my life friend and companion, Vivian). There, Vivian and I looked up this best mate of mine from times past, and with whom I served in the Peace Corps in the beautiful, intriguing, confusing, frustrating, peaceful and chaotic country of India.
Together Jim and I tried to learn the mystifying language of the Punjab with its four pronunciations for the letter “d” and the letter “t” (and some others as well). I can still remember sitting in language class, and having just attempted to say the word “dog” for instance (if I may transliterate and put in English for the sake of clarity).
The teacher barked at me, “It’s not dog, but dog!” (at least that is the way it sounded to me).
I held my mouth and tongue a little differently and tried again. “Dog,” I said.
“Not dog – dog!”
Usually this went on a few times until I either happened to get it right or until he just got frustrated with me and moved on to the next student. I never knew which of these it was, but either one was acceptable to me; as long as he left me alone.
With Jim I tried to introduce new innovations and farming methods to the Punjabi farmers, Jim being much more successful in this than I was.
The most significant thing that I did with Jim, however, was to take multiple trips up to the refreshing and imposing Himalayan Mountains, visiting the hill stations of Simla (They now call it Shimla), Mussoorie, Dharamshala (the “Dh” is pronounced like one of the four “d’s”), and others. Jim and I walked the trails of the mountains, not scaling the peaks, but climbing the river valleys next to the cascading waters. And we rode the mountain trains (see the post, The Cog Train, in the archives of this blog).
It was great to catch up with Jim, to meet his wife and to learn of his family. It had been forty years since we had seen one another.
June 27 is my wife’s birthday, so for that special day I took her to Vivian, South Dakota. I thought that this was very significant and quite a meaningful gesture, and was glad that she had not been named Paris.
Later on that same day, we arrived in Union Center. Union Center is a small town on the prairies of South Dakota and so named because the Farmer’s Union Co-op was centered here. These South Dakotans are a commonsensical lot. This was the place of some of Vivian’s happiest memories, and the people of this place have truly been our close friends for many years. We are here until Sunday afternoon. In Sunday School on that day, we will tell of our work of the past nineteen years in Latin America and also in the Pacific. I will also be speaking in church, and Vivian and her friends from way back have a special musical number. Then, after church: potluck.
We have already done a lot of visiting, and I did not know that just talking could add so much to one’s waistline. I may have to go buy some new pants after the potluck because I plan on visiting a lot. Oh, and the arm? It's doing much better.