Wednesday, 3rd of January, 2007
As our flight was at 10:00 A.M. from Frankfurt Airport, and Steve McDonald had warned us to be there at least 3 hours in advance, we had ordered a taxi to Eva’s and Rafael’s flat at 6:00 a. m. – and Crystal also wisely spent the night in Mannheim, so we’d take this journey together from the beginning.
At Mannheim Station Rafael shot the first pictures of us, but either he or the camera was still asleep, for it somehow didn’t work (we suspect it was the camera. :-) ) It worked fine at the airport, where we arrived before seven – but the first motif was not really delightful: the exceedingly long queue in front of the Lufthansa counter desks. After we finally had passed the first security check, where an overworked lady wanted to know our destination, we almost failed to pass the second – it took a long time for the security officers to convince themselves that Eva’s guitar was NOT made of explosives, and that the weird metal plates in her suitcase (the metallophone) were NOT dangerous.... But after that, it turned out that in fact Rafael was the most suspicious person in our group – a Canadian living in Germany wanting to fly to the U.S. WITHOUT a machine-readable passport, let alone a visa – what a shock! Not that the very kind lady at the desk didn’t want him to fly, but there were new regulations, you know, and in a short while there would be even newer regulations, and she was not sure if the regulations she was thinking of were still or again in effect, or if there were still others no one had heard about yet, but which might well be in use right now.... Finally she and the Border Police agreed that at least the Germans would let him pass – Heaven knows what would happen in the U.S.; we desperately hoped that it would not be Gandalf guarding the border. The other seven or so security checks went rather smoothly, if one doesn’t count that we all had to take our shoes off several times, and Rafael’s orange juice was detected only in the second X-ray machine, which did not exactly convince us of the effectiveness of these terror-proof security measures...
At last we climbed down the stairs – to a bus (!) marked in red letters: ATLANTA. LAST BUS. We were somewhat relieved seeing that there was also a plane, to which the bus carried us.
The flight was mostly boring. We didn’t even have seats next to each other, but were distributed all over the plane. And the movies were flat and predictable, the food wasn’t much better... The only positive thing was that Crystal’s fear of flying was mitigated by the fact that the young woman sitting next to her was so afraid she was deadly white and sat with her head in her hands almost all the time. But, alas, there was nothing we could have done for her.
As the flight came to a close, we had the impression that the information about altitude, speed, temperature and distance to destination was shown less and less in European measures. We let go of meters, Celsius and km/h and let the Blue Ridge Mountains below us enter our minds.
At Atlanta Airport we had to pass another security check, of which we had the impression that the staff was specially trained not to laugh or smile under any circumstances. Hopefully the one processing Crystal was not fired afterwards, for we saw him smile. Repeatedly. But we're not telling anyone his name. Never. And then Rafael and Crystal could at last join Eva, who had been registered first and then chased out of the registration area in case she was a foreign terrorist wanting to help other foreign terrorists getting into Atlanta by distracting the unsmiling officers while their accomplices slipped through between the counters....
And then the first thing we saw stepping out of the shuttle train was a sign marked „GaFilk“ and a man carrying it, and that was Bill Sutton bedlamhouse
. Although we hadn’t really met him before, it was all hugs and cheers, and from the first moment we felt as if we’d known each other a long time... but that’s how filkers are, isn't it? We gathered our luggage and happily found our guitars still intact at first glance. Then we went to the car park – and had the unfailing impression we were in America. In Europe they never cease to tell you „everything’s bigger there“. But now we saw it WAS bigger. Every car was about the size of two German cars. Surely the car park was twice the size of one in Germany, too. Or more. For in Germany, there is never enough parking space.
Bill drove us to his house in the northern part of Atlanta. On the way he showed us the most important landmark there, in case we should ever get lost. It is called Big Chicken, and it IS a big chicken. With eyes and a beak. In D&D terms, it’s at least Huge. And it had swallowed people, or at least there were some in it. But they were eating, too, so it could not have been too harmful to them.
So. Bill’s house. And Brenda’s ladyat, too, but she wasn’t home yet. And some time later Bill had to leave again, too. But the dogs were home, and they also liked us from the beginning. We didn’t ask them if they were filkers, though. We only learned their names, which are Jack, Lucy and Neelix. There was also a cat, but he was no filker, for sure. The most important room in Bill's and Brenda's house is the kitchen. And the most important beverage is tea. We were just fine with both of these facts, even if the other rooms were very comfortable as well. But after all, none of this (except for the tea) is very important anymore, for Bill and Brenda will be moving soon, and from what we’ve learned about their new house, they will have even more rooms – hopefully, also a few kitchens.
The remainder of the day (or night, according to our jetlag) we spent watching TV and marveling at the clever tricks American TVs can do. And at the clever tricks American fridges can do. And American kitchen waste disposals. And then we went to bed.
Thursday, 4th of January, 2007
As much as we would have liked to sleep in, our inner clocks were still on CET, so we climbed out of our beds at seven a. m. after having lain awake for some time in the darkness, playing with the Suttons' cat (who seems to be an early riser, too). Bill and Brenda got up a little later; Brenda unfortunately had just caught a bad cold – on the day before the con! Terrible timing! The two of us likewise had had sore throats and some sniffles for at least a week and were on heavy dosages of Vitamin C.
Brenda made a delicious breakfast: fried eggs over easy and ham, which reminded us once more we had indeed arrived in America (most Germans don't eat savoury stuff for breakfast). Bill received a phone call telling him
that a local TV station would be present at the Con on Saturday – we all were very excited! The plans for the day kept changing constantly, since some of the incoming flights were delayed, but in the end we helped to load Bill's minivan with his extensive sound equipment, and sent Rafael along to help him unload in the Hotel while we stayed behind (no more room in the car!). Since the weather was warm and sunny, we went for a walk, wearing T-shirts – in January! We started to suspect that we might have brought along the wrong set of clothes.... We took some pictures of the surroundings; at one point a Coca-Cola truck driver even staged a photo for us, briefly stopping his vehicle and leaning out of the window, grinning.
When we came back ninety minutes later, we made some tea and had a bit of Brenda's fantastic new year's salmon, tuned our guitars for the hundredth time and had a quick rehearsal – though only a makeshift one, since we didn't want to take all our instruments out of the suitcases. In the early afternoon hours, Bill picked us up and drove us to the hotel, where we unloaded some more sound equipment and brought it to the function room, while he rushed off to pick up Allison and Debbie from the airport. Meanwhile, the two of us unpacked our luggage, checked all our instruments for damage (fortunately, there was none) and hunted down all the parts of Eva's metallophone, which had fallen apart and mixed with the rest of the contents of her suitcase. Then the phone rang – and we couldn’t help laughing when Rafael picked up the phone and said, in a very serious, businesslike voice: „Summer and Fall.“
It was UT inviting us over to their room – we immensely enjoyed seeing the three of them again! We had first met them when they were guests at FilkContinental 2005, had liked them at once and kept in touch ever since via email; Eva and Rafael had also met them once more for a nice Italian dinner when they went over to Canada to get married in April 2006. We had of course not forgotten about their fondness for chocolate, so we had brought along quite a few bars, plus three boxes of marzipan (as educational material, since one of our discussions via mail had revealed that they didn't know a whole lot about that) as well as three Summer & Fall T-shirts, which they had apparently liked when they saw them in 2005, and the music of our version of "Starsoul" which we were going to sing in our concert. We were very happy that they enjoyed the gifts, and talked happily for some time, until we heard that Myra needed help unloading her car. After carrying some more boxes and bags to the function room, the three of us retreated to our room for a short nap but came back to the function room at 7 pm to help with putting together the name tags and songbooks. The tags didn't take very long to make, but there was only one binding machine for the songbooks, so we used it mainly to punch holes in the paper while binding manually, which took most of the evening. But we had a lot of fun working, eating chunks of pizza in between and listening to T.J.'s and Linda's spontaneous rehearsal, getting to know some of the ConCom-members, guests and con participants, though we still got all the names mixed up. We would have loved to stay up much later, but were bone-tired at 11 pm and decided to go to bed.
Friday, 5th of January, 2007
The first thing we found in the lobby this morning was a German. A filker, actually. His name was Franklin, and he confessed to being a fan of Summer & Fall – he even had a custom-made T-shirt to flatter us. We decided to take him along for breakfast. This was a good decision (he is a very entertaining person). The Waffle House wasn’t too bad, either: they had coffee enough for Crystal and more than enough to eat for us all. So, mercifully, no one needed to eat the grits. Later we learned that this particular Waffle House was quite unusual, being clean, which is allegedly not true for all Waffle Houses.
After breakfast we bougt some juice and tea for our hotel room and went home across the cemetery. That’s quite a nice walk, even in a slight rain. And we were grateful for the bit of workout.
In the hotel we tried to help with various preparations for the evening. We ended up just talking and looking around – but talk with Michael Liebman was highly informative, talk with the little boy at the registration was cheerful, and the locations were neat-looking and spacious, if not as stylish as Freusburg castle hall.... This was the time, I think, when a very kindly-looking man gave a red badge to both of us. He told us the red color was because we, as Interfilk guests, were „expendable“, like redshirts. We liked the badge, and him.
Now we know who he was, and the badge is very dear to us.
We met a few people we already knew – Dave and Judith Hayman, who had been to FilkContinental before, and we were very happy to see this rather calm, very amiable couple again! There was also Kathleen Sloan, this lively, witty lady with the 'other' Rafael around her neck, which she had already introduced to us at FilkContinental. Another guy talking to us was Dave Weingart, whom Eva had met some years ago at the British Filk Convention, and Crystal via LJ.
Eva was also happy to meet her colleague Terence, with whom she talked shop for a little while.
And there were more, and more, and more...We were delighted so many people had some (or, indeed, quite a bit of) German! There were even some who had been living in Germany, and it was fun sharing or stirring up their memories. The ‚other‘ Crystal even found out that she had been living in a village next to the one Franklin comes from!...
At 2 p. m. was our rehearsal with Urban Tapestry! Again they hosted us in their room – and presented us with chocolate from Canada (that is, the chocolate was Swiss, but the label was Canadian, with a huge maple leaf and a beautiful wilderness landscape on it, so there was a lot of Canada within this present!!!) We were very curious how our international project would work – and totally surprised it went so well from the beginning! It took a few tries to become accustomed to the fact we were now singing and playing together with actual people and not just voices in the loudspeaker (it’s way more fun singing together with Debbie, Jodi and Allison than with two PC speakers!!!) – but then, we decided it was enough. You could suspect Debbie just wanted us to go on rehearsing to be able to shoot pictures of all of us in various positions!
Surprisingly we were now hungry again – we wouldn’t have expected that after THAT breakfast! So we gathered in the lobby and went to the Mexican restaurant: UT, S&F, Rafael, Franklin, Yooh and two people we had just met for the first time: Rand and Erin. The first thing we learned of Rand was that he liked his name, because 'Rand Bellavia' sounds like a protagonist’s name in a SciFi novel. Only later we found out that he is one half (ventricle or whatever) of Ookla the Mok! Which is a circumstantial evidence for our ignorance of international filk. And one of the reasons for our wishful thinking about having Ookla the Mok as guests to FilkContinental one day. One other reason for that was that Rand seemed to be curious about Germany. It is uncertain whether he would like it. There are no monkeys there. And no superheroes. Or are there? Huh? – The very best thing was that here Debbie got her big surprise, of which she ohiblather and Allison allisona already gave detailed accounts in their Con reports.
Debbie was really 'off the socks', as we say in Germany, and couldn’t stop laughing, and this got us into an even better mood!
Back in the hotel, we Germans went for a little nap. And then the Opening Ceremony started! It was a colourful, cheery thing – in some ways very different from the FilkContinental opening (the solemnity of the toasts, the formal attire of almost everyone...), but very similar in others: the feeling of cordiality and friendship, the slight weirdness of the whole crowd (there was this snake, brought by a woman called Lee, and Yooh was quite fond of it! And this gorgeous Scotsman, Dene...), - and, of course, the musicality of everyone! So „Auld lang syne“ ended up in a many-part choral singing.
The Filk Panel (with one German in each group) was very funny, although we were very glad to be part of the jury and not on one of the panels, because we hardly knew any answers!
We were utterly impressed by the signing Judi Miller and Linda Melnick, the lovely Toastmistress, made – with Judi it was like a lyrical dance, with Linda like a highly emotional stage drama. The highlight of the panel was the songs to be created – both the manic-depressive fuzzies and the road-rage head cold were stunningly hilarious!!! After that, Becca and Graham Leathers had their concert. We were flattened by their energetic and natural performance, by their gorgeous voices, and by their broad variety of songs – from the absolute funny to the contemplative... There was this pirate song (actually: there were more of them over the weekend, and they were all cool!) and the two-part version of 'A Girl That’s Never Been', as well as a cute little song called 'My kid brother'!...
In the filk circle that followed we listened eagerly to all these songs and voices heard for the first time. It was a Chaos circle, which is rather unusual at FilkContinental. Though it has its advantages: the people performing were mostly quite good and self-assured, which was pleasant to listen to. And as there were more circles in other rooms, hopefully the shyer guys also got a chance to perform, but we were too lazy to wander about. We were particularly impressed by this storyteller, Bob, Lord of Evil (we’re not sure if this is his birth name...), and his captivating style of narrating.
Saturday, 6th of January, 2007
Woke up nervous; Crystal's cold had decided that now was a good time to start acting up. Fortunately, her voice was still fine, although she had a bit of a headache. Went downstairs to find others who were interested in breakfast. It turned out that Kip, with whom we had had an appointment, had overslept even more than we had, but we ran into Alan Thiesen whom we also knew from FilkContinental and had a lovely breakfast with him; it was so nice to catch up on his life! The food itself was so-so, Rafael tried "collard greens" (which were kind of nice in small quantities), Crystal and I were also in dire need of vegetables, so we went for the okra - which unfortunately consisted mainly of breadcrumb coating. We enjoyed ourselves so much talking to Alan that, unfortunately, we missed most of S. M.
Stirling's reading, but were back in time for the Toastmistress' concert, which was simply stunning. Neither of us had heard one of Technical Difficulties' recordings before, so we didn't know what to expect. We just love that kind of surprise! Linda performed together with T.J. and T.J.'s sixteen-year-old daughter Jessie; their harmony singing was simply stunning, the a cappella pieces perfectly in tune (and we know how hard that is!). We laughed and cried so hard that we were in danger of ruining our voices for the rest of the day. "Lies" and "Cranes over Hiroshima"
were especially touching, with Linda Melnick's expressive and mesmerizing signing completely drawing us into the performance. What a great concert! After that – with no time for recovery – came the Urban Tapestry set! This
time, we were forewarned, we knew what to expect, but still these three ladies managed to totally overwhelm us with the beauty of their music. Many wonderful new songs, both funny and serious; we laughed very hard at 'Hey
J.K.' and 'Wo ist der Bahnhof?'. The latter one we knew already, but had never seen Franklin's 'props' for it before. We loved the arrangements the three had done for 'Still beautiful' (written by Aryana) and 'Paper Boats' (Eva had a hard time refraining from crying when she heard it and doesn't ever want to sing it alone anymore...). In all, simply gorgeous! “The Chocolate Song”, for which Rafael and S&F joined UT, was also well received – what a relief! Afterwards, we borrowed some instruments from various filkers (Rob Wynne's classical guitar, Yooh's steel string guitar, Brenda's bodhran, Bill's base), quickly returned to our room, sorted out all the instruments & music for the evening (which took a while), tuned our guitars once more and returned downstairs for the twofers... which, unfortunately, had already started, so we missed some performances (including one about whose PG-rating we heard a lot of arguments later on). But we really enjoyed the things we did manage to hear, including Yooh's great „Siren Song“ and some spooky stories by the very talented Lord of Evil, as well as two beautiful songs by Dave Weingart (one of them sung in German!). It was almost twenty to six when the 2x10's were over - ohmygod, we had planned to set up our instruments before the banquet and also had not changed yet!
In a frenzy we ran up to our room, grabbed our stuff, ran down again, and hurriedly drew up chairs on the stage, set out instruments, arranged the metallophone on Bill's bass case (which was just wide enough!) , laid out the lyric sheets on the chairs, ran upstairs again, hopped into our performance clothes (which we were going to wear for the banquet, too, since there was just not enough time to get changed afterwards) and made it to the banquet on time! Oof! We shared a table with Linda, her husband, Judy, T.J., her daughter Jessie, two other women we liked a lot, although we have to confess we didn't quite catch their names, and Rafael. The food was delicious, though unfortunately we could not eat very much, since we were both very excited and also do not like to perform on a full stomach. Eva had a nice dance with Rob, but other than that we decided not to get too out of breath, preferring to stay at the table and learn a lot of interesting things about signing from Linda and Judy. The house band was great, it really seemed like a shame not to spend the two hours just listening to them. By the end of the banquet we were very nervous, although Teri and Judith Hayman did their best to calm us down. We rushed over to the Filk Room, tuned our instruments, sent Rafael to hunt down some music-and guitar stands, did a sound check, and finally started our concert. And then a strange thing happened: once we started playing the first chords and singing the first few bars, we became quite calm. We looked in all those friendly, happy faces around us and suddenly all the stage fright and nervousness drained from us as we played on, simply enjoying to share our music with all those people whom we had come to like so much in those past few days. We really hope they had as much fun as we did; it truly was a great experience for us. Not everything went perfectly, but in all we were rather content with the performance and happy that one year of practice had payed off in the end. Thank you once more to Yooh and Rafael for joining in our singing, and thanks also to UT for letting us perform their beautiful song 'Starsoul'. By the end of our concert we were both over-excited and quite exhausted, so we did not join in the wenching during the Interfilk Auction at once, but started out as 'Apprentice Wenches' half an hour later (we had never seen wenching before, since it is not done at FilkContinental). Rafael made a great wench, though, giving the bidders back rubs till they hardly knew what they were saying anymore. When Judith Hayman and Kathleen Sloan bid against each other and only at reaching 80 Dollars found out they actually wanted to buy the item for the same person, we laughed so hard we almost wet our pants. The whole auction was incredibly amusing and we felt quite sorry when it was over. We were happy that the songbook, T-shirt and CD-single we brought had raised 130 Dollars, so that we could at least return a little of what had been given to us by Interfilk. We stayed in the Circle till four in the morning, mainly listening, enjoying the company, and feeling welcome. We also got a little drunk on Dave Weingart's 12 year old whisky, but hey! The concert was over! Still we played 'Kilkelly' (by Peter Jones) and 'Partings' (as requested by Allison), which went OK, although Eva got some dust in her eye sometime around the middle of the song and could hardly see the music. She was quite embarrassed that everybody thought she was crying over their own song. Ah well....
Went to bed full of laughter and songs.
Sunday, 7th of January, 2007
This morning Eva’s cold had apparently admitted defeat – while Crystal’s was even worse, with a hoarse throat and a cough. Thankfully it had waited until AFTER the concert!!! So she stayed in bed a little longer while Eva and Rafael were treated to a very nice breakfast and a lot of interesting conversation by „the elven woman and her friend“ (how we used to call C. S. Marks before learning who she was...)
Then all of us went down to the filk venues for the 'King Wenceslas' rehearsal with Alan Thiesen, Mary and Graham. The song was easy enough not to have to work on it too hard – Mary, who arrived last, was able to just join in without having seen the score before, I think! Then, for a while, we were glad to relax, talk, take a look at the dealer’s room (we bought bumper stickers and Eva a
Then – the last filk gathering. During EcumeniFilk, our small ensemble was mostly busy looking for missing members, but eventually we could give our performance, which went quite well. So our last duty was done.
Somewhere in between came the time to say good-bye to Allison, who had to get back to work tomorrow morning! This was the saddest moment so far. We had liked UT very much after FilkContinental and hoped to see them again some time, but now, after GaFilk, Allison was really a good friend leaving! None of us knows when and where we’ll be meeting next – we’re only sure there WILL be a next time. Somehow we’ll make it happen, if at FilkOntario or wherever else!!! While we were still standing there, TJ and Jessie joined us, for they were also due to leave on the next shuttle! We were very glad we had the chance to tell them good-bye properly, for they’re both very open-minded, congenial people whom we liked from the beginning! On this occasion some really good pictures were shot, and TJ and Jessie gave one last performance, of 'Hermione Granger, the Pirate Queen' – it was a delight to listen to these great singers!
The Closing Ceremony was short and rather unceremonious. We had the feeling the ConCom was quite relieved to get rid of their responsibilities. And it was amazing how many events and Cons all over America were announced!
The Ceremony held one last surprise for us: we just couldn’t believe it when the ConCom bade us come to the stage once more – and presented us with marvelous Southern-style hats with the GaFilk logo sewn on them! The same kind of hats were given to Debbie and Jodi (with a third one for Allison, of course!) and S. M. Stirling got a magnificient GaFilk Stetson, which was very becoming to him! The rest of the day we didn’t separate from our gifts, although we switched them now and then, because none of us could decide which one she liked better... And finally everyone joined in to Brenda’s very, very appropriate song „Strangers No More“.
The exact chronological order of our further memories of that day is somewhat blurred. One moment we were standing in the hotel bar with Linda, Debbie and some other people, and Linda showed us the signs for 'Summer and Fall' and 'Urban Tapestry'. She told us to be careful with the sign for 'summer', for, placed differently, it can mean 'dry' or 'ugly'! But then, it’s always handy to be able to express one’s disgust about a 'dry, ugly summer'.... There was also Dave Hayman hurrying into his room to fetch the n'Early Music Consort T-shirts three Germans had ordered from him beforehand. Seems a bit strange – to go to the U. S. to get T-shirts of a British choir from a Canadian – but so it was, and it worked just fine. And then there was, of course, the great dinner we were invited to by the ConCom, together with the remainder of the guests, in this steak house across the street. Many thanks to them again for this delicious experience! Bill and Brenda were much more relaxed than in all the days before. And we were happy to have the chance to talk to Steve Stirling and his wife Jan – some stories of his life were really ghastly!
And the two of us noted once again that not only our taste in music is pretty much the same: we ended up ordering exactly the same food (which was very, very good!). And we had a good conversation with Linda, we laughed and ate and enjoyed ourselves.
And then, the Dead Dog Circle. More unknown songs, more good singers. It was in this circle that Crystal heard John Hall (? unfortunately, none of us has a perfect memory for names...) perform this song about Ian and his brother, which she just loved, and there was Dave doing another German song, which was great, too! And Franklin with his 'lady and her knaught', and the belly dancer doing a song with Kathy Mar accompanying her, Paul Kwinn's 'Ich bin niedlich' (I'm the cute one) and other great stuff, Brenda singing one or two songs...
Before we went to bed, we plucked up our courage and performed our Tribute-to-Georgia-Song. We want to post the lyrics here, also as a thanks to all the lovely people we met, those we talked or listened to, and also those we just exchanged smiles with in the corridor.
Georgia on our Mind
(Music: „Georgia on My Mind“, lyrics: Eva Van Daele-Hunt and Christine Blum)
Georgia, Georgia, one whole year through
an enticing song kept Georgia on our mind.
Georgia, Georgia, like a call from you,
leaving us to hope and wonder what we’d find.
Other songs played tenderly,
another key and melody,
still our dreams in Germany
kept wandering to you.
Georgia, Georgia, then our songs entwined
and the voice and smile of Georgia filled our mind.
Melodies, fair reveries now linger in our heart,
though we’ll be far from Georgia, we’ll never be apart.
Some sweet day, when snowflakes fall, we’ll hear a distant song,
we’ll follow it to Georgia and smile and sing along.
Georgia, Georgia, our whole life through,
countless tunes and tales will bring you to our mind.
Georgia, Georgia, we’ll think of you
as a cheerful dream we’ll never leave behind.
Monday, 8th of January, 2007
The three of us had breakfast with Debbie, Jodi, Terence Chua, Yooh, Franklin, Rand and Erin in the hotel; lots of fun, good food and a little bit of con blues for everyone.... Afterwards we said good-bye to a lot of American filkers and then to Yooh and Franklin – but in their case, at least, not for long: we had already fixed a date for a meeting in February. After all those farewells until who knows when, this was very comforting. Three Canadians (Debbie, Jodi, Rafael), we two Germans, and one Singaporean (Terence) then packed their belongings into Bill's minivan and set off via airport shuttle and 'MARTA' to pay the famous Atlanta Aquarium a visit. We got there just in time to pick up our preordered tickets, went through a security check that reminded us unpleasantly of Frankfurt Airport – they
even took Eva's unopened pack of chewing gum away (which had passed the airport security without problems!!!)
– were herded through a 'get your picture taken for a ridiculous amount of money'-booth and finally entered the aquarium! We knew we had made the right choice in coming here when we saw the fish basins in the entrance hall: huge windows behind which large pale fish were swimming in deep blue water, beautifully lit, fascinating. We wandered around the aquarium for hours, with a leisurely break for lunch, and simply had a great time. Our favourites included the fragile-looking dragonfish, the playful otter and of course the Beluga whales, which seemed to be from another world completely, free-flying through their peaceful, blue and white world, smiling all the time. Other highlights were the petting zoo for fish & crustaceans and the glass walkway that gave you the impression on wandering over the sea-floor, surrounded by fish on all sides, big ones and small ones, most of them incredibly colourful... We identified and admired the guitarfish, gazed at rays and groupers and marvelled at the schools of small fish always swimming in front of the huge whale sharks – apparently for protection! What a bodyguard! It was a lovely afternoon, we got ourselves some souvenirs (a dragonfish-shirt for Crystal, a plush ray for Eva, Garibaldi key chains for Jodi), and thanks to the dutiful guidance of Terence, who was further away from home than any of us and yet knew his way around very well, we managed to find our meeting place with Bill without any problems.
The evening at the Suttons' place was devoted to relaxation. We ate comfort food (grilled cheese sandwiches & tomato soup), watched some football (we two had the rules explained to us by Bill, Terence and Rafael) and enjoyed each other's company. One of those moments that we want to remember forever: sitting in the kitchen with Debbie & Rafael late in the evening, sipping tea, eating chocolate, talking and talking as if we had known each other for a very long time. Went to bed around midnight, thoroughly content.
Tuesday, 9th of January, 2007
Our last day! There was not much left to do – get up, dress, have breakfast with Bill, Brenda, Jodi, Debbie and Terence (another breakfast with ham and eggs over easy, tea, and a very good macadamia-vanilla-flavored coffee, which Crystal, our sole coffee-drinker, couldn’t enjoy properly, due to her bad cold...), unstring our guitars for the flight, pack our last things, take final pictures, arrange with Jodi to send her German sweeteners, which she likes best... In the remaining two or so hours we took another walk around the neighbourhood, this time with Rafael and Debbie, and had an eager conversation about German and Canadian weddings, the strange weather, and one of our favourite topics: roleplaying!
When we came home, there was just enough time to pet the dogs once more (and the cat, if he likes it or not!...), and to say good-bye to everyone except Bill. Again: even if you’re not the sentimental type, saying good-bye to people whom you probably won’t see for a long while, and who live just SO far away, makes you feel really sad. We’d really love to see Brenda and Bill at FilkContinental some day!...
In this place, we want to thank both of them once again for their unceremonious, easy hospitality, their help in so many matters, their cheerfulness (Brenda all the while bravely fighting her cold!) and the trouble they took with the whole rest of the organizational things!
So Bill was the one driving us to the airport again, through all Atlanta from north to south. While we unloaded the car, Crystal’s hat almost flew away, but Bill caught it, and so nothing of us was left on Georgian soil. And we shared the last, sad good-bye and were on our own again.
The check-in didn’t cause any problems at all. We even got seats next to each other in the plane this time! With lots of time left, we lingered in a bookshop for a while, then went to our gate and looked around for something to eat. The 'Pecan Sticky Bun' at one of the bakery shops was delicious! The only other thing Eva and Crystal had to do was to check out with the automated security terminals at one corner. No problem with that, either! The rest of the day consisted of taking our seats on the plane, lift off, having a final look over America, and then the night was falling fast. We had dinner, then tried to sleep, which didn’t work well. Fortunately we all had stuff to read left. The winds blowing over the northern Atlantic were rather wild (up to 250 km/h), which made our flight short but a little rough. This pretty much stirred Crystal’s aviophobia. But she told herself: nothing is going to happen. We’ve had our great journey, we’ve had fun and new impressions and met new people, we NEED to take this back to Germany.
And this proved right.
Wednesday, 10th of January, 2007
We are home! Neither of us got a lot of sleep, but since we were now on Eastern Standard time we were not very tired when we arrived in Frankfurt. It took some time to retrieve the baggage, but in the end everything arrived intact, and we were not even harassed by customs for bringing tons of instruments into the country! There was a little accident on the escalator, where Eva was hit by a heavy suitcase falling off some inattentive person's trolley, but other than that our journey home went remarkably smoothly. We caught the ICE to Mannheim, where Eva and Rafael got off and took a taxi home, while Crystal changed trains and travelled on for another hour before she, too, finally arrived in her apartment. Many hours of this day were spent sleeping and calling up family and friends to tell them we had returned safely and to talk about the wonderful time we had had in Georgia. It wasn't until the evening that we learned about Dave Alway's death. How we wish we had spent more time with him that weekend! Looking at the badges he had made for us, we felt so sorry, so sad, and so isolated from the American filk community that we spent most of the evening online, reading con reports, looking at photos, finding out who Dave was and mourning with all those who knew him better. Looking back on our journey, happy and joyful memories blended with a warm, gentle melancholy fill us like a beautiful song, a song we may never write but whose echoes will always
resound in our hearts. We offer thanks to all those who made this week that seemed so much more than just a week wonderful and special: thanks for your hospitality and friendship, your embraces, your encouraging smiles,
and all your songs and stories that have followed us home to Germany.
Eva & Crystal