When I opened the laptop to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm’s site and showed the women photos of stripes of brilliant colours, following the contours of the hills to the horizon, they literally shouted! For a whole year, ever since last year when I went with just one woman and her daughter, I have been telling them about the tulip fields, promising them that we’d go, describing them. My words didn’t have the power of pictures, though.

Saturday was the day. 5 carloads of people, representing 6 families, were to meet up at an apartment complex. As was to be expected this proved to be complicated. First there were 3 cars, then one couple commented that they hadn’t brought food and could they just stop by Safeway, then off they went, then another car went to get gas, then the last car showed up but the couple weren’t back from Safeway, then we all met in the Safeway parking lot.

I remembered where the tulip farm was, basically, so I led.  You take the Woodburn exit off I-5 and turn left. Last year traffic was horrible. This year, given that it was a cool and cloudy Saturday, traffic was slow but not horrible. I was pretty sure I was going the right way. Behind me, strung out, were 2 Camrys in various states of disrepair, a small SUV, and a mini-van driven by Donn. I was in another mini-van. Both belong to our church and we’d borrowed them for the day and pretty much filled them with people who don’t have cars.

I took the exit, checked to see that everyone was following me. One of the Camry drivers is a young single man, about 26 or 28, who lives with his parents. (This is normal and right in their culture) His mother has confided in me that its time for him to get married; his sister in Baghdad has found a nice girl from a good family for him. He drives like young men do, and he likes to lead, so at least half the time he was in front. I found this amusing, since he didn’t know where he was going.

By the time I was a mile or two down the road, I got a call from Donn. The young man’s car had broken down; could I come back to the gas station just at the freeway exit? It took me a good 5 minutes to be able to turn around in that traffic, but eventually I made it back. We squeezed the occupants of that car into the remaining 4 vehicles and drove the rest of the way, me hoping I was on the right track the entire time. WHY do I always forget to check directions before I leave? Frankly, because I’m right most of the time, as (phew!) I was this time, but it does add to my stress.

We parked in various spots, met up briefly, and scattered. Two Kurdish women were dressed to the nines in their traditional costumes for pictures, with jeans and flats stuffed in bags to change into later. Ilsa sighed longingly over one outfit, which consisted of red satin harem pants with a black lace overlay. “Picture that on me, in emerald green…” she said.

Eventually, hours later, we met up for a picnic. I had told the women not to cook. “Just sandwiches,” I explained. “You won’t be able to cook.” This is because I have gone on several “picnics” now that involve barbecues and shish kebobs made on site and small electric fans brought along to ensure that the coals glow red-hot. “Just sandwiches,” however, proved to involve stacks of home-made hamburgers (picnics are easier if you don’t sweat food storage) and pizza, entire chickens, meat-filled pastries, and salads made and dressed right there on the table. There was tons of food, and people were constantly passing me platefuls of it. Several people brought thermoses of tea as well. We garnered a few glances from passers-by; we were quite a crowd, chattering in Arabic, with lots and lots of food. I will say, however, that the tulip fields are as multi-national a place as any I have ever seen. I heard more languages that day–Russian (presumably), Korean, Spanish, Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Tagalog, and more.

Everyone took millions of pictures of themselves. At one point, I found myself wondering, grumpily (I was getting tired), just how many pictures of herself in the tulips one person needed! But the day was a success. The people in my car wanted to stop at the outlet malls by the freeway on the way home, but I quickly realized what a nightmare that would be, between the men, not in shopping mode, and the children, so prone to getting whiny when dragged around the shops.

Getting everyone coordinated and packed up took almost as long as leaving in the morning had. By the time we left it was about 3 hours later than I’d expected we would, as the fields were closing down for the day. We met up again at the gas station, where we managed to get the Camry running, but the rest of the young man’s family opted to ride in other cars anyway, just in case. My van was full again, and we listened to pop music loudly, danced in place, and raced the other cars on the way home. The single man won again, cruising triumphantly across 3 lanes of traffic to take the lead, trailing clouds of glory smoke in his wake.

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