Hello again, and greetings from the great state of Michigan! As you may have seen from my social media, or in my last blog about Chicago, I’m in the States for multiple reasons, one of which is a Midwest book tour. I’m incredibly honored to share the inspirational stories from my book, Flavors of Life. This trip has been an absolute whirlwind, but I am loving every single minute.
Friday, October 7 and Saturday, October 8
I initially flew into Chicago O’Hare, but we made a pit stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan to experience Art Prize. Have you heard of Art Prize? It is an art competition where works of art from artists around the world are scattered across the city. Some pieces are outdoors on the street, while others are featured inside museums and buildings like Gerald R. Ford museum or the DeVos convention center. The variety and level of talent is incredibly impressive. I was only in town for a half a day, but enjoyed getting a taste. It’s held annually, and there are different submissions each year, so you’ll always find something new. If you’re ever in West Michigan at the end of September or beginning of October, I recommend you check it out. The night before we visited one of Francesca’s recommendations for beer and grub in Grand Rapids: Brewery Vivant. Delicious, especially their duck confit nachos!
In between Art Prize and my second visit to West Michigan, I spent some time in Chicago, Pennsylvania, Metro Detroit, and East Lansing. Be sure to check out those blogs (coming soon).
Tuesday, November 1
I drove from the Metro Detroit area to Holland, Michigan in the morning. It was a beautiful day, and the sun made the colorful leaves sparkle as I was driving across the state. I was flooded with reds, oranges, and yellows. I arrived in Holland just in time for the Twitter chat I host, #TRLT, where I tweeted from JP’s Coffee in downtown Holland. If you can believe it, this was actually my first time in Holland, Michigan, which is rather ironic, as I live in the Netherlands.
Hope College invited me to give a guest lecture for 20 Cultural Anthropology students. I discussed how cities like New York City, Los Angeles, London, and Amsterdam ended up having such diverse populations. Additionally, I shared stories and examples of why people leave their countries, as well as how immigrants make new homes abroad. Through this, I discussed the traditions and practices – like food – they take with them. Finally, we touched on how diversity can unite us.
Following the lecture, Professor Swanson toured me around Hope’s campus. We first stopped inside the church and subsequently in front of the main building (photo one) where the college took roots. Reverend Albertus C. Van Raalte, part of the Reformed Church of America, co-founded the college in 1862 with Philip Phelps Jr. Rev. Van Raalte, originally from Rotterdam, Netherlands, was the one who settled the city of Holland on the west side of the state. Continuing our tour of the campus, Professor Swanson even pointed out the President’s house right in the middle of it all. She said he likes to stay engaged with the students. Hope College has approximately 3,300 enrollees. We ended the evening with dinner at The Curragh, an Irish pub. The weather was so nice that we were sitting outside on the terrace in t-shirts!
I stayed with a long-time friend, arguably my longest friend, in Grand Rapids. He introduced me to Founders Brewing Co., which is in downtown. Tuesday was open-mic night, and we listened to a few talented performers. I really loved the beer and the atmosphere! The bar is beautiful, and there’s even outdoor seating and fireplaces scattered around, creating a homey ambiance. We first shared KBS, which is an imperial stout. It is extremely flavorful, with hints of chocolate and coffee. The beer is then cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels for a year, which makes the taste even more memorable! I then had the harvest ale and we ended up sharing a Dirty Bastard. Which Founders beer is your favorite?
Wednesday, November 2
The next morning I stopped at De Boer Bakkerij in Holland. I heard the owner speaks Dutch, so I was excited to converse with him, but unfortunately he was not in when I dropped by. I then made my way to Zeeland, where I had lunch with another good friend. Afterwards, I drove to Grand Haven, a picturesque town along Lake Michigan. I was able to see a bit of the sights (photo below) before my book signing that evening at The Bookman.
The Bookman: what a beautiful bookstore! The staff is so friendly and welcoming, and they have a great selection of books. I enjoyed browsing the shelves. In the evening, I had an event together with Alisa Crawford. Alisa runs the windmill in Holland, Michigan, and she recently published a book titled De Zwaan: The True Story of America’s Authentic Dutch Windmill. She told us about her journey to learn the traditional Dutch way of milling and how she became the first woman miller in the United States. She truly makes the Dutch connection. I discussed the stories in my book, Flavors of Life, as well as how I made my way overseas from Michigan to Amsterdam. We even covered some of the cultural differences. It was an engaging discussion, and I hope we inspired the audience to follow their dreams.
After the book event, I went back to Grand Rapids and stayed with another friend of mine. Again, we went downtown, where I this time tried the Grand Rapids Brewing Co. I tried the Bananas Foster Dunkel, which is not as sweet as it sounds, and the John Ball Brown. We watched the remainder of the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians World Series Game 7 at J Gardella’s next door. Way to go, Cubs, for winning the World Series!
Thank you to West Michigan and its wonderful people for an awesome couple of days! I loved every single minute. Stay tuned for my next blog post about my time in college towns like East Lansing and Ann Arbor, as well as events in Metro Detroit.
Where are you headed next? Let me know in the comments below!