Chicago friends learning to like this small town

It?s 3:50 p.m. My friends and I just woke up. I love spring break! Two of my friends from school, Elle and Kate, came home with me for break. Lots of our friends are going to Florida and California, and we were super jealous about that until we realized that Kansas weather is quite tropical?.

In comparison to Chicago?s.

The week right before break, the weather in Chi-town was getting into the high 30s. Students all around campus were wearing shorts, T-shirts and light jackets instead of down parkas, boots and mittens. The funny thing is this: that weather really did feel like deliverance from Chicago?s frigid cold. There was actually sunshine!

A few days before we took off for Kansas, my dad e-mailed me the forecast. When Elle and Kate found out it was supposed to be in the 60s all week, they seriously freaked out.

We took the Amtrak train here?the trip was 12 hours of bliss, filled with seven episodes of ?The OC,? various movies and periodic naps. There was also a large and cranky man who fell asleep listening to ?Fall Out Boy? right behind us (his headphones were blaring), and adorable little children who wore Spiderman and SpongeBob SquarePants pajamas.

Our train got into Newton at 3:30 a.m., so after we slept off our travel hangovers, we went on a bike tour of Hillsboro. It was grand, as one might imagine.

Kassidi Luthi, Jake Wiebe and I took them all up and down D Street, past all the schools (including Tabor College), around Main Street, to the park, through the sports complex, golf course then back to D.

Elle and Kate got a pretty accurate view of what Hillsboro is like?everyone we passed waved to us or stopped to talk. My friends couldn?t believe how friendly everyone was?or how many people drove pickup trucks.

Both Kate and Elle are from Chicago suburbs, so it was so funny to hear about their perceptions of Hillsboro. Both of their high schools have more students than the entire town?s population, and they found it unfathomable that we could get from place to place in two minutes, maximum.

I took them to Parkview Church Sunday morning, and Elle was especially impressed by how good Tabor?s choir sounded. She?s a member of North Park?s Gospel Choir, and said she?d just forgotten what a really good, traditional choir sounded like.

I introduced them to Andy Shewey, who said hello, then promptly palmed the back of my head, placing a thumb in one ear and a pinkie in the other. Impressive, I know. He?s been doing this as long as I can remember!

They also met Norman and Rosella Epp, a wonderfully friendly couple who attend Parkview. Elle said, ?I think every church has a Norman Epp.? She described him later as ?the nice man with the big, happy face.?

Elle and Kate aren?t the only Chicagoans visiting Kansas over spring break. Three other friends we have from school are each bringing a friend or two, and we are planning a reunion of epic proportions. Probably something like taking over Braum?s in McPherson?,

Maybe it won?t be that epic after all. Oh well, it?ll still be a barrel o? fun.

Next on today?s schedule: making puppy chow! It?s the most delicious snack ever?peanut butter and chocolate. I?m so excited.

This week, we?re going to go to Mt. Sunflower (even though it?s most likely not in bloom? sad), lay on the football field and look at the stars (you can?t even see them in Chicago), camp out in a tent in my backyard and keep meeting my friends.

If you happen to see us running around, you should stop and say hello. Elle and Kate love all the Hillsboro-ites so far!