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by Mark Cheffey
A Jamaican vacation in 2019 for five couples with Palmyra connections resulted in a friendship with a Dutch couple, who are visiting the United States for the first time.
Rens and Barbara Maas, have been enjoying life in America for a few weeks with their time hosted by Eric and Cara Churchwell and Richard and Leisa Hinkle, from Palmyra, as well as former Palmyra resident, Brad Thompson and his wife, Cathy, in Buckner.
The three couples, along with Rodney and Missy Cunningham and David Wheeler and Dawn Wheeler, met on the beach in Jamaica four years ago and became fast friends, thanks in part to the American couples’ drink cups.
“Only the Americans walked around with these big cups, and we asked them about them,” Rens said.
“Oh, we’re Americas, we eat a lot and drink a lot,” was the reply.
And, five American and one Dutch couple enjoyed their Jamaican vacation together and have been friends since.
Reunions became impossible, though, until recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact the Maas’ started a family with young boys, Jan and Finn being born.
The Maas’ work on the 150-acres family orchard near Rotterdam, where they grow apples and pears.
In the meantime, the couples stayed in contact with hopes of getting back together when life allowed.
The Maas’ also became American football fans in general and K-State and Miami Dolphin fans in particular thanks to the Thompson’s son, Skylar, who starred as a Wildcat quarterback before being drafted by the Dolphins.
“We watch the games, but its pretty hard to since we’re seven hours ahead,” Rens said.
This year, they decided it was time to make the trip and have learned about the American way of life first hand during their extended visit.
While here they have enjoyed a variety of activities and visits, including a trip to Manhatten, Kan. where Rens toured the K-State football stadium and locker rooms.
He was also able to visit a farm, where he saw American farm machinery up close and even help out with the corn harvest.
“It was really great to see,” Rens said.
While in the Palmyra area, they visited the Hinkles where they swam and shot off guns.
The Churchwells took them on a Mississippi boat ride to Hannibal and Quincy, where they ordered out pizza and ate it on the ride back to the river camp.
Fried chicken was also a first-time treat.
“I love it,” Barbara said.
There were also plans to visit St. Louis and go up in The Gateway Arch.
Now the group is planning a reunion in Jamaica in the near future and the Churchwells hope to visit Holland as well.
“I’m sure we’ll get over there sometime. It’ll be great,” Eric said.