Married with passports!

Tennesseans really are the nicest people in the US

Today as some of you already know from our previous post is that we toured The Tennessee Residence as part of the Home of the Holidays Tour and so we got to see where Governor Bill Haslam and First Lady of Tennessee Crissy Haslam live. Their home is truly magnificent and both Alan and myself enjoyed going around their home, the annex to their home and the grounds surrounding it.

The trip itself started with us being directed to the Church’s parking lot about a 5 minute drive away from the home, and after the secret service personnel checked our IDs and made sure we were on his list of approved visitors for the day, we proceeded to the shuttle bus and were taken directly to the Residence’s front door were we were greeted by another member of the secret service to welcome us to The Residence.

Once we stepped foot inside, one of the volunteers for the Office of the First Lady of Tennessee, Crissy Haslam gave us a very nice welcome and informed us on what parts of the house we can go into today, and what we’ll be seeing and even pointed out one of the Medal of Honours they had on display just for the day. All in all, she got us really excited to start our tour.

We toured the house room by room, one Christmas tree bigger than the next, until we got to go out to the yard of the house and proceeded to the annex which was a short 1-minute walk away from the main house. The annex was very interesting indeed, with pieces from local artists from every county in Tennessee. Alan being a history buff, what got both of our attention the most however were the two walls filled with countless amounts of photos with famous people who visited the Residence throughout the years. I mean, there we were, with a photo in front of us of JFK entering the Residence from the same entrance we went in an hour earlier, and there was Elvis Presley in the same room we had just been in and there were Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton sitting on the sofa we just saw upstairs. There was even Dolly Parton sitting on the same sofa… who doesn’t love some Dolly Parton?!

At the end of the annex, there was a small gift shop, but we decided to skip it since we need to fit everything back in the same suitcase we came with, we can’t buy a souvenir from each place we visit, so we headed back to the shuttle bus to take us back to our car.

On the shuttle bus however, that’s where things got really interesting. Alan and I decided to sit behind each other rather than next to each other.  This was mainly done for comfort – on the way there, we were the only two on the shuttle, so we didn’t think it was gonna be full going back, however it was and Alan ended up sitting next to an ex-Army-man. He was explaining to Alan that he spent 40 years in the Army going up the ranks, and today he treats the Governor as his personal friend, although this was his first time touring The Residence. 40 years in the army! This guy really had some stories to tell, but sadly our trip back was a short 5 minute drive up the road.

Now every Maltese person who’s ever been to the US would tell you that when they tell Americans that they’re from Malta, most of them has never even heard of the country, yet alone where it is or know anything about it, so it was a surprise that this guy know all about Malta. He’s never been himself, but he was stationed in Greece for a while and got to know the Mediterranean quite well, and it showed!

But you might be thinking – who did you end up sitting next to? … Me? Well, that’s another interesting story. I sat next to a 60-something year old woman who told me she’s from California originally but moved to Tennessee to go to college when she was 18 and she loved it so much that she ended up living there all her life. I told her I’m from Malta, and she goes “The island in the Mediterranean?” Imagine my surprise – not 1, but 2 people on that shuttle knew about Malta, and for completely different reasons. This woman went on to explain that she’s a Christian, and she knows about Malta through St. Paul and his shipwreck. She has never been, the closest she’s been to Malta was to Germany, so not even that close – but she sure loved hearing a bit more about it and was extremely pleased to hear that the religion which St. Paul instilled on us is very much still practised and the main religion on the island.

So we enjoyed our short but very interesting trip back to our car from The Residence – and when we got to the parking lot, this woman turned to me and asked if I had bought anything from the gift shop at The Residence to which I answered no. She insisted that I cannot come all the way from Malta and leave without something with the Seal of the Tennessee Governor as this was an important symbol to them, and she proceeded in insisting to gift me with the mug and roasted coffee bag she had bought. She told me that she goes every year, and always get something to gift to a random stranger and she normally buys it to help The Residence with their fundraising efforts to be able to upkeep the Residence to the standard we had just saw it in.

A small act of kindness from a total stranger I’ve only met for less than 5 minutes in my life but something I will treasure my whole life. This is the welcome and hospitality this Southern State is so much famous for – it isn’t named the Volunteer State for nothing after all.