Recently, I asked one of my best friends, Marisol, what she thought of Fremont. She told me it felt like a small town, with everything nearby and everyone knowing everyone else, surrounded by a very big city.
This observation came as a surprise to me, even though I've observed the same thing a dozen times before.
Marisol, however, has none of my experience with Fremont. She's spent only one week in Fremont out of her entire life.
Marisol Munguia de Sanchez came to visit at the start of September with her husband, Manuel Sanchez Schulte, and their son, Oscar Sanchez Munguia.
Marisol and I became good friends in her hometown of Colima, located in Central-Pacific Mexico.
She'd shown me her state, and after many years of friendship, I finally got to return the privilege, however briefly.
From a tour of the Theo Chocolate factory to three trips on Lake Union - aboard the Fremont Ferry, a private powerboat and a Duck - I revealed Fremont as much as I could.
We checked on the "Troll," the "Interurban" and the progress of the new "SPACE" art installation.
We ate at Costas Opa and attended a Fremont Rotary Club meeting.
We didn't shop much since, as tax accountant Marisol pointed out, with the exchange rate they would pay 11 times more than the posted prices.
The Fremont Sunday Market looked particularly pricey and luxurious compared with the tianguis (temporary markets) we'd shopped together in Colima. Even Fred Meyer didn't hold many bargains.
So, instead, we spent time on tours and walks around the neighborhood.
We checked out Fremont's public art, although I nearly forgot Lenin, and they wondered at and stood for pictures beneath the Rocket.
Manuel and Marisol seemed more conscious of the ways art defines the neighborhood - they see our art as representative of our values - than the artistic merit of the works. None of our art impressed them as much as a visit to the Space Needle (El Plato), an image they're more familiar with from movies and magazines.
When I asked, Manuel revealed concerns about public art and artists who enflame or offend in the name of art. Manuel knows about such things since he works as an administrator of a Colima hospital that faces the "Figura Obscena (Obscene Figure)" statue that truly is. This two-story-tall bronze sculpture, created by Jose Luis Cuevas, resembles a grotesque man-faced dog lifting his leg.
Manuel found Fremont art refreshingly pleasant, although as symbols of our identity - as landmarks and logos - they provide a decidedly confusing portrait of our community.
Surprising to me, one thing that most impressed my international visitors about American living were the "independent houses" as Manuel called them. In Colima, houses are built in rows in wall-adjoining-wall style and yards covering only the area between the front door and the sidewalk. They enjoyed the space and privacy afforded by having yards on both sides of single-family houses in Fremont, and they believed this would lead to fewer boundary battles with neighbors.
Manuel and Marisol were overwhelmed by the pleasant, friendly people they met everywhere. Ignoring language difficulties, everyone said hello, asked about their visit and gave us directions to more places we MUST see than time allowed.
People gave the impression that Americans are quick to talk to strangers, while I suspect the real icebreaker came from the easy smile and big, brown eyes of 10-month-old Oscar.
I cannot share Marisol and Manuel's observations without including, as they insisted, a big thank you to those individuals who made them feel welcome.
I can add my own words of gratitude and pride in a citywide community that gave my dear friends an attractive and alternative glimpse of American life.
The Fremont motto "Freedom To Be Peculiar" still stands, but I'm relieved to know that when translated, our particular brand of peculiarity remains something fresh and fun.
Kirby Lindsay lived in Colima, Mexico, for three years, but, as ever, she returned to Fremont, her home. She invites your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.