A SXSW Easter Blessing

DigbyAsh - 3For the past two years, we have hosted visitors to Austin during SXSW. Our kids are grown, so we have the extra room and thought it would be fun.

We take time to get to know our visitors when they first contact us, so that we can make sure that they will be a good fit.

This is mainly because we have a busy schedule and we keep multiple guests at a time, so it’s important that our visitors are self-sufficient and come from a tradition of caring for a host’s home like they would care for their own.

So, when Digby, who hails from Sydney Australia, contacted me with a note to say he and his girlfriend Ashleigh were interested in staying with us, we immediately checked him out online.

His reviews were stellar and he sounded like a pleasant fellow in email, so we said “sure” and set aside a room for him. Little did we know what would happen next.

Digby and Ashleigh arrived on a Tuesday night – him from Australia and her indirectly from Africa, where she had been touring, as part of a year-round, worldwide journey. After reuniting to spend the evening together for the first time in 3 months, they were ready to journey downtown to get their SXSW Music badges Wednesday afternoon.

DigbyAsh - 1Like most of our guests, they stayed in downtown ATX for the balance of the day, returning to our house later that night after we’d gone to bed.

The next day, Digby let us know that Ashleigh had taken ill the previous evening, so they were going to take it easy that morning to let her condition improve.

But it didn’t; it got worse. By that night, they called a health service referred to them by their traveler’s insurance program, which assigned them a physician and trafficked a paramedic to visit our house to see Ashleigh.

(NOTE to self: on the next big international trip, *definitely* invest in a traveler’s insurance policy to supplement regular health insurance!)

By Friday noon, things were still getting worse, so the doctor advised Ashleigh to be taken into the hospital. We did, where they quickly diagnosed her with a severe bacterial infection. In fairness to Ashleigh and respect for her privacy, I’ll leave out the details of her diagnosis and hospitalization. The great news is it appears she recovered fully.

And, that is the SXSW Easter Blessing we experienced. Because almost two weeks after we had originally expected to wave goodbye to them after the end of SXSW, we celebrated a lovely Easter Sunday brunch with Digby and Ashleigh at Manuel’s downtown.

During that two week period, we had the opportunity to get to know two young people who truly became our unofficial, adopted Australian children.

Through many mornings of kitchen table conversation, evening meals together, drives to and from the hospital to check on Ashleigh where she remained under care for nearly a week, and finally a short celebratory weekend when we had a little time to show them both a handful of Austin sights once Ashleigh had been discharged, we became deeply acquainted with two young people, who had grown up halfway around the world and somehow had landed at our door.

DigbyAsh - 4Caring, principled, good-humored, intelligent, curious, open, ethical…I could go on. As we might say in Texas, “their folks done brung ‘em up right!”

We treasure the time we had with Ashleigh and Digby; it was hard to say goodbye when the time finally came for them to continue their journey.

With Ashleigh receiving the “thumbs up” from both her doctors and the insurance company to continue their journeys, she and Digby charted the continuation of their travels across the US – New Orleans, New York, Chicago, the West coast and more!

After dropping them off at the bus stop, we returned to a home a little quieter and less active, but much enriched by memories we’ll have for a lifetime.

Yet, no doubt, ours was just one more, tiny vignette among the thousands that SXSW and our city’s other great events bring to town as a part of the festival economy that has become so vital to Austin. An Easter blessing indeed!

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