Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Kristen, left, and Val
I've been looking for photos to go with a post I'll be writing next month when my daughter receives her master's degree.
I found this one and thought I'd post it now with a memoir of the time when I had not one but TWO daughters.
When Kristen was a senior in high school, the family of one of her friends hosted a foreign exchange student from Venezuela. I first met Val in October when she went trick or treating with Kristen and her pals. Little did I know that she soon would be part of our family.
Unfortunately for Val, things didn't work out with her first host family. Val was about to be sent back to Venezuela when Kristen asked Dan and me if we could host her instead. At first, I thought our house was too small and shabby to take her in, but in the end I couldn't abide the thought of Val having to cut short her year in the U.S. (Dan and Kristen would have worked on me until I gave in anyway).
So, for the second semester, I had two daughters. We had extra fun on Valentine's Day, which is also Val's birthday (her full name is Valentina in honor of the day).
I loved making two Easter baskets. Even more, I loved Val's reaction to receiving an Easter basket. She was thrilled! (In fact, when she left, she carried the pastel green wicker basket onto the plane!)
Val and our family got into serious trouble when we let Val take a trip to Canada. (That was a big no-no, but since we never formally applied to be exchange hosts, we didn't know the rules.) I thought Val couldn't possibly be safer, because she was escorted by the wife of the warden of the state penitentiary. (Who better to keep kids out of trouble??)
The exchange agency didn't see it that way. They were highly miffed and were going to send Val back to Venezuela. We fought back. We contacted one of our senators and he intervened. We were delighted to have won, especially since the agency had gotten its knickers in a twist over such a niggling (to us) issue.
Val was always up for anything, even eating Dan's wild-game meals. I remember when we were eating elk steaks. Dan was going on and on: "Isn't this good?" Val, Kristen and I exchanged meaningful looks that clearly said, "Yuk, no, it isn't." The only time Val palled is when she found some buckshot in a pheasant breast.
That year, I went to two graduation ceremonies, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Val had started the year at Century High School and thanks to carpooling friends, was able to continue there. That's why you see Kristen in Bismarck High School maroon and Val in CHS red.
The graduation ceremony for Val was a formality, as she had already graduated from high school or its equivalent in Caracas.
Right after graduation, Dan and I took the girls to Medora, North Dakota's "Wild West" town. When we toured Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Val loved the prairie dog towns, and kept looking for some "boofalo" (her pronunciation). We were afraid we weren't going to see any but as we were nearing the end of the drive we saw an entire herd and Val was able to get photos of her "boofalo".
Having a second daughter was a great experience for us, and having a sister was wonderful for Kristen, too. Val is sweet, smart and funny. I'll always remember her pretty rosy-pink cheeks, her bubbly personality, and how fast she talked when she spoke in Spanish. Va introduced me to a phrase which I hadn't heard at the time: "It's all good!"
Yes, it was all good, a truly positive experience, except for one thing. With the two girls around, I could NEVER get on the computer. And because we had dial-up Internet back then, I was forever getting a busy signal when I tried to call them at the house.
Val and Kristen still keep in touch, and Val visited Kristen once at Georgetown. Knowing Val, I was sure she would end up living in the U. S., but it hasn't happened yet. I'm hoping she will at least come back to ND for a visit someday.


GreenishLady said...

What a lovely story of friendship and sisterhood! I'm sure a relationship like that does last a lifetime. They look so great together, and you obviously have huge affection for your "other daughter". Lovely post!

nonizamboni said...

Loved reading about your *other* daughter. I'm sure Val left with so many great memories too.
I hope this week is going better for you! I kept this quote on my desk for the lst year in cataloging. Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own about baseball (roughly):
Its supposed to be hard, otherwise everyone would be doing it.
Chin up!

Annie Jeffries said...

What a lovely story. So many of them end up with life-long friendships. We have friends who are still in touch with their exchange children from literally a decade ago.

Sandy said...

What a wonderful memory!

Carole Burant said...

Hi Julie:-)

I so enjoyed reading about Val...I'm so glad you decided to take her in because think of all the experiences both her and your family would have missed out on! It's also wonderful to hear that she and Kristen still keep in touch. xoxo

smilnsigh said...

What a lovely story! And illustrated by a lovely photo!


Casey said...

What a great experience for everyone involved!

Boletín XLAN said...

I can't stop crying... you know I've always been a cry baby and that has definitely not changed. That year in Bismarck was awesome and I still talk about it all the time. You guys will always be my family... sometimes I talk about my sister and people think I'm nuts. But my friends are already used to it!
I still have the lavender easter basket and I love boofalos!!!
Remeber when I found the enormous wild turkey in the fridge? I thought it was going to eat me or something... it was, for sure, the ugliest thing I had ever seen.
I love you Mom! Send Dad a ton of kisses from me!

Janet said...

That must have been a great year for you and your family. I agree with the others that I'm sure this will be a friendship that lasts throughout their lives. When I read Val's comment I knew I was right.

gma said...

Julie, What a blessing for your family and Valentina. I just read her beautiful comments too. Such special memories you all share.
xx Cute picture of them...it's full of personality!!!

Colleen - the AmAzINg Mrs. B said...

That's what friendship is all about - thanks for sharing that with us. My daughter had a young man from Barcelona staying with her family - his name is Albert and he has come back to "vacation" with my daughter's family for 2 years now, allowing him to see even more of the US - and his mother and my daughter communicate via this wonderful world of the internet! What great memories and a way of making the world just a little smaller & more loving!

Lila Rostenberg said...

What fun! An example of how the positive far outweighed the anxiety of your decision! (Though I can certainly understand that you had some reservations!) It is wonderful to know someone in another part of the world!(How wonderful that she left you a long, loving comment!)

Sheila said...

Val may move here one day..
Your daughter is so pretty, so much like you..!

Miss Robyn said...

what wonderful memories for you all! I had a Japanese exchange student once. Now that was an experience not to be missed!
Your 'blood' daughter looks so much like you!
I hope your days are getting warmer by the second !! xoxo

Patty said...

Oh how wonderful for all of you to get to share part of your lives. I am glad you have been able to stay in touch

Anonymous said...

What a great story! My Aunt and Uncle took in students from other countries every year when their children were in school. We got to meet so many wonder kids from all over the world. It was a neat experience.

J C said...

Wonderful post. Wonderful comment also, from your "other daughter". Obviously, she wuvs you. Todo es bueno.

Sandy said...

I am so very glad you stopped by and that you liked my jokes. I really enjoy reading your blog!

Diana S said...

Hi Julie, thanks for stopping by. I'm glad to see your back. Your very lucky to have '2' wonderful daughters! Good luck on your oil findings!!

LW said...

Julie what a wonderful story of parenting, friendship and love…
Reading the added words of Valentina
in the comment section makes it even more


smilnsigh said...

Is all ok? No entries here, for a while. No, I'm not poking at you. -giggles- Just making sure all is ok.

Betcha' your tired and are using you home time, for getting un-tired. And that is as it should be. New job and all.


couragetocreatewriteandlove said...

ya for you!!!
And thank you in her name and I read her sweet comment.
Love you Julie and am so glad you had this wonderful experience.
I have lots of fun when my daughter's friends come over our house, it is so full of joy to have more girls!

couragetocreatewriteandlove said...

i have to go and i promise you to come back as soon as I get home to read your previous post.
hugs, Carmen

Mary said...

such a great story - I really enjoyed it Julie. You were a good family to take Val in and then go to battle for her. I know she will always remember you - hope she gets back to see you one of these days!

Anonymous said...

A beautiful post to your daughter for some time.