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.