Ayusa Community Representative Terry Cox has a heartwarming story to tell about his experience hosting a student. We hope you enjoy it.
For years, my partner Tim, and I talked about hosting a foreign exchange student, and after enough procrastination, we finally did so in the 2011-2012 school year.
Our student, Frank, from the Netherlands, started his first day realizing that the 118 degree heat in Palm Springs, California, was a far cry from the normal weather of his native land. The differences between America and Holland only continued to show themselves from that day forward.
I don't know that our year was "special" compared to the other families and kids that experience an Ayusa year, but I know it was special to us. Frank fit in quickly, made friends quickly, and became family quickly. As in any family, we had our high and low moments.
The highs included friends, trips, academic and athletic excellence, climbing Mount San Jacinto, Disneyland, and myriad others. The worst low came in the form of an emergency room trip by ambulance after what was a potentially serious wrestling injury. All parents know the fear, and we felt it just as strongly.
Among our "highs" was the added family member in the form of a puppy named "Bizu." Bizu is very sweet, but a handful, and it took the three of us to deal with the constant trouble she was able to get into. Many a shoe sacrificed itself to her playful pleasures, and although we adore her, and she bonded finally with our other dog, it was clear from day one that she had a mind of her own, and would rule the roost. Despite that attempt to be the alpha dog in the family, it was clear that she was Frank's dog, and deferred to him more than anyone else in the house.
The year seemed to go quickly, though to be fair, I could write for days on end trying to relate everything that happened, but eventually that day came, and Frank had to leave. The picture is our last day together, as he took us out to dinner, as a "thank you" for his year with us.
But as the title suggests, the story's not over when the year ends. Time has passed, our Ayusa community representative, Ruthi, retired during the year, and believing in the program as I do, I joined Ayusa, and took her place as the community representative in the area. Frank is back in Holland, and has a job. For our vacation this year, we went to visit him and his family, then spend some time in Normandy and other places in France. Frank came with us during the trip. It was wonderful to be with him again, and always will be in future years to come.
Though we all are impacted by our students, and hope that we have brought something positive into their lives, I know we each wonder just how much of a difference we make. Indeed, the experience alone is enough to change everyone, and "payment enough" indeed. As such, I'm always baffled why, as a community representative, I so often run into potential host families whose sole motivation seems to be what monetary benefit they may reap from it. They are clearly missing the point, and more sadly, missing the experience.
That is not to say that the experience is without payment. Our payment came just a few days ago, when we received this email from Frank:
Dear Tim & Terry,
Happy Father’s Day!
I want to you to know that you are very special to me and I am so happy to be able to call you my Dads. After never having a Dad while I was growing up, I want to say that you both are doing an amazing job at filling that place and more!
I feel at home and loved when I am with you guys. I had my best year in life (so far) while I was staying with you, I think that already is enough to conclude that you are the best Dads! You teach me about life and share special moments with me. We have such great and funny conversations. Being on the holiday in France was so great to do as a family.
I can say that I partially failed as a Dad for Bizu, giving love to her is one thing but teaching her to behave was out of my league. I know that I am long ways off from being ready to be a Dad, but when the day comes I'll use what I learned from you, and I am sure that my kids are going to love to visit their Granddads in America!
Happy Father’s Day, Tim & Terry.
Hugs to the girls,