Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Stranger Who Left as a Sister and Daughter

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Stranger Who Left as a Sister and Daughter

Article excerpt

We waited at the bottom of the bus's steps for our girl's name to be called. It was an August night, and the stars lit up the blackness in the high school parking lot. The diesel engine roared as Brazilians, Germans, and Spaniards stepped onto the pavement and looked around. Each stood alone for a few moments until a family emerged from the crowd.

Then, a young woman appeared in a yellow slicker with straight brown hair, clutching her satchel and smiling. "This is Corine from Geneva, Switzerland," the American Field Service (AFS) International host called out. "That's us," I said. I grabbed my mom's hand, and our family pushed to the front. Corine slowly pronounced each of our names and we huddled together, making small talk.

It was a dream come true for me. Ever since I'd visited friends hosting AFS students and had felt what it was like to have a sister at home again, I'd wanted an AFS "sister" to live at our house. The problem was, my parents didn't agree, at first. "I don't want a stranger living in our house for a year," Dad had said. "We're too busy at the Dairy Queen to host a foreign student," Mom said. But I was 16 and didn't want to give up. I begged until they gave in.

That first week with Corine, everything was part of an explanation. What we ate, when we ate. We'd ask, "What do you like to eat, Corine?

"Everything."

"We're Presbyterian. Do you go to church?"

"On holidays."

"The school bus comes at 7 a.m. and the return trip isn't until dinnertime, if you stay for sports practice."

"At home, my moped got me home in minutes."

Mom and Dad decided we needed a summer vacation that year, even though it was busy season at their business. "Let's show Corine our beautiful northern Minnesota," they said. Every chance we had to share a tidbit of our lives with Corine was a new adventure. We rented a cabin and fished, boated, and listened to the call of the loon. ("Our state bird, Corine.")

Corine began to open up and told us about family life in an apartment, and about her need to study chemistry, physics, and calculus each night to keep up with her Swiss classes back home. How her brother, Rene, liked to tease her the way her new American brothers did. …

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