I've mentioned 'my Russian' a few times now- I know, I know... it's starting to appear like I am collecting foreigners, but I wanted to tell you how this friendship came to pass. Our crossing paths did not happen organically as it did with the Brazilians but the connection is as genuine.
Back in early November I took my daughter to church one day while Joel stayed home. That day they talked about an international program that linked my church and the college that I graduated from. They said that there were many students who were new to this country and did not have a place to go for Thanksgiving and asked if anyone would be willing to 'host' one or two students for Thanksgiving dinner. Without hesitation I signed us up. This was perfectly tailored for me- I speak French and have formally studied Russian and Arabic and dabble with a little German, Hebrew, and Portuguese and LOVE learning about all (every) cultures and their languages, so this was kind of a dream scenario for me to be in. I've got a big fact student loan I'll be paying on forever to learn other languages and cultures-from Americans- This was a win, win, win.
Though we had ABSOLUTELY NO PLANS WHAT SO EVER to cook Thanksgiving dinner at our house, we actually had specifically talked about it and decided against because we had just returned from Pennsylvania, and then had a big party for our daughters' second birthday and Christmas was around the corner, also we have never taken on the bold task of cooking an entire dinner for our whole family. No matter...I signed us up anyways! I also wanted to be able to spend Thanksgiving with my Brazilians so I knew we'd figure everything out.
I called my husband and delicately informed him that not only would we be cooking Thanksgiving dinner (for the first time in our lives) but that I wanted to invite the Brazilians too...and then on top of that we would also have 2 other people whom we've never met and perhaps spoke limited English. What a Thanksgiving it would be! I was SO EXCITED to find out what country our students were from so I could start learning some key phrases in the target language.
Then a few days before Thanksgiving, I got an email that said all the students had been matched. I was bummed but I still had my 4 Portuguese speaking friends that would be joining us, one way or another I was having some non native English speakers at my Thanksgiving!
In the middle of January I received another email saying that they had more students to be matched, I responded right away, filled out all the paper work and by the end of the week I had plans to meet with the Russian girl they paired me with.
I was a little nervous. Not about conversation- there are only two things in this world that I'm really good at...talking and breastfeeding. I can have a conversation with anyone about anything, one of my favorite things to do is to meet new people and just get to know them. I like to hear others' stories, learn about their passions, hear what motivates them and just enjoy the time.
So why was I nervous? I was worried she wouldn't like me. Sometimes I feel like I'm a dorky stay at home mom with 6 pairs of black stretchy pants and a fleece in every color-the coolest thing about my appearance is my pumas that I bought 2 years ago...and lest we forget that I'm a 29 year old with braces. I really don't think too much about my more than casual wardrobe...until I'm in public.
Our initial meeting went much better than I could have hoped for! Valeryia and I have so much in common- a passion for learning languages, a desire to travel, and we're both certified translators! She is incredibly impressive, she's 25 and already has earned her Masters' Degree she also speaks English better than I probably ever will. Signing up to be her 'hosts' or really her American family has already been very rewarding, we had dinner with her on Valentine's Day and had lots of laughs and got to know each other better.
I am really enjoying my little gaggle of foreigners I have taken under my wing. I get to learn about their countries, languages and traditions. We laugh hysterically about over our misunderstandings in vocabulary and discover our commonalities. I hope both the Brazilian family and Valeryia feel comfortable with my family and know that they have a friends and a family here in the U.S. to celebrate the Holidays with, to ask for help, and to count on for anything.
If you find yourself crossing paths with someone who is new to your country I strongly encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to reach out and make a new friend. You will undoubtedly serve as comfort to them but I promise it will enrich your life in countless ways as well. I have had the pleasure of making friends from Brazil, Lebanon, Poland, Albania, Mauritius Island, Syria, France, England, New Zealand and now Russia. I think I have discovered one chapter of my life's destiny.
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