Exchange Students from Sweden, Caribbean, Denmark, Barcelona and the Dominican Republic- What a Trip

The students were on the plane, headed for New York, when Robin Album got the e-mail asking for help. Seems a volunteer had dropped the ball and some teens, including Sweden’s Denise Larsson, needed homes. Robin and Jeff had considered hosting an exchange student and now the opportunity was knocking at the front door.

“It’s been a great experience for us,” notes Robin. “Acalanes has been welcoming to Denise.” Their 15-year-old daughter, Micayla Album, will visit and work in Sweden this summer with Denise’s family.

Happy Valley’s Ann & Peter Appert’s daughters have experienced international travel through exchange programs. Grace, an Acalanes junior, spent a month in very rural, poor Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. She was a volunteer doing trail maintenance and rebuilding a playground destroyed by a hurricane. Twin sister Jane lived with a family in Spain for a month studying Spanish. Freshman Caroline visited Denmark when she was eleven with Children’s International Summer Villages, CISV, but that’s another column in itself.

Dana and Ken Yzurdiaga welcomed a Barcelona teen into their Burton Valley home last summer for a month. They showed him the west coast and then daughter Linda, a Campolindo senior, went to Spain and toured the coast of Brava and Catalonia.

“Because he was a family friend,” notes Dana, “it was a different experience than an unknown student. It was a real cultural exchange.”

Lafayette’s John and Sally Breul and their trio of blonde boys have learned a lot about the civil unrest in war-torn DR Congo since they “adopted” their fourth son in 2004. Campolindo Senior Wilita Sanguma came into the Breul’s life in 2001 when John met Mossai Sanguma through his involvement with Moraga Presbyterian Church. The church sponsored Sanguma while he earned his PhD. at Pasadena’s Fuller Seminary. Upon Sanguma’s graduation his family returned to the Congo, but with the war, there was no school for Wilita to attend. The schools were burned because the youth were supposed to fight, not attend school.

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“Living here has been a cornerstone for me,” reflects Wilita. In Pasadena he didn’t feel safe. “People have respect here,” adds Wilita. He feels he’s lucky to have his African family and his American family.

“Since Wilita’s been with us, our kid’s have a sense that the worlds a bigger place,” notes Sally Breul.

Student travel isn’t the only way to experience another culture. On a recent visit to the Lafayette Health Club, conversations in French could be heard from the tread mill. Native Francophiles Carole Hagglund and Catherine Maiden were discussing Hagglund’s role as a community counselor. With her fluent French and as a mother of a teen daughter, Hagglund can relate with the au pairs, as well as represent the Connecticut-based agency, Au Pair in America.

Orinda’s Freddy Moran continues to expand her quilting empire and has given new meaning to taking her show on the road. Unless you consider a cruise ship the path less traveled!

“I was teaching quilting on board, but now I’m focusing on the West and East coast,”states Moran. Known for her use of vibrant fabric colors, Moran says the mid West tends to prefer neutral tones such as brown and black. “I don’t seem to appeal to the mid West,” laughs Moran. She teaches in Maine every year for a week. “I go the first part of October with the Leaf Peepers.” She’s off to LeConnor, Washington, home of the tulips, for a three month quilt show. LeConnor reminds her of how Sausalito used to look in the 1950’s.

Have you experienced travel from a service-oriented perspective? That’s our focus next month.