Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Remembering a time when the kids were young, and we  opened our home and hearts to several young people wanting to learn more about the United States, our culture, our way of working with farm animals, so that they could take some of that knowledge home with them and use it in raising some farm animals of their own.  From the early 1980's we had 8 exchange kids come from all over the world.  Some were quite young and were here for only a month, and others stayed for 3 - 4 months, and some stayed longer and went to school here.  Our family learned just as much from them, as they did from us.

We have lost contact with most of them, but Roberto, from Panama, still calls, and we email.  It isn't often, but when we hear from him, it's great.  Just before Christmas he called, and then again he called on Christmas Day, so he could talk to the kids.  Here are some pictures of him when he was with us years ago.  He and three others were on an exchange from Panama to learn more about farming.  The three were at different farms throughout Minnesota, and they rotated staying at the farms, so we had three young men/boys stay with us that year.  Roberto was 25 when he came here, he was the oldest of the three.  Olmedo and Jarvis were just out of high school.   Now Roberto is married and has his own family.  He is working for the government as an inspector of food.  He also inspects feed for animals.  Their family lives in a tourist area.  Roberto keeps asking when we're going to come to Panama and buy a retirement home!!!!
He must think we have a lot of money!!!!   
Here downstream of the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  
                         Jessica and Roberto on the rocks at the beginning of the Mississippi River.
Jessica on the far bank, Stephani on the rocks, and Roberto standing on this side bank.

It was about 1987 when Roberto was here.  Roberto and the others could not speak good English, but by the time they left they did pretty good.  Of course, we learned a little Spanish.  Jessica and Stephani learned more than the rest of us!  The boys got to show pigs at the county fair and other pig shows.  Learned how to feed and take care of hogs, and learned about the feed ratio and the other important things about raising pigs.  We enjoyed having them in our home.  We had a great time at family gatherings, with Granpa and Grandma Nilson  next door and all our cousins coming and going.  This exchange was through 4-H, so we involved the exchange kids in all of the 4-H things that were going on during the time they were here.  One thing we used to do was each kid in the family got to cook one meal a week, including them.  So of course, Jessica always made grilled cheese, and Stephani did Mac N Cheese, and pizza.  But we learned about some of their daily diets this way.  Roberto fried sliced plantin (looks like a banana).  At that time, we had to have the grocery store special order it.  No one had heard of plantin!   Everything they eat seemed to be fried in hot grease!  Of course, they ate a lot of rice.  Cooking was a fun thing to do, and we did this with all the exchange kids we had stay with us.

Roberto emailed pictures of his family.  His son just graduated from 8th grade, and is now accepted into high school.  They are very proud of him and excited.

  A proud family.

I asked Roberto if his son or daughter would be coming to the US for an exchange and he laughed.  He said he would like for that to happen.  Especially to come to Minnesota!
I would love to some day travel there.  Don't think I'll get Steve to do that, but thinking about it is fun.

Have a great day everyone.


Deep in the Heart of Happy said...

What a heart endearing post. We never know what kind of impact we will have on a life unless we just do it. I am glad you did just that.

Hope you have a great day, as well.

Sharon said...

What a great story. My friend has exchange students stay for the school yr. It must be fun meeting young people from other countries.
Have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this post. Wonderful that you still here from Roberto and get to "meet" his family through his photos. Great memories you have shared today.

Sybil said...

What wonderful memories you have ....and you have given... to all these students years ago. One of my old friends at church had a nursery with her husband and did the same with young men from overseas and often talks about them today..(and she is 91 !! now) I think one or two still in contact..
Have a lovley day.
Love Sybil

Nezzy said...

What a wonderful experience to give yourself and your children while providing the same experience for others. It's just so cool that Roberto has kept in touch and never say never. Maybe some day you will visit Panama!!!

God bless you dear lady and have a glorious day!!! :o)