Friday, April 15, 2005

Corina, Corina

1 Timothy 4:12 (New Living Translation)

12 “Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”

It hardly seems that it’s been almost a year now since Corina left for home after a year living with us as an exchange student from the Republic of Moldova.

Before I go any further, I’m going to add a couple of hyperlinks to give you some flavor of what life is like in this grand little republic. There’s this one from Geocities. There’s this from InfoTut. And there’s this site that has not only historical and cultural information, but also a photo gallery.

Browse them when you get a chance.

Now back to where I started. About a month or so prior to Corina’s arrival in Emporia, Nancy and I had just returned from a trip to Chicago. One of the first things Nancy did was to get caught up on local news. There was a story in the Emporia Gazette about the need for a family to host an international student. A quick e-mail, a subsequent call to Glen Strickland, the local coordinator for American Councils, a home visit, a bit of red tape, and it was all confirmed.

One of the things that fascinated me most about this young flower of Moldova was that compared to most American teenagers I knew she was fully engaged in the art of becoming an adult. Her biographical sketch was absolutely intriguing. She quoted from Thomas Paine about liberty and her dream of a world without borders. How many American teenagers do you know who think like this? The more I read the more fascinated I became. I’d occasionally look up from my reading and tell Nancy, “This is a really interesting young person. I mean, Thomas Paine…..How many kids do we know who have read him at her age? And look at the language skills, will you…..And she loves to debate. Maybe if she comes I can debate with her about the merits of Paine’s liberalism versus Burke’s conservatism.”

Another remarkable thing about this young woman was her family. The love that sustained them became very evident as I read her story. I could see that they were all, her father and mother Victor and Rita, her brother Radu, her grandmother and grandfather, her other relatives, all a family unit sustained by love.

The more I read the more I saw that Corina and the Family Nour were very special people.

Nancy and I have vivid memories of those wonderful days. I can still see Corina as we met her at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport in August, 2003. She’d endured a long trip across the sea to New York City, then another two or three stuck there when the east coast was hit by a massive power blackout. She’d left the love, nurture, and stability of family in Moldova to come to America, the epicenter of world power and enlightenment, and wouldn’t you know it, the lights went out. The look on her face said it all – confusion, fatigue, loneliness, they were all etched into her beautiful countenance. Nancy saw her first, and ran over to give her a hug. This, for Nancy, was very uncharacteristic. She’s generally much more reserved upon meeting people for the first time, but just felt that Corina needed a hug after such an ordeal.

There was a bout with lost luggage that followed, but then life settled into a fairly normal mode.

For the next year, until June of 2004, Corina was a vital part of our family. It was a very special year, seeing a young woman blossom and grow. We were, and are, especially grateful to her family and the Republic of Moldova for allowing us to have a role in her nurture.

To say that she thrived while she was here is an understatement. Corina Nour took Emporia by storm. She was one of the top rated students in her class. Her language skills were so good that she even tutored other students who were lagging behind. She was a skilled debater who took more than a few medals home with her. Her ACT results were much higher than the national, and Kansas averages, opening the door of possibility for a college education in America. But more than anything else, it was her gentle ways that won hearts and a circle of real friends.

She applied herself with a high level of youthful energy to everything she did. One of the great joys for me was in not having to wonder whether or not her schoolwork was getting done. I never once had to ask her if assignments due were done. She just did it without adult intervention. That, I say, is remarkable.

While she was here we took several trips to see the country. She got to browse the “Miracle Mile” and the great museums of Chicago and tour the Native American pueblos of New Mexico. There was also a trip to Orlando and Epcot Center. I’ll never forget our ride on “Mission Space,” a five minute or so simulated trip into outer space. Simulated, they said. It was so real that part of my stomach is still living in Orlando. I think I did everything but plant a flag on the moon. Corina, whose stomach was in much better shape than mine, probably did that.

We did a few Kansas day trips as well. There was a day at the Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson. There was a day to a Scottish festival in McPherson. And so it went.

The hardest day of that year for Nancy and me was the day Corina went back home. The year had gone so fast; it had been filled with adventures, quiet evenings and meals together, a year with Corina learning more about America and Americans and Nancy and me learning more about Moldova and its people. It was all done in a representative way, with Corina acting as an ambassador for her wonderful family and Moldova and Nancy and me representing America and our family. It was, as I said, one of the most rewarding years of our lives. Letting her go back home was very difficult indeed.

In the months since she left we somehow lost contact. We were trying on our side of the world to contact her, and unbeknownst to us, Corina was also trying to contact us. Apparently something was happening along the airwaves. We’re not sure whether it was a problem with the firewalls or spam blockers, but everything was being lost somewhere out in the internet. Then a couple of days ago we had a breakthrough. Corina got a message through to us. There had been, apparently, some sort of e-mail problem. But the good news is that we did get through and the lines of communication are once again open.

We’re in the process of getting caught up right now. This all seems to be happening at a very interesting time. Nancy and I are in the process of renovating the last upstairs bedroom. We’re both retired now and we have an open life ahead of us. We want it to be full and rich, and the possibility of Corina coming once again to America to study at our university would add the richness of the days ahead. Perhaps this will be another case of serendipity in our lives. This gentle flower of Moldova has graced our lives before. Perhaps, by God’s grace, she will grace it once more.

1 comment:

James Fletcher Baxter said...

As a Fifth Grade teacher for 30 years I learned much from my students.

One of my early aquistions had to do with my own value and sequence learning regarding my youthful charges.

I discovered that the teacher of youth must become future oriented - for their sake.

When my annual arrivees from the Fourth Grade appeared the first day I would wonder aloud why they were here. "Why not go straight ahead into the Sixth Grade?" Not ready was their response.

"We are no longer Fourth Graders; we need to be here to get ready for Sixth Grade." Preparation for The Future was the name of My Game. I no longer referred to them as Fourth OR Fifth Graders -- but, as "Getting Ready for the Sixth Grade."

I quickly got out of the bad habit of treating them in terms of past or present; I no longer called them 'Kids.' Boys and girls, perhaps. Students, young people, and class, were acceptable terms of a future orientation. 'Kids' was out.

More and more I recognized that professionals: Educators, doctors, lawyers, newsmen, counselors, ministers, archtects, etc. should never refer to children as kids. We need to reinforce their self-value as future adults, not presently children or 'kids.' They are already 'children.'

Today, everywhere I go on the net, TV, military, downtown, readings, neighborhood, church, etc. I am constantly aware that the world and the church call young people 'kids.' It is a mental steel-plate in their heads that they are young - younger than the speaker/writer. As if they are to 'stay there!'

The young people fighting in Iraq are often characterized by that term. (The highest suicide rate of any US military operation/war is the present one in the Middle East.)

University athletes are called 'kids.' All of which is negative in equipping them for the present - let alone their Future.

Few adults have any sense of the on-going damage inflicted on our recent and future generations by such well-intentioned but stultifying semi-permanent terms.

Many, who call small children ages 1-8 by the term 'kids, do not expect that it will still be applied at ages 18-24 or beyond.

Well, who will break the cycle? selah