I almost cried when Nancy sent me the list of AFS students who went to San Joaquin area in the year of 2000-2001. It just overwhelmed me.. The old memories, the warmth of strange people when I arrived at Fresno, the different foods they served (no rice? for Indonesian like me? I’d die soon, that’s what I thought), the unknown stories I was going to have, the uncertainty. It’s all for me. I didn’t even know what to expect at that time.
That day, a host family named Renee Hill with her beautiful daughter, Adelaide Hill, came to Fresno with other host families who were going to host another 27 exchange students for a year ahead. My arrival to the states was like a drama. I didn’t get the host family notification until the day I left soekarno hatta airport. So I was expecting the worst that I couldn’t go abroad since no American family was interested in hosting me. Doesn’t it hurt? haha
I cried when the AFS volunteer called out my name to come forward and meet my new host family. I was crying quite heavy, but I didn’t know why. I guess it was the culmination of my mixed feelings, of not knowing whom I was going to live, the unfamiliar customs I was going to adjust, the one year experience that would not be easy.. O cried, and Renee calmed me down. So did Addie. They were my first family that God gave me.
The first months went quite fast. Renee worked hard, as she’s a single parent who was responsible to ensure that the bread was available for Addie and I every night. And of course for our Little Bear, the cute spaniel dog! I wasn’t demanding a lot toward Hill’s family. My other AFS friends shared stories that they visited this and that area with their host families. Some of them lived with wealthier host families, one even had the fancy experience of getting on private jet (but I doubted him, I thought he was only bluffing, haha). I loved every day and night with Hill family. Weekend was always my favorite because mom would drive Addie and I to blockbuster and we would get McDonalds. I didn’t buy things a lot because I remember only brought $450 for the whole year in the states. It’s so little if compared to the advised spending money that students ought to bring $2-3 thousands. But, it didn’t bother me. As well as I wasn’t hungry lol.
Every morning, mom would drive me and Addie to school because the school bus didn’t stop nearby our home. And our home was not that close to the school. Amy (Addie’s best friend) sometimes asked for a ride, so there were four of us. It was happy time! After school was the hardest. Mom continued to work until evening, so i always walked with Addie and Moriah (another Addie’s best friend) to home. It was a long walk. An hour walk, sometimes I couldn’t bear the sun during summer. I felt like it was peeling my skin. but there was no time to complain. I just needed to ensure that I caught Addie and Moriah wide steps.. They were running in my thought, because one step of them was equal to two steps of mine. But I didn’t give up. I was pretty good at catching them =)
One day, I found mom got back from the office with the back trunk was filled with groceries. It was unusual for me because mom always asked me to accompany her to go and buy supplies. I asked her. Why didn’t you bring me along to the groceries store? She said, I was in a rush and could manage to do that by myself. Is it okay with you? Next time, I promise I would bring you a long. No big deal, mom. We went on preparing dinner together and continued with our routines. Mom would take a shower and change her night pajama. I would help with the dish and continued working on my home work. Addie was doing hers and sometimes talking over the phone to her friends.
One day, I received an invitation from our local AFS volunteer. They were going to organize a gathering with the host families and students in Modesto (I can’t recall whether it’s in Modesto or somewhere else). I was always excited to join such gatherings, because I could meet up my friends and of course the afs volunteers. I loved them! I asked mom if she could take me there. She said she could drop me off but she couldn’t join the gathering as she had other works to do. I told Nancy (the organizer) about this and it was nice of her, she was finding some family that might be able to drop me home. There was one family, Laurie Litman and Dale Steel whose daughter was an exchange student to New Zealand who was coming to the gathering. And they were willing to take me home. That’s how I met Laurie and Dale.
My life with Hill family was running well. I went to school, got back and did my home work. Played with Little Bear. Everything was enough for me. I began to spend more time with Laurie after the gathering. She was very nice of inviting me to see some places in town and visit some events. Renee did not have much time and extra money to take me somewhere during weekends. But it was okay for me. I didn’t have to go every weekend, right? Then I found out one night. I heard mom and Addie’s conversation about the possibility of hosting me for the remaining months. She was facing a hard moment. Hosting a student required extra financial ability, and that night I found the reason why she had her trunk filled with goods. It’s not because she had extra time to do the shopping alone. It’s because the church had given her some free supplies knowing that she had hard time spending extra money for hosting me. That time, I knew… I would leave that warm home soon. I couldn’t stay there any longer…