Summer school is hard. You don't want to be sitting in a classroom for hours a day while your friends go to the beach and send you pictures. Summer school is harder when you decide to take four 3hour credit courses in one month. ONE month. You go to class from 8am - 3pm every. single. day. On the first day, you see 8 students enter the classroom looking and speaking like they're not from there. The teacher explains that they are English teachers in their respective countries. That's why you're hearing Portuguese, Spanish, and Chinese fly around the room. You get excited to know these teachers because your mom taught ESL in New Orleans and you feel a connection to that ministry. This is a once in a lifetime chance. And you take it.
Eliza from Brazil (there's 2 Eliza's) and Paula (also from Brazil) are your partners for a presentation. The intensity of the class makes for little time to meet and work on projects outside of class. So, you invite the ladies to your house to work on the presentation. You get to know more about each other and you start forming a friendship. They even start teaching you Portuguese.
The next morning, you teach yourself "Good morning" in Portuguese while you walk to class, hoping to surprise your new friends. They get all excited when you greet them in their language! Paula invites you to lunch and you get to meet the other ladies from Brazil! Irene and Val. You all sit together at lunch and the Brazilians have you say foods in Portuguese (apparently all my French training has given me no American accent when speaking Portuguese). They celebrate your ability and keep adding words. You feel like a parrot, but a very happy parrot.
Soon, you and Eliza from Peru are best buds! Y'all work together on in-class projects and come to find out that y'all share the same type of humor and awe for language and the world.
One day, you decide to cook a traditional southern meal and host your new friends to help them gain experience in America. You cook: hamburger steaks with gravy, drop biscuits, butterbeans, squash, and sweet potatoes. Pound cake, sugared strawberries, and homemade whipped cream. (And sweet tea). You go pick them up from their apartment and drive them to your house. You eat the meal with excitement and praise all around. Soccer discussions take place and also talk about the food in Brazil and Peru. You then take them around the yard, talking about the different trees and plants you have. They take lots of pictures and comment on how green everything is. Back inside, they say words that make your heart swell with happiness. "We feel Jesus in this home." "You have learned the valuable lesson that God is first, then family." "I walked in your home and I felt comfort." You get teary-eyed and tell the ladies that you hope and pray those things over your home. Lots of hugs happen.
Back in class, you soon meet the rays of sunshine from China: Anna and Mary. They are such cheerful ladies. They smile all the time and they love learning. They are the reason you don't hate the long class time so much. They invite you to lunch one day and you get to hear about their families and lives back in China. They talk about the food and atmosphere. Although you try hard, you can't master any of the Chinese words they try to get you to say.
You (along with the help of another MC student) take all the ladies to Walmart. You become the "mother duck" and keep tabs on where everyone is. You help make style decisions, help navigate the store, and make sure no one is left behind. It's a wild time, but you'll never forget it.
You also help take them to their first baseball game ever! You sit in the middle of them and explain everything you know about baseball. You answer questions, point out different people and bases, get recorded explaining the game. And soon enough Eliza from Peru is giving you the stats on the batter from looking at the screen and she's keeping score. You feel accomplished!
Before they leave the US, there are two meals you attend. One is a traditional Brazilian meal that makes you super happy! Dancing, game playing, and laughter accompany the meal. The other is a Chinese meal where you find out that you're too slow at making dumplings to survive in a restaurant in China. But, you smile and laugh with the ladies as you keep making funny-shaped dumplings. The end result is heaven in your mouth.
Many tears accompany the last week of classes. Paula leaves on Wednesday. Class ends Friday. As you leave the classroom for the last time, you are made to promise visits to Peru, Brazil, and China. You hug those ladies 5 times each. On Sunday (after everyone has left and started their journeys home), you cry. You made friends from all over the world. You shared life with those ladies for 28 days.
The impact they had on you is going to last the rest of your life.
Picture: (Left to right: Mary, Eliza from Peru, Me, Paula. Front: Irene)