People actually looked at the list of all the AFSers at Alhambra from here and abroad in the Patch earlier this week. I know because I had inadvertently left out the Americans Abroad School Program students. My thanks to Pat Cerri Hair for her gentle reminder. The oversight horrifies me because I can still remember Alhambran Heidi Koller (1963 School program) telling my junior high class about going to the Netherlands, meeting her host family and enrolling in high school without knowing one word of Dutch before she arrived.
It was an “AFS moment” which totally blew me away and cemented my respect for the program and my admiration of those who at 17 or 18 risked the comfort of familiarity for the challenge and the rewards of ‘taking a chance on love’ even if one didn’t know the language.
Heidi faced the challenge and met it. She picked up Dutch quickly (like there was a choice?) and succeeded in the year. I don’t think I could have done it at that point in my life although I was fabulous at it when I was 30…largely because of my experience with AFS. Well…I did cheat as I went to teach in Australia where they speak English….sort of. Try explaining peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to first form (seventh grade) youngsters for whom jelly is what we call Jell-O. And don’t even mention “Skip to My Lou” as an American folksong to third formers (9th graders). Figure out that horror for yourselves – I can still hear the roars of laughter 40 years later.
Heidi also said something to my class that startled me at the time but which has since proved to be accurate – “Dutch chocolate”, she said, “is wonderful. It makes H……’s taste like soap.” I was skeptical at the time but since then we’ve all become more educated about quality chocolate which has proved to me (and H……’s) she was right. Meanwhile, I can say smugly, “I heard it first from Heidi!”
Teresa Rippee-Beaubien reminded me there was an exchange student, Tom Elfring, at Alhambra in ’75-76 who was from another exchange program but who found a welcoming host family with Juanita Machado and a place at Alhambra and continues his friendship with Teresa and her family. That just proves the label of the program doesn’t matter. The willingness to be the student or to be the family that welcomes the student and the high school that finds a place for the student is what matters.
Trinka Almquist March (’78) told me Wednesday night that by coincidence, her AFS sister, Michiko Yoshida (1977-78), is flying in from Japan on Reunion weekend in a trip long planned because one of her four children will be enrolling for her first year at Sonoma State. They had already made other jam-packed plans for the weekend so they may not be seen at Reunion events but they will be living the extended AFS family life big time in Martinez that weekend.
When all is said and done, AFS exchange program pioneer Stephen Galatti was right. Focusing on families, communities and teens is the way to promote peace and understanding in a world which sorely needs it. “Walk together, talk together”, (eat chocolate and Jello together), and “then and only then shall we have peace”, understanding and loving laughter, lifelong friendships and an expanded and hopeful world view of the future.
AFS Scrapbooks will be available to view at the Martinez Museum during its Reunion Weekend Open House – just ask the Society volunteers.
Martinez Museum, 1005 Escobar Street (cnr Court & Escobar)
Saturday, August 18 from 9 a.m. to noon (drop by before heading up to Rankin Park for the picnic)
Sunday, August 19 from 1 to 4 p.m. (drop by before or after visiting Art in the Park for a last chance to touch base with oldand new friends at the historic Susana Park spot where last year the Decades Reunion idea for this year was hatched by the Remembering Martinez Facebook group
Also, Reunion coordinator Mary Breshears Perez (’63) and her amazing committee have worked so hard to set up a great event with record-breaking numbers of folks coming from down the street and across the country including one member of AUHS ’39 who is flying in from Florida. So give the organizing folks a cheer for their hard work and be patient with them as they try to make sure you have a great time. And whenever you see Ray Gentry (’64), thank him as not only has he made the badges we’ll all wear, it is his setting up the “Remembering Martinez” Facebook group a little over a year ago that got this whole thing started.
Upcoming Alhambra history blogs include comments by Chris Thomas (Australia 69-70) looking back on what it was like to come to Alhambra as an AFSer and some by Folke Jesperson (Denmark 66-67) as he was leaving at the end of his year here plus an interview with Rita Satre Cox (’69) who was host sister of them both.
And next week…the blog many of you have been waiting for – the truth (or at least part of the possible truth) about just how Antioch ended up with the Panther mascot and Alhambra got the blue and gold colors back in 1947.