How can a single guy be a "Dad" to seven boys?
Well it's time to start putting up information
about the most wonderful thing I've ever
done in my life! That being-hosting foreign exchange students. What a decade it
has been! Each came as a stranger and left as a blood relative!
#1 Henry Förster 94-95 from Karow, (Berlin) Germany
#2 Andreas Krause 96-97 from Köln (Cologne) Germany
Stephan Wiedemann 99-2000 from Freilassing Germany
#4 "Note" - Chayakan Plaengchantuek 2000-01 from Chonburi Thailand
#5 Frank Fichtenmueller 2000-01 from Nuremberg Germany
What? Stop at 5?
OK, here's what happened. After I had 5 students, I really made it quite public that I WAS DONE! Not for any bad reason, but like ANY family or parent, I felt that 5 was enough and it was time to stop. I wanted to turn things around a bit and visit my "kids" over there. And let's face it, it costs money. Kids have big appetites, and since I do a fair amount of socializing each meal out costs double. And then there's driving since we live in the country, and the typical run of presents and such. I'm not complaining at all, but I felt 5 was enough and I had really had a good exchange with all five of them and their families and just didn't want to "throw the dice" again.
On September 10, 2001 I had 3 international trips that were all planned and ready to go. 2 to Europe and 1 to Thailand. In the morning came an invitation to a peace conference in Italy, Rome Italy. One week, all expenses paid, just get there. With all my air miles in the bank, that was no problem. So I called them up and said YES YES YES. One of the evenings was even going to be an audience with the Pope. Now as a Lutheran, meeting the Pope (in an audience of only 40 I might add) was not the heart stopping moment that it might have been for a life long Catholic, but I got to tell you, I WAS over the top excited! AND they extended the offer to a friend or companion if I wanted. I immediately called my cousin LouAnne who I had shared many long conversations with about some day traveling to Europe together. I didn't even explain the entire trip to her on the phone and she said, "YES YES YES! Make it Happen!"
|And so I spent most of the rest of the day making plans because the departure
date was just a couple of weeks away and I had lots of things to put in order.
I broadcast live radio programs each day from WHEREVER I am in the world.
Lots of logistics and planning are required to make it all happen and I had
never broadcast or even been in Italy before so needed to find out power
requirements, whether the German equipment I carried over there would work in
Italy, etc. It was a heady, exciting day. I couldn't wait until the
next morning to tell my radio audiences that we had added YET ANOTHER and a very
exciting trip to the list!
Well, less than 24 hours later, you know what happened. Our world, or at least the American part of that, was turned upside down. The folks that I had been talking to about the trip to Italy were actually in the Trade Center. Everything started falling apart. Over the next few days it was decided that perhaps all international events should be downscaled until we found out just what we were dealing with. Remember there were NO airplanes flying for several days after that tragic Tuesday! A call from the placement agency asking/requesting/even slightly begging that I consider taking a student went by without affecting me, but then, sitting trying to think through all these events, I came to the realization that if a young man from Europe/Germany was brave enough to get on a plane and come live with me for a school year, then I guess I'm brave enough to "do it again!" So after a couple of fast calls and some quick paperwork Jan Pfeiffer was winging his way to the farm in Crookston.
Jan Benedikt Juergen Pfeiffer 2001-2002
from Homburg Sarr (NOT Hamburg)
(near Ramstein Air Force Base) Germany
6, a Lucky Number STOP NOW
OK OK OK I know, you've heard it all before. I'm done hosting foreign exchange students, it's been great, BUT 6 is enough and that's that! But come the fall of 2003 the calls of encouragement came in again. John, you're a great host parent, we need families, we got great kids to pick from, we got to get them into school before the schools feel it's too late in the year. The pleas continued and I was able to turn a deaf ear, at least for a while. But then the request was made...please just be a "welcome home." Take a student for 4 weeks...6 maximum! That way they'll get to America, get settled in school, make some friends and we (the agency) will find them a home for the year.
So I acquiesced...to be a WELCOME HOME, nothing more. Four resumes were in my fax machine before I could hang up the phone. Two of them I set aside right away-just feeling that they weren't good matches. But there were two that just "caught my eye!" A young man from the Czech Republic and one from Germany. But which to choose. The part of getting a student that I hated the most. Will I pick correctly. Does it matter? Perhaps God has already chosen and our dwelling on a choice is futile. I picked the German only because I felt that because of my experience with others from the "fatherland" that it would be easier/more comfortable for me.
Because of lots of visits there and some great friends who I now considered
family, I went with the familiar. BUT JUST as a WELCOME HOME! So I
made contact with Fabian's family in Germany and after a bit of back and
forth, I was happy with them and they were happy with me, however they had
one valid concern.
Fabian could come and have a great time with me, and feel comfortable, and be enjoying school, life, family, etc., and then in 4 to 6 weeks get placed in a totally different environment that if nothing else, was unknown at this time. So I made an instant decision. If Fabian wanted he could stay the year with me. Problem solved! I'm glad I made that choice, and I think Fabian and his family are too!. Fabian has turned out to be a kind, considerate, smart, well though out, well thought of by his peers young man! I've already visited his family near Frankfurt and it's become a great year (this written January 31, 2004) But what happened to Marek from CZ? We intend to find out in the coming months. Fabian too has developed an interest in the person who didn't come here! We intend to ask the agency to let us contact him, and perhaps even visit him! What an experience that might be! So, check out Fabian's page.. wonders never cease!
#7 Fabian Kleinschumacher
2003-2004 from Hofheim (near Frankfurt).
So, that's been my host father journey! Today is Thanksgiving day 2003, and I have so much to be thankful for! I'm 52 and my folks are yet in good health, I live in the farmhouse that has housed four generations of Reitmeiers, I'm never hungry, or cold, or scared. I get to travel so many places and entertain guests from even farther away. Thank you Lord for making this all possible!
You should think about becoming a host family! It's a great experience. I highly recommend it to anyone. Yes there are days when you think, "What the heck am I doing?!" But when it's all said and done, you will extend your family, learn an incredible amount about a different country and culture, and have family around the globe. If you're not yet convinced, call me, email me, or talk to any of "my family!"
These guys and gals didn't live with me but we sure became good friends!
This year we were gifted with an intern who lived and worked with us! Johan left on December 11, 2003 to continue his education. We will always think of him as part of our company, and our extended family!
Johan Ma from Indonesia
Find out more about Johan at Blue Marble Technology
Here's Johan absorbing the cable
TV control information
from Brandon at the
Halstad Telephone Company main offices.