Cindy’s family hosts a student from China
On a whim, in late spring 2008 my family decided to host an exchange student for the upcoming school year. By August, we were at the airport, awaiting her arrival. The kids were excited, my husband was a little bemused by how rapidly everything had happened, and I was beginning to wonder if I had lost my mind, adding a teenager to an already busy household. With other waiting families, we anxiously waited…and then we saw a bedraggled group of teenagers walking down the hall toward us. There was no mistaking our student – Yuting recognized us from the photos we had sent, and she pointed, shrieked, and ran in to my arms! Our adventure began.
From the moment we saw her small profile picture, we knew Yuting was the one for us. We adopted our daughter from China eight years ago, and we were looking forward to adding a “big sister” to our family. Yuting’s smile and love of life assured us that she was the one! Little did we know the magnitude of the adventure for Yuting. Only as we got to know her better did we find out that she had never been outside the city of Beijing before, never been on an airplane…the list of things she hadn’t done was so much larger than the list of things that she had done!
Yuting leaped right in to life in the U.S. She was willing to try just about anything and everything, and we had so much fun taking her to football games, baseball games, hockey games…she learned to ski, horseback ride, ice skate…she attended church, went on church retreats, and participated in our church musical…she made friends everywhere she went and rarely did a weekend go by that she didn’t have an invitation from someone to do something! She traveled to Chicago, Ohio, New York, Washington D.C., and San Antonio, Texas. So many things that we did with her we had already done before, but suddenly we were seeing it through her eyes.
Within our family, Yuting bridged the gap between our 2nd grade daughter and our 8th grade son. She was a fantastic big sister to our daughter, and had endless patience with her. With our son, she spent many happy hours watching movies and tv shows, and it wasn’t unusual to find the three of them playing a game, jumping on the trampoline, or just hanging out together.
After ten months, it came time to put Yuting back on a plane to Beijing. I think we would have all cried more tears, except that we knew without a doubt that we would see her again. Happily, this past April, we did indeed see her…when our family traveled to China for spring break! We started our trip in Beijing, and this time the roles were reversed. When four weary travelers walked through the doors of the airport, there stood Yuting and her mom and dad, ready to greet us…and once again, there was a huge smile on her face!
We had the amazing opportunity to spend a full day with Yuting and her extended family. They treated us to a wonderful meal at a famous Beijing restaurant, where we were treated as the guests of honor. We got to visit their apartment, and we spent several wonderful hours relaxing and laughing with her family – despite the fact that they don’t speak English and we don’t speak Chinese. The love for their daughter by all of us definitely bridged the gap.
Yuting hopes to visit us again next summer, and our home will always be open to her. We know that we changed her life in so many ways, but we also know that we will never be the same after meeting her. Our family has grown and we have added one more daughter.
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