making the world a little smaller

[Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.] ~ Mark Twain

I suppose this idea was behind the exchange agreement my high school and one just outside Frankfurt, Germany.  The thought that kids from two cultures, though different, can learn from one another and in the process, realize that they are a lot the same despite those differences.

Back in 1989, I recall being excited ~ and maybe a little nervous ~ that my parents decided our family would host a student from Germany.  And then I remember being really surprised that my school assigned us a boy...I guess because we had a guest room?

Ralf led us on our first geocaching adventure

Despite the initial awkwardness of suddenly having a jet lagged, slightly older brother whose native language was not my own, Ralf and I found a comfortable friendship and enjoyed our time as "siblings."  At the end of his stay I distinctly remember him declaring us his American family and promising that he'd be back to visit one day.


And true to his word, about five years later he did come back while on a trip with a friend exploring the Eastern seaboard.

exploring a new area of our local park

And then ten years later, Ian and I had the opportunity to spend a long weekend with Ralf and his wife while we lived in Europe for a short period.

Natalie gets a little help across the creek from "uncle Ralf"
I think though that back in 1989, if you had told either of us that 25 years later he'd be sitting in my living room and we'd be catching up on lost time we both would have laughed.

Caleb and Ralf discover a cache in a disconnected phone booth

Laugh away high school Kristi and Ralf..because at the end of January, here he was.  He was in CA for a week long conference and instead of exploring a little of the West coast on his free weekend, he hopped a flight to NC to visit with us, claiming that time with family was more important than walking the streets of a new city alone.

my mom with her "German son"...he still called her Mom and even remembered our phone number even after 25 years
We met up with my mom, my sister and her kids one day.

Ralf with five of his "American nieces and nephews"
We spent a day geocaching around our area.

my crew LOVED "uncle wreck-it-Ralf!"
And the three of us grown-ups acted like we were still in high school, staying up entirely too late at night making up for years of lost conversation time.

my sister, our "German brother" and me
Our relationship with Ralf has existed to make the world a little smaller...both for me personally and for my kids too.  They are already planning a grand two family adventure so they can meet their "German cousins" and explore a new continent.  Not sure how we can make it happen in the near future...but it's always nice to daydream.  

1 comment:

Jennifer Taylor said...

What an incredible story!! Such a blessing to still be in each other's lives!