Meeting Smith Valley foreign exchange student
January 13, 2011
My wife and I are seated in the multipurpose room of the Smith Valley School.
The best cooks in the valley are intent on giving us a memorable Veteran’s Day celebration. Orllyene says, “I just spoke with that pretty girl over there.
Her name is Ana and she’s an exchange student. You said you wanted to do an interview with an exchange student. Here’s your chance.”
I mosey over and we arrange to meet the next day in the school library.
Ana is a bright 16-year-old sophomore. Ana is a springtime version of Julia Roberts. Her voice is melodious and manifests that wondrous quality of youth and enthusiasm.
I wonder what motivates a girl to spend a year away from home in a foreign country. Ana is from Madrid, Spain.
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“I want to be all on my own here and to know your country, and to learn better English,” she said.
Her high school back home has an enrollment of 2,000 students; Smith Valley K-12 school has an enrollment of 205. There are no metal detectors in her school at home and they work straight through from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. without a lunch break.
How did you manage to arrive here?
“Seven of us students flew from Madrid to Philadelphia, then Denver and finally Reno. When I got off in Reno I was the only one left.”
What do you want to do in your life?
Bingo, the right question. Ana lights up and lets it rip. With dream dust in her eyes she says,
“I want to be an actress in the cinema, that is where I must be but I will do any kind of work there. When I was 6 years old my favorite movie star was Marilyn Monroe,” and then goes on to name her favorite star today.
I have no idea who she’s talking about.
Have you done any traveling with your family?
“When I’m 14, my family and I go to Italy and we see Rome, Venice and Florence. It’s so beautiful. Once I stayed with my aunt in Paris for three months and I learn more French in three months than a year at school.”
Getting back to her second favorite subject after the cinema, cities, her energy soars when we talk about New York and Hollywood.
Ana’s hands move like a ballerina when she’s excited.
“Big cities are like me, full of energy, always going. I hope my mother will let me go see Hollywood.”
Time for the 64-dollar question.
What do people in Spain think of the USA?
No longer the innocent sprite, she struggles to form her thoughts into words. After a long time, she looks me in the eye and says with great exactitude “Everyone loves USA, it is very, very cool here. You are the richest country in the world, first in technology, clothes, music, cinema, everything.”
I scribble wildly and ask her to repeat what she’s just said. I want to telephone the Homeland Security Agency. True, Ana sees us with the eyes of youth but she is also a world traveler. I trust the veracity in her words.
I glance at the clock on the wall. Time’s up. Our visit is over. Well, not quite. As we are about to leave, Ana comes over and gives me a big hug. Perhaps one day I will watch her win an Oscar on television.
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley