When you host an exchange student, many times that student’s natural family becomes your own.
Our host mom Janice Kirsch opened her home to two students for the 2014-2015 program year- Masha Donets (Ukraine/IA) and Calyn Reddy (South Africa/IA). These two girls quickly became family to her.
This summer Janice’s family grew even more when Masha and her family hosted a reunion that included Janice’s mother, sister, and sister’s boyfriend as well as Calyn and her natural parents in Ukraine!
The Kirsch Family invites you to read about their visit!
“My year with Calyn Reddy and Mariya (Masha) Donets had just ended. Like many students, Masha had a lot of things she wanted to take home. I was pricing to cost of sending things and it occurred to me that it made more sense for me to spend money on a plane ticket for myself. But as my sister Carol, her boyfriend Jon, and my mother Marikay all said they would like to come, it became clear that we needed a full family reunion that included Calyn and her parents Wendy and Dev Reddy. [In July] we met Cal’s family for the first at the Istanbul airport. We then rode together to on the flight to Odessa, Ukraine.
We landed at the Odessa airport. We were greeted by Masha, her mother Tonya, and her uncle Sergei. They had cars for us and transported us to the house we rented for our stay. (I felt it was important for us to share a space and to be able to cook as Masha’s mother did not speak English and knew that she was going to want to communicate with us through food). After we rested, we took the bus to Masha’s home for a beautiful feast. Masha’s stepfather had acquired a skate fish for us, a special delicacy. Masha and her mother were terrific travel planners and guides. The next day we spent in beautiful historic downtown Odessa.
After a day of sightseeing, we had a dinner and went to a show at the Odessa opera house. Masha had tried to find a dress for her mother while she was in America, but had not gotten her size right. This white dress [see photo] was one I was able to find for her. She looked beautiful and this was her first time at the opera house, she had never taken the time before.
We could refer to this as our trip to Odessa or you could call it “Adventures in Eating”. You see us indulging at Liev Chocalates. Cal and her mother Wendy are from South Africa, but are of Indian descent. They love to cook and they prepared an Indian feast. We had a great time going to the store and getting the groceries.
Masha, her mother, her stepfather, and her 3 year old sister live in a 2 bedroom flat. Her mother is a choreographer and has some private students. One of her students was Dmitri and he and his [family] invited us to their beautiful house for lovely lunch featuring grilled pork.
The last place we visited was Masha’s school. There was a room filled with Ukrainian folk art. Masha reported that the teachers, who make very little money, financed this collection.
Our goodbyes were tearful. This was my most amazing travel experience. You can travel and see places, but there is nothing that compares to people embracing you and thanking you for loving their child and making them a part of your family.