November 18, 2014

International Friends Share Our Life Journey — Part 1



Part 1

The following piece was written between July 1985 and summer 1988. It has been updated from then to include relationships to the present date.

During our children’s growing up years they met special people from foreign countries, people who joined their life journey to ours. Below are some of their stories.


One such person was Hung Pheng Tan, a graduate student at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where my husband Monte taught. We were his American host family, and when we relocated from SUNY@Buffalo to Slippery Rock University, Pennsylvania, he visited our new community. He was the first international person our daughter Sandy met—although I’m certain she doesn’t recall knowing him back then, as she was only a few months old. Hung Pheng was present at her baptism. She remet him (and his wife) when the couple visited us in 1988, and my son Nolan met him for the first time.

Whether from Singapore or America, we all feel joy

Whether from Singapore or America, we all feel joy

When they visited us in July 2014 Sandy could introduce him, his wife, and his college-age son to her daughter, a sweet sixteen.


Joseph, a Cameroon (Africa) native, lodged with us for a short time while studying at Slippery Rock University. He needed work and we needed help in our country-style life—especially with planting trees. When he moved on he left behind a young boy—our son—who, for almost two years, rejected the use of silverware in favor of fingers.  This was the result of the effects of an African dish meant to be eaten with the fingers, a technique Nolan applied to almost all foods.

When Joseph’s wife Susanne came to the United States to join him and to study here, she left their son in their native country. While here she also became a special friend. Susanne became pregnant just before we left for Atlanta, Georgia, where my husband Monte studied for the ministry. Understandably they lacked many needed items. Our family prepared a pond-side baby shower for Susanne, complete with a warm-weather swim to cool off. In attendance were several elderly neighbors as well as younger folk, all of whom were exposed to her Cameroon culture. Her son arrived a month later while we were in Atlanta.


During our three-year sojourn in Atlanta Samir and Farial, from Egypt, joined our life journey. We met through a program that connected foreign visitors with American families for Christmas. We shared much with them—we even helped them relocate from Maryland to Atlanta. Our shared meals were most meaningful. My daughter especially liked a pasta dish they prepared.



We returned to western Pennsylvania in July 1985. My husband was appointed to Emmanuel United Methodist Church in New Castle. One day the church had a special guest, Ben, a church organist from Ammon, Jordan. He was visiting his daughter and son-in-law, Lena and Michael, who lived two blocks from us. Michael is from Egypt.


 Hands Across America, New Castle, PA

Because of our experience with Farial and Samir our family instantly related to this family. When we shared a meal in their home, guess what Sandy requested? The pasta dish Farial had prepared for us in Atlanta. And it was Ben, who, while visiting us one evening, prepared a special steak Sandy had liked when Farial prepared it.

Ben was a special person. He traveled to the United States each summer, and each time bringing his piano tuning tools. On each visit he would tune the pianos at the church and at my house (Ben, where are you??? My piano is so out of tune!). Ben shared his great musical talent during his visits by playing the piano and organ for a church service. He left a copy of his music, which he wrote, but had had to recopy because in Jordan, music is written right to left, and here it must be left to right. Read part of his story at Honoring Benny’s 70 Years as a Church Organist .


Lena and I became very good friends who haven’t lost touch even though she and her husband Michael moved to Florida while we were still in New Castle. Years later, when we lived in Connellsville (Pa.) they paid a surprise visit to our home.

Lena and Mike reached for their dream

Lena and Mike reached for their dream

It was the evening of our block party, when all the neighbors gathered to make personal pan pizzas and play games on the street that the police had closed off. Their oldest son remained in Florida, but they brought Ramsey, their younger son. The neighborhood youth didn’t care that Ramsey was challenged. The younger boys took charge of him, while the older girls included him in their card games. When Ramsey left he told everyone stories about his three new girl friends.

The stories continue in Part 2, to be posted soon.

1 Comment »

  1. Carolyn…Wow!… what an interesting life journey. Thanks for sharing with us. 🙂

    Comment by merry101 — November 18, 2014 @ 3:23 pm | Reply

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