The highlight of our recent trip to Spain was a very special re-union and a good ad campaign for the positive benefits of cultural exchange programs. While in high school Adam was an exchange student in Spain. At the end of his summer program, he met a Spanish boy on the plane who was preparing to start his exchange experience in the States. They started chatting and soon realized that Nando was actually going to be attending Adam's high school and living in is small California town. They quickly became friends, classmates, and soccer team mates. After his year in California, Nando returned to Spain and Adam visited Nando and his family during the following spring break. And then eighteen years passed.
As we were planning our trip Adam pulled out a small business card he had kept all of those years. It had Nando's picture, his full name, and the name of the Spanish rotary club that sponsored his exchange year in the States, but there wasn't any contact information. Adam quickly jumped on the internet and the phone until he was able to track down some contact information. A few days later Nando and Adam had their first phone conversation in eighteen years. There were tears, laughter, and a very generous invitation to have us stay with their family during our time in Madrid. And that is just what we did.
The tears, the laughter, the hugs, and the hospitality continued to overwhelm us once we arrived in Spain. Nando is now married to a wonderful woman, Theresa and they have a delightful six year old son, Pablo. His parents and brother also quickly made us feel right at home with amazing nightly dinners, lively viewings of Spanish soccer games, and even some flamenco dancing in the living room! It turns out that Nando is now the Vice-Mayor of his hometown. He proudly showed us around the town and the various projects he has been a part of during his term. He took us on fabulous day trips to the beautiful towns on Segovia and El Escorial. He arranged for Noah to play in Pablo's soccer game on Saturday morning with all of the other six and seven year old boys in town and presented Noah with a special Spanish soccer ball. Theresa surprised Camille with her very own flamenco dress and taught us all a few moves. Despite, the language barrier, Pablo made our kids feel right at home. Soccer, swords, and silly faces can obviously overcome any barriers! As we watched our children play together, we started to speculate about what might happen ten years from now...perhaps another generation of exchange between our Spanish and American families, wouldn't that be wonderful?