Nearly two decades have passed since we opened our home to a foreign exchange student from Costa Rica.
During just two weeks with our family, Esteban Villalobos struck as then as friendly, outgoing and destined to succeed.
Turns out we were right.
On Friday night, Esteban and his partner, Marco, met us for dinner with our daughter, Simone, her wife, Kyndall, and their friend, Hunter, who happened to be visiting from California.
Esteban was the same as Lori and I remembered: bright-eyed, with a big smile and a hug for each of us. But where there was once a head full of dark hair was now a neatly-shaven head. Now 34, Esteban is an architect, a habitual early riser who gets to the office by 6 a.m.
He was visiting Portland for a couple of days with Marco, and then they were headed up to Seattle for more sightseeing. Marco works in marketing for a liquor distributor, and seems well matched with Esteban. Both speak English very well, as they use it frequently, if not daily, at work.
Simone was a high school junior and our youngest son, Jordan, was still in middle school when Esteban came to live with us in the spring of 2000. He would tag along with Simone as she went through her daily schedule at Grant High School. After school and on weekends, there was time for Esteban and Jordan to hang out, too.
We have fond memories of the two of them watching “The Matrix” (Keanu Reeves) and “Bring It On” (Kirsten Dunrst) in the family room basement. Esteban reminded me that I took him to a Trail Blazers game, a multi-sensory experience that included a victory over the woeful New Jersey Nets. I remember a drunken fan near our section being expelled from the arena before the game even started.
Friday was a treat in more than one way. It was our first time dining at Ken’s Artisan Pizza. The restaurant has been a fixture on Southeast 28th Avenue since 2006, but we’d never made it over there until now. The wood-fired oven serves up a nice, thin crust with more than a dozen toppings, along with tasty salads and a killer calamari appetizer. Simone and Kyndall chose a great place.
In an era when air travel is something we take for granted, it’s easy to overlook the distance that Esteban covered as a teenager to live with us: 4,400 miles. (Check the map.) We’re glad he had a sense of adventure, and we’re even more glad that he enjoyed his time with us so much as to come back and visit.
Foreign exchange students can enrich your life, even with a short stay. We recommend it highly.