In 2002, I had an exchange student from Kosova stay with me during a summer program sponsored by George Soros for students from Balkan countries. I don't have children and was worried about what I would do with a 17-year old. Luckily, I got the most charming and delightful young woman.
She told me stories about being a refugee, on the run with her family, fleeing from the Serbs, during her country's civil war. She worried that people would not like her because she was Muslim - this was less than a year after 9/11. But she was smart and funny and clearly a person who had the guts to leave her country, fly to a huge new country and stay with a stranger.
She was open to lots of new adventures, including eating crabs, going sailing, learning to dance to zydeco music, shopping at the mega-mall and lots more.
In the past week, I've been thinking a lot about her because of Kosova's independence. I had lost her e-mail address, but took a stab at it anyway and sent a brief note. I was delighted to get an e-mail from her this afternoon. She's in medical school studying to be a doctor, either OB/GYN or cardiology. She's engaged to a guy called Adonis. She sounds wonderfully happy.
What really touched me were her words about the United States: "This is a dream come true, and it would never happen without the help of the United States, never! We, Albanians, are very very grateful for what the US have done for us. It is unforgetable!"
B... if you're reading this, I am so proud to know you!