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New foreign friends met near and far

Last Thursday, the annual Rotary International Goodwill weekend came to Detroit Lakes for the first time.

I knew I was going to have fun and that I would meet new people, but I didn’t expect that those people would instantly be my friends and that I would miss them right after they left my home.

After many years in Winnipeg, this year the Detroit Lakes Rotary Clubs took a turn at hosting the “Goodwill Weekend.”

For more than 50 years, Rotary clubs from Minnesota, North Dakota, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have gathered together for a weekend of fun and fellowship. The first Rotary Club was in Chicago. With the charter of the Winnipeg Rotary Club nearly 100 years ago, Rotary truly became Rotary International.

Now Rotary clubs exist all over the world, and Rotary is known worldwide for its efforts to bring peace and goodwill all around the globe. The fellowship between our local Rotary clubs and the Winnipeg and St. Boniface clubs is special.

Our international weekend began when my mother picked up Thais from the Holiday Inn on Thursday afternoon. I was at a swim meet. I met Thais the next morning at breakfast. She is a Belgian girl staying in Winnipeg. True to the adventurous attitude of an excellent exchange student, Thais went to school with me on Friday morning.

She wanted to experience an American high school and took the chance to accompany me to my first and second hour classes.

My first class was AP European history. Since Thais is European, my dad thought that I should have asked Mr. Kvebak if I could receive extra credit for bringing my own European to class. Although it would have been funny, I did not follow my father’s advice.

During Algebra 2, Thais tried to show me an “easier” way of doing my homework. Easier for her maybe but certainly not easier for me. I had absolutely no clue what she was talking about. After the first two classes were over, she headed out to Fair Hills to hang out with those attending the Rotary convention.

On Friday night, Thais, two other exchange students staying in Canada, Rok and my family ate at Zorbaz. (Alex is from Germany and Emilie is from Belgium.)

The three exchange students were a bit hesitant about trying the family favorite “Thai Pie” pizza. Garnished with peanut butter sauce instead of tomato sauce, it didn’t look particularly appetizing to them. The exchange student consensus is that Americans eat peanut butter with everything, and they just don’t understand why we do.

We convinced them to try it and they loved it. Well, Thais did. I’m not sure how well Alex or Emilie liked the Thai Pie, but Thais wouldn’t stop talking about how delicious it was — a perfectly understandable proposition because it is the most delicious pizza known to mankind.

After Zorbaz we went to the Laker football game. They were all excited about the players and the cheerleaders — particularly Thais. That girl was so excited about seeing real cheerleaders.

The girls weren’t actually interested in the game, but boy, Alex was. Whenever we scored a touchdown, he clapped, cheered and jumped up and down quite frantically. He was more interested in the game than anyone sitting around us. As if he understood.

After the game, Thais decided that she wanted a picture with one of the football players, as she had never seen one in person before. I found a player and asked him to be in a picture with Thais and Emilie and he agreed. Thanks, Kirby!

Of course the football player wasn’t enough, so we stopped a couple of cheerleaders on their way back to school to snap a photo with their pompoms. The girls graciously lent Thais and Emilie their pompoms, and with the pompoms high in the air, the girls posed for me while I took their picture.

On Saturday, we enjoyed a lovely day at Itasca. Well, lovely for me because I love rain. Not so lovely for the others who don’t enjoy the rain quite as much as I do.

We went to the visitor center and the headwaters. We took all the typical tourist photos in front of the sign and while walking across the rocks. Because of the rain, all of our pictures were taken with umbrellas.

On Saturday night, we were again joined by Rok, the Croatian exchange student staying in Detroit Lakes. With all of these hungry exchange students in the house, we decided to have an international dinner.

Alex made potatoes and Schnitzel, I made Chilean shrimp, Thais and Emilie made Belgian chocolate mousse, and Rok made a cucumber salad with a Croatian dressing. The dinner was delicious.

When the weekend came to a close with a Sunday morning breakfast of waffles, Thais, Emilie, Alex and I made plans to meet during Christmas break. It will be a long drive to pick them all up in Winnipeg, but it will definitely be worth it to see my new friends again.

Berit Ramstad Skoyles is a junior at Detroit Lakes High School.