Although feeling nearly exhausted, I cannot postpone typing out what I have seen and learned during the homestay with the Shifflets in Corvallis as I am afraid that my beautiful memories will fade away soon. It may take hours to talk about what Tian, my “homemate”, and I experienced, so I am going to focus on the highlights of this memorable 2-day journey away from Miller Hall.
My host family
My excitement grew stronger when I met the kind Shifflet family in Miller Hall and then arrived at their lovely house on a low hill at 6:30 p.m when the sun was still high above us. The host parents Jill and Greg got a special sense of humor, and we had a lot of fun. Our talks helped enhance mutual understanding of the different cultures and brought us closer. Among the characteristics of young American people that I learned, their independence and maturity are what I admire most. They prefer doing things by themselves in order not to rely on anybody else while many Vietnamese city kids are often well protected in parents’ arms only to find real life full of risks and threats later. Jill and Greg’s 17-year old son, Kyle now works as an intern in the Rocky Mountain Laboratories, one of the most state-of-the-art labs in the States. American high school curricula seem not to cram young minds with too much knowledge as in Vietnam, but they promote students’ self-exploration and creativity which help them grow naturally. Kyle and his elder daughter, Casey will leave their parents and move out in the next two years when they are on their own, which will not be a big deal for them.
Back to the house, more exactly the hill land on which lie a house, I love the barn, the pastures for two horses, Magic and Cotton, with several cows, and more than that the peaceful view of similar houses on undulating green hills with meandering ditches and cattle grazing leisurely. The family owns numerous farming and winter tools and convenient appliances, but the house remains neat and clean.
“Two student survivors” after hiking in the woods and around the lake
The last morning of homestaying came with an unexpected hiking journey of more than 6 miles around 900-arce Como Lake, which is roughly 4,000 feet in elevation. I have always kept in mind that if we desire something, we have to earn it. I had the pleasure of enjoying the magnificence of nature as well as learning about myself by keeping my steps firm on the forest trails despite my weary legs and dry throat. I did not allow myself to quit because the people ahead including Tian were moving forward. Truly I felt I was part of the wilderness. I thought I could merge with the tall pine trees, little spry chipmunks, sour thimbleberry or every living creature here.
May Montana’s nature and its properties last forever! I will never forget the lessons of reborn pine trees sprouting from ashes, the historical formation and movement of the Glaciers, and the relationship between human beings and nature.
Only when we made it to the end of the trails could we celebrate our triumph over ourselves. And we did cheer.
If asked what is my most rewarding thing to do here, I will answer without doubt: walking. I had not realized I enjoy walking that much until I walked with the host family in the small town of Corvallis. Even after arriving in this scenic Big sky country. I did not know how interesting walking was. In the heart of the Bitteroot Valley, I found myself walking under the charming sunset and dazzling full moon at the same time, between the huge cottonwood trees, watching herds of cows, couples of horses, and deer with misty ranges of mountains surrounding. I walked on the hills going up and down while filling my lungs with the smell of green grass in the chilly gloaming. Every moment I walked there, I felt the freedom under the immense sky.
Without the hospitality of our host family, Tian and I could not have had a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the culture of American families and the nature of Montana. We will miss you, Jill, Greg, Kyle, and Casey.
The photos will tell you more. Now I need some rest. Sleep tight everyone.