Belgium

In 1965 while sitting in geometry class an announcement went out over the PA. I was a Sophomore at Pueblo East high school— “If you are interested in hosting next year’s foreign exchange student, as a host family, please pick up an application in the guidance counselor‘s office”. At that time in Pueblo the American Field Service selected one host family from each of the five high schools. It was huge deal as students came

from throughout the world 🌎 to spend their senior year as an American. I thought to myself, “But there’s no way they would pick my weird family”.

That same night as my family was sitting around the dining room table, (and I’m not sure even what the impulse was), but I remember saying out loud, “They are taking applications for the host family for next year’s AFS foreign exchange student”. Without much thought both my parents said, “I think we would like to apply for that”.

What followed was the equivalent of a home-study. There were about 10 other families from my high school that applied. I was sure after the interview that my family was the weirdest they had ever met.

Sometime in June, after I had long forgotten about the possibility that I might have a sibling from a foreign country, we were notified that we had in fact, been selected, and that Paul Lecocq, a 17-year-old from Belgium would be arriving in the middle of August. All we had was a brief history of his application, a school picture, and the reality that we had opened ourselves up to an adventure. Paul showed up in Pueblo, Colorado wearing a beautiful European style suit with some pointy shoes. I remember going down to the basement with him and showing him his bed and the room we would be sharing. I was thinking to myself “This is going to be the longest year of my life…what have I done”? Within two days he had packed away all of his European clothes and my parents took him shopping to buy him Levi’s, Converse tennis shoes, and Madras shirts. Those European suits never saw the light of day again.

What happened to my family was nothing short of magical as Paul became the fifth kid in our family and the older brother I never had. He was a soccer-style kicker and became a star on the Pueblo East football team. My Junior Year was a highlight reel of the best of the 60’s.

Tomorrow I get on a plane to fly to Belgium. This will be my 4th time there. Paul has been back here six times. We will be celebrating his 70th birthday next week. In a heartbeat we will pick up where we left off. 53

years of friendship continues. Our story now includes kids, grandkids, and the knowledge that the only things you have in life are experiences and relationships.

Onward and Upward

Mark

PS— for the next three weeks I will be sharing with you a few of the experiences that I have on my European vacation🤠 .

8 thoughts on “Belgium

  1. Great story. 😊 I love that you got to experience all that and are still in touch after all these years. We hosted a sweet AFS student from India during my junior year; but just for a weekend. She was staying with a family on the other side of Denver and attending George Washington. But I met her through one of our exchange students; we hit it off so I invited to attend our homecoming festivities while her host family was out of town. Still remember her name – Suniti Paranspe. Suniti means little butterfly. Unfortunately, we lost touch with each other in the late 79’s. I have often wondered how she is and how her life turned out. I am still in touch with Felix Blum who was our senior year AFS student from Switzerland. We even built a little Swiss Chalet booth from which he and I sold Swiss Toblerone candy bars in our school hallway to raise money for the AFS program. Thanks for bringing back some fun memories. Bon voyage, Godspeed and have fun in Belgique, Monsieur! 😊

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