It's early June 2005, I'm sitting in my 1984 Benz with a young Russian girl, Alina. Alina speaks to me in her Fluent English and I speak back in a more broken Russian . Alina tells me of her plans for the summer. She wants to get two jobs so that she can pay her parents back the three thousand dollars that they have put up for her to come to America, she has to pay for her expenses while she is here and she wants do this in just three month's so that she can travel and see America her last month here. The visa Alina used to get here is a J-1. A student visa that allows foreign students four months in America, usually in the summertime. I tell Alina it will be very difficult for her. Alina gets a job at the Hampton Inn working as a housekeeper in the day and a job at the Black Angus at night working as a waitress. Working 70-80 hours a week for 3 month's Alina accomplish her goal. Alina is Not alone there are thousands of J-1 students who do similar things each summer.



During the summer of 2005, I have 10 different J-1 students live with me at one point or another. Some for just a few days, others for weeks. A few days before Alina departs she downloads some pictures on to a disc to give to me. For a moment she ponders how to label the disc,  with a laugh and a smile she writes on the disc Alina's vacation.



The J-1 student looks at coming to America as a big opportunity for them. Like my friend Andrew who lives in Kazan Russia. Andrew told me that his mother works in a museum in Russia, where she earns about $70.00 a month. Andrew could earn twice that in a week working as a housekeeper.

I have not met a J-1 student who was not highly motivated.

 The simple things in life that we sometimes take for granted, like a glass of orange juice, a piece of chocolate candy they savor.

Thumper & L'mera at the movies summer 06

It's June 4th, my phone rings, it is Paul the owner of Big Apple Bagel. Paul has a young Russian girl L-mera' who needs a place to live. L-mera will start each morning at 6:00 am, which requires her to leave my home at 5:15 on her bicycle. She will ride her bike 7 miles into town work from 6-9 at Big Apple Bagel. Than she will go to work as a house keeper at the Residence Inn from 9am- 5pm. Than she will get back on her bike an ride the 7 miles back to my Home.


Thumper & L'mera VA beach Sept. 06

L'mera  and I have many conversations about life in Russia. Behind her grandmother's home they have a garden where they grow all there fruits and vegetables in November they will take a cow and kill it. They will leave the cow in there front yard through the cold winter, going out and cutting away pieces of meat as they need it. When the spring comes and it starts to get warmer they will cut up the rest of the cow and place the remaining meat in three freezers they have. This will be there meat for the entire year.


J-1 students enjoy some free time down at Thumper's Beach


One of my best Friends is Anna Kaledina of Volgograd Russia. Anna and I met in the Summer of 2004 but we became good friends the next summer. Anna would work so Hard I nicknamed her my " Little Soldier ". Anna has a great sense of Humor.

Anna & Thumper at Busch Gardens August 05

" I told my boyfriend that Thumper was Gay ,but he did Not believe me." Anna Kaledina


Alina & Elya

On Sept.25 Elya and Thumper speak by telephone. Elya is back home in Russia some 10 time zones away. They talk for several minutes at the end of there conversation Elya says in her broken English " Thumper I'm very Grateful for you. "

Poka Poka

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