Alisa Shor ’05
Omsk, Russia/Orlando, FL
alisa_d_shor [at] mail [dot] ru

‘Welcome, Alice’
August 3, 2004

As soon as my eyes meet these words, I look up to see a red-haired girl with funny freckles. She seems as confused as I am about our long-expected meeting. ‘So this is Megan,’ I am thinking to myself, as I already know by heart the names of my host family members.

Laurie, my host mother, constantly smiling (I should get used to this good American habit), is leading the way to the parking lot. I am being asked some formalities about the flight, and we are heading to my new home, passing blue swimming pools that sparkle under the bright Florida sun…

The Alexanders – David, Laurie, Megan, and three wonderful dogs – became my family right away as I stepped into their white house full of light. The room upstairs was waiting for me: bedsheets designed like an American flag, a closet large enough for all the clothes I had ever had… My hosts started from the very first day of my presence. They made me feel at home.

Megan Alexander, my “sister”: crazy little red-head who loves sleepovers, Hawaiian parties, Disneyworld, shopping trips and any kind of girl stuff. I think she is admirably brave to live through all the exchange students who stayed in their house since her babyhood.

Laurie Alexander, the “mom” I can have any conversation with and there will never be a “generation gap” situation. She is a person who would do for me anything worth doing, like going shopping for a Prom dress or dropping me off at school in pajamas on PJ Day. Thoughtful and tacit, she is always ready to help me in any way – as Moms are.

David Alexander, my “dad”: my American number one father-to-daughter / political debate / discussing-football / doing-nothing partner.

He managed to be not only my “dad,” but also my best friend. We have lots of inside jokes and nicknames which only the two of us can explain. We had ups and downs, and I was happy all the time we were “up”; when we were “down” – it happens, you know – I was broken down by misery and desperate to make it up. All in all, I am very grateful for the “dad” I had in America.

What David absolutely loves doing is teasing and making fun of me – earlier on the matter of my “Soviet” background and its collision with American stereotypes from the Cold-War era. But his jokes were never rude or mean – I laughed along with him, sometimes counter-joking about them being “so American.” We watched the James Bond movie “From Russia with Love” together; after seeing the “Rocky and Bullwinkle” cartoon (where Soviet spies were called Boris and Natasha) we nicknamed ourselves Moose (David) and Squirrel (me), which always cheered us up.

These ideology jokes gave start to our discussions of current U.S. and world events. David and his wife Laurie are ardent Democrats, and I happened to stay with them during both hot periods before presidential elections in 2004 and 2008, becoming inevitably involved in the process of watching debates and making fun of rivals. I did anything to spend as much time as possible with my host family. And they seemed perfectly fine with that. Many great things happened thanks to David’s support: I won a trip on Close-Up Foundation program in Washington, D.C.; I had a chance to see the beauty of New Orleans before it was washed away by Katrina…I finally realized – yes, I can!

Now when we are far apart, I still keep in touch with the Alexanders. When I call, I talk mostly with David – we obviously never cease to chat about what happens in our countries and in our families. I invite them to Russia all the time, and they invite us to Florida. And I am happy I have both of my families – they make me whole.