30 Mar

There was a woman on my last tour who fascinated me from afar. On the last day I decided on a closer inspection. Short and compact with a Caterpillar knit cap, she looked rather like a fit, grim bulldog. She chose not to live in the town of 470 but rather on a farm twenty miles away with no neighbors but the cows that needed milking at dawn in the freezing relentless wind-swept flatlands of Indiana. She fascinated me because she always sat with the only Asian girl on the trip and seemed rather protective of her, and kindly and patiently instructive as well.

I plopped myself next to her at lunch that last day, rather insinuating myself as she was well-surrounded by the Asian girl, Soo and another girl named Tallu. Tallu was, of all things, Norwegian. Soo was from Beijing. This woman named Amy had taken in two foreign exchange students that year, which has been a typical practice of hers for a decade. Soo had some language difficulties and Amy was there every step of the way to help try and translate my motormouth when Soo was lost. Tallu had a bit more proficiency and a bit more independence, but flocked to Amy whenever she could because she clearly loved her.

Amy also has a ten-year-old at home. A little boy she adopted two years ago from Haiti. “Nobody wanted an eight-year-old,” she told me as my eyes watered up, “and I couldn’t just leave him behind.” So she spent an entire year fighting the ridiculous Haitian bureaucracy to bring him to her farm in the middle of nowhere, surrounding by nothing except the everything of her love, joining her four biological children and the revolving international presence of her annual charges.

She never locks her doors. Her home is open to all the kids who can get to it, isolated as it is. As she told me, she’d rather have all the kids think of the farm as a place to hang out where she can supervise than go elsewhere for their adolescent adventures.

Everything about her was provincial. And absolutely nothing really was. And I loved her more than Norway, or China, or dare I say it, NYC.

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