This is the “Face of Yemen.”
We were returning from one of Shadi’s many planned events, this time a short road trip with friends to an Arabic restaurant for dinner. Shadi loves to make people smile. She also has a wonderful way of saying little things in such an extremely over-dramatic manner that you just have to laugh. It began with a simple question from her as to whether or not we liked Arabic food. Realizing she had a captive audience, she went on one of her rolls. We were so fortunate to have her in our company, she said. We should be grateful she was here to teach us about Arabic food. We didn’t know anything about Yemen before she came to the United States. On and on she went. “I am the best ambassador for my country!” she finally exclaimed followed by “I am the face of Yemen!” I almost had to pull the car off to the side of the road we were all laughing so hard.
Shadi’s home town is Sana’a, Yemen and she was an exchange student in the United States for the 2006-2007 school year. She came to the United States as part of the Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES).
Shadi is full of life lessons. When you live with Shadi, you always get little life lessons whether you want them or not. Life lessons are short, like “People who smile live longer, so you should always have a smile on your face” or “Never read while walking across the road.” Some life lessons are very practical, some leave you scratching your head as to where anyone would get such an idea. The funniest life lessons were about life in the United States; There is nothing quite like being lectured by a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl from Yemen on how to live in America .
Shadi was our surprise daughter. The summer after Norma’s departure, we decided to host an exchange student from Yemen. Unfortunately, we received a very short email in July from the girl apologizing that she had become engaged and would not be traveling to the United States. We were of course disappointed, but soon settled into thinking that we would have a quiet year without an exchange student. Then, on a Thursday morning in August, we received an email from our organization asking if we would take in this other young lady from Yemen. It seems that through a combination of circumstances, she was sitting in Washington D. C. with no host family and nowhere to go. All of the other YES students were departing on next day to the far corners of the U.S, and the organization had to have some place to place Shadi, even if on a temporary basis. Would we please take her for just a few weeks until a host family could be found? On Friday we gave the go ahead and Shadi arrived on Saturday, about forty-eight hours after that first email. After spending a very nice day together, the three of us sat down for a family meeting, and we all decided that Shadi was to be our sixth exchange daughter.
Shadi is a girl who loves life and wants to experience everything that it has to offer. At our first family meeting, she said the dogs would not be a problem…in fact, she wanted to live in a home with dogs because it is something she had never done before. She learned to ride a bicycle for the first time. She never wanted to waste one minute of her exchange year and always wanted to go out and see or do something different. She is an excellent cook and always kept us full of Arabic cookies.
Shadi loves Indian movies and especially Sharukh Khan. We spent more than a few Sunday afternoons at FunAsia watching the newest films that Bollywood had to offer.
Shadi has an outstanding ability with oral language. Despite having studied English at Amideast for only one year prior to coming to the United States, she was already a strong communicator when she arrived in Texas. Of course, Shadi had no inhibitions about making language mistakes and was more than eager to practice her English skills; How could she dispense life lessons if she wasn’t conversent in the English language? Amazingly, Shadi can listen a couple of times to a song in any language and then sing it back to you, even if she doesn’t know what the words mean.
Shadi wanted to see snow. It only snows maybe once or twice a year in our part of Texas, and March had arrived with no snow. We told her that we were sorry, but that she was going to miss out on seeing snow during her exchange. Shadi said that was unacceptable and that she was going to pray for snow. The picture documents what happened just three days later.