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Letter 1: Nonnie, My American Grandma

December 7, 2010

Nonnie was the best person to start this blog with. A couple of months ago, I received a letter for my birthday, and it was from her. Now you should know that I haven’t seen that person in four years now, that she lives in another continent, and that she is 92 years old.

When I was a teenager I had one of the best experiences of my life: I was an exchange student for a whole year. This experience has changed me radically, and I cannot begin to describe the positive consequences of having done this. A year abroad has impacted so many aspects of my life, from doing my 4 years of university in another country to having the chance to spend a summer in South Africa, that it has even changed the way I now interact with people and see the world (Something they tell you will happen, but that you don’t fully realize until a couple of years have gone by).

During this year abroad, I was hosted by a wonderful family that I now consider as my second family. A funny thing by the way, is that my host brother and I were born on the same day. And the grandma – Nonnie – was living just two blocks away from our house.

Everyone else in the family called her Nonnie, so I did. Little did I know that this was their way of saying “grandma”, but maybe I would have ended up calling her Nonnie anyways. I enjoyed spending time at her place, on week-days after school while my host brother was at soccer practice. She was from Mississippi, so she used to tell me stories from the South, which I enjoyed, even more with her southern accent (“I been sleepin’ like a log I tell you wh’at”). And she had (still has) this funny habit of collecting newspaper articles that talk about places where she has family (she once sent me a letter full of articles on Hurricane Ivan).

On family dinners she would always have something delicious prepared, and I discovered squash casseroles, sweet potatoes, banana puddings (yummmmy) and above all, my favoritest, CHEESECAKE. All these foods were unknown to me back then (“you mean like a cake, made of cheese? Are they serious? And they want to eat it for desert? I must be hearing it wrong…” ). So when I visited back in 2006 she taught me how to prepare these dishes, which I’m grateful for (although the first cheesecake I made was so dense no one could eat more than half a piece).

She also has great advice on life. And she walks the talk. She says that family is important, and although she’s 92 she still travels from Florida to Austin or South Carolina to see relatives. She is happy to see her son and grandsons do things they like. And she took the time and effort to write me a 4 page letter, although she needs a magnifying glass to read anything.

And finally, she used to tell my host brother and me, that a man should always have nice shoes and a good haircut. Guys, this is one clever piece of advice indeed. And girls, if you meet a nice guy, make sure he has nice shoes and a good haircut.

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