Wednesday Feb 18 2009
Lincoln experience amazing for student
By: Carol Feineman, Editor
Kantuta Mamani Oporto says she owes Lincoln residents, Lincoln High School and the Rotary Club for “the most amazing experience” of her life. Staying here from Aug. 14 to Monday, the Bolivian exchange student repeatedly and graciously thanked Rotarians at their weekly meeting last Thursday for being a part of her visit. I was so impressed with this self-confident teenager that I called her the next day for an interview. As she again exuberantly described how she has grown up during her visit here, I walked away from our conversation wishing I had been among the many residents who became Oporto’s friend the last few months. Six months ago, Oporto, 17, had difficulties carrying a conversation in English. Fast forward to the recent Rotary meeting and she had audience members spellbound as she described her whirlwind journey here. Not bad for a 12th-grader, who said she could only say the basics in English such as “Where are you from” or “I’m Kantuta ” last August. But that wasn’t a problem, Oporto said, because host parents, Karl and Dyann Ander-sson, helped her learn how to speak fluently in English. Besides, Oporto added, “It was my dream to come to California for three or four years.” That’s when she talked to an exchange student back home and decided spending time abroad sounded like fun. Her assumption proved to be correct. “It has been the best six months of my life. I really enjoyed California,” Oporto mentioned Friday. With that said, Lincoln was not what she imagined when preparing last year to attend Lincoln High School. “I expect, when someone says California, everyone thinks beaches, beach-boy players,” Oporto laughed. “Then I come here and didn’t find that.” Oporto did discover the beaches later when she and the other area exchange students took sightseeing trips to Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles and San Francisco. What she did find immediately in Lincoln were “really friendly people, nice lovely people and the best high school (Lincoln High) ever.” Also, Oporto quickly learned how to adjust to school and family life in the United States. In Bolivia, school begins at 8 a.m. with a two-hour lunch break at home, followed by classes until 5:30 p.m. In Lincoln, school runs from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. Oporto also pointed out that Bolivian students take 16 classes weekly and Lincoln students take five classes weekly. “The first two weeks here were kind of weird and tiring for me,” Oporto reminisced. “Then I really began to like the school and the Zebra students.” So much that Oporto looked forward to the spirit-oriented “Gold and Blue Zebra days.” Her other “cultural shock” was when she needed to arrive at different locations. “The rides were hard, it was hard getting transportation. If I wanted to go someplace, my (host) parents had to take me,” Oporto explained. “In Bolivia, I’d just walk to the mall or take a taxi if I wanted to go somewhere. But here, you have parents to take you. Sometimes they worked and they couldn’t take me. That was hard.” Those differences, though, were worth enduring as she became much more mature on her first solo trip to another country. “I learned to be more appreciative of my country, my family and I learned to appreciate everything I have, like a nice family, nice friends in Bolivia and this wonderful trip,” Oporto said, adding, “I will miss my friends from Lincoln, my family here, my high school, my exchange students.” Her favorite part of Lincoln, she stressed, were “the people.” Oporto is now looking ahead to September, when she graduates from high school in Bolivia with classmates she has known since childhood. “Then I will go to university in Bolivia. I want to be something with traveling, tourism, maybe a manager of a hotel,” Oporto said. “I will come back to Lincoln.” Her host mother, Dyann Andersson, said that Oporto knows she’s always welcome to come back. “Karl and I both will miss her ability to blend in with our lifestyle. She’s very low key and calm about daily life stuff. We’ll miss her smile and her easy-going personality. She fit in beautifully with the family,” said Oporto’s host mother. Oporto ended her Rotary presentation by handing out business cards with her Bolivian address and phone number. “It’s for people who want to talk to me or want to find me in Bolivia. I’ll show them around,” Oporto explained. “Thank you very much, everybody for letting me having this opportunity. I’m leaving with very nice memories I will never forget.” I’d say Oporto has a great tourism-related career ahead of her.