It's been five months since Teresa Calvimontez has seen her husband and two children back in Bolivia.
But the Bolivian university instructor has found a warm welcome during her stay in the Brainerd lakes area.
Calvimontez, 41, is living in Baxter with the Reed and Sally Campbell family as part of the AFS cultural exchange program. She was teaching American culture and English grammar at a Bolivian university when she was encouraged to apply for the program, which brings a teacher to the U.S. to not only learn more about the U.S., but to teach students about Bolivia as well.
"At the beginning I didn't want to fill out the application because I didn't want to travel," said Calvimontez. "I thought they wouldn't pick me because I'm 41 years old."
It was a tough decision to make once Calvimontez learned she was chosen for the program. It meant leaving behind her husband Ramiro and her two children, Sergio, 12; and Ramiro, 11, for the five month program. Her children were excited when they learned their mother was going to the U.S., but they thought it meant they would be able to go, too.
Calvimontez said her husband told their children that one day they, like their mother, would visit the U.S. but they would have to learn English first. So since Calvimontez has been in Brainerd, her two children have been busy learning English. She said she wants them to visit the U.S. in four years under a high school exchange program.
Calvimontez has been busy this fall helping to teach Spanish within the Brainerd School District at Baxter and Riverside Elementary schools, as well as Franklin Junior High and Brainerd High School.
The Campbell family, which includes their four teenage daughters and a son, welcomed Calvimontez into their home.
Sally (top left) and Reed Campbell, Baxter, and their four children, Macala, 15 (bottom left); Erica, 17; Corbin, 11; and Monica, 13; have hosted Teresa Calvimontez (bottom center) for the past five months. (Dispatch Photos by Jodie Tweed)
"I thought it would be good to have a different culture in our home," said Sally Campbell. "For our kids to be exposed to a different culture."
"It's nice to have someone else in the house to add spice to the family mix," added her husband, Reed Campbell.
Calvimontez said she has learned how to become more independent while in the U.S. Women are more dependent on their husbands and fathers in her country, she said.
"Something I admire here is that people are very free and independent at a young age," she said. "These girls (the Campbell daughters) are very free and independent at their age."
"It's great," said Monica Campbell, 13, of having Calvimontez living with them. "She's fun. She's silly and makes me laugh. She makes me happy."
Calvimontez found community members have been gracious to her as well. She has had a severe astigmatism and near-sightedness in her right eye since she was 13 years old. Dr. Jerome Poland of the Crosby Eye Clinic performed surgery on her eye Dec. 5, free of charge. For the first time since she was a child, Calvimontez can see perfectly through both her eyes.
Before they knew they would be hosting Calvimontez for five months, the Campbell family already made plans to spend Christmas as a family in Mexico. Instead of being alone for the holidays, Dr. Paul and Marianne Milloy invited Calvimontez to spend Christmas with them in Vail, Colo.
"Three months ago I wanted to go home, but now I will be sad to leave," said Calvimontez. "I will miss this family and my many friends."
Calvimontez returns to Bolivia Jan. 4.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.