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By Bob & Linda Caffee
Several years ago, fellow Freightliner Team Run Smart Pro Henry Albert joined Trucker Buddy and I thought he had lost his mind. With his busy schedule why in the world would he take on a class of young students to be a pen pal with? Time went by with him telling us stories of his class, his involvement, and how good the letters from the students made him feel. In time I started suggesting things he might send his class that I thought they would find interesting. He finally said, “Why don’t you get a class?” Well, we finally applied.
There is more to becoming a Trucker Buddy then filling out an application as we first have to go through a background check and then find a teacher that will work with our operation. We had a couple of teachers before we were matched with Stephanie. The director of Trucker Buddy asked if we would like to work with a teacher overseas that would be mostly done through email. That sounded perfect as we do not get home often enough to send a lot of handwritten letters.
We found out that our teacher lives in France and teaches English to three grades so we would have approximately 125-150 students each year. The first thing we learned about Stephanie is that she is very excited about teaching English and working with us. We hit it off immediately and the fun began. Her feedback was instrumental in keeping me motivated to come up with new ideas to send to her classes. We have sent hundreds of postcards, pictures, maps, and videos to the students talking about our lives. In return, the students have taken us on many tours of their school, given us reports, cooked their favorite meals, and thanked us all in English.
In 2016 we finally took a trip to France to meet our teacher, her family, and our students. What an amazing trip and Stephanie made sure it was not something we would ever forget. She invited us to stay at their house and go to school with her each day. On the weekend before school started we went with the family and toured the area where they live. Bright and early Monday morning off we went to school to meet one grade of her students and to go on a field trip with them. Each day we went with another grade on a field trip with the students explaining what we were seeing and asking us questions. Not all of their English was great and we spent a lot of time figuring out what each other was trying to say. That trip was fantastic and as we were leaving Stephanie said: “We are going to plan a trip to the States in two years to tour and to see where you live.”
Well, the two years are here and our teacher and her family are in the United States and heading towards our house. The family has been touring the western states and will fly from Denver to Saint Louis. While at our house no moss will grow under their feet! We will start their visit by going downtown and touring the Arch as well at the Lewis and Clark museum at the bottom of the Arch. Next, we will tour Budweiser and I know one of the things they will like best is getting to see one of the Clydesdales that is always in residence at the brewery. After that, it will be off to the Saint Louis City Museum, and I know it will be a highlight because there are not many like it. Kids learn by doing and it is I believe four floors of fun as there are not many steps as you use tunnels, ropes, and all kinds of crazy stuff to go from floor to floor and room to room.
After a fun day of touring downtown, we will be on our way back home where I will have had a pot of roast beef, potatoes, and carrots cooking for dinner. Our goal is to have traditional food and to show what we would typically eat. This has been difficult to plan as Mexican food is usually my staple. We will have omelets, pancakes, as well as a choice of biscuits and gravy for breakfasts. Fred, Stephanie’s husband likes BBQ and we have a local BBQ restaurant that is one of the best in the country so we will go to Big Stickies, in Troy, MO for lunch one day.
On Saturday we are planning in the morning going to Big Joel’s Safari and Petting Zoo that is run by a family and it a great place for kids and older kids. We have been there several times and enjoy seeing how well kept the animals are. After our morning adventures, we will be back home to plan the evening’s cookout. We have invited several friends to the event and everyone is excited to meet the family from France. We are having a traditional cookout, hamburgers, potato salad, baked beans, chips, apple pie and I hope homemade ice cream. Hopefully, we get some rain and it is cool enough to make S’Mores as I think everyone will enjoy this.
On their last full day at the house, we are going to Hannibal, MO to see where Mark Twain lived and to tour around the town and to see the cave where Becky and Tom were trapped. Stephanie is a fan of all American literature and the stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are a favorite of hers. I also introduced her to The Unsinkable Molly Brown and have sent her pictures of Molly’s house in Denver and now she will be able to see where she was born. We will spend most of the day touring Hannibal and then it will be back home for a fiesta. Yep, they are not leaving without and Americanized Mexican dinner at our house.
Who would have guessed from joining Trucker Buddy International many years ago would lead to an overseas trip for us and then us hosting a family from France? During the year I enjoy my interaction with Stephanie and the students and watching as their English improves. This program has greatly enriched our lives. Click here to learn more about Trucker Buddy.