We are so excited to received our first Guest post. She became part of our family during her stay in Iowa City as a trainee for Hospitality Intern under J1 program. Meet Marjorie (Jhurie) Restrivera. Thank you Jhurie for sharing your story. – from ZestyOutdoors family.
My first out of the country happens to be at United States of America – alone.
Ever since I was a child, I always dream of playing and making snowman in a pile of snow. Just when I arrived in Cedar Rapids, I was kissed by my first snow. My yellow Cab driver welcomed me to the land of the only state name that starts with two vowels – Iowa. Most people ponder of Iowa as one of those states they fly over or drive through on their way to a more interesting destination. But there’s a lot more to this Midwestern state than corn fields – it’s people.
We we’re group of 6 Filipino trainees accepted as an International Hospitality Intern under the J1 program. I am the last one to arrive and the last intern to finish our training with Sheraton Iowa City Hotel and Hotel Vetro in Iowa City, Iowa. For 12 months, we all went to an extensive and nerve-wracking training from different departments of the hotel and its outlets.
Away from my family for a year and coming from a tropical country. It took me almost a year to adjust. From the home sickness to the harsh cold weather where I almost got frost bite. To cultural diversity and even random discrimination. God sent us this amazing family who took care us of during our stay in Iowa. A family who foster us without hesitation even they barely knew about us.
I met them 3 days after my arrival in Iowa City. I was still in the agony of time and weather adjustment (We all can agree that jet lag sucks). That’s why when I was introduced to them, I’m all out of energy and sleepy. We went to a snowy hill and did sledding with Marquita, our “Bunso”. Instead of getting excited and all, I fell asleep inside the car while everyone is enjoying the day. I was also introduced to some of their churchmate and ended our day at our favorite Asian Buffet!
From that moment, we made sure that almost every week we will get together. As days, weeks, and months passed, our family is getting bigger and bigger. I was introduced to the Filipino Community in Iowa City. Everyone is friendly and generous in their ways and always make sure that no one will get hungry (This is where I learn to bring few ziplocks for a take home delicious meals). We celebrate even the smallest victory over a barbeque party.
As a person building a career and own identity. I’ve faced struggles and adversities with my duties, schedules, demands, workmates and even with my co-interns. Whenever I feel like I need someone to confide my feelings, my frustrations and my aspirations. Tito Mark and Tita Jusie is always there for me, one call away. And most of that time, Tito Mark would ask me when will be my next day off or the earliest time I’ll be out from work so he can pick me up to spend time with them. If I could stay with them forever during my internship days I would.
They never treated anyone as a guest, everyone is like a family to them. There are times that I was so demotivated. This family never failed to encourage me to finish the week strong. I was also fueled by looking forward to my next trip with them. Whether it’s a home cooking session (this family is so gifted with cooking), shopping at the Williamsburg Outlets store, a Panda Express date at Coral Ridge Mall. Binge shopping Nutella and big shampoos at Costco, attending Marquita’s dance recital and Grocery date at the Walmart. Searching for a good pair of swimsuits at Target, Sunday Service at the church and trying different food places in and outside Iowa City.
I was part of the exciting series of their journey of finding their new home. I felt more special when Tita Jusie asked my opinion for the color of their new home in North Liberty. I was taught by them how to choose and build a good home. I think they’ve never realized that I’ve found a beautiful home in them.
My internship just ended; the day I’ve dreaded has come. After my internship, I got back to Illinois to spend a week vacation. My remaining days before my flight, I went back to Iowa and chose to stay with them. I’ve spent my last week as if it is the last week I’ll be alive. I was crying most of the night thinking the fact that I’m leaving. I had few farewell parties with friends, co workmates and with the Filipino community. But the most emotional farewell party would be with them. It took my waterproof make up off as I was crying hard hugging everyone in the room. J1 participants is expected to learn cross-cultural opportunity, to gain mutual understanding of diverse backgrounds and customs. This experience taught me to value more the gift of family. In the position where I was expected to be independent and strong. God sent me warmth and joy through this family. My time living in the States has been filled with truly remarkable and life changing moments.
Whenever I’m with them, I feel safe, I feel relaxed, I am happy, I’m home. Thank you Spading – Quirap Family.
Salamat po Tito Mark, Tita Jusie, Marquita, Nanay and Tatay.