Archive for Thursday, August 17, 2006

European trip reunites host family, exchange students

August 17, 2006

Bill and Patty Vigneron adopted a number system to tell their children apart, but that doesn't mean they don't care.

In fact, they traveled across the ocean to see them again.

In the last decade, the Vignerons hosted nine exchange students attending Eudora USD 491.

Last month, the Vignerons took a trip to Scandinavia to reunite with their past charges and meet their daughter for the fall, Ann Marie Meyer-Myklestad.

"It was fantastic," Patty said.

Bill and Patty brought along their 9-year-old nephew Cole King.

"He's met all the girls, so some more than others he's become very close to them," Patty said. "We thought it would be really cool for him to go, so he went with us."

The family left Kansas June 10 and came back July 22.

In Europe, the Vignerons first met up with their second-to-last exchange daughter ---- Johanna Rahmqvist in Stockholm, Sweden.

"We started laughing because we started calling the girls by numbers, and she was 8," Patty said.

Rahmqvist showed the Vignerons around Stockholm and introduced them to her family.

From Stockholm, the Vigneron's met Tille Andersen, who was their foreign exchange daughter last year.

"All the families were very hospitable and very gracious. We were just treated very well. And of course, we had Johanna travel with us the whole way," Patty said.

In the process of meeting the past daughters and catching up with their lives, the Vigernons also learned about their daughters' homelands. For instance, Andersen's hometown of the Danish island of Bornholm was once used as a prison, Patty said.

"I learned a whole lot of stuff," she said.

While in Bornholm, the family met one of their first daughters, Katja Peilke, who drove from eastern Germany with her husband and 3-year-old daughter.

"We are exchange daughter grandparents, so we got to see them," Patty said. "I thought that was very special."

After Bornholm, the family went through southern Sweden and then to Copenhagen, Denmark, where they met yet another exchange daughter ---- Tine Hoerdum.

"It seemed like everywhere we went we picked up another girl," Patty said.

The family added one more -- their seventh daughter -- Kristin Heivoll, before traveling to Norway to meet up with Meyer-Myklestad.

"We had Tine and Kristin and Johanna who all met her. They took scrapbooks of their years here," Patty said. "Oh my goodness, she was so excited."

To Patty, the best moment came when she reunited with their fifth daughter, Anne Froyland. The family met at a natural wonder in Norway known as "Pulpit Rock," Patty said.

"It is the most fantastic place," Patty said. "We hiked. It took us three hours to hike up it."

The climb took them almost 2,000 feet straight up.

"It was worth the climb even though at that time I thought I was going to die," Patty said. "It was just this big huge straight-up rock. You can look down and you can see the fjord both ways."

The fjord was part of what made the hike special, Patty said.

"It's just different. It's a major hike in the mountains. I think seeing the scenery, it's nothing we've ever seen before -- even in Colorado," Patty said. "I think the fjords make a difference, and the fact we were standing there with all of our girls and Cole. It was just awesome."

The trip marked the first time their past daughters met each other.

"They thought it was awesome. They're already talking about backpacking trips," Patty said.

The reunion with the daughters seemed natural, Patty said.

"It almost seems you pick up where you left off," Vigneron said.

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