ShareThis Page

Foreign teens get taste of U.S. life

| Thursday, May 3, 2012, 2:58 p.m.

When Christina Kozemchok's 2 1/2-year-old adopted daughter, Anna, found out she would be spending time with some Chinese exchange students this summer, she told her mother, "My Chinese friends are home now."

Anna was adopted from China by the Kozemchok family when she was 10 months old through Adoptions from the Heart's Greensburg office.

Founded in 1985 and based in the Philadelphia area, the agency facilitated actress Angelina Jolie's adoption of her son, Pax, from Vietnam.

The Hempfield family got temporarily bigger over the past month with the addition of 14-year-old exchange student Han Duo Duo, who is going by her American name, "Jane."

Jane, along with 24 other students ages 12-19, arrived from China last month with their teacher and chaperone, Xu Wei Fa, who described their visit as "an education in American culture."

The exchange was made possible by People Link, a California-based educational agency.

On Friday, the students joined families at the annual reunion of Adoptions from the Heart at Idlewild Park, in Ligonier Township, to celebrate their heritage.

Kozemchok said she prayed for seven years before adopting Anna and was somehow able to save the $20,000 needed to adopt her in just two years.

"Since I was five years old, I knew I would some day adopt a little girl. When I first saw her, I was numb. There were so many emotions. I am so honored to raise someone else's child. I know her mother loved her, but she couldn't keep her," Kozemchok said yesterday.

Jeff and Christina Kozemchok have three biological sons -- Andrew, 14, Colton, 12 -- who is disabled and has special needs -- and 10-year-old Chad.

Kozemchok said that the challenges of caring for their disabled son, Colton, is a testament that adopting is possible for anyone.

"If we can do this, anyone can," she said.

Jane said she was enjoying America and was especially impressed with the friendliness of the people she's seen. "Everyone waves to each other, even if they don't know you," she said.

Jane also loves American cuisine -- especially steak and spaghetti. She was, however, alarmed by the notion that many people own guns. "No one is allowed to own a gun in China," she said.

An only child, Jane said she is enjoying her "sister" Anna and her "brothers," although Chad likes to scare her with rubber spiders.

Katie Howser, of Adoptions from the Heart, has adopted 11 children and currently has six exchange students living in her North Huntingdon home.

Among Howser's student guests is Xiao Yuan, 15, who is using her American name, Miranda.

Miranda said she liked all the American food and enjoyed tubing on the water the most. She hopes to return to the United States to attend college and pursue a career in the media.

"This is the kind of job that attracts me because it allows you to be creative," she said.

Dong Kai Li, 16, who goes by the American name Kelly, was enjoying the beauty of the opposite sex.

"I love the beautiful girls," he joked.

Howser said Kelly has a great sense of humor, but he won't eat his fruits and vegetables.

"These kids are so special. It's fun to watch how they react to things, like food. They saw scrambled eggs and I tried to explain to them it was like a hard-boiled egg mixed up, but they just looked suspicious and started talking to each other in Chinese. They probably said, 'What's this lady trying to feed us?' " she laughed.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me