Every now and then Cheri would stop by the apartment to see how Freddy and I were doing. When doing site visits and returning to Pella late, she would offer to take me home. I gladly took her up on her offers and would invite her in to see our place. Our basement apartment was full of donated furniture, family dollar goods, and thrift shop purchases.
“Oh ok, you have no bed,” shocked as I showed her my room. The floor was cold in the winter, but extra blankets insulated the floor between the Yaffa blocks and plastic bins.
Freddy appreciated my frugality but laughed every time he saw me sleeping on the floor. “We’re in America now bro! We can have more.”
Part of the reason why I didn't want a bed or furniture was I knew this was temporary. So much of my life was temporary. In the meantime, was my mantra. Nothing was ever permanent, and short-term government service contracts proved it.
Mid-way through the year Cheri approached us, “Mike and Freddy, we have a situation that you may be able to help with.” Cheri had a way of communicating that endeared me to her. Waving her hands in the air, taking deep breaths creating impregnated pauses, and brilliant facial expressions with each phrase brought power to each sentence.
The student population of Central was largely homogeneous. Most students were Caucasian with little if any, experience abroad, which is funny as one of Central’s flagship programs was its study abroad. That year, the college had a small number of international students from Europe, Latin America, and Africa.
She continued, “We have a student from Kenya, who needs an emergency place to stay for the remainder of the year. When I was made aware of the situation, both of you came to mind.”
Both of us knew this student and without a second of thought, Freddy piped up, “Does he need a ride here, cause you know, I got a car.” Our two-man bachelor pad grew to three. Freddy’s room was by the bathroom, I was by the kitchen, and Emmanuel was in the living room for the rest of the year.
Our apartment became a social hub for other international students on weekends. This connection benefited all of us as we tried to stay sane through the cold Iowan winter.
One snowy night, all three of us, an Ecuadorian, Kenyan, and Mexican/Pacific Islander watched Cool Runnings, a true story about a Jamaican bobsled team. Enjoying the warm scenic views of familiarity through Jamaican landscapes, we sat wrapped in blankets with feet of snow piling up behind us. The realization of snow’s coldness hit the team hard when they traveled for their first international competition. Laughing hysterically at the situation portrayed in the movie and experienced in Iowa was a testament to our meantime reality.
Central closed during the holidays, forcing all international students, not returning home, off-campus. Cheri’s network of angels housed orphaned students, but students missed each other. At one point we had up to six people in the apartment. Rita turned a blind eye knowing the situation we were in, further growing my suspicion that she was part of Cheri’s angel network.