Author Archives: Jennifer Stamper

About Jennifer Stamper

Jennifer Stamper has always lived in Idaho. She graduated from Blackfoot High School in southeastern Idaho, and then from Brigham Young University-Idaho, before moving to Clark Fork in northern Idaho five years ago. Her current credentials include the super-human ability to simultaneously carry from the car three bags of groceries, a gallon of milk, a diaper bag, and her fifth child (two years old) and still find a way to unlock the door. She enjoys photography, happy children, and writing for local papers.

Herring under the Coat

My heart pounded as the line of newly arrived passengers filed around the corner. I glanced back at my five children clutching their homemade welcome signs. Their attention was focused on the people coming in. I turned back. Where is he? I stood on my tiptoes for a better view.

At last, I saw his head come into view at the back of the line. I recognized him immediately. Artem Chukanov, our seventeen-year-old exchange student from Russia with whom we’d spent the last month emailing, messaging, and video conferencing. “There he is!” I called out, and we all waved. He saw us and a huge smile spread across his face. The moment he stepped free of the crowd, my daughter Sage ran and hugged him. He hugged her back and we all took turns greeting him with a hug. It was nice to finally hear him say, “Hi, Mom!” in person.

There are times when you know you have to do something. You don’t know why or how—you just know. For me, getting an exchange student was one of those times. The idea surfaced almost a year before Artem came to live with us. I didn’t think it would ever happen, so I didn’t tell anybody, but the idea wouldn’t go away. Months later, my oldest daughter Shaydell called me from school begging me to come talk to a student exchange representative. I agreed. That was June 9, 2013. On the 18th, Shaydell and I read Artem’s profile and application for the first time. I was impressed by his English and his fun and expressive essays. He wrote, “I want visit Halloween,” and drew a tiny jack-o-lantern between the lines. At the end of his letter to his future host family he wrote, “America, wait for me!!!!!!!” I laughed aloud at all the exclamation points.

I took Artem’s application home and showed my son, whose room Artem would have to share. He was open to the idea, so the last hurdle was my husband. I had no idea what he would say, and was amazed when he responded, “Actually, I’ve thought about that before.” By July 10, we finished our application process and saw our first picture of Artem. I remember thinking, He doesn’t look Russian. This was the first of many misconceptions I had about the Russian people.

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My first day in Bayview was a mistake. After writing a city spotlight featuring my hometown, (“Clark Fork: Through New Eyes,” IDAHO magazine, July 2012), I was eager to write another one. I chose Bayview, because I thought I had a great personal story to tell about it, and it was a place I was excited to learn more about. But as my husband and I drove along the narrow road lined with thick pine forest, I realized that instead of going around the southern end of Lake Pend Oreille to the lower east shore, where I thought Bayview was, we were heading for the lower western shoreline. Entering the city limits, the road took a sharp left and the cutest little town opened up to view. Houses and shops were draped across the shore leading down to the water. All along the V-shaped bay, docks packed with boat slips lined the shore, dipping their outstretched fingers into the cool, blue-green water.

Pine-covered mountains encircled the bay, keeping watch over the town, while across the lake, more tall mountains stood shoulder-to- shoulder, their rock faces looking down over the water.

That first glance confirmed my mistake. Still, this was Bayview. I recognized the layout and specific shops I had seen on the map. “This isn’t where I thought we were going,” I admitted to my husband.

He looked at me with a hint of concern on his face. “Do we need to go somewhere else?” he asked.

I considered for a moment as I looked back over the town. In the bright morning sun, it looked so quaint and inviting that I suddenly felt the urge to walk along its shade-dappled sidewalks. “No,” I said. “My story is supposed to be about Bayview. Let’s go see what it’s all about.” Continue reading

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