By the time they’re 18 years old, the closest most Buffalonians have come to world travel is a trip to neighboring Canada. High schoolers listen to lectures about the exotic delights of foreign lands in language and history classes, and dream of someday exploring the world. However, some Buffalo teens already can proudly call themselves globetrotters.
Brady Stevens, a junior at Nichols School, moved to Brussels, Belgium, from Taipei, Taiwan, when he was only 6 months old. While both of Brady’s parents are originally from Buffalo, the family relocated to Belgium from Taiwan because of a new job offer for his father.
Brady doesn’t remember much of his childhood in Brussels, except that he could be quite stubborn. He attended a French school for three years starting at age 2, but would refuse to speak French most of the time. Brady much preferred English, which his parents continued to speak at home while in Belgium.
“I either spoke a lot, or [not] at all,” he said.
At age 5, Brady and his family moved back to Buffalo. He continued learning French while in Buffalo, and even had a French baby sitter. However, Brady was mainly excited just to be back in a place where English was the primary language. Despite his resistance as a young child, Brady’s choice for foreign language classes at Nichols was French.
Through Nichols, Brady had the opportunity last spring to participate in a French exchange program. After he had a French student stay with him in Buffalo for a couple of weeks, Brady then got to visit France.
Although he did not live in France as a child, it was neat for him to visit another French-speaking country. While in France, certain smells brought back some memories for Brady.
“When I smelled something, I remembered part of my childhood,” he said.
While in France, Brady did a lot of sightseeing in Paris, and also visited Le Havre, Normandy. He lived with a French family for two weeks.
When asked what one of his favorite parts of the whole experience was, Brady said, he really liked “being immersed in something I was good at.”
He is studying French 4, an AP class at Nichols.
“I’m going strong!” he said.
Brady has visited Belgium twice since he moving back to the States, but the last time he was in fourth grade. He hopes to visit again someday.
Jack Kane, a senior at Canisius High School, was born in Bogotá, Colombia. Jack moved to the U.S. at 3½ months old when he was adopted by the Kane family of Buffalo.
“For whatever reason my biological parents couldn’t take care of me, and I was put up for adoption by FANA,” Jack said.
FANA is an organization that specifically focuses on the adoptions of abandoned Colombian children. FANA stands for “Fundación para la Asistencia de la Niñez Abandonada,” which translates to the Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children. There are different chapters of FANA throughout the world, in Minnesota, Washington, D.C., Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Western New York.
When Jack was born in Colombia, he was originally named Bernardo Enciso. However, when the Kanes adopted him, they gave him the name John Edmund, although everyone calls him Jack.
His younger sister, Elizabeth, also was born in Colombia and adopted as an infant.
On being adopted, and having an adopted sister, Jack said: “I guess I take a lot of things for granted. I don’t really think much of it, and no one really treats me differently.”
He returned to Colombia the summer before his junior year at Canisius. While in Colombia, Jack visited the capital, Bogotá, the Colombian countryside and the beaches of northern Colombia.
He was shocked by the massive size and the endless hustle and bustle of the capital. However, his favorite part of Colombia was Cartagena, which is a beach town located in northern Colombia.
“It is on the water, and the weather there is always warm and sunny. There was always something to do there, whether it was walking down the beach or visiting the old city.”
One cool thing about Cartagena is that it is protected by a wall.
“I got to walk all along that wall and all through the city,” Jack said.
He said visiting Colombia was a meaningful and unforgettable experience.
“I feel very connected to Colombia ever since I went there,” he said.
Htaw Pakao, a junior at City Honors School, was born in Mudon, Burma. Burma, or Myanmar, is located in Southeast Asia. Both of Htaw’s parents are natives of the area. When she was about 2 years old, she moved along with her parents and brother, Tala, to Thailand.
“I remember nothing at all about my childhood in Burma or Thailand,” Htaw said, adding that her family moved from “Burma to Thailand because of government issues.”
Htaw’s sister, Mi Rasa, was born while the family lived in Thailand. They relocated to Buffalo in February 2001. Htaw does not remember any major problems in learning English, although her parents had to take classes to learn the language.
In June, Htaw’s family returned to Burma to visit relatives. The political unrest previously experienced in Burma has somewhat subsided, which allowed her family the opportunity to return for vacation.
“We visited every relative on the planet” during a monthlong visit, Htaw said.
Aside from family time, Htaw and her family visited a lot of temples and pagodas. While she said she had a lot of fun spending time with her family, she admits that life in Burma is very different from that in the United States.
Her relatives do not have electricity or running water. Instead, every family has its own well for water.
“I got bored a lot, but it made me go outside and interact with people,” Htaw said. “We went shopping, and I played with my cousins a lot.”
Overall, Htaw enjoyed the chance to reconnect with the ways of her homeland, even though they are very different from the United States.
“Seeing the hard life over there made me grateful for what I have,” she said.
Tracy Werick is a junior at City Honors.