In Thailand, I sometimes feel "large," meaning both taller and heavier than average. Here, as the average weight goes up, I have begun to feel slimmer than average, but just average in height. I almost never have felt short, until this weekend.

Our Thanksgiving guest was an incoming freshman at the University of Minnesota. Victoria hails from Chicago, and was not going home for Thanksgiving. So we decided to invite her to Lanesboro for a true country experience. We didn't know it was also only her second traditional Thanksgiving dinner ever!

Victoria's parents both grew up in Poland, and emigrated to the U.S. as adults. Her first language was not English, even though she was born here; it was Polish, right up until she started grade school. They have never celebrated U.S. Thanksgiving at home, and Victoria was quite excited to have her first such holiday complete with a traditional turkey. She told us she had been invited to a Thanksgiving dinner once before, but her host friend had burnt the turkey, so the day was without the usual menu. She wanted to help cook the meal!

One of her first comments was that she noticed I had a second earring hole in one ear. She had been relating some background about how she grew up, and it was very different than the stories we hear from young people - and parents - growing up here and now.

She said her parents were very strict, and she had only defied their rules once: she got a second earring hole in one ear, like mine. Her parents were very upset and in fact her mother told her that before she came to our place for the holiday, she had to get that earring out of her ear. Her mother said it would be very improper, and that I wouldn't approve at all! She did add that she had no intention of going any further with piercing or tattooing, thank goodness!

Victoria kept calling me "Dr. Meyer," and Spouse Roger was "Mr. Roger." I told her she could call me Jan, or at least Dr. Jan as they do in Thailand. It took her awhile to get to the Dr. Jan, but I noticed every once in awhile I was Dr. Meyer again. And Spouse Roger remained "Mr. Roger." Actually, when talking about her family still living in Poland - all except for an uncle who has since moved back there - we decided that we could be her American grandparents, so Spouse Roger finally became "Grandpa Roger." But I don't know if it will stick.

Her parents' rules included a lot of other "nos." She lives in a dorm, but will have no roommate because roommates cause distractions. The same for a television set (hooray, say I!), or a microwave or refrigerator. All had the big potential for taking her time and attention away from her studies. So when she was taking some leftovers back with her, I asked how she would reheat them; she said she relies on friends who do have microwaves.

It was good to hear that Victoria is loving her classes and time at the U. She had four years of Chinese in high school, so she is also taking that language now, with the possibility that it will be one of her majors. She's applied for various opportunities, including programs for both short and long study stays in China. She's already been there once for just a few weeks; that served to whet her appetite for more! But she also wants to "pick up a few more languages" to add to her repertoire of English, Polish and Chinese.

Victoria is very disciplined, friendly, confident and also level-headed, maybe partly because she has traveled a lot. She has been to Poland almost every summer to stay with her family there; she has also attended various youth camps in several different parts of Europe, including two different stints at military camps! Obviously, her parents believed that her childhood should include a breadth of experiences.

With that kind of background, it is not surprising that she is searching out a lot of different areas of interest on campus. She is co-chair of the EDM Club, the first time a freshman has been elected to that post. That group - the Electronic Dance Music Club - keeps track of new emerging artists, shares already accumulated music, arranges for the exchange of musical tastes and CDs and organizes events related to having a DJ on campus. She also is an active participant of a table tennis club, and still looking for other campus niches of interest.

Before we took her back to her dorm, we made a stop at a Ukrainian deli and restaurant in Minneapolis, which was as close as we could find to having Polish food. She bought a few things to take with her; evidently turkey was not a perfect substitute for good old Eastern European cooking. And we contacted some friends of Polish ancestry who have already informed her of a church in northeast Minneapolis, which is having its regular making and sale of pierogies next weekend! So maybe that will help keep her from being homesick!

We're looking forward to seeing her again and showing her more of what our state has to offer. So far she loves Minnesota, and of course after seeing our little corner of it, she loved it even more! Oh, and the reason I felt so short this weekend: Victoria is six feet, three inches tall - and proud of it!