Bio: Baltus, JoAnn (Exchange Student - 1974)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Baltus, Zurita, Keller

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 10/24/1974

Baltus, JoAnn (Exchange Student – Summer 1974)

JoAnn Baltus of Willard had the pleasure of seeing the peace and quiet of the ocean while walking the powdery sand on the beach with seagulls flying overhead. As an International Fellowship exchange student, she spent the summer months in Guayaquil, Ecuador, South America.

Her exchange “family,” was that of Senor and Senora Pedro Zurita. Three brothers, two of whom had been exchange students, an eight-year-old Indian boy, Nana, who took care of the children, and four maids in addition to a married daughter and her family, made the family a total of 15 when JoAnn arrived.

Their house was “a little crowded” in living quarters, she said, but there was a third floor for entertaining guests. Many priceless treasures were seen here. From the balcony she could look down onto the swimming pool.

Senor Zurita had a printing office, where record covers and postcards were made. About 30 were employed there. Senora Zurita’s family had the factory where records were produced and distributed.

JoAnn attended a private school, where she noted that students had a much different attitude than here. Wealth was appreciated, and students like to have it known in the way they dress. Other children had to sell gum and candy on the street or find other work. One of the maids was only 14 years-old.

“Boys were elegant dancers,” she said and added that they all danced.

Living where the families sent their children to the United States to learn English, they in turn had students during the summer. In this way JoAnn had the opportunity to be with many different ones from other states. They toured the city on “colectivos.”

Like the word collection – Those colectivos collected everything, including body odors and all the things people brought on board. Since the poorer people had no refrigerators, they bought their meat alive. So, there were chickens on the bus, too.

Men had to catch the bus on the run, but it did stop for women to get on. Being overloaded most of the time, on command everyone standing “got down like grasshoppers” when the Cop came. For four cents one could ride wherever the bus went.

“I could talk hours on the transportation system,” she said. There were holes in the road. Drivers’ impossible tactics included honking the horn everywhere. Little Japanese cars were priced in the $6-7,000 range, but gasoline was only 20 cents a gallon. Although the family had a small car, they rode to church in the back of the truck, which JoAnn said, “was neat and you could see the city.”

Foods were different, but there was “rice and rice and rice.” When a very small portion of meat was served, one cut it into tiny pieces and mixed it with rice, so it looked like more. Hot dogs were the size of one’s index finger. People ate plenty of avocados and red onions. There were no sweets. There were bananas, with many being exported.

Street vendors were common, coming with their wares in a cart pulled by a donkey. Cows, chickens, and goats roamed the street in the residential section.

Marlo, JoAnn’s 17-year-old exchange “brother,” was captain of the city soccer team, so she attended two or three games a week. Of course, the team was the champion.

At first, she could not find newspapers or magazines with news of the United States, but when she learned to properly pronounce “time” in Spanish, it was easily found.

Her “sister” brought a color TV from Miami, Fla. The tax was $400. Other TV sets were in black and white.

San Antonio was her favorite town with its fragrant smells of freshly-carved woods. Everyone did wood carving.

Among her souvenirs, JoAnn brought a wood carving for her foster parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Keller of Willard. She is the daughter of Mrs. Mary Ann Baltus of Owen, and the late Lyle Baltus.

Treasures she brought back include a hammock, necklaces, and items of clothing.

JoAnn expects to graduate from the Greenwood Community High School next May.



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