Strike a bit foreign to exchange students

GRANITE FALLS — Aside from being the only teacher picket line left in the nation, the Marysville strike has international ramifications, too.

Six foreign exchange students — Oleg Artemjev of Latvia, Aneta Davidova of the Czech Republic, Tatyana Geldymamedova of Turkmenistan, Bae Eun Young of South Korea, Enrique Leon of Spain and Arne Schroeder of Germany — faced the possibility of losing their student visas because of the strike’s long duration.

Fortunately for them, Granite Falls School District officials allowed the students to start taking classes at its high school until the Marysville strike is resolved.

"If Granite Falls hadn’t done that, we would have to go home," Geldymamedova said.

She said the concept of a strike was only something she had heard about in news from other countries. In Turkmenistan, she said, people do not strike, and the concept would be unacceptable.

"I didn’t know what a strike means," Geldymamedova said.

Artemjev said last year doctors staged a strike in Latvia that lasted two weeks.

"They got what they wanted," Artemjev said.

The students said their host families told them at first that the strike would probably last a few days. Then they were told maybe a few weeks.

"The first few days, it was like, ‘Cool,’" Artemjev said. "I wasn’t quite ready for school to start. Then I became more and more bored."

"I was surprised and I was happy — it was like the longest holiday," said Davidova, whose host family took her to Disneyland during the interim. "But now, it’s been a long time. I would like to go back to school."

The students have been following the local debate about the strike. Much like the Marysville community, they have come to different conclusions.

Artemjev summed his thoughts in four words:

"I support the Marysville teachers," he said.

Davidova, whose host mother works for the Marysville School District, but not as a teacher, took the opposite stance.

"I think the teachers need to get back," Davidova said.

Geldymamedova landed somewhere in between those two.

"The teachers are right in some things. In some things they’re wrong," Geldymamedova said. "They have to find something in the middle. Everybody is getting mad."

The students are taking three classes, physical education, history and English from 8:30 a.m. to noon each day in Granite Falls. They get rides or carpool with one of their host parents.

Sherri Bryant, Artemjev’s host mother, said her only son has enjoyed having another boy his age to hang around with.

"It’s kind of a bummer they don’t get to experience the full meal deal" of school, Bryant said.

Granite Falls High School counselor Josh Lowe said the exchange students have already made a big impression during the short time they’ve been at Granite Falls High School.

"The teachers have already connected with them," Lowe said. "I had one teacher come ask me if they could stay for a year."

Reporter Scott Morris: 425-339-3292 or smorris@heraldnet.com.

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