5541 Woodlawn Ave. N, Another Place I Called Home


“Always remember, Riska, that you’re always has a home back here in Seattle”.

It was Brian’s words to me on his letter. He would always be my other father aside from my biological one. I always knew the first time I stepped in to that house that I would feel belong in it.

5541 Woodlawn Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98103 USA

I feel at home. This feeling remains in my heart. I still remember where Brian showed me my little room, walled paper in blue, with little desk, and he put some natural pictures to make the room more cozy. And the small closet which I thought was a rest room because I had never seen such a giant-door place to put clothing before. The house is big, paint in red brick, with large backyard full of herbs; i still think it is too big for only Brian and Frances (my host mother), and two cats. However, I knew me and Sigvart would give different heats to the house, the house that I called far-west-home and Brian and Frances had successfully make it like a home for the two of us.

Atwater’s home was the place where I found my self. Not only because it was comfortable, but it was also  surrounded by so many good, warm, and supportive people. Brian, Frances, the Iperts’ (Erich and  Sue), Dave Yamaguchi, and Frances’ friends. We all often gathered in dinner to have special session for board games. Something that I would never have in my home in Indonesia. I called it the family time when we balanced the work-life and home-life. Though there was always time when we had individual dinner (sitting on the couch), “Having dinner on table is a must, so we can share each other’s stories” said Frances. Even Sigvart felt like at home when he lived at that house. At my home in Indonesia, everybody has its own time to eat on separate place; no one really knows what happen with each other coz we feel awkward to share. More like some hesitance and poor management in communication.

This home, 5 blocks away from my school-bus stop, was the place where my ideology was formed, my journey to define my self, from confidence to religion met its enlightenment  Brian and Frances never dominate each other. The two are perfect example where different things could work side-by-side, where self-initiative is highly respected, and where I could really feel being respected and heard, even in my young age (i was 17). My dad at home is a nice one, only that he is extremely dominant to my mom. Everything has to pass my dad’s approval, which the more he gets older the more rigid situation is. When I chose to date someone, Brian and Frances are very open. They trust me and I even could share about boyfriend matter with Brian, just like what daughter could share to father. This is irony coz I almost never share things about boyfriend or private matter to my dad.

Woodlawn home, a home just across Greenlake, a beautiful small lake where I used to jog. A warm home where I found myself, the happy smiley befriended one. It was my 18 birthday party and so many friends came to my home, even my teachers, friends’ parents, and few people I never met before (someone asked them in). A very graceful day where I could feel secure with so many people who love me as a friend and with so many people I unconditionally love. Frances was busy borrowing party tools, and Brian was grilling some burgers for the guests. Yet, they even washed piles of dishes and asked me to get mingle with the guests instead. The last time I had my parents involve on my birthday was when I was in 5th grade (only my mom). I would say that day, May 28, 2006, was probably the last day ever in my life to have a birthday where most people I love were there.

Friends in Seattle

People in this woodlawn home are so supportive and democratic. They appreciate works and relationship. That is why I would be the most one who oppose any American haters who claim that American is selfish and careless — because it isn’t entirely true.

Seattle, a home where I met Sigvart, my love. He moved from other host family to Brian’s.

“Are you okay having another student lives here as your host-brother?” Frances asked.

There was a moment of silence. Will I lose a current comfortable atmosphere if someone new enters this house? And Sigvart, though I knew him before, we rarely had a talk but about Nazi and concentration camp (what an intro talk!). Sigvart came to Brian’s and slept in another room. He was distance and silence at the beginning. I admit it required extra efforts to live him up. But typical person like this is just another challenge for me to mingle with.

I was in love with him as my brother. I don’t have an elder brother and though he is not older than me anyway, I found out that I could share personal things to him. From when I was mad to was in love to broken-hearted one. He is just simply a gentle and caring man I ever get so close with (though as brother and sister, we sometimes had arguments). I was missing him so bad when we flew home.  And now, I am just in love with him as a lover. Yes, after 4.5 years we met again. I wish he could be someone I could share life with, just like what we had back in Atwater’s home, only slightly more.

I love my home back in Bogor. In fact, it is one place where I finally will return from every journey; to see my mom, dad, my brother, and my sister. But for me, there is another place where I will always feel accepted. Atwater’s home is an amazing place. It is a life-changing home for me and god bless for every student who ever stepped and lived in that home. Abundance of love and touches. It is a (another) place I called home.

Brian Atwater. He is a scientist and geologist. He has been named as one of 100 influential people on TIMES magazine

p.s. This blog was written in November 22, 2010. I am now married to Sigvart and though my parents oppose our marriage, we have been happily living together in beautiful city of Copenhagen. Brian& Frances continue to host 6 more exchange students after us.

At Woodlawn home’s kitchen in 2011. Nice to be back!

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