Jordans visit 2019 exchange student

Standing in front of the Prague astronomical clock are Eliška Heřmánková, her brother Honza Heřmánek, Klára Kopecká, Kendall Jordan, Barb Jordan, Nicholas Jordan and Megan Jordan during a July trip the Toledo family took to visit a former foreign exchange student who attended STC during the 2019-20 school year. -- Contributed photo

This summer one South Tama family got to help bring a foreign exchange student’s experience full circle.

Barb and Kendall Jordan participated with the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program as a host family for Eliška Heřmánková during the 2019-20 school year.

Heřmánková is from the Czech Republic and through the first semester and a half at South Tama was experiencing a rather normal foreign exchange experience.

Days and weeks were full of school, extra-curricular activities, getting to know new people and sharing her culture with those in the community.

Things took a dramatic turn however when the COVID-19 pandemic set in in March 2020.

Gathered around the table at a restaurant in the Czech Republic are (top row) Barb Jordan, Megan Jordan, Eliška Heřmánková, Nicholas Jordan, (bottom row) Heřmánková’s mother Martina Heřmánková, her father Jan Heřmánek, Klára Kopecká and Kendall Jordan. The Jordans said one of their favorite food items they tried while in the Czech Republic were the potato dumplings that often accompanied a meal. -- Contributed photo

Heřmánková was forced to return home three months early due to the world health crisis and like most students around the country was denied several end of the school year experiences like prom and a normal graduation ceremony. She also had to say a quick goodbye to many friends and classmates she got to know well over her six months in Iowa.

This summer the Jordans, joined by their two children Nicholas and Megan, made a trip to the Czech Republic to visit Heřmánková and her family.

For several months the Jordans weren’t sure if they’d be able to travel due to the ongoing nature of the pandemic.

But in June they found out that the border to the Czech Republic had opened along with their window of opportunity to see Heřmánková, who a year earlier had become like a member of the family.

“When we met Eliška’s family this summer, it was like we’ve known them for so long,” Barb said. “We had the best tour guides while we were there and feel so thankful we had the opportunity to go.”

From July 8-18 the Jordans and their host family spent time traveling all parts of the Czech Republic touring castles, churches and eating authentic Czech cuisine.

A couple of familiar food items they encountered while overseas were traditional Czech pastries including kolaches and rohlicky. Barb said the ones they sampled were very good but were a bit more dense than the ones she’s used to at home in Tama County.

They said many of the typical tourist locations like the city of Prague were relatively quiet compared to a typical summer season.

The trip also provided an opportunity for Barb to visit the homeland of her ancestors. Her great-grandfather Joseph Dostal was born in the area now known as the Czech Republic and was one of a number of Czech immigrants to settle in Tama County generations ago.

The trip was the first time the Jordans had traveled to Europe and they said they hope to return again someday to visit their international family.

As for Heřmánková, she graduated from her high school in the Czech Republic this past spring and is set to begin university in the city of Brno where she will study law.