Our summer intern recently began working here. It’s the first time we have filled the position with someone who didn’t attend the University of Montana or have ties to the Flathead. Xavier Flory knows a lot about soccer, speaks five languages and has lived in four different countries. He’s only 21.
Xavier arrived in the Flathead with no car or place to stay. A coworker picked him up from the airport and dropped him off at the Super 8 hotel. On his first day of work he quickly mentioned how nice you all are. Here’s why:
The day before his internship began, Xavier needed to get an eye exam and find the residence in which he would be temporarily staying (he found this place on a website that allows you to connect with people who allow you to couch surf).
With no mode of transportation, Xavier decided to walk from Super 8, which is located on the south end of Kalispell, to Costco, on the north end, with all his luggage. I regret not seeing this six-foot, two-inch young man rolling his large suitcase north on U.S. Highway 93. Luckily, one of you did.
The driver of a pickup pulled over to give him a lift. Once finished with his exam, Xavier then began heading toward U.S. Highway 2 on Reserve Street to find this couch he would be surfing on for a couple days – for those unfamiliar with the area, this is an extremely long walk on a busy road. Once again, someone pulled over to pick him up and drove him to his destination.
So, I guess, Xavier’s first impression of the area is unsurprising. “The people are overwhelmingly nice,” he says in unidentifiable accent influenced by his time in Belgium, Austria, England and the United States.
Despite his time abroad, Xavier is quick to point out his American roots. He was born in Washington, D.C. and homeschooled on a Virginia farm with his five siblings before moving abroad with his family. His father works for the government, which explains all the moving.
How he ended up here is unusual. The Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania offered to pay for an internship at the Beacon. We agreed. Xavier applied. And two weeks later he was planning his 10-week stay in Montana.
Like most visitors here, Xavier is overwhelmed by the landscape. Following his first day of work, we ran the Rails to Trails together. I couldn’t keep up and promptly lost sight of him. He kept running toward the rolling hills west of Kalispell and when he finally returned to town, he said, “It’s so beautiful, I just kept going.”
And that, in a way, sums up Xavier’s time here so far. He just keeps going and exploring the way many of us did when we first arrived in Northwest Montana.
“The clarity of Lake McDonald is amazing,” he says. And it is. But we forget how amazing it is when compared to water in places like Philadelphia.
Xavier’s disposition is admirable. He assumes he will get where he needs to be – whether on foot, bike, or a stranger’s car – and wanders around the valley with the enthusiasm of seeing something new for the first time. Ask him about his weekend and he will tell you, “it was awesome,” then list all the activities he squeezed in over a couple days. Many of them are typical summer excursions in Northwest Montana, except there’s an excitement that somehow makes his better.
But perhaps the most encouraging part of Xavier’s short time here is how he describes many of you. Those of you who picked him up in your car, gave him a couch to sleep on and have generally pointed him in the right direction. Thanks for that.
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