By Starrla Cray
DASSEL, MN It’s a good thing Ke-Chien Yu (aka Jack) enjoys basketball, because his host family in Dassel plays a lot of it.
Ryan Tool is the assistant varsity boys’ basketball coach at Dassel-Cokato High School, while his wife, Anna, coaches the sixth grade girls’ team. Their daughter, Taylor, plays on the sixth-grade team, and their son, Carter (a freshman), is on the same team as Jack this year.
The only member of the Tool family who isn’t part of a basketball team yet is 2-year-old Samantha “Sami.”
“We knew we’d be busy in the winter, but when we heard [Jack] likes basketball, too, we thought, ‘this might work,’” Ryan said.
Through the Cokato-Dassel Rotary Club’s youth exchange program, Jack has the opportunity to stay with three different families in the Dassel-Cokato area this school year. He flew to Minnesota from Taiwan in August, and spent the fall with Peter and Kristin Bortnem in Dassel.
Jack arrived at the Tool residence Dec. 1, and he’ll move to a third host family in March.
“We’re excited for the next couple of months,” Anna said. “He’s fitting in well with the family. He seems very flexible, and he’s not a picky eater.”
Jack said the main foods in Taiwan are rice and noodles, and he doesn’t have a favorite meal.
“I eat everything,” he said.
Jack knows how to do his own laundry, too, Ryan added.
“I think he developed a lot of independence and maturity living in a bigger city [Taipei] and having to find his own way to school,” Ryan commented.
In Taipei (the capital city of Taiwan), Jack normally got up at 5:30 a.m., and rode a bus and a subway to a boys’ prep school. Monday through Friday, Jack was in school from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Then, every evening from 6 to 10 p.m., Jack studied at “cram school.”
As for free time, Jack said there’s “not much.” When he wasn’t busy with school, though, he enjoyed playing basketball with friends.
Now he’s a Charger basketball player, and also played Charger football in the fall.
Another new activity for Jack is skiing, which he tried the first weekend in December. Although he had fun on the slopes, he admitted that the weather is “a little bit too cold for me.”
Celebrating Christmas will be a new experience for Jack, as well. The family went to the Guthrie Theatre to see “A Christmas Carol” last weekend, and they’ll be visiting family in Duluth and Buffalo around Christmastime.
On New Year’s Day, Ryan and Carter are planning to take Jack to a Timberwolves game.
“We hope to get a chance for Jack to try snowmobiling or ice fishing,” Ryan said.
Although this is Jack’s first time in Minnesota, he learned about the area through his older sister, who studied in Hutchinson last school year.
Jack also has a twin sister who is studying in Texas this year.
“She just sent me a video of it snowing in Texas,” Jack said Dec. 8.
Next fall, Jack plans to attend a university in Taiwan. Someday, he hopes to become a movie director.