Traveling halfway around the world to study in America, Pcu ''Olivia'' Lim and Napat ''Johanna'' Sommapit didn’t expect to discover a love for showing pigs. Both came from capital cities — Olivia from Taipei, Taiwan, and Johanna from Bangkok, Thailand — where their only pets had been small dogs. They never dreamed of keeping livestock in a backyard. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, February 01, 2013 8:16 PM
Traveling halfway around the world to study in America, Pcu “Olivia” Lim and Napat “Johanna” Sommapit didn’t expect to discover a love for showing pigs. Both girls came from capital cities — Olivia from Taipei, Taiwan, and Johanna from Bangkok, Thailand — where their only pets had been small dogs. They never dreamed of keeping livestock in a backyard.
Olivia, an 11th-grader at Iowa High School, first arrived in Louisiana as a foreign exchange student in September and found her host family to be 4-H enthusiasts. Her new “parents,” Pam and Wendell Hymel, owned horses, and their children had been involved in FFA and 4-H. Their daughter Jamie Wolfe and her husband, Joe Wolfe — they host Johanna — suggested the idea of the girls getting involved with 4-H.
Jamie and Joe had shown pigs when they were younger and suggested the same for the students. At first hesitant about taking care of, and eventually showing, livestock, the girls soon warmed up to the idea after some encouragement.
Johanna, a 10th-grader at Iowa, joined the Calcasieu Parish 4-H in October with Olivia, and soon they were looking to buy their own pigs. Olivia bought her pig from the school’s secretary and kept it in a dog pen at the house. She learned how to take care of her new pet — he is named Oliver — feeding, brushing and even helping out when it had pneumonia. Even though studies occupied much of their day, the students were spending more time in the livestock pen prepping pigs for show.
“At first, I think this is nasty, but then I think it’s good,” said Olivia. “I just like the animals; I like to show the animals.”
Olivia and Johanna received purple ribbons in the Calcasieu Parish Jr. Livestock Show two weeks ago and also placed in the 4-H District show. The purple ribbons they won qualified their pigs to be sold. The girls successfully found buyers for both pigs, now that they have completed their shows.
Pam said she has seen what a benefit being involved in 4-H has been for the girls. This is the first time she has hosted an exchange student, and being able to watch the girls’ involvement has also been a reward for her.
“They learn so much responsibility, how to care for something completely,” she said. “I think when (Olivia) first got here, her interest was politics, and now it’s agriculture.”
Johanna and Olivia will return to their countries in June and said they will miss participation in 4-H and the livestock shows. Johanna said she came to Louisiana for a new experience and would recommend livestock shows to other exchange students looking to try something new.
“It’s very new for me because, in Bangkok, they don’t have this,” she said. “I love this ... I never thought I would do something like this.”