Flor Johnsen, a Buena Vista University student from Laurens, and Rose Imperial Servano were college classmates and best friends in the Philippines.
Johnsen came to America in 1984. The last time Rose and Flor saw each other was at Johnsen's wedding. The two women did not have any information on what happened to each other.
Two years ago, Johnsen found out that Rose was living in Colorado and was married to a lawyer and has two children. Since then, the two ladies have been corresponding to each other. Last October, Johnsen invited Rose to come to the wedding of her son Julian.
"My purpose was not only to see her again, but to have someone to represent my family at the wedding. There was no way my family could come over from the Philippines for the occasion, but Rose was like a sister," Johnsen said.
Both women were excited to see each other and how they look after long years of separation. On Oct. 11, Flor and husband Harlan picked up Rose at Sioux City airport. Johnsen recognized her friend right away.
"I could tell her just from the way she walks. She still looks like a beauty queen, just like when we were in college," Flor said.
They hugged and cried. "Look at you... look at you!"
"Our age showed a little, but the mannerisms were just like those old days and had never changed," Johnsen said.
One thing has changed: Rose has the longest hair in college then, now Flor's hair is longer than hers. Both women are now somewhat "Americanized" and enjoy country living in this country, but they still keep their tradition and culture, and some of their old practices.
They enjoyed the opportunity to speak to each other in their native language, a rare treat for both women, and shared foods of their native country.
"I like America and I thank God of all the opportunities we are enjoying here, our jobs, and the fact that our children had a better future and can go to a prominent college," Servano commented,
She said she never thought that someday she would be in America. For Johnsen, however, it was her dream since she was 6 years old to come to America.
Both were thanful that friendship has brought them together again in this country.
Flor doesn't drive too far and is afriad of getting lost, especially in the city; Servano, now a resident of Colorado, navigates like a pro.
"I admit I am poor in direction" Flor says. "Well, you make it up in something else - like confidence!"
Johsen gave Rose a tour of Storm Lake, the industries, her school at Buena Vista University. Servano was amazed and in awe of the beauty of Iowa. She has still to discover most of the United States.
"It's peaceful, has many open fields, somewhat like Colorado," she said.
Rose was fascinated by the farmers combining the fields, and the cattle operations. It reminded both girls of their early lives back in the Philippines. Servano's parents were farmers also, but with no advanced technologies.
She hopes to return to Iowa soon, driving herself, to experience more of the midwest.
Johnsen brought Servano into the classroom of Buena Vista University to sat in on a class.
"It's a good feeling to sit in a class in university in America, I will tell my family and friends back home! I am very lucky," she said.
Johnsen introduced her friend to the professor and classmates: "We've been best friends in college and it took almost 24 years before we saw each other again.. We are the golden girls!"
Servano said that English is also now the language of instruction in the colleges of the Philipines. She's fascinated how all these students are using laptops provided by the university in the classroom, while her friend Flor wasn't using it much.
" I prefer the old fashioned way, taking notes by hand, sometimes shorthand, it's faster than the computer," Johnsen said.
The two women were both court stenographers back home.
Rose was very attentive in the computer class of Dr. Deebe and learned so much that when they returned to Johnsen's home. she ended up helping Flor in her assignment!
"Well, that's what friends for!" She said.
Rose is motivated to go back to school. Although she has a degree in Management she told her husband, "I think I will go back to school to improve my skills and further my education. If Flor can do it, so can I."
The Johnsens showed Rose the West Bend Grotto and being of Catholic affiliation, she was impressed and appreciated the beauty and the work that was put into it. She took many pictures.
At the wedding, she met a lot of Johnsen's friends. There were lots of things accomplished in her three days stay in Iowa, the Golden Girls agreed.
They spent hours reminiscing about their original college life, when they were in their teens.
The Johnsens shared thwir musical skills, and Rose had the chance to take home Iowa home grown tomatoes and peppers from the Johnsens' garden.
Servano had the chance to see the small town of Laurens and it reminded her of her hometown in the rural area. Servano and Johnsens traded T-shirts, from Colorado and Laurens.
"We are the Golden Girls, not just in age, but in our hearts where we stay young and in our minds we think young and sometimes we even act young. We both take care of ourselves and stay positive in life so in 25 years we will still think as being Golden Girls!," Johnsen said.
"I think living in America has helped us stay young. We can have things that we couldn't back then in the Philippines. We wouldn't have thought of the possibility of having our own cars back then," Servano commented.
" Many changes will happen in our lives, but for one thing will never change - our friendship,"
They cried when they parted ways, but now that they have rediscovered each other, they know that this time, the "goodbye" is only temporary.