So this town is sooooo small that *everything* is in the daily newspaper. We didn’t get the paper delivered until last week, and I was so out of the loop, but now you know everything about everyone. Like the 16 year old kid that is facing $144 in fines for cursing in the local grocery store parking lot at midnight one night. Are you serious?!? Could you imagine that in the Bronx? No way. . . but I digress.
The front page had a story on 6 exchange students who came to live here for the upcoming school year. It made me remember my fabulous experiences both as an exchange student to Germany, and a host sister to numerous exchange students, most notably Laura, Simone and Oxana.
Laura was from the northern coast of Spain. She came to us mid-year due to issues with her first host family, and she was our first exchange sister. Laura and I had the blessing of sharing a bedroom, which I was sooooo excited about in the beginning. It was just culture shock for me.
I grew up in a house where everyone worked. Everyone had chores, and those chores were done before Friday night, or you sat home while your friends went out. I’ll never forget the white glove checks as my date stood on the doorstep. Somedays I passed, others I had to redo it. But this was all completely foreign to Laura. Heck, she couldn’t even remember to flush the toilet when she was done. This baffled me– I can’t count the times we introduced her to “Mr. Flushie” but it was fruitless.
And then I went to her house. It all made sense then. She lived in a nice villa near the coast. There were maids and butlers everywhere. I had a woman putting house slippers on my feet when I got out of bed in the morning. There was another woman who flushed the toilet, often before I even had a chance to leave the loo. There was another woman who cooked whatever food we wanted, when we wanted it. There were no chores, no responsibilities. Just fun.
The next year we decided to host a student from a hard working country, someone that would fit our family a little better. Dad scoured the listings and we decided on Simone, a darling girl from Germany. She had a work ethic like none other. Her mother was a chief anaesthesiologist, her brother a lawyer– she is now a lawyer. She pitched in, doing chores or whatever else needed to be done. I love this girl like a sister, and have visited her family numerous times over the past 12 years. The most memorable visit was when I went over for her mother’s 60th birthday. They had secured rooms in a spa resort, and we ate a 10 course dinner. It was amazing.
The summer before we met Simone, I went to Germany as an exchange student for 3 weeks. I stayed with a girl named Christina. She and I had a blast, tearing up the Hamburg night scene, at the ripe old age of 16. It was my first time to Europe, and she definitely got me into the spirit of the Old World. After I stayed with Christina, I went to visit Laura in Spain and Line in Denmark. I’ll blog about this journey another time, as it was by far the most gutsy 6 weeks of my life. Who else travels Europe solo at age 16? I know. . I’m in insane 🙂
As I think of what I want my child to grow up with, I think of foreign exchanges and service missions. I want her to see the world from another perspective, and what better way to do that than to welcome a person from another culture into your home, and to stay in their home? I learned more about life and the world in those exchanges, than many of my friends will ever learn. It expanded my horizons and helped me to see world affairs and conflicts in another perspective. I can’t wait until Ava is old enough to appreciate such a program. But for now, I’ll enjoy watching my little girl be amazed by the intriguing new world around her.