And then reality hit

Hosting Adventure Part One, Days Two through Four

“Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”  –Benjamin Franklin*

*The Internet is almost always wrong about quote attributions, as is popular culture. But I haven’t the time or the interest for investigating. Take the Franklin attribution with a huge grain of salt, would you? Someone said that dreadful thing about guests. In my experience, which seems a bit kinder to guests, it happens around day two, not three, and it’s more that they’re blindingly annoying, not smelly. But I didn’t invent bifocals or lightning rods. Allegedly.

The first thing I learned in the past few days to always keep in mind that I’m an introvert by nature and should never engage in an endeavor wherein I will be with other people for the entire day. Or, for instance, for four days in a row without break. Or, for a more ludicrous instance, seventy-eight days. Or so.

This is not, of course, entirely about our lovely international visitor. She has a full-time job and leaves the house nine hours a day. My children have no jobs but still leave the house a few days a week for a few hours. And Spouse has a full-time job that has him traveling 14 out of 15 days this month.

And therein lies a bit of a problem. I had the lack of foresight to allow the universe overlay a new housemate with a houseguest with an absent Spouse with the last week of school. Silly me. Note to self: work harder to plan things out of your control. If not able, self flagellate, then try again.

So remembering that I should never agree to be an extrovert isn’t really learning something.  But I have learned that things we take for granted in our daily lives can be quite shocking to foreigners. I received a text on day two that Rosí, visiting this summer from the Dominican Republic, is terrified of elevators. Never been on one. Didn’t like it one little bit. I did not see that coming. I guessed about the washing machine and the dishwasher.

I did anticipate that she would be confused by the fact that my husband does our dishes and laundry, and that my father cooks all the meals at his house. She told Dad that she would never get married because she can’t cook well. He told her to find a man who cooks. Or to find a man who likes bad cooking. I told her she doesn’t need a man.

Guess which one of those suggestions will be useful to a young woman back in the DR.

Exactly. None of them.

As much as I prepared myself for differences from one culture to another, I thought the primary differences would lie across the Dominican vs. Californian divide. But after a few days of this arrangement, I’m beginning to believe that our largest chasm is that between 40 and 20. Between mother and unattached university student.

Let’s just say I apologized to my visiting father at least a dozen times for my…um…shall we say world view?…when I was 20. I don’t now, as a professional straddling two careers while staying home to raise my boys, shop for leisure. I don’t do anything to my nails. I don’t care about my hair. I have worn the same clothes since I settled into this size a year after my son was born (often for several days at a time without interruption.) And I don’t think this young lady has any interest in the things I find fascinating. So we’re evenly baffled by each other’s priorities.

Rosí and I are going to have a talk tonight because I think one of her primary sources of discomfort is that she doesn’t know if she can ask for things to be changed. She is very direct, which is a cultural norm for her country, but she also seems shy about being impolite. So she tries a food and says without cushion or caveat that she doesn’t like it, but later tells one of us that it needed salt. Goodness, woman, just ask if you can have some salt; don’t starve. She had a cup of tea at work that she described as being dreadful. But later when I made her tea, she said it was just as bad. Until I told her to put more sugar in it. That made her happy. But did she not know to ask for sugar? Did she think it would be rude? I have to tell her that asking to add something to food is okay.

Update: never mind. On her request, I made spaghetti. I freely admit to using jarred sauce. She asked if I forgot the salt, went to the cupboard, got the giant sea salt bottle, and added at least a teaspoon, if not more to her bowl of pasta. Um, she’s not shy. She just really hates anything without Wile-E.-Coyote-allum levels of salt. Fair enough. She just likes potatoes with salt and pasta with salt and crackers with salt. And cheese.

I think I might be in love.

11 thoughts on “And then reality hit

  1. This is your best post ever. EVER. EVAH. I am so loving your salt loving boarder right now. I am telling you, I would have died before taking this one. DIED. You are brave and I hope you continue to be richly rewarded with awesome stories like this.

  2. I got an email the other day asking for interested professors to host an international high school student. But unlike your summer gig, this would be for a school year. I have been contemplating it, but dude, ten months is a loooong time. Plus, my own school year is so stressful that I worry one more person — nay, teenager –would throw me right over the edge. I don’t know. Maybe if she (and I’d only take a she, since I’m already so outnumbered) did some cleaning, I’d be all over that. But then, that makes me feel super exploitative and I huddle in liberal shame. Anyway – reading YOUR adventure may suffice. :)

    • School year, teenager, and your teaching schedule? Um….maybe? I wouldn’t be able to do it, but so much depends on who shows up, right? And on red wheelbarrows, but that’s another post.

      You share my need for privacy and solitude. All three kids would be at school during the day…right when you’re working. High school students need more guidance than college students, it seems to me. And during the year there are friendships and relationships that are less likely in three months.

      Don’t know. But it would be a hard sell for me after this week.

  3. I’m learning so much from this little adventure of yours. Needless to say, I won’t be hosting any students in the near future. Seems like salt and sugar will be your best friend.

    • I’m learning a lot, too, Mrs. P.

      I keep wondering how I’d fare in another country, eating what they consider regular fare, whatever that might be wherever they are.

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