We’re halfway done with this adventure hosting a foreign exchange student. She has settled into work and home, and we’re getting used to having her here.
Her English is phenomenal. My Spanish hasn’t improved much because she doesn’t want me to speak Spanish while she’s here. One of the reasons I thought hosting a guest from overseas would be great for our family was that I thought we’d have an in-home language tutor.
I also thought I’d do a phenomenal job cooking more simply, more creatively, and more enthusiastically while showing someone new how excited we are about food. Nope. Because she dislikes so many of the American flavor profiles (and Mexican and Chinese and Italian and French flavors, too) I’ve also slowed on the efforts to cook new and exciting dishes to woo her taste buds over to our whole-grain, carefully seasoned, locally grown way of life.
But the other night she seemed thrilled with a pasta dish I cooked. Overjoyed, I asked her if she liked it.
“Yes,” she said. “But I bought something to add to it.”
“Great,” I smiled, genuinely excited. “Tell me what it is so I can maybe cook it again for you!”
She pulled the can out of the recycling. Ch*f B@yardi beef ravioli. I tried valiantly not to gag, but failed. She said, “Don’t you eat that?”
“No,” I said.
Well, you asked, lady. I was going to keep my mouth shut. “Because it’s full of chemicals. It’s not food like something that’s grown.”
“I know,” she purred. “That’s why I like it.”
I still can’t imagine how different life must be for her in this country.
And really, how much different life must be for her in this house. The more I see myself reflected in her eyes, the weirder I know I am.
She told me she found a spider in her closet. I shrugged. She told me that she hates them and is scared of them. So I went to her closet and saw the daddy longlegs in a web by her shirts. I took a piece of paper, asked the critter to climb on, and took it outside. I wished it luck finding bugs and reassured it that life outdoors is better.
She almost passed out from my freakishness.
She all but shrieked, “You don’t kill it?”
‘No,” I said, and put the paper back on my desk. She eyed it with horror. As though spider essence had escaped onto its fibers during the arachnid’s short stay.
“Why don’t you kill it?!”
“I don’t kill things.”
This baffled her.
“I don’t eat meat, I don’t kill spiders, I don’t smash bugs.”
She shook her head and gave up. I am a lost cause.
And she seemed quite sheepish when she asked me a week later, after eldest got lice, if I was willing to kill the bugs I found on his head.
“Oh, God yes! I have to kill them or they’ll come back.”
She seemed relieved.
Maybe she’ll forgive me for under-salting, under-sweetening, under-processing food. And for rescuing spiders.
As long as I’m willing to kill lice, I’m okay in her book.
To prove it, later that night she asked for my opinion about how to start a charitable organization when she gets home. She wants to find a shelter-based solution for the many homeless dogs in her neighborhood and we talked about ways to fund that endeavor.
How exciting that she’s settling in her and still thinking about how she’ll get back into life back home.
The beginning of this experience excited me with possibilities. When I realized how outsized my expectations were, I grew quite uncomfortable with this process. And now that we’re all hitting our stride, this long run is feeling pretty good. It’s still work. It’s most likely going to be uncomfortable again soon. But for now, hosting a foreign exchange student is going quite well for us.
Have I convinced any of you readers to consider doing this next summer?
Nah. I don’t think I could do it. This summer has been too blissfully full of research for me to imagine wanting to do anything else in the future. I think I’ll be living for summers from now on.
It would be sort of funny/interesting to see what a foreign student thinks about the way we live. Your housemate seems so nakedly judgmental that I wonder what she’d say about us.
Blissfully full of research? Good lord, woman, I’m so intensely jealous.
I’m enjoying this series so much! There’s a lot of learning going on, both ways.
Glad you’re enjoying it. Don’t you have an international summer visitor most years, too?
No. I really think not. But you should do it again next year so all of us can safely live vicariously. I was going to ask you how she handled the lice situation.
She shrugged it off. Her siblings get them all the time from school, just as kids here do. Her mom’s remedies are not any more logical than ours. The whole world just has to comb, comb, comb.
Speaking of which, I’m off to comb…
No because I hate having visitors and expectations and Chef BoyArDee. You’re doing great and I am so glad I get to see your process here in these pages. It’s amazing. I simply could not do it.
But I hate having visitors and expectations and crap in a can, too.
I’ll tell you more when I see you. Things are a-brewin’…
I guffawed snorted and giggled at the canned crap… I had a foreign roommate a long time ago. Obsessed with S-p-@_m, frozen dinners for the microwave, and canned sardines. Just get her some bags of salty snacks and call it a day. Take the valium out of your salt lick for her. She clearly needs NaCl in enormous quantities to function.
I am loving this experience of yours. I can’t wait to hear about your travels to see her!
Your salt water fish is, indeed, seafarin’ folk. ;-)
Good God, I am sooo impressed. I can barely handle having my closest friends over for longer than 10 hours at a time. For some weird reason, I am really, really, really bad at having people (even non-foreign, non-Chef-Boyardee-eating ones) in my home for longer than a short period. KUDOS. And for the record, I HATE (we’re talking irrationally) lizards, but when one of my kids catches one in the house, if even the tail falls off, I feel bad.
You’re so cute…I love that you feel protective even of something that terrifies you. Suppose it wouldn’t help to offer to come over and help with your lizard issue. I find them adorable.
I don’t like houseguests, either. I’m honestly not sure why I thought this would work, other than she’s a good person, our mutual friend is a good person, I’m a good person.
The road to hell is paved with good persons.
So funny. I wish I could hear what she says about the US when she returns home. ;) Kudos for hanging in there.
We’re working on having her blog her experiences. What shocks her, what annoys her, what inspires her, and what she thinks overall about the experience.
I’ll tell you, I’m more acutely aware of all our weirdnesses than I ever have been. Who the heck throws laundry at the garage door and leaves it where it falls until the pile is big enough to wash?
Yeah, that’d be me…
Nope! But I’m glad someone is doing it. You. Think how lame it would have been for her to go to a mainstream house! Hilarious. Don’t eat the ChefBRD!
No worries…I’m not tempted at all.
Sometimes I feel badly that she’s not in Middle America with a “normal” family, and sometimes I think she’s wicked lucky to be with us.
Not next year or the year after that…but I laughed like hell throughout the post. It is funny to view one’s own life from another person’s perspective. Once I realized that I had some very definite weird streaks I started mentioning that I was part alien to anyone who I thought might have very different ideas than I. Somehow that made me seem a little bit cooler than before.
Nothing like blaming your weirdness on intergalactic interference, Mrs. P.! Should get you some extra personal space when you need it. ;-)