Tuesday, December 14, 2010


We’ve been hosting exchange students for over six years – we’re on student number seven right now.

Our first was a wonderful girl from Germany. We had a great year with her and it was simply heartbreaking to send her home at the end of her stay with us. She was frighteningly intelligent, a perfectionist in all she did, a wonderful cook and so very much at home with us that it felt she had been part of the family forever. A bit of my heart went back to Germany when she left.

Our second was a girl from China. Also a very sweet girl. Not as much fun to host, but I think a lot of that was due to cultural differences. She was a pleasure to have around when she was participating with the family, but she spent so much time in her room with the door closed that I was pretty frustrated by the time she left. It’s hard to host someone who treats your house and family like a hotel, restaurant and cab service, and that’s what it felt like a great deal of the time. Not always, but enough that the year was difficult at times.

Number three was another girl from Germany (since we’d had such good luck with the first German girl). She was also a pleasure to host. She was much quieter than both of the previous students, but had a sharp wit and we really bonded during our year together.

The next year, we hosted a sweet little gal from Italy. Perennially cheerful (except on the day she left, when we were all teary-eyed), she was a joy to host. She was a tiny little thing and nearly every time we went out to eat, she was given a kid’s menu. She carried her Italian-English dictionary around with her for quite a while – but always tried out the Italian word first when she didn’t know the English version, just in case we might know it. Of all of the students we hosted, she came with the least fluency in English. By the time she went home, however, she (like all exchange students at the end of their year) was thinking and dreaming in our language.

Since my daughter was leaving to join the service, year five we decided to host our first boy. He was a great kid, but did need a bit more attention than the other students. I think he was more used to being the center of attention at home. We have to spread ourselves a bit thinner at our house as my husband and I both work and do a lot of volunteer work with our kids. His need to be in the limelight so much was difficult at times. And we discovered that my husband has a bit more patience for girls and their idiosyncrasies than boys and theirs. Still, not a horrible year.

This brings us to last year.

Last year we chose another girl – this one from Norway. Tall, blond and simply lovely, she seemed to fit in pretty well. Oh, there were differences of opinion, but there always are. We express our opinion and are open to listening to theirs. She seemed to take offense when our opinions didn’t mesh, unlike our other students. She also didn’t enjoy being corrected, but no teenager does. All in all, we thought the year was going relatively well. She and our son got along great and we thought we were working through any issues like we always had in the past. No hosting experience is without its bumps in the road, but our suspension has been sufficient to handle them up until last year.

This post is already too darn long, so I won’t whine my way through every detail. Suffice it to say that she started complaining about us to her family, to the organization and to all of her friends in about October. Not to us, mind you, so we were clueless as to her dissatisfaction. In January, over the course of a couple of weeks, she just about quit talking to me and when I discussed it with the program head to find out if she had mentioned any problems to them, I was immediately asked if we wanted to have her moved out. Which we didn’t want to do without trying to figure out what was wrong. But our student simply refused to discuss it with us. By the time we got home from work the day after my first discussion with AFS (the program we used to host through), our student was gone.

It was a horrible experience. At every host family orientation we attended, the AFS representatives had gone over the steps that would be taken in the event of problems between a student and a family. In our case, those steps were skipped and we had no idea what was wrong. As a host family, we all put our hearts and souls into making our student’s year one they will remember forever. It was devastating to have all that thrown aside and no effort made to rectify any perceived problems. Every time I think I am finally over it, I’ll talk about our hosting experiences with someone and when I get to last year, I realize I’m still having an incredibly hard time dealing with the hurt and rejection. Not to mention the shabby way our family felt treated by AFS after we had hosted for them for so many years successfully.

We were tempted to quit hosting. But then we decided we didn’t’ want to quit on a bad note, so we’re hosting again this year. We found another exchange student program and tried to carefully pick a student we thought would fit in better than our Norwegian had.

I think we succeeded. We’re hosting another girl from Germany (since we have had great luck with German girls!). She’s simply wonderful and I think this year will go down in the positive column.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Last August, I took a trip to Colorado to visit family and join them for the burial of my Dad's ashes (why, yes, it has been over two years since he died - but that's the way we roll). I had a car full of kids - my son, my niece (who is now living with us until she graduates from high school in 2012), a former exchange student of ours and another former exchange student who, while she wasn't officially "ours" became ours when her original family asked her to move out at the end of the school year. So now we claim her.

Whilst perusing the map for the trip home, I realized that I'd be driving quite close to Arches National Park (taking the scenic route home to Idaho from Colorado since we took the faster route through Wyoming on the way there). After polling the car to make sure everyone was okay with arriving back home in the wee hours of the morning, I took a detour down to the park. Well, I'm not the most fabulous map reader in the world and it looked to me like exiting Highway 70 on 128 would get us to the park just about as fast as if we drove a bit further on 70 and exited on 191. WRONG!

I think that little detour added at least a couple of hours, if not more, to our trip as 128 was a narrow, winding road for much of the way. On the other hand, I doubt that I'll ever go to Arches without driving on 128 because it was so very, very beautiful.

For miles and miles, the road passes along the Colorado River through an area filled with sheer red cliffs and wonderful rock formations. It took us an especially long time to get to our destination because every time we drove around another bend, we would all gasp in amazement and have to stop for a photo. The views would leave an ordinary person speechless.

But not me, as you can tell from my inability to provide a wordless post!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


So, I expected that about, oh, zero people would have come to my blog on purpose in the past six months or so due to there being no posting (ah, that Facebook is such a TIMESUCK).

Sometimes folks wind up here because of a search, so I figured there would be an occasional visitor who was interested in knowing about the lyrics to the Hokey Pokey or some such information.

Imagine my surprise when I checked my feed and found that quite a few folks have been visiting lately. Through Blogger and via a wide range of websites.

Why? I have no idea. Especially since I don't appear to have visited any of those blogs until today when I was trying to figure out the whys and wherefores of my traffic.

Can anyone making such a visit enlighten me? Inquiring minds want to know, and all that.

Monday, December 6, 2010

I'm Still Alive...

And, although I don't have much to say these days, I really just had to share how very hard I laughed when I heard one of the attorneys at my office explaining to his adorable grade-school-aged son (who had just suggested in his ever-so-slight lisp how they should purchase a cockroach to put in their restaurant meal so they could get it free) the concept of contributory negligence and unclean hands.

That's all for now!