Saturday, January 31, 2009

Exchange Student

All day today, Kiwi was at an orientation for foreign exchange students. It was in the basement of a church that I have attended in the past and have bad memories of-- but that is another story. All the kids were sitting at round tables when we walked in playing Uno and Rummy-o and adults were milling around waiting for the meetings. Kids and adults were separated into different groups and meetings were started. I did not find the adult meeting all that interesting. The leader is used to dealing with non-english speaking people so she repeats herself... over and over and over. I teach special ed... and have teenagers, so I am accustomed to having to repeat myself more than once, but this lady was driving me crazy. I heard about the perils of Facebook at least 7 times. And if you want to know about the necessary forms to take a foreign exchange student to Canada or Mexico... I heard about those at least 5 times. I could not escape soon enough!

I left Kiwi at the church because after the meeting they were having a party for the exchange students... including pizza, board games, snacks and dancing. Kiwi called me half way thru and asked if I could drive a friend of hers home. I said sure... When I picked them up there was empty pizza boxes, tired looking teens, loud music and chaperones that looked ready to go home. Kiwi and her friend, Xed said good bye to their friends and headed for their coats.

In the car, Xed said that this was the best day she has had in the US so far. I asked her how long she had been here. She said she arrived here in August. I was shocked.... I asked Kiwi if it was her best day too and she said no, that she had had many happy days. As I drove, Xed explained that her host parents were both in their 60's and had no children in the home. She said that she had been disappointed by the parents often because they do not come to things they say they will (such as her recent award banquet) and they are always late. She has not gone to anything besides school and the mall since she arrived. When we pulled into the driveway, Kiwi commented that the house was very large, Xed's only comment was that the house was so messy she would not let friends in. Xed was very polite as she got out of the car, thanking me and telling Kiwi how happy she was that they both went.

I feel very sad for Xed. She has come here all the way from Russia and it does not sound like she is having a good experience. Kiwi said that she is not allowed to use the family computer very often to speak to her parents and is not feeling very comfortable in the host house. I am so hopeful that Kiwi can say that we always made her feel like a member of the family and she has a better understanding of what an American family is because of her stay with us. We are not perfect but we do love her and we try to treat her like all of our other children. I talked to Kiwi on our way home about the situation. I told her that if she wanted to include Xed in more activities our family does to just let us know. We already have 5 kids.... what's one more?!!

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