Wry Exchange

Boo to Wellbutrin XL
01-31-08, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Depression | Tags: ,

 Wellbutrin and I are not getting along.  I’ve taken Wellbutrin XL in the Winter for the last several years without side-effects.  I looked up the common side-effects, and they don’t include, um, talking to yourself.   Common side effects of Wellbutrin XL- Abdominal pain, agitation, anxiety, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, dry mouth, heart palpitations, increased urination, insomnia, muscle soreness, nausea, rash, ringing in the ears, sore throat, sweating.  Nope, no talking to yourself.  Anxiety, heart palpitations, yes, I had those.  ( I thought I was just obsessing as I do occasionally.)  Actually, I was going to the toilet more often, but didn’t think it was due to the Wellbutrin until I started typing this.  (There’s so much I don’t notice in life.)   But I was arguing with myself.  It’s an odd feeling.  I’d think of something, and the other half of my brain would argue with the first half.  Other times, both parts agreed and just echoed each other.  Like that’s not annoying.   I finally called my psychiatrist today, and he told me to stop taking it.  Well, duh.  I did that a few days ago.  I only started it up 2 weeks ago.  I’m supposed to pick up samples of something else on Monday, and give that a try.   Today was the first time I’ve called him between my appointments.  I’ve never had a reaction to my wacko pills like this. 

Since I knew I wanted to write about it, I mentioned my problem to Husband today.  He takes it all in stride.


Indian Student with Tough Year
01-30-08, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students, hosting, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: ,

 “The Indian male is God’s most superior creature.”  

Oh my, what does an independent woman say to this?  “Husband, talk to him before I deck him.”   I’ve written before how much I love to see the changes and growth in the students during the year.  The boy who made that statement was being counselled for not fitting in-at  high school, with his host family, or with the other exchange students.  

 It was his third month here in the states, and NO ONE liked him.   He was loud, pushed his way into all conversations, was very opinionated, and laughed at his own unfunny observations.  He knew more about everything thn anyone.  He didn’t want to spend his own money, but felt free to ask other people to buy him things.  He also borrowed clothing from other exchange students but would carelessly forget the gloves or sweater behind, and not care.  

It took a lot of effort by many people to get him to assimilate.  He ended up with 5 host families.  They all tried their best.  We were all surprised.  All of our previous students from India have been great kids.  For lack of a better word, this boy was a clod.  He even rebuffed gentle hints about fitting in with his clothing.  (Think black old man dress shoes, white socks, and shorts to play volleyball.  He had tennis shoes, too.)  FES’s are usually pretty good about forming a tight bond within their group, but the kids just rolled their eyes when that boy started talking.

I have no idea what happened that the light finally turned on for him.  He quieted down, quit bragging, and became pleasant.  He thanked Husband and me for ‘putting up with me, and not giving up’ but it wasn’t us.  It was his doing.

By May, he said he loved it in the US, and he didn’t feel Indian anymore.  He finally succeeded, and became one of us.   Then he had to return home, and learn how to put his 2 halves together.  Reverse culture shock is even more difficult than the original culture shock.   We’re still in contact, and he says everything is great.  I think he just finally grew up.

New Exchange Students-Prepare Body
01-29-08, 11:55 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students, Outbounds Outbounds | Tags:

Dear Newbies, 
You have about 6 months before you leave the states.  The time will fly by.  Begin preparing now. 

  • Start biking, running or taking long, brisk walks.  People in the US walk less than just about everyone else.  Get in shape so you can walk or bike for several miles with ease.  Some of you will be at different altitudes or climates.  Your body should be in great shape.
  • You may want to weight-train.  You’ll be carrying heavy suitcases as you go overseas.  You’ll probably have a messenger bag or backpack for daily use. You may be carrying groceries home on public transportation.
  • Please don’t get any new piercings or tattoos in visible areas of your body.  If you modify your body, give yourself a few months to heal.  
  • NO TONGUE PIERCINGS-You will use different muscle, bone, and tongue positions to speak a new language.  You can’t properly learn a new language with a tongue stud.  You have to be able to enunciate clearly in English and in your new language.
  • If you take prescription medication, take a 3 month supply with you.  If you have a chronic condition, take along a letter from your doctor detailing your treatment.  
  • If you wear contacts or glasses, take your prescription with you.  Every year, kids lose their contacts or break their glasses.  Bring spares of both contacts and glasses.
  • Think about removing your wisdom teeth.  Every year, a handful of students’ teeth erupt and cause pain.  Talk to your dentist. 
  • If you take anti-depressants, take them with you.  Don’t try to hide depression or anxiety.  Exchange programs don’t care about depression, but they care if you lie and try to hide it.

New Exchange Students-Passports & Visas
01-28-08, 12:52 am
Filed under: Exchange Program, Exchange Students, Outbounds Outbounds | Tags: ,

Congratulations, and welcome to the world of exchange.  This next 18 months will be exciting, scary, and life-changing.  What’s first?

  • Get your passport.  Now.  It takes time to get your passport, and if it’s your first one, it’s not cheap.  You can find applications at post offices and information online.  You’ll need your passport so you can obtain a student visa.
  • If you already have a passport, check it’s expiration date.  My program mandates that your passport be valid for 6 months past your return home date.
  • The difference between a visa and a passport is the US government issues you the passport, and the country you’re going to issues the visa.  The visa will be a permanent part of your passport, and you’ll have to send your passport to the foreign consulate or have it stamped in person. 
  • You may have to go to the nearest consulate for a personal interview.  Not all countries require interviews.   Google for your nearest consulate.  You MUST use the consulate listed for your state.  If you’re supposed to go to New York for Chile, but will be on vacation in Chicago, you can NOT make an appointment for the Chicago consulate.
  • You won’t be applying for your visa for several months.  If your exchange program works with a particular travel agency, they will be specialists in exchange student travel.  Our students receive large packets of information helping them through the visa application process.   If you are applying for your visa by yourself, follow the directions on the consulate’s webpage step-by-step.  If you call for information or advice, write down who you spoke with and the date.
  • Consulates are very picky about photos.  Your photos must be the exact size specified.  If they require front and side shots, or you unsmiling, do it.  Otherwise, you’ll just waste time, and end up doing it their way later.
  • Visa rules change often.  Keep checking the consulate’s webpage for updates.  I was in Bolivia last month.  Their visa requirements went into effect 4 days after I arrived, and had only been posted a week or two before I left home.
  • Don’t be upset about all the documentation you may need for a visa.  Some countries require HIV tests, others may require a police background check.   These are all formalities, and must be followed precisely.
  • One or both of your parents should also apply for a passport.  “Just in case” something happens, and they need to get to you quickly. 

Who Should I Vote For?
01-26-08, 12:39 pm
Filed under: Home | Tags: ,

Unsure of who to vote for?  Try this quiz.  I’m a treehugging, secular, pro-choice, feminist, bleeding heart liberal so we all know I’ll end up voting for Hillary, Obama, or Edwards.   I don’t care who the rest of you vote for as long as you vote.  No vote, no bitching later!

 From the Glassbooth website:  Glassbooth is a nonprofit organization that is creating innovative ways to access political information. An informed and interested democracy is a powerful thing. As an organization acting in the public’s interest, we are very serious about our core principles: integrity, nonbias, nonpartisan, transparency, and insight.

Exchange Student Warning Signs
01-25-08, 11:45 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students | Tags: ,

I receive many silly exchange student forwards.  This one was funny to me.

According to http://www.drugfree.org, these are the warning signs somebody you know is abusing drugs or alcohol, but to exchange students these signs are familiar.  (tongue-in-cheek)
Physical Signs
Change in sleeping patterns
Bloodshot eyes
Slurred or agitated speech
Sudden or dramatic weight loss or gain
Skin abrasions/bruises
Neglected appearance/poor hygiene
Sick more frequently
Accidents or injuries

Behavioral Signs
Hiding use; lying and covering up
Sense that the person will “do anything” to use again regardless of consequences
Loss of control or choice of use (drug-seeking behavior)
Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
Emotional instability
Hyperactive or hyper-aggressive
Missing school or work
Failure to fulfill responsibilities at school or work
Complaints from teachers or co-workers
Reports of intoxication at school or work
Furtive or secretive behavior
Avoiding eye contact
Locked doors
Going out every night
Change in friends or peer group
Change in clothing or appearance
Unusual smells on clothing or breath
Heavy use of over-the-counter preparations to reduce eye reddening, nasal irritation, or bad breath
Hidden stashes of alcohol
Alcohol missing from your supply
Prescription medicine missing
Money missing
Valuables missing
Disappearances for long periods of time
Running away
Secretive phone calls
Unusual containers or wrappers

Clothing, duh
01-24-08, 7:50 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students, Home, hosting | Tags: , ,

Our temporary FES is going to the Homecoming Dance on Saturday.  FES doesn’t have appropriate clothing.  FES just brought jeans and sweats from home, no nice clothes.  I send the kids emails-extensive emails- before they arrive.  One of the ‘Welcome to Appalachia’  emails is in English and translated into Spanish so there are no misunderstandings.  Including the italic sentences.    Clothing: You will need one dressy or formal outfit in addition to your uniform jacket. Many of the students own black suits. That is perfect, and appropriate for many occasions. The remainder of your clothing should just be casual.  Jeans are appropriate for school. Don’t bring your entire wardrobe; clothing is inexpensive here, and most students purchase a lot of clothing throughout the year. You will need warm clothing for part of the year, from October through April. We can have subzero winter weather (including snow) anytime from November to March, changeable weather in October and April; and warm weather May through September with daily high Summer temperatures of 28-38ºC.  Really, isn’t that clear?  I only ask for one nice outfit.  ONE.   For weddings, funerals, banquets, and dances. 

I probably shouldn’t be surprised though.  I’ve shovelled the walk twice today.  FES went to school today, the tonsillitis is getting better.  As I waited to pick up FES after school, a girl walked past me wearing flipflops, miniskirt, and belly shirt.  Several boys wore shorts today, and many students only had hoodies for a winter coat.  It wasn’t sunny, and the high was about 20 degrees. 

Husband finally looked at the tank today.  I was really worried; he didn’t want to see it yesterday.  I watched him go over it from an upstairs window.  I was too chicken to go out.  He told me it looks worse than it is.  The old girl ‘only’ needs a radiator, front grille, and the passenger headlight assembly.  The bumper and front quarter-panel weren’t touched, and the hood can be pounded flat.  ~sigh of relief~

FES’s new hostparents are due to return from vacation tonight.  Is it really evil of me to let them deal with the clothing issue?   Yes, I know it is. I’m going upstairs to see if we have something to pull together an outfit.  We have lots of spare sweaters, hoodies, and coats for students, but not too many good clothes.  Except ties for boys.  Hah!  The guys need to wear ties for one dinner, and about half of them ‘forget’ to bring a tie with them.  Husband takes about 10 ties with him, and tells them to pick a color.  Their little faces just fall.   Old age and treachery beat youth and beauty again. Then Husband ties their ties for them.