Wry Exchange

Just Trying to Kill it
09-30-08, 7:35 pm
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 How do you bring up missing money?  I volunteer for a charity and just received the report for the last fiscal year.  It’s a mess.  How does a fundraiser lose money? There is uncollected debt, monies held purposely from the previous year, frivolous expenditures, and numbers don’t add up.  Money has just been pissed away.  I suspect the goal is to bankrupt the group.
I know I should just ask, but the President has very high status within the group.  It’s not the treasurer’s fault, she doesn’t get the bills or have power to spend, she just probably was given the receipts at the end of the year.  Our group is losing members rapidly.  Many of us don’t like or trust the new people.  We don’t have the same goals.  We just have to hang on until they get bored and quit.   I just hope we last that long.
 I don’t trust, like, or respect the President, and she doesn’t like me.  Our goals are completely different.  I don’t want to come off like I’m making this up or have a vendetta.  I want to say “Please resign today, and we’ll just drop it quietly.”


Blogroll Addition-Exchange Student in Bolivia
09-28-08, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students, Outbounds Outbounds | Tags: ,

 I found a new blog that I’m excited to share it with you.  FES is in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.   “Existence in the Heart of South America” is beautifully written, with a lot of detail.   I appreciate a strong point of view.  His experience in Bolivia is deeply personal, and I don’t have the same perspective. FES wrote that women drivers are rare, and that wasn’t my experience.  He writes about things I forget or don’t think to mention.  He wrote about the filth in Santa Cruz.  I forgot about how much litter there is in South America.  It’s something I just don’t notice.  (I also don’t notice dust or dirty dishes.  I can walk past clutter for months without seeing it.)  He wrote about difficulty getting time alone.  I forgot about that, too.  I need time to myself daily.  I go crazy when I have to talk to people nonstop.    Go read the blog before I just ruin it and tell you everything the kid wrote.

ETA: I removed the link.  He’s hurting people’s feelings.

Holy Crap!
09-28-08, 2:56 pm
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 Did you realize today was “Pulpit Freedom Sunday?”   Ministers in churches across the country are going to ‘recommend’ a presidential candidate to their congregations.  Nonprofits can lose their tax-exempt status by politicking.  These churches want the IRS to come after them, then they plan on taking the fight to the Supreme Court.   And if they win, we’re screwed think of all the other nonprofits endorsing candidates.   How much money and influence could be funnelled through nonprofits?   

Really, isn’t that a perfect title?  I amuse myself.

Avoiding Early Return

 Students should know as much as possible about their new country.   We’ve had students go to India and be surprised to eat with their hands, and see poor people.   Do your homework.  If you’re going to Taiwan, you should know they study, study, study all the time, and as a result have immature social skills.  Going to Australia doesn’t guarantee you’ll be living near the beach working on your tan all year.  You could be on a sheep ranch in the middle of nowhere.  If you’re a vegetarian, Argentina may not be the best place for you.

Do your own homework.  Don’t go to Fesland because someone else liked it.   What are your goals, hopes, likes, dislikes?  What do you want out of this year?  I interviewed a girl who wanted Australia and nowhere else.  As we got into the interview, her personality didn’t jibe with “Australia” to the interviewers.  She was conservative, religious, serious, wanted to learn a language, didn’t like the beach, and didn’t want a ‘blow-off’ year.  Her reason for wanting Australia?  She watched ‘The Borrowers Down Under’ at age 12, and always wanted to go.   A cartoon influenced her.  We talked to her, gave her time to think, and sent her to Austria.  She loved it, and it was the right choice.  She wouldn’t have lasted a month in Australia.

Parents should watch what they say.  We’ve had too many kids come home early because their parents missed them.  Personally, I think it’s selfish of the parents.  Kids will call home to vent about their new family, school, homesickness, language issues, etc.  It’s the parents job to listen, offer support, and suggestions.  Help them learn how to help themselves.  Please don’t tell FES he can come home if it’s too hard.  I know it’s killing you, but remind FES this is what he wanted, it’s only for 9-12 months and he can do it.   I can’t tell you how many panicked parent phone calls I’ve received over the years only to call FES and they’re fine.   The kids are bewildered until they realize they just tell their parents the bad stuff.  It’s common for the parents and me to have different stories from the kids.

Listen to the exchange volunteers.  We know.  If I tell you Feslandia has no support, and you’ll be on your own, don’t whine that no one is there to help you.  I tried to talk you out of it, but you insisted you were 18, very independent, and fought to go there.   If I tell you Fesica is sexist, don’t whine when people pinch your butt and treat you like a toy.   If I tell you Fesway is homogeneous, and you will stand out because you’re blonde or black, don’t complain because people stare at you all the time.   If you have SAD or depression, know that Northern Europe may make your symptoms worse.  If you’re a free spirit, but insist on going to Japan, don’t complain about all the rules.

Be honest.  I’m not being nosy, I’m trying to help.  Tell me if you have medical restrictions. We’ll work with you.  Depression is fairly common, it doesn’t count against you.  I can tell you which places are easier for gay students.  I want what’s best for you.  If you tell me you want to go to France, tell me why.  I may suggest Belgium to you.  At least consider it.  Belgium placements for our program are more urban with better public transportation, and less hours at school.   If you’ve already graduated high school, you’d probably have more fun in Belgium.

Don’t choose Fesvokia because your friend loved it.  Every exchange student thinks his country is the best.  Do your own research.  Think. Ask questions.

Snakes are Acting up
09-23-08, 7:35 pm
Filed under: Depression, Home | Tags:

 Remember last Winter when I won the Curves basket at a fundraiser?  The one that’s been gathering dust?  Chef took the socks, visor, and water bottle back to Chile for his mom.  They have Curves in Chile.   

I volunteered at a fundraiser last Saturday, and Curves had a booth.  Many of the women volunteering with me are Curves members, and were talking about it.  I told them how I won a month free, and they couldn’t believe I wasn’t using it.  One of them dragged walked me over to the booth.  The woman working the booth offered me a free week to sign up, then a t-shirt, visor, water bottle, and finally a free month.  I caved, and made an appointment for today. (She was such an enthusiastic cutie.)  I received a large emery board in Breast Cancer Pink which I gave to the woman who dragged my ass over.  (She really wanted one.)

I went today, was measured, weighed, and signed up.  I went through the circuit, and promised to return.   The snakes part?  Before I went, I ate a breakfast of chocolate chip cooks and Lime Tostitos.  A lot of them.  When I left the building, I was shaking in the car, and raced home.  I took the dogs, and went straight into bed to hide-still with my keys in my hand.  Obviously, I have issues.   Let’s see if it was a one time thing.  I really want to go back.

Early Returns – Voluntary Terminations

I wrote about involuntary terminations a few days ago.  There are a few different types of early returns.  One is semi-voluntary, usually because of an illness or death in the family.  (Most of our students have health insurance policies that permit a few weeks of compassionate leave to go home for a sudden illness, emergency, or death.  Some students choose not to complete their year abroad.)  That’s completely understandable, and not what I’m talking about.
  A voluntary withdrawal from the program is a failure for everyone-student, family, hostfamily, and counselors.   The worst part?  Almost every student regrets quitting within 2 days of going home.  If I know a student wants to go home, I’ll do everything possible to change his mind.  I think it’s a huge failure that will stay with the student forever. 

“Expensive Vacation Returns”-I’ve known of kids who wanted to come home as soon as the plane landed.  One boy a few years ago said he knew he made a mistake halfway through his flight.  Some students can tough it out for 3 or 4 weeks then quit.  These are students that perhaps weren’t trained enough, didn’t have realistic expectations, or should’ve been weeded out before they left home.  Sometimes parents can’t let go.  Husband and I had a student once who had never been away from home before.  He never even stayed overnight at Grandma’s house.  He lasted two months until Daddy visited.  We had an early return this year.  I think Mom was a big factor.  Let the student vent, but try to help her be strong.  Most of these students have already graduated from high school.  Generally if a 15 year old goes out, they have a reason to get out of the house.

Voluntary Returns-These are the tough ones.  Some students miss their bf/gf, and spend their time online and Skype-ing instead of building a life in their new country.   Most of the kids who give up just have bad luck.  They have a crappy host family, school sucks, they live in the sticks, and their counselor doesn’t care about them.  These are the kids who just can’t take it anymore.   These kids are the ones who feel alone and hopeless.  Our son P’s year was like this.  We told him he was going to complete his year if it killed him.  We dragged him through it.  I wrote about his year.   These are the kids I want to help.  They can tough it out if someone cares enough to be a cheerleader for them.  They need an adult to look for a different host family, to care if they try new activities, and to listen.   The best advice is to make it day by day or until Christmas.  Make a goal, and then another, and then another one.  Generally, if a student can stay until January 1, they’ll stay the rest of the year.  January first is a big hump day.   Former exchange students who had tough years are great mentors.  P has helped me help many students in the last seven years.   Go hug an exchange student!

McCain Lies -Article from Time
09-20-08, 11:12 am
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 Wednesday, Sep. 17, 2008

John McCain and the Lying Game By Joe Klein

Politics has always been lousy with blather and chicanery. But there are rules and traditions too. In the early weeks of the general-election campaign, a consensus has grown in the political community — a consensus that ranges from practitioners like Karl Rove to commentators like, well, me — that John McCain has allowed his campaign to slip the normal bounds of political propriety. The situation has gotten so intense that we in the media have slipped our normal rules as well. Usually when a candidate tells something less than the truth, we mince words. We use euphemisms like mendacity and inaccuracy … or, as the Associated Press put it, “McCain’s claims skirt facts.” But increasing numbers of otherwise sober observers, even such august institutions as the New York Times editorial board, are calling John McCain a liar. You might well ask, What has McCain done to deserve this? What unwritten rules did he break? Are his transgressions of degree or of kind? Continue reading