Wry Exchange

I am in Chile
04-22-09, 11:43 am
Filed under: Culture, Home

  The last 10 days have been crazy.  You know you’re tired when you sleep on a plane.   (More about home in another post, except to say GoodDobie is doing much better.)

I arrived in Santiago yesterday.  Husband can’t get away from work and other obligations.  I’m representing both of us.  I really don’t remember too much from the morning.   I have a cold and am just physically, mentally, and emotionally whipped.  I had a damn voice in my head repeating everything I thought.  I hate when that happens.

Baggage claim-Three gorgeous Labs were drug sniffing.  Two of them stayed and slowly sniffed my entire luggage cart.  Their tails were wagging as they happily snorffled.  Their handlers asked if I brought food with me;  I said ‘no’ and showed them BadLab’s photo on my phone.  They smiled and pulled the dogs away. 

P-I am staying with P’s family for a few days until I go a bit South for Chef’s weddings.      I love P’s family.   His nephew is 10, I first met him when he was a shy 2 year old while P was on exchange.    P and I have an easy relationship.  It always feels just like we saw each other yesterday.    Husband and I love him dearly.

Chef-His civil ceremony is Thursday, and the religious ceremony and reception are Saturday.  When you have 2 ceremonies, which one do you choose as your anniversary date?   Chef has a bad case of  ‘Groom Brain.’   He lost his parking ticket for the airport, and had a huge penalty.  He misplaced his wallet, he left his keys in the car in downtown Santiago, etc.   He’s trying to do too much.

Jumbo-I love Jumbo grocery stores.  My newest thrill? Scented tissues.  P had lavender, and was surprised we don’t have scented Kleenex at home.   I bought lime & coconut, lavender, and cucumber melon.  I left vanilla, apple, mint, and herbal for other customers.

More later.


System Works
04-07-09, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Exchange Program, Exchange Students, Outbounds Outbounds

  We’ve gone back to the old new-way of training our outgoing students.   (rigorous and without romance.)  The students have been encouraged to drop out now if they have doubts, rather than terminating early during the year abroad.    A record number of students have returned early this year, and we still have 3 months left.   A good American exchange student should want this year more than anything.

One of the new students withdrew this week.  He did it right.  He talked with his parents and other current and former exchange students.  He took a few months to make certain this was the right decision for him.   He should remember this time fondly, without regrets.  He met and made good friends through the program.

The exchange is already agreed upon, we will honor our commitment to hosting the other student.   It’s not FES’s fault our student resigned.  FES is already placed, just this morning actually.

04-07-09, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Home | Tags: , ,

 I haven’t written about our dogs for a while.  GoodDobie and BadLab love that Spring is here, and regular walks have returned.   We went for a long walk last week, and I wore them out.  Too ambitious, too fast.  BadLab will be nine in November, and GoodDobie is between 10 and 12 years old.  GoodDobie is from a rescue group, so we don’t know his exact age.

GoodDobie went to the vet today, and goes back Tuesday.   The poor guy started falling apart last week.   A typical Doberman lifespan is 10 years old.   Our dogs always get sick on Friday afternoons.  I’m convinced they do it on purpose since it buys them a few days to see if they really need to see the doctor.   GoodDobie has a hard lump under his eye.   He let Husband look inside his mouth without flinching, and it’s not tender at all.  He’s also been drinking tons of water, and wants to go out all the time.   His body shape is changing, and he occasionally won’t life his leg or squat when he ‘goes.’  

Part of it is arthritis, and we’ve started him on glucosumine and chondroiten.  The vet said the drinking/peeing could be related to the arthritis.  (I didn’t quite understand that, but really wasn’t paying attention after we discussed the lump.)    The big thing is the sudden lump.  He has antibiotics for the next week, and Tuesday he goes for blood tests, X-rays, and hopefully a pulled tooth under anesthesia.  The vet is concerned the tooth isn’t abscessed since it doesn’t hurt, smell, seep, or anything.  

Whatever happens, we know he is happy with us, and we’re thrilled we adopted him.  He isn’t in pain, just a bit embarassed about peeing like a girl.    It will be tough to leave him at the vet’s, we don’t want him to think we’re dumping him off like his previous owners, and BadLab will go nuts without his buddy even for a few hours.  We can sit and wait in the parking lot.

April Weddings
04-06-09, 1:16 am
Filed under: Culture, Home | Tags: , ,

  Two of my boys are getting married this month.  The circumstances are night and day.

Chef is finished with his education.  He is a professional civil engineer, specializing in water and wastewater.  His fiancee is also an engineer.   They have good jobs, and can support themselves.  They are in their late 20’s.    They only got engaged the end of last year, and the wedding is in a few weeks.  They plan on moving to the US in June.   They have enough money to go 6 months without work.  Chef thinks if they don’t try now, they never will.  It’s been his dream to come back and live here.  They’ll stay with us.    He told me he ‘pooped’ the question officially  last month.  I love Spanglish.

The other one is way too young, and it’s a shotgun wedding.  He is in his second year of college, and doesn’t have a job.  He’s from a deeply machismo society.  His wedding is a day before Chef’s.   It will be a quiet, quicky wedding with no church, reception, or guests.   The condom malfunctioned, and the girl’s parents are pressuring him into a wedding before the she starts to show.  He doesn’t love her, but says he’ll learn.  My heart is breaking for him.

04-06-09, 12:59 am
Filed under: Depression

  I had an amazing dream last night.  I was so proud and excited.  I told myself I HAD to remember it.  It was an idea for a new product called ‘Bubbles,’  a combination bubble gum and shampoo product.   Isn’t that just the silliest dream?   I went all through marketing, testing, and packaging.  It was a long dream.

I don’t usually remember my dreams, but they tend to run towards automatic weapons, hostage situations, torture, and manhunts.

Psycho Hostmoms
04-06-09, 12:49 am
Filed under: Culture, hosting, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: ,

 Lent must be tough this year, or the worldwide recession, or maybe because they can’t find the right color of peeps.   We had a cluster of Psycho Hostmoms™ this week.

One down in Bolivia.  FES has spent all year with HM, and she flipped on him to PHM in the car.   They were driving back from Argentina, and had some problems crossing the border on the Argentine side.  HM mentioned how racist the Argentines are, and it’s just terrible.   FES said well, that Cambas hate Collas, and isn’t that the same?   (Remember, Cambas are the people from Santa Cruz, generally lighter skinned, and with money and education.  Collas are the Indians from La Paz, thought to be poor and not too bright.)   She went into full Psycho, screeching that it was NOT the same,  Bolivians are NOT racist, what is wrong with him? and then she quit talking to him for a few days.  She wants him out of her house.  The kid is actually afraid of her, of what she might do to him.   He is level-headed, with common sense, so I want him moved like yesterday.

Same day, another PHM.   This one made her own problems.   She’s never hosted before, but knew everything.   She started breaking rules immediately.  We had 2 mandatory training sessions for the kids, she didn’t bring, something else was more important-school dance.    She spoiled the kid rotten, making the other FESs jealous.  No, not all host families take the kids to Disney for Christmas, paying for everything, buying all her clothing and shoes, never saying no, giving her everything, while her child had to follow the rules.     Well, the girl had a problem, and PHM screamed to get the kid out of her house.  She was really pissed at me when I said she could NOT put the girl on a plane.  That she is not the legal guardian and doesn’t have the right to ship her home.  The girl did something stupid, but not termination worthy.  She bought a hookah, charcoal, and tobacco while visiting relatives.   Mom called the police to come inspect it because she thought it was drugs.  Didn’t ask the kid, didn’t ask her husband, just the police.   Didn’t just take it away from her,  didn’t pitch the tobacco, called the police because it looked suspicious.  I found another family, and the girl should be able to live out her time here in peace, if not luxury anymore.

New York Highlights
04-04-09, 1:13 am
Filed under: Exchange Students

  It’s been a bumpy week.  Let’s start with a post about the bus trip to New York City.   Students and chaperones fanned out all through the city.  We had one chaperone for every three students or so,  it was wonderful to have such small groups.

A few of the groups stopped at a firehouse near Ground Zero.  The firefighters spent time explaining September 11, 1991 to the students.   They made a big impact on the students and chaperones.

I feel weird writing about all the other parts of the day after that.   We had 14 hours to show the kids as much of New York as possible.  We all started in Battery Park.  At least one group rode the Staten Island Ferry to get a close-up view of the Statue of Liberty without standing in the long lines and going through security.

My little group spent over five hours walking through the Financial area, Ground Zero, TriBeCa, Little Italy, and Chinatown.  We never made it above 46th street all day.

 Their jaws dropped as they saw their first gay and lesbian couples walking down the street.  The didn’t comment, or stare.    They b0ught street t-shirts, I got a new Kipling bag at Empire Luggage, just tourist stuff.    Husband stopped at Yellow Rat Bastard to stock up on t-shirts for him and our boys.

One of the chaperones wanted a faux Coach purse, but they were difficult to find in Chinatown this year.  We noticed some of the sidewalk people  had flipcharts with different purses.  I asked a woman about Coach.  She told me her store is around the corner.   We go around the corner up a block, over a block, and up a block.  Her short little legs walked fast.  We just followed wondering how far, then she pointed to a dusty windowed building.   We were buzzed in, and the door locked behind us.  We tried to tell 2 of the students to stay outside ‘just in case’ we don’t return, but curiosity overcame safety.   The store was small, dingy, and dark.  We glanced around, and prepared to leave.   Then part of the wall opened up, and a woman beckonedus to follow her.  We walked down a hallway, made a few turns and were in a room filled with purses hung on slatwall.  We were in the Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, wallet, and wristlet room.  Other tourists came in behind us, and were taken downstairs.  Husband said that’s where they take tourists who don’t come back.   They had a great selection, and were nice quality.   I had read that the purses were in back rooms now, but I didn’t think it was like this.   Someone else told me they entered one building, exited it, crossed an alley, and entered a different building.   I heard one of the girls on the bus bought 5 faux bags in Chinatown.

We took the subway to Herald Square, the kids loved Macy’s.   We let them explore on their own inside.  They got lost, but each bought stuff.  We walked over to the Empire State Building.  Husband graciously volunteered to stay behind to hold everyone’s bags and backpacks.  Oh, look, a brewpub in a corner of the building.  How convenient.   He made the best decision.  We went in, and waited in a snaking line, then we waited in a hallway, then another room, it was almost an hour before we went through security and paid.  Then we started the line process again.   Paramedics were treating a women, they had her clothing loosened, and most of her shirt off except for a camisole.  They put cold compresses on her.  It was so hot in there, we were in tight lines without ventilation.  My cotton sweater was soaked, as was my hair.  I felt faint.   FINALLY, it’s our turn for the elevator.  We go up 80 floors.   We get out, turn a corner, and there are the amusement park lines again.   People are melting, I think my deodorant died,  little children in strollers are just bawling.   A few security guards come over to tell us only one elevator is working between the 80th and 86th floors.   The  crowd wilts, and is pissed.  They don’t mention this until we’ve been stuck here for 90 minutes.   Then they open a section of rope.  If anyone wants to walk up 6 flights of stairs,  there is the staircase.  We take one look at each other, and shove the kids through the rope, telling them ‘GO.’  Nothing could be worse than standing there breathing used, humid air.   The kids ran up all 6 flights, we walked up 2, huffed, then 2 more, then 1, then the last one.  The steps were small, it was just a maintenance staircase-tight and steep.  It was getting dark by the time we got up to the 86th floor.  We had to stand in line to walk down the 6 flights, down wasn’t nearly as bad.  By the time we got out of the building, I was done walking.  I haven’t felt that weak in ages.  

I was waiting on the sidewalk waiting for Husband with the bags, and the rest of the group while looking for an open cab.  A long limo pulled up, and asked where I wanted to go.   I gave him an address about 12 blocks away.  He said $200.00 I laughed.  He said $20 per person, I still laughed.  $10.00 per person.  I turned and started hailing a cab.  He went to $5.00 per person.  I pretended to think about it.  He said “Come on, make the kids happy.”  Tired, bitchy me replied “I don’t care if the kids are happy.”   Meanwhile, Husband was opening the door and trying to shoo the kids in.  They were so excited.   Husband said the one boy was having a ‘limogasm.’   They were soooo happy, and took photos of everything inside.  I was just happy to sit.   The driver was very nice, he and Husband talked for a while.  He said business was really slow, and he knew we would’t pay very much, but at least he got something.

Our destination was a fabulous restaurant.  We voted to skip a Broadway show in favor of a memorable meal.   We asked the kids for $10-15.00 each, and told them they could order anything they wanted.   It was Brasilian food that most of them never had or heard of before.    $400.00 later, everyone was fat and happy. 

A quick walk through Times Square for Hard Rock t-shirts, and back on the bus.   The kids all chattered for about 15 minutes, then slept hard.   Lots of groups went shopping on 5th Avenue, 57th street, explored Central Park, Rockefeller Center, SoHo, Greenwich Village, and more.