Wry Exchange


Substitute Exchange Blog for 2 Weeks
06-04-09, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Exchange Students, Home, Inbounds Inbounds

  I’m going on a business trip for 2 weeks.  I’m leaving you in the hands of an excellent typist and s0-so storyteller.     She’s writing about an end of the year bus trip that inbound exchange students participate in if they wish to see the West.

Her blog is like a miniseries.  It’s only for 3 weeks.  I hope you enjoy reading it.  It’s good Summer vacation reading.

I’m not ready. Physically-pffft. Last year, I walked 2 miles a day with our 2 large dogs. This year, GoodDobie suddenly started falling apart mid-April. I spend a lot of time cooking for him, and watching. He’s doing well, and is stable. Brain tumor, diabetes, and brain seizures. He couldn’t stand for a few days, and didn’t recognize us. Mentally-I have so much going on. One of our former exchange students is moving in with his wife this weekend-after I leave.  We’ve never had adults living with us.  I suppose I can’t yap at them like I do with inbound students.  Chef’s wife likes to clean.  Maybe my house will be sparkly when I get back.   


Thanks, Aspect & Bob Casey
05-28-09, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Exchange Program, hosting, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: , ,

  Dear Aspect Foundation and Senator Bob Casey,  

Thanks for making all of our jobs a little tougher today.

Do we think it’s a coincidence that Bob is from Scranton?

Dear Secretary Clinton,
I am writing you today out of concern for foreign exchange students who were placed in unsanitary homes in Pennsylvania and what it means for the welfare of our nation’s youth exchange programs.  It has recently come to my attention that nine foreign exchange students between the ages of 15 and 18 are now in the care of the Department of Human Services in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania because they were placed with unsuitable host families.  According to Lackawanna County officials, some children were in need of medical attention due to malnutrition and dehydration while others were living in unsanitary conditions and in a home recently condemned. 
The stories from these children are disturbing.  One story was of a 15 year-old girl from Nigeria who was living in a house surrounded by dog feces.   According to news reports, this exchange student was living with the Area Coordinator of the sponsoring organization, the same person responsible for ensuring that other host families were living up to their obligations. The investigative reporter visited the house and confirmed the exchange student’s allegations and found dirt and feces throughout the house.  The situation this student found herself in is simply unacceptable.
It is my understanding that both the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), under the Department of Homeland Security, share responsibility for overseeing and implementing youth exchange programs.  Through an independent third party – the Council on Standards for International Education Travel – the State Department provides accreditation and audits for private and non-profit international educational travel and youth exchange programs (also referred to as sponsors) on an annual basis.  The USCIS Student and Exchange Visitor Program is responsible for tracking and monitoring foreign exchange students, schools and programs as long as they reside in America.  When allegations of abuse arise, according to the secondary school student guidelines issued by the State Department, it is the sponsor’s responsibility to report and notify the incidents directly to the Department of State.
I am concerned that the current oversight system is reactive not proactive and permits the ongoing abuse of foreign students without any effective intervention until the situation is dire.  The situation these students found themselves in only came to attention once teachers voiced their concerns.  Therefore, I request answers to the following questions:
•           The Council on Standards for International Education Travel (CSIET) is the independent nonprofit organization that reviews sponsors on an annual basis and provides a public list of those who have received accreditation.  How does the Department of State determine whether the audits performed by CSIET meet agency regulations?  How often, if at all, does the Department of State perform checks on the various sponsors approved by CSIET?
•           Sponsors are required to “exercise due diligence” to ensure that the host families are screened properly and are found satisfactory. The Department of State has previously stated that “a mere superficial compliance with this regulatory requirement will not be tolerated.”  If it is determined that an approved sponsor has failed to demonstrate due diligence in their host family selection process, what are the consequences for that sponsor?
•           How much contact, if any, does the State Department have with sponsors?  With CSIET?
•           Are sponsors required to make home visits with students and their host families?  If so, how many times must a sponsor visit the home during a student’s stay? 
•           If a sponsor loses its accreditation, is the sponsor allowed to reapply for accreditation the following year, if at all?  If so, what steps must a sponsor take to have its accreditation restored?
•           How many Department of State employees work on youth exchange programs?
I am supportive of the cultural and educational exchange programs the Department of State promotes and funds.  Such exchange opportunities assist in dispelling negative images of the United States and helps convey our nation’s best attributes.  It is for these reasons that I am deeply concerned about allegations of abuse and mistreatment of foreign exchange students.  Stories like those emanating from Lackawanna County tarnish our reputation and undermine the mission of youth exchange programs.  I look forward to hearing your responses and working with you on guaranteeing the safety and welfare of foreign exchange students in the United States.

                                                                        Sincerely,
                                                                        Robert P. Casey, Jr.



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.



Bus Trip to Manhattan
03-26-09, 12:20 am
Filed under: Exchange Students, Inbounds Inbounds
 I’ve been busy this week finalizing plans for our bustripalooza this weekend.   I am losing and gaining chaperones and students almost daily.   The best way for us is to divide everyone into small groups for the day, and let them decide their own agendas.   1 chaperone is responsible for 3 or 4 students, while 2 chaperone groups have 4-6 students.   I try to put chaperones and students together with thought.  Walkers and shoppers don’t get along.  The kids who want to go to exclusive stores isn’t going to have a good day with the kid who wants to take the ferry to see the Statue of Libery.
This is what I usually do with students on one-day trips.   Each group will do different things. 
Battery Park-This is where the bus drops us off.  It is at the Southern tip of Manhattan.  If the day is clear, you will be able to see the Statue of Libery.   If you want to buy fake designer watches, sunglasses, or purses, they are very inexpensive here.  As you go North to Times Square, the prices go up.  We will for the next few hours.
Wall Street Bull.  Giant bronze statue, has been in many movies.  We’ll walk past it.  Wall st.  is the financial area.
Ground Zero/World Trade Center site-We’ll walk to herre so you can see the hole in the ground and construction area.
Chinatown-We will walk over to and through Chinatown.
Little Italy-As we go through Little Italy, we will stop for a hot chocolate/rest break.
SoHo-We will walk through Soho.  This is a trendy area.  
Then we take the subway or taxi and head North to The Empire State Building,  then we walk to
Macy’s-The world’s largest department store.  It takes up an entire city block.
Back to the Subway going North.
From there, we will probably go up to the bottom edge of Central Park.  We will stop at FAO Schwarz, the famous toy store if you want.  The Apple store is in front of it, underground.  Across the street is the Plaza hotel.  It has been in many movies.  We won’t be going in though.
We will walk South on 5th ave where there are many famous stores. 
We will walk past Rockefeller Center where you can see the ice rink, again famous from many movies.
We will end up in Times Square, probably as it is getting dark.
 
What would you like to do in the evening?  see a Broadway show? go to see the circus at Madison Square Garden?   (please not the circus. pleeeeeaassee.)
It’s even funner.  We leave about midnight,  ‘sleep’ in the bus, spend about 15 hours walking around, then reboard the bus to ‘sleep’ all the way home.
Funnerer-It’s supposed to rain Saturday. 


Push, Push, Push
03-18-09, 2:07 am
Filed under: hosting, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: ,

 My phone was off, Husband fielded the first call from an unhappy hostparent, FT.  FT left a message on my phone telling me to call IMMEDIATELY.  I shook off the sleep, and called.  He immediately started in on me.  Let’s remember, I am a volunteer.  I don’t work for him.   FT used to be a volunteer, on the committee.  These days, he is a counselor and host father.   We’ve known him for years.    

He complained ab0ut his exchange son a few weeks ago.  He didn’t want FES’s parents or counselor back in FESland notified.  Husband was just supposed to have a Come to Jesus meeting with the kid.  Typical stuff, too much time on the computer, on the couch, with the girlfriend, and sleeping.  Not enough time spent with the family.  Problem with one teacher.   We told FT to get the kid out of the one class, sit him down, go over your family’s expectations, and have him sign a contract.

Back to yesterday,  I call FT, and can’t say much for the first several minutes.  He went on about not getting calls returned.  I apologized, said I had my phone off, and was sick.  Still yapping.  Said the kid was going to be there in an hour, ‘What should I tell him?’  “I don’t want to see him.”  “I want him out of here now.”  “I could stay with friends, HE doesn’t have friends.”  “I want him gone.”  “I don’t want to see another exchange student.”  “I want him out of my home, my school, my  area.” “WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?”  

I have to call the school to see what they think of the kid’s attidude, behavior, and grades.  I need to contact the Inbound student chair and set up a meeting with us, family, and FES.   FT didn’t like that.  He told me everything I needed to know.  Now WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?

What happened?  FES doesn’t get along with one teacher.  She’s been sending the kid to the library during her class with an assignment.   He disrupts the class.  Not in a bad way, but in a bored way.  He had a substitute teacher who let him stay in class on Friday; he acted up.  Teacher came back, read note, called hostdad.  (wouldn’t the principal or guidance office call the counselor or family?)  Kid had to wait until principal agreed to dropping the class.  He was given permission yesterday.

“WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO? I want him sent home.”   I said let me make some phone calls, and I will call you in an hour.  Called the kid, ask him what’s going on, told him to find a place to stay tonight and for a few days with friends.  Tell him there’s a good chance he’s going home.   Call Inbound student coordinator, no answer.  Call my counterpart in FESlandia, leave a message.  IM someone in FESlandia, tells my counterpart to call me immediately.  I call back within the hour, tell him what I’ve learned.  He’s   pushing hard “WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?”  I say “I’m not coming to get him.   I’m sick and dizzy.  I only called back to tell you what I’ve done in an hour, and will keep you informed.  You know me, and know I will take care of the situation.”

He calls about an hour later  “I do not appreciate you talking to the kid before I was able to speak to him.”  WTF  He pushed hard for me to do ‘something.’   He said he’d talk to me later when his blood pressure went down.  He was nasty, and I couldn’t say more than ‘huh, uh-huh, bye’   He was so demanding that I lost it and started crying really hard,  so hard I dry heaved.

Kid texted me last night; he can stay in the house.  Called the school today.  In the other classes, good grades, good attitude, makes effort, and completes assignments.

Husband told me to give him the phone if FT calls back.  I understand venting, but demanding to ship a kid home immediately without a meeting or confirmation? NO.



CSIET Update
03-09-09, 2:49 am
Filed under: Exchange Program, Exchange Students, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: ,

 I’ve written several posts about CSIET membership.  (Council on Standards for International Educational Travel)  See my ‘What is CSIET’ for background.   

Please don’t comment that CSIET is a false seal of approval.   I DON’T CARE.   In my state, exchange students may play school sports only if their sponsoring organization is listed as an approved program with CSIET.   My program dropped out last year.  (It wasn’t a group decision.)  Our students couldn’t play on sports teams this year.  Not being part of a team greatly impacts their ability to make friends.  It retards it by several months.

 Some of our kids have been on their schools’ sports teams.  I don’t know how or why.  It’s good for the students, so I haven’t asked questions.  The penalties for ineligible players are forfeits if the other team reports it.   If the schools are willing to risk their entire season to let my students play, I won’t stop them.  I assume they are listing the students under other programs, and their teams aren’t going to make playoffs.  Does that make me a bad person? 

Fearful Leader and the CSIET person haven’t done anything useful for 7 months.  We’ve had a few group meetings during this time, and the updates consist of how hard they are working, it’s impossible to do under 10-15,000 dollars, and they don’t have the right information.    Last month, they did a huge push to get all the info together for an audit by the end of February.  Guess what? Accountants are too busy in February to do pro bono work.  Shocking, huh?  No CSIET for us again next year.  The rest of us weren’t surprised a bit.  They are trying to ruin next year for us, and make us look bad.  We have to warn the students that sports aren’t an option.  Let’s hope we get a lot of artists, musicians, martial artists, and computer geeks.

 

Previous posts on CSIET-Not Important?, Telling people we aren’t certified, and imploding.



Advanced Money Skills
02-26-09, 4:35 am
Filed under: Culture, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: , ,

 I’m collecting money from the students.  Some of the money is for outgoing students fees, and the rest is for a trip.   The outgoing students send their payment in a sealed envelope with return address.  They fold a piece of notebook paper around the check with a note to me.

The trip payments are evenly divided between inbounds and outbounds.  I can tell if the payment is from an American  or foreign student by the back of the envelope.  Inbounds will use odd size envelopes, taped the flap closed, staple the envelope closed, or just not seal it at all.    The return address is either missing or on the back.   My name and address is typically spelled wrong, placed oddly, or missing words.

Most of the inbound students don’t have checking accounts.  I recommend they either buy a money order at the post office or 7-11.    They can give their hostparents money, and have them write a check.  Sounds  reasonable?  More like rare. They refuse to buy money orders.  They just don’t understand them.   I get cash stuffed in an unsealed envelope with no note.  If I’m lucky, I’ll get a return address on the envelope.  No name.   Today I received $100.00 stuffed in a flimsy envelope with no name.   I think 700 or 800 was the most cash one of them ever mailed to me.    

 I can’t believe the money arrives here safely.  One good think about living in the boonies.    The postal carriers all know us,   Wry nolastname,  no street address, Town, and  State get to us.

One of the inbounds was paying online for the big bus trip.  3 emails back and forth about ‘What is my expiration date of my card?’  ‘Where is it?’  ‘What and where is the 3 digit verification code on the back?’  I felt like a human Google.

ETA:  It’s not just them.  Once kids gave checks and cash at an event.  I stuffed them all in my back pocket.  Threw the jeans in the wash without emptying the pockets.  They were packed so tightly that they didn’t shred or fade.