Wry Exchange


How is Your Exchange Student?

 How is your student doing?  If you are a FES abroad, how are you?   Is life good?

Physical Self-Are the headaches going away?  Are you getting enough sleep, but not too much?  Has your stomach adjusted to the food?  How is your weight-stable, or are you gaining/losing weight?  Are you getting enough exercise? 

Mental Self-Can you help yourself when you’re lonely, bored, sad, or homesick?  Are your language and comprehension skills improving?  If you take medication regularly, do you remember to take it?  Do you have someone to talk to?  Do you feel strong and confident?

Emotional Self-Are you crying for no reason?  Do you get frustrated and feel like you just can’t think?  Are you slowly distancing yourself from ‘home’ to your new home?  Are you enjoying yourself?

If you need help, ask for it NOW.  Don’t wait.  It’s much easier to fix a small problem now than a big mess later.  “Things will get better” isn’t always true.  People want to help you.  We all know this is one year-your year.  You aren’t alone.



Culture Shock Again

From last year:  Is your student homesick, depressed, or bored?  The students have been in their new countries, including the US, for 6-7 weeks now.  They are over the initial culture shock, and they are able to communicate in their new languages.  They should feel comfortable within their host families, and have new friends.   Everything should be wonderful.  This is supposed to be “The Best Year of Their Lives”  But sometimes, it’s not.
 It’s the second wave of culture shock.  Their lives have become routine.  What the students are doing now is what they’ll be doing for the next 8-11 months.  The realization that they are living in a family with rules, the family sometimes annoys them, school is boring, and their lives are almost what it would be if they didn’t go on exchange.  Except they’d be back home with their friends, families, and pets.
Solution?  Keep them busy!  The kids should have all sorts of activities going on.  They should be playing some type of sports, or getting exercise of some type daily.  The students should join clubs-Drama, Language, 4-H, Scouts, Chess, Swim team, etc.  Most of the kids should not come home from school and stay  all night.  (Sparky, P, and Cle were all content to stay home often, but they were happy.  They weren’t homesick or bored. Husband and I also didn’t expect them to be our little friends and stay to keep us company.  Some host families want to keep the students all to themselves. That’s not healthy for anyone.) They are exchange students to learn the culture of their country.   Let them visit with another exchange student, or invite one overnight.  The student should see his counselor regularly.  The exchange program should have activities at least once a month for the kids.  The host family should plan activities with the student; they don’t have to be expensive-go for a hike, go fishing,  or yard sale shopping.  Take the student to a football or volleyball game, and permit (shove) them to sit with friends and go out with the others after the game.   Take the student to help volunteer-She can coach younger kids, he can visit senior citizens.  Anything to take their minds off of themselves.



Exchange Student Culture Shock
08-16-08, 6:48 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students | Tags:

Good article from Worldwide Classroom about culture shock. Here’s one from Wiki.

A simplified definition of culture shock is that everything you assume to be normal and typical isn’t.  All the stuff you do throughout the day without thinking can be done differently throughout the world.

Bathroom differences are huge. One of my girls is in Brasil, and the shower temperature isn’t adjustable.  It’s a steady barely lukewarm.  She doesn’t feel well, and really wanted to take a long hot shower.  A long hot bath was her first choice, but her new home doesn’t have a bathtub.  I picked up Chileans and Bolivians, and have to tell each of them to throw the TP in the toilet.  I forgot to tell one of my newbies, and his hostdad had to have the talk with him.

We eat cereal, eggs, or cold pizza for breakfast.  Other cultures may eat bread with a slice of ham, mushed up avocado on bread, or fish soup.  If you’ve gone your entire life with lunch as the main meal, it’s a shock to have a light lunch.  It’s the same if dinner has always been at 6:00pm, and now it’s 10:00pm.  

There are several stages to culture shock.  Honeymoon-everything is new, different, and fun.  Pissy-everything is new and different.  Humph!  Integration-The new begins to feel familiar.   Completely integrated-you understand the new and old cultures and how they can co-exist inside.  Reverse culture shock-when the experience is over, and you’re expected to go on with your old life.



Old Culture Shock Book
08-12-08, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Exchange Program | Tags:

  It’s titled Orientation Handbook for Youth Exchange Programs.  The book is online in it’s entirety.  This book is from 1989.  I think we used to own it.  I do remember reading it when it was about the only resource available.  (Remember the dark ages before the Internet?)  Much of the information is outdated, but the basic concept is sound. Read this if you have no other resources.



What Exchange Students Like About the USA

 Colorblind Cupid asked a question in response to my food post.  She asked if FESs miss more than our food when they return home.  Oh, yes.  A partial list just from this year’s students:

  • They appreciate our willingness to take new people into our lives.  They think that we are much more warm and friendly than they believed before they arrived.   The kids were astonished that people hosted them because they wanted to, not because they had to take them.  All most other countries have mandatory hosting-if your kid goes out, someone comes to your home.  They were surprised that they in turn love some people here after just knowing them for a few short months.
  • They liked the idea of volunteering to help strangers. Just to do good without expectation of any reward was a new concept for many of them.
  • They loved high school sports.  As far as I know, we’re the only country with public school sports teams.  They love the camaraderie, and how important the games are to the entire school or town.   One of the kids said she loved how if the team won, everyone went to the pizza shop, but if the team lost, everyone went home and was sad.
  • They think it’s very clean here, and we don’t have hardly any litter.  (This is mentioned annually, and I enjoy telling telling them that volunteers ‘adopt’ a section of road to keep clean.)  I’ve hit the brakes more than a few times and told a kid to pick up whatever he just tossed out the car window.  I’m mean like that.
  • They like our highway system.  The roads are paved, and not too pothole-y (bullshit.) They like how well-marked the roads are, and that the tenth mile markers are a ‘wow’ invention so that drivers know where they are at all times.
  • They like that buses and cabs stop for them in larger cities.  I got the impression that cabs and buses don’t stop if they don’t feel like it.
  • People here trust other people more.  (Of course we live in Appalachia, so it may be different in other places.)
  • A new reason this year-They like that things work here.  One said it, and the others jumped in.  Utilities are reliable.  The government works, police and postal workers aren’t bribed.  Appointments are set and kept. 
  • They like that we do so much online.  In some countries, bills must be paid in person.  Lines are long, and inefficient, so a lot of time is wasted.
  • They like that people obey unwritten social rules.  We don’t cut in line, we don’t touch other people, we don’t crowd people to get them to move.  They like people saying ‘please’ ‘thanks’ and ‘excuse  me.’  We smile or nod at strangers we pass on the street.
  • People obey traffic rules-stop on red, stay in your own lane,  and as long as they aren’t riding with me, they feel safer here.
  • Stores have plenty of items in stock, cashiers are polite, no one tries to cheat them, stores have consistent, posted hours.

They don’t like our lack of public transportation.  They loathe being dependant on others to give them rides.  They hate wearing seatbelts.  They are pissy that no one permits them to download music illegally.  They miss being able to go to pubs and clubs to drink and dance.  They abhor girls spitting and farting in public. 

They don’t understand sales tax.  In their countries, the price on the sticker is the walk out the door price.  Of course, they have tax built in to the product, but that apparently doesn’t count.  I’ve tried to explain each city, county, and state is free to set whatever tax they want.  The rates and items taxed vary in each jurisdiction. I’d say state sales taxes are their biggest pet peeve.



Grandma Died Yesterday, She´s Better Today
11-26-07, 7:58 pm
Filed under: Home | Tags: , , , ,

I was so pissed off yesterday that I wanted to come home.  I didn´t want to hurt Sparky’s family’s feelings, so Grandma was going to die.  She’s better today, but still a little ill.  I talked to Husband about coming home.  He said I could change families, change countries, or come home.  Husband gave me the standard FES speech last night, and Sparky repeated it today.  ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ came to mind, as did hypocrite. 

We seem to have worked things out.   I wanted to choke the little bastard last night.  I told Sparky today that I have a much better time when he´s not around.  It was mean, but true.  I can’t understand Bolivian Spanish hardly at all, but I have no problems in Chile.  I know Chilean Spanish is slurred and choppy, but I’m used to it.  Sparky’s family all speak English, and Jon is living here, too.  Everyone includes me in the conversations, and translates for me as needed.  When Sparky is around, that doesn´t happen.  Yesterday, he spoke solely in Spanish.  I was excluded from the dinner conversation, choice of activity, choice of movie, etc.   What really pushed me over the edge was when Jon said something in English, and Sparky told him to speak Spanish.  I leaned over and growled ‘Maybe he’s speaking English so I can understand the conversation.’   Prior to that, Jon said in the car ‘Wry, don’t you wish we spoke a different language so we could have a conversation they don’t understand?’  Grrrr.

I NEEDED time alone so I could pull myself together.  I asked if I could stay in a plaza and people watch while the rest of them watched Beowolf. (puke)  Sparky’s mom didn´t want to leave me alone, but she did.  I shopped and walked around a bit.  I bought a journal, and wrote 14 pages of ‘journalling.’  My therapist told me to journal my feelings and thoughts, so it’s a verb.   One Boliviano is fifteen cents, and my journal was 1.20B.  I think that’s a whopping 18 cents.   It kept me busy, and I felt better when I finished.

Sparky wanted to talk last night, and I didn’t.  He made the mistake of saying ‘Sometimes you have to do what you don´t want.’  Wanna bet?  I left the room, and went into the bedroom, and just stayed there the rest of the night playing solitaire.  We talked this morning as we walked to a store, and I told him Grandma died.  That’s when I got the FES speech about trying, and it’s only for a short time, and we won’t see each other for years, etc.  I walked away, and started crying.  I found a bench and just sat and thought.   I love Sparky, but I didn’t like him at all yesterday or this morning.  We talked, and I told him how I felt.  He asked for one chance to change, and to try.  (This was after he fucking ASKED me why was I angry.)  He said he didn’t realize I felt excluded. coughbullshitcough.  I just better double up on the happy pills.



Differences Between USA & Chile-Community
10-25-07, 7:20 pm
Filed under: Culture, Home, hosting | Tags: , ,

  Living Differences Between USA and Chile-In the Community
Time-Time is money, we say in the states. We expect people to be on time, not waste time, and respect other people’s time. Time in Chile is more relaxed. In the states, ‘a few minutes’ means less than 5 minutes. I think in Chile ‘a few minutes’ is anything less than an hour. In my state ‘after lunch’ means after you’re done eating, we’ll leave. In Chile ‘after lunch’ can be anytime before dinner. In the states, morning is until noon, afternoon is between 12:00 and 6:00, and evening is after 6:00pm. be on time for school, work, and dr. appointments. The being late thing is for friends and casual plans. Chileans are on time for appointments. It is a formal society. Be respectful.
School-You’ll all attend public school in the states. Most communities have one high school, and all local teens attend. In Chile, most of you will attend a private school. School is a privilege in Chile, and it is up to you to take advantage of the teacher’s lessons and attend daily. In Chile, you’ll have a uniform. In America, you wear casual clothing. You may not wear whatever you wish, there is a dress code. You might go to a school in chile and the school won’t be closed. like its open. kind of like a motel set up. and its very very cold in the morning, and bring a few extra layers wouldn’t be a bad idea at all. (In Chile, the teachers change classrooms, not the students. You’ll be with the same kids all day, all year.) also lunch in Chile during the school year is usually eaten after school when you get home.
Sports– The schools in the US sponsor sports. Sports are an important part of high school in the US Sports participation in Chile is done on your own time, usually with a club or group.
Evening activities -In the states, you’ll have a curfew of between 10:00pm-1:00am depending on if it’s a school night or not. Families are free to set the curfews for you. In Chile, teens stay out much later, you may not leave your house until 9 or 10 at night.
Greeting/good-byes -When you walk into a room in Chile, you greet each person individually with a hug or cheek kiss. You do the same when you leave. In America, a group ‘Hi’ and ‘Bye’ is sufficient. I don’t think we Americans are colder than Chileans, we are more reserved. It’s uncomfortable for us to touch people we don’t know well.
Transportation-American teens rely on cars for transportation. Many students have their own cars. You can’t drive, so you’ll need friends with cars, or ask your host parents for a ride. Don’t hesitate to ask for a ride, host parents are used to driving kids around, it’s not a problem. In Chile, students rely on public transportation. Most of our communities in this area do not have public transportation.
Grocery stores-In Chile, Jumbo is the best! Everyone makes fun of me about my love for Jumbo. I love Jumbo the way other people love Wal-Mart. The Jumbo chain carries just about everything you’d find in a grocery store here. They even carry items from small companies from Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. I couldn’t find Rice Krispies, but they had Cocoa Krispies. You will find Mountain Dew in a few grocery stores finally. The produce selection is huge, they have fruits and veggies we don’t have. In the US, the Chileans will just die at the price of fruits and vegetables. If your hostmom asks what you prefer, please tell her. We are used to these prices. Most of us don’t realize that you can buy a kilo of avocados for less than we pay for one avocado/palta.
Ice creamIce Cream in Chile is almost always gelato. (Jumbo carries Breyer’s.) Gelato is low-fat and tastes better than ice cream from  Ben & Jerry. You’ll fall in love with it. In my area, gelato is 2 or 3 times as expensive as ice cream. It’s not easy to locate, and we don’t have nearly the selection of flavors as in Chile
Other Stores -When you purchase something in the states, you pick it up, take it to the clerk at the register, the clerk rings it up, you pay the clerk, they put it in a bag, and you leave. Or you tell the clerk what kind of ice cream cone you want, the clerk makes it, hands it to you, then you pay. In Chile, you go to the clerk at the register, pay that person, take the receipt to the ice cream counter, give it to the clerk there who will make your cone and hand it to you. Chilean stores seem to have more people working in them than in America stores.
Money-Many US students work, and have their own money to spend as they wish. You all will have program stipends and money from your parents this year. In Chile, going to school is a student’s job and high school students don’t have much spending money. This affects manners as well as other aspects of life. For example, in my area, if you are out with friends and are thirsty, you buy a bottle of Coke and drink it. You assume if anyone else wanted a drink, they’d also purchase a bottle. Many people in the states don’t like to drink after other people. In Chile, when you buy ‘una bebida’ you individually ask each person in the group if they’d like a drink before you drink. You share the entire bottle.
Dogs-It’s rare in my state to see stray dogs. There are ‘street dogs’ all over Chile. Talk to your host families about how to treat the pets-if they’re permitted in your room or bed, if you can feed them people food, etc.
Parking -In Chile, you often give a few coins to a man or boy to help guide you into a parking place and to watch your car while you are gone. We don’t have that in our country.
“American”-We live in The United States of America. We call ourselves ‘Americans’. We call the people who live in Estados Unidos Mexicanos, Mexicans. Chileans live in the Republic of Chile. People from the states don’t mean North America when we say ‘Americans.’ We know Chileans are Americans, the same as people living in Europe are Europeans. We are using the word ‘American’ in a different way. We mean no disrespect to the people of other American countries.