Wry Exchange

07-07-09, 2:08 am
Filed under: Home, hosting | Tags: , ,

  Sorry to everyone who still checks in with me.  Life has interfered with my writing since I’ve been home.  Let’s update:

BadLab:  Losing weight, and not so happy about it.  He’s turned into a picky eater.

GoodDobie:  No seizures, and insulin is up to 20ccs twice daily.  He’s lost his sight completely in the last week-10 days.   He was adjusting well, and BadLab has been fantastic about watching over him and helping.   Last Thursday, I couldn’t find GoodDobies eyeballs.   He was scrunching his eyes shut, and when I pried them open, all I saw was red, yucky, and empty.  (The third eyelid was up. duh.)   The vet saw him Friday morning, and found his eyes.  🙂  GoodDobie has severe conjunctivitis.  The vet said it looked like he was pepper-sprayed.  We think maybe he ran into some poison ivy in the backyard?  He has bacitracin ointment, and amoxicillin.  On the other hand, he’s back up to 84 pounds, and eating well.

Chef and Mrs. Chef:  Chef has car insurance, so they have some independence.  They’re getting better about not cleaning and organizing all.the.time.  The kitchen table has some clutter.  We convinced them we eat pizza in the living room.  The doggy toys are all neatly lined up, and I can’t find a few things that I’m certain are ‘put away.’  Husband likes to tease Mrs. Chef.  I brought back 2 weeks worth of hotel shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and soap to donate to a local women’s shelter.    I emptied my bag on the bathroom table, and she had everything lined up within 10 minutes.  I put my personal items away, and she re-lined up the travel sizes in order.  Husband moves them around on the table or pulls a few out of line.  They quickly return to formation.  She’s a sweet girl, and they are trying so hard.

WryDad:  Husband and WryDad are very close.  Husband called WryDad a ‘fucktard.’   I spoke with WryDad one night about 10 days ago. He didn’t say anything, WryMom never called.   Husband called WryDad from the hospital (next story) and WryDad said he was in the hospital for a few days, but ‘don’t worry.’   My parents took in a feral cat and her newborn litter around Easter.  They were taking the kittens to get fixed, momma cat didn’t like that.  She scratched and bit my father.  His doctor started him immediately on antibiotics.  The next morning his arms were bruised and swollen, with red streaks running from his fingers up his arms.  He went to the doctor who called the hospital for a bed.  WryDad was in the hospital for 3-4 days getting IV Cipro.  He just finished oral antibiotics.  I still haven’t asked about the cat.

WryMIL:  Husband isn’t close to his family.  He doesn’t see or speak with them.   It used to be because of abuse and hurt feelings, but now it’s indifference.  They will call Husband if they need money or something fixed.  A sibling called to say WryMIL was being lifeflighted from a local hospital to one in the big city.   We’re grateful she called.  Husband has spend much time at the hospital these last 2 weeks.   WryMIL had open heart surgery to implant tubes and wires for 2 mechanical pumps yesterday.  Her heart is quite fragile, and she’ll be sedated for the next few days.   It’s awkward.  Family members are crying, and I sit there trying to be invisible.  Husband sits a little apart from the family, but is cordial to them.

That’s my  update.


“Fun” in Dysfunctional
02-20-08, 7:35 pm
Filed under: Home | Tags: , ,

 Family. Can’t live with ’em, can’t kill ’em.
My parents are finally getting a computer.  My father wants to write emails, and check his investments.  I think a large font will make it easier for him to read the news.  My mother just HATES that ‘everything’ states ‘For more info, go to xyz.com.’  My mother gave Husband her credit card, and asked him to order one.  My parents know nothing about computers.   I’m sure my father was the one with the sense to let my husband decide.  The discussion has been going on for months now.  Thank gawd it’s finally on order.   My parents know that Husband is great with computers, and trust his judgement.  They mom think I’m a moron.  Guess who gets the pleasure of teaching them how to use the new toy?  Husband told them her to be nice to me.   I so don’t want to give them my email address. 
For Christmas and birthdays, my mother has started to give my asshole brother and me the same amount of money.  She gives Husband and my brother’s girlfriend less ‘because you’re not family.’  (The gf isn’t living with my brother, but she’s been around for about 5 years.) She actually said that to my husband.  We’ve been married for almost 30 years!  He’s the one they call on when they need advice, a ride, or anything repaired.  

The irony is she used to complain when my grandmother favored  my uncle over her, just like she’s always done with my brother and me.  He could do no wrong, and I was always a disappointment.  My parents used to fume about my grandmother’s attitude toward my father.   Pfff.

This Host Family Sucked!
10-09-07, 8:03 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students, hosting | Tags: , , , ,

 Polish student Michael Gromek spent 6 months with a ‘Host Family from Hell.’  This isn’t all that uncommon.  I know nothing about this particular student except what is written here.  I’m merely using it as an example.  I see several problems with Michael’s experience and my comments are in red.

“When I got out of the plane in Greensboro in the US state of North Carolina, I would never have expected my host family to welcome me at the airport, wielding a Bible, and saying, ‘Child, our Lord sent you half-way around the world to bring you to us.’ At that moment I just wanted to turn round and run back to the plane.  Where was his counselor?  How did the family pass a background check and interview?

Things began to go wrong as soon as I arrived in my new home in Winston-Salem, where I was to spend my year abroad. For example, every Monday my host family would gather around the kitchen table to talk about sex. My host parents hadn’t had sex for the last 17 years because — so they told me — they were devoting their lives to God. They also wanted to know whether I drank alcohol. I admitted that I liked beer and wine. They told me I had the devil in my heart.  Giant red flags-he should have been moved as soon as they started talking about their (lack of) sex lives.

My host parents treated me like a five-year-old. They gave me lollipops. They woke me every Sunday morning at 6:15 a.m., saying ‘Michael, it’s time to go to church.’ I hated that sentence. When I didn’t want to go to church one morning, because I had hardly slept, they didn’t allow me to have any coffee.

One day I was talking to my host parents about my mother, who is separated from my father. They were appalled — my mother’s heart was just as possessed by the devil as mine, they exclaimed. God wanted her to stay with her husband, they said.

Then, seeing as we were already on the topic of God’s will, the religious zealots finally brought up a subject which had clearly been on their minds for a long time: They wanted me to help them set up a Fundamentalist Baptist church in my home country of Poland. It was God’s will, they said. They tried to slip the topic casually into conversation, but it really shocked me — I realized that was the only reason they had welcomed me into their family. They had already started construction work in Krakow — I was to help them with translations and with spreading their faith via the media.  Sneaky bastards.

It was clear to me that there was no way I was going to do that. The family was appalled. It was a weird situation. After all, these people were my only company at the time. If I hadn’t kept in touch with home through e-mail, I might have been sucked into that world.  Why?  Didn’t he go to school? Didn’t he have a counselor or friends?  His parents in Poland should have been screaming to his program sponsors in Poland.

It was only after four months that I decided to change my host family. I had kept hoping that things might improve, but it was futile. Telling them that I wanted to go was the most unpleasant moment I experienced in that half year. The student shouldn’t tell the family he wants to move.  The counselor should tell the family.  Of course they didn’t understand — how could they? They had grown up with their faith and were convinced of it, and then suddenly I turned up and refused to fit in.

From that moment on, I counted the days. The two months that followed my decision were hell. Two months?  Um, just no.  No more than a week should go past, and with freaks like this he should have  been moved the same night.  My host parents detested me. There were constant rows. I could sense that they just wanted to get rid of me. They didn’t know what to do with me any more.

67 days later, I was finally in a new family. They were young, actually more friends than host parents, and I was very happy there. Because my new family was only 50 kilometers away from the other one, I was distrustful at first and afraid that things wouldn’t be any better.  Why so far? He should have been in the same community.  But the change was worth it.

Despite everything, I still haven’t come to terms with my experience. I want to write to the religious family soon and explain to them, clearly and calmly, why things went so wrong. It shouldn’t just end this way.”  Stories like Michael’s make us all look bad.  His host family and program let him down.  I also think Michael should have done something to help himself.  TELL SOMEONE IF YOU ARE MISERABLE!

From Spiegel Online

My Host Family Sucks!
10-08-07, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Program, Exchange Students, hosting | Tags: , , , , , ,

I hear ‘My host family sucks.’ often from both inbound and outbound students.   For this post, we’ll assume the host family does suck, and the student’s name is Sinéad.

First-Sinéad MUST tell someone outside of the family that she’s unhappy.  Edited to add:  The student needs an advocate.  The situation will not improve by itself.
Second-Sinéad has to decide the seriousness of the problem.  Is she in danger?  Is she afraid?  If the answer is ‘yes’, she must move immediately. End of discussion.  Edited to add:  If the student feels in danger or sexually uncomfortable, the decision to move is out of his/her control.  The program MUST remove the child from the home immediately.
Third-Sinéad must decide what she wants.  This is HER year.  Edited to add:  She shouldn’t feel guilty.  The counselors and host family should put Sin well-being above all else.

She should go to her counselor.  I understand she doesn’t want to be perceived as a ‘problem student.’  I understand that sometimes the counselor and host family are friends.  The counselor’s responsibility is to the student.  If the student is afraid to tell the counselor, she should contact the person above her counselor.  Sinéad should also tell her counselor in her home country about the problems.  If she can’t contact someone from her program, she should contact her parents.  To be frank, Sin’s parents have purchased an experience for their daughter, and they should be satisfied customers.  Some exchange programs cost a ridiculous amount of money.
 What should a student do?  I think there are 3 choices.  The student stays in the home, the student moves immediately, or the student moves as soon as practical.   She moves immediately if she feels in danger.  If she just doesn’t get along, she discreetly asks for a new family, and moves in 3-5 weeks.  Generally to avoid hurt feelings, the family is told a white lie.  Or she decides to suck it up, and stay put.  The unknown is scary, and sometimes the kids would rather stay with the freaks they know instead of breaking in a new family.

Next post: Why your family sucks.

Family Hosting Rules-Part 3

ES Advisor/Counselor The advisor is the student’s guardian in the US. The advisor will enroll the student in school, speak regularly with the guidance office, and monitor grades. The ES advisor is an experienced volunteer The advisor helps you and the student to become a family. Please talk with the ES advisor often, at least weekly for the first month that the student lives with your family. Discuss the student’s progress and behavior. Don’t wait for small problems to grow larger. The ES may honestly not know why you are unhappy with him/her. The only thing many students know about living in America comes from TV and the movies, or previous exchange students. Please judge each student as an individual.
Food/Cooking Don’t assume the student knows how to cook or can even make a sandwich. Show your student where the food is kept and how to work the microwave, stove, toaster, etc. Ask the student what they typically have for each meal. Many countries eat later than us; have lunch as the largest meal, eat lunch-type foods for breakfast, etc. Tell the student what foods he may eat, and which are being saved for a later meal. Respect cultural differences-some foods we eat are not eaten in the ES’s home country. The student may not know the “American’ name for some foods. A cookbook with plenty of photos is a big help in the beginning. So is a trip to a large grocery store, so the student can choose familiar foods. Many students are used to most meals being made from scratch with fresh ingredients. Many have never eaten in a car
Early Return The student will be sent home immediately for several reasons. The student is not permitted to use or be around drugs. If someone is using drugs where the ES is, the student is expected to leave immediately leave or call for a ride home. The exchange students are not permitted to drive. Ever. The students cannot ride in a vehicle with someone that has been drinking. (But don’t scare the student. We had a student stay with us who would not get in the car if my husband had a beer with dinner when we dined out, unless I drove.) The student can’t be at a party where there is underage drinking. The ES is supposed to leave or call for a ride. The student is representing our program, his /her country, and your family. The ES is not to embarrass any of us. The decision to send a student home is a very serious one.
Changing Families If you’re happy, and the student is happy, we are  happy. We strongly recommend leaving a student in place if the student and family wish to stay together. Everyone should have a ‘back-up’ family, just in case of problems. If you want the student to move, or the student wants to move, it’s also fine. We understand the student is here for one year, and we all want it to be the best year possible. Most counselors try to remain fluid. If the student moves, the Counselor must report the new family’s address and phone number within 10 days to the program Chairman, along with the reason why the student has moved. We must send the information to the State Department. The new host family’s Criminal Records check must be completed before the student moves. 
Contact with Authorities If a student has any contact with legal authorities, including truancy officers, police, and juvenile court officials, you must notify the Assistant Chairman and Inbound Chairman immediately. This includes citations, summonses, and arrests.
Language Most students say ‘to learn English’ when we ask why they chose to come to the USA. Please assist your student in that goal. Don’t permit them to watch native language TV. Try to keep native language phone calls and IM chats to a minimum. Please don’t speak to them in their native language; it’s not a kindness. Please require them to speak English after the first month at all times. When other students visit, please remind them to speak English. We can tell the difference between students who speak English all the time, and students who continue to speak their native language.
Natural Family We have no rules for students communicating with their family. (Other than the phone call saying I arrived, and I’m fine). Some ES’s will feel comfortable calling home twice a year; others will talk almost daily. Some students become less homesick when they talk to their family or friends, the opposite is also true. Talk with your student if you detect a problem. The student’s family may wish to visit. We strongly recommend they wait until after 1/1. The student should have a chance to adjust to living here, and become proficient in English.
Termination Students may be terminated for a violation of the “4-D’s” Drinking, Drugs, Driving, and (serious) Dating. Students using drugs will be immediately terminated. Students may be terminated for other reasons, such as shoplifting, running away, physical violence, and school disciplinary problems.
Identification and Passports Please assist your student in obtaining a state ID card. The Ids are less than ten dollars, and may be purchased at a any Driver’s License Bureau. The student will need their Passport, DS-2019, and I-901.They should use the state ID card for identification purposes, and leave the passport and papers in a SAFE location. The only reason students need the passport during the year is if they travel outside the US.