Wry Exchange

Airport Exchange Student Arrivals
08-19-08, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Exchange Students, Home, Inbounds Inbounds, Outbounds Outbounds | Tags: , ,

 I’ve been to the airport four times in five days.  I am NOT going tomorrow. 

One of my inbound students sent an email this afternoon with her flight itinerary.  She’s leaving today, and will arrive tomorrow.  I notified her counselor and the counselor’s secretary.  They notified the host family.  Someone will meet her at the airport, and then I’ll strangle her at our orientation meeting.

I have to take one of my student’s DS-2019 to an outbound student.  It’s the quickest way for the paperwork to get to him since my outbound kids are leaving this weekend.   FES’ US counselor lied (grrrr) about mailing the paper to me, and ducked phone calls for a week and a half.  The poor child won’t be here in time for our orientation.  Let’s hope the Visa is approved, the 2019 was faxed to the consulate.  He has an interview Monday, and should arrive next week. 

Along with the 2019, the students are taking gifts for P for me.  He loves Earl Grey tea, Men’s Health magazine, and Airborne.  It’s the little things everyone misses.  I love fresh raspberry juice, Chef and P bring it up to me.


Exchange Students & Airport Welcomes
08-05-08, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students | Tags: ,

   In the US, we only go to the airport if we have to.  It’s a chore.  In other places, they go because they want to.  Different culture.  It took me a while to catch on to this, too. 

 I usually went alone to pick up our exchange students.  The airport is an hour away, so why should everyone have to go?  Why take 2 or more cars?  Why should people take off work?  Why would I ask the host family to schlep all the way to the airport when I would just grab the student, and bring him home to them? 

I thought I was being polite and considerate.  (Stop laughing.  I can be nice.) I wanted to give the student time to clean up, relax a bit, and maybe puke on the way home.  I also thought I was saving the students from the embarrassment of a cheesy “Welcome to America” sign complete with balloons.  Then I finally realized the students felt unwanted and uncertain.  In South America especially, everyone and their brother goes to the airport for arrivals and departures.  

 Ask your student what airport greetings and farewells are like.  Then grab poster paper, magic markers, and the glitter and make a big sign.  Grab the family, and make a party at the airport.  Just remember if FES asks you to pull over, do it!

Flying is Fun!
07-09-08, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Exchange Students, Home | Tags:

 USAirways is discontinuing in-flight movies because not enough people are paying five dollars to rent their headphones.   I recently flew USAirways with several exchange students.  The movie kept them from being bored and annoying each other and other passengers.  On the other hand, when we returned from Las Vegas last year, the moving was “Love Story.”  Honest.  It was released in 1970-I’ll save you from looking it up.

Our tickets were purchased before the $15.00 to check the first bag policy went into effect.   I wonder how many people will try to take heavy carryons with them, and get to gate-check for free?  I’ve played that game successfully.    Water and soft drinks were still free, but soft drinks will soon be two dollars.  Think they’ll charge for water?  For two dollars, will they give you the entire can, or just a glassful?

On our trip, the gate agents announced that meals were available for sale aboard the plane for coach passengers, but they didn’t have enough for everyone.  They urged us to buy food in the airport before boarding.   I didn’t see anyone buy a meal on-board.  I think for seven dollars, they offered a sandwich or Caesar salad, and for five dollars, cheese, crackers, and fruit.  The students weren’t paying attention to the announcements, so I told them to go forage for food.  They were surprised to learn USAirways wasn’t going to feed them a meal on such a long flight.   The kids were not counting on spending money for food on the first and final days of the trip.   With transfers, we travelled about 9 hours each way.

I bet the pillows and blankets will be next.  You know those are cleaned as often as hotel room bedspreads.  As long as the toilets are free, I’m good.   I’d like a seat and a seatbelt, too.

Blog Tour-2-Travel
04-08-08, 11:24 am
Filed under: Culture, Home | Tags: , , ,

 If I was able to be an exchange student now, I’d go to the Netherlands.  As much as I love South America, I’d choose Europe.  Holland is small enough that I’d get to know every kilometer.  I like the laid-back vibe of ‘As long as you aren’t harming someone, your choices are fine with me.’   I like how green and flat the countryside is in The Netherlands-quite a difference from my area.  Dutch is a difficult language for me, but by living there, I’d learn to speak it well.  Our second exchange student was from The Netherlands, and Husband and I have each been there several times.   It’s our favorite European country.  Shallow reasons include fantastic street markets, beautiful flower fields, the unusualness of our-country-is-under-sea-level, and I’m a sucker for thatched roofs.

As a child, my dream places to see were Chile (been there), Berlin (done that), Hong Kong before The Takeover (missed that), Banff, and Mykonos.  The locations have nothing in common, and I can’t explain why I chose them.  I read voraciously as a child?  Banff and Mykonos would be nice, but I have other places I’d rather go now.

I haven’t been to Argentina, and it’s next on our list.  We have people we love in Argentina (Buenos Aires, Mar del Plata, and Mendoza) and they dearly want us to visit.   I want to drive from Buenos Aires overland to Mendoza, and into Chile. I want to cross the Andes once.    We really want to see 10-goal polo played in Argentina.  Husband wants to improve his assado technique.  The students and parents have told him he’s quite good.

Within Chile, I want to go to Easter Island and Chiloé. I am drawn to Moais, and I want to to see them in their natural state, not in a museum.  If Chile was isolated for centuries, what’s the word to describe Rapa Nui?  It’s an eight hour trip by air from Santiago to Easter Island.  Of all our former inbound and outbound FESs, only one student has been there.  He’s from the states, and brought me back a tiny Moai carved from the volcanic rock on Easter Island.  When we go, it will be with one or both of our Chilean sons. Chiloé is also an island, in the South of Chile. Our older Chilean son went for a week with his parents last year, I was sooo jealous. They stayed with a family as paying guests. To get to the family’s home was a journey in itself-2 boat rides, long walk, and wagon ride. Chiloé has a rich cultural history, and who doesn’t want to see a witch?

 I want to return to Saba.  Saba is one of the Netherlands Antilles, and is the island in the photo.  See the horizontal dirt line?  That’s the landing strip.  Our small plane headed straight for the hillside, then sharply banked to land.  What a rush!  Saba is a dormant volcano, only 5 square miles, with one road, and no beaches.  How’s that for a Carribbean paradise?  It’s heavenly for divers, and not many tourists.  “The Road” is just awesome.  From Wiki: There is one road, aptly called “The Road”. Its construction was masterminded by Josephus Lambert Hassell who, despite the common opinion of Dutch and Swiss engineers, believed that a road could be built. He took a correspondence course in Civil engineering, and started building the road with a crew of locals in 1938. After five years of work, the first section of the road, from Fort Bay to The Bottom, was completed. It was not until 1947 however, that the first motor vehicle arrived. In 1951, the road to Windwardside and St. Johns was opened, and in 1958 the road was completed. Driving “The Road” is considered to be a daunting occasion, and the curves in Windwardside are extremely difficult.

That’s a short list of where I want to go.  This post is part of the women’s blog tour.  For other posts, please see the sidebar.

Almost Ready to Go
11-12-07, 6:49 pm
Filed under: Home | Tags: , ,

  I lost my entire post.  I tried to edit it, and the entire thing vanished.  Let’s see, I woke up this morning, and wanted to stay in bed with the dogs and not go.  I felt like an exchange student-“Why the hell did I think this was a good idea?”  I know I’ll be happy once I arrive and get to hug Sparky.   I managed to pack a few of my clothes and lots of happy pills.

I packed and repacked my 2 large luggage pieces about 3 times each, including at 3:00am when a bright idea struck.  I used large packing bubbles from Amazon.com to take up space in the suitcases.  I had the weight, but not volume.  That’s a new problem, usually it’s the size that gives me problems-trying to pack too many t-shirts.  The kids will have fun jumping on the bubbles to pop them.  I changed my carry-on to a larger one that has to be at least 50 pounds.  It has all the small, dense and expensive objects.   I even packed canned pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce.  Nothing like a good white-trash slice of cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving.

 I’ve complete all my last minute chores.  Dyed and highlighted my hair. finished all the laundry.   Washed and put away the dishes.  Cleaned the kitchen table and it’s B A R E.  watered the cacti.  grocery shopped.  found a temp family for my exchange student for Thanksgiving week.  said good-bye to my parents, and scared them.  I made a joke about *Evo Morales, they didn’t realize there were any problems in Bolivia.  They probably can’t tell Bolivia from Bulgaria.  I assured them I’ll be fine.  Dumb, dumb Wry. Hey, it’s been a whole three weeks since they held the American Airlines jet hostage. 

 *Evo Morales is President of Bolivia.  He is their first indigenous president, and is an ally of Hugo Chavez.  He opposes autonomy for Santa Cruz.

Edited at 11:30pm: The kitchen table has crap all over it already.  It must be magnetized.

I got papers.
11-07-07, 1:28 pm
Filed under: Depression, Home | Tags: , , , ,

Husband asked ‘Are you nervous?’ tonight about my upcoming Bolivia trip.  I answered ‘no’, and got nervous.  It hit me that quickly.  I have never been away from Husband or home for three weeks before.  It’s more than 3 weeks actually, it’s 25 days.  OHMYGAWD. OHFUCKME. 
 I have ‘issues’, as you know from reading the left ‘about me’ part of the page.  I have depression, and also dissociative disorder.  Part of dissociative for me is I know when I’m not rational.   I understand why people talk to themselves.  The normal, rational part of my brain tells the crazy part to straighten up.  I’ll be arguing with myself until I board the plane.  The whiny part will want to stay home, and come up with myriad reasons excuses, and the strong part will say ‘Go, have a great time.’
    I don’t have other personalities like Sybil. 🙂 I just think of my brain as compartmentalized, and put different issues in different drawers.   I’m like the crazy cat lady who talks to herself, only with dogs.

From the Mayo Clinic:  People with dissociative disorders chronically escape their reality in involuntary, unhealthy ways ranging from suppressing memories to assuming alternate identities. The patterns of dissociative disorders usually develop as a reaction to trauma and function to keep difficult memories at bay. Up to 7 percent of the U.S. population may experience a dissociative disorder in their lifetime.

From the Cleveland Clinic: Dissociative amnesia — This disorder occurs when a person blocks out certain information, usually associated with a stressful or traumatic event, leaving him or her unable to remember important personal information. With this disorder, the degree of memory loss goes beyond normal forgetfulness and includes gaps in memory for long periods of time or of memories involving the traumatic event.    (I have huge memory gaps!  That’s for another day.)

Heh, heh-I Googled ‘crazy lady’ for an image for this post.  Ann Coulter’s photo popped up.

Travel Day
08-06-07, 12:55 am
Filed under: Exchange Students, hosting | Tags: , , ,

Whether your child is coming or going as an exchange student, this advice is the same.  At least a half dozen of our Inbounds and Outbounds had airline problems this Summer.  The kids had lost luggage, delayed and cancelled flights, overnight hotel stays, and nights spend on the airport floor.  It’s not as bad when the kids are bilingual and confident, but now?  Heaven help them.

  • Have the student put his name and going-to address on small slips of paper inside all bags.  Don’t rely on one luggage tag on the outside.  We had a girl lose a bag on her way to Slovakia two years ago, and it never showed up.
  •  Take photos of the luggage with the student’s cellphone or digital camera.  The student will be stressed, and it’s much easier to show the airline employee a photo.
  • Both real and host parents should have copies of the passport and visa on their computers.
  • Some students will travel as unaccompanied minors.  The service costs extra, and you can’t make substitutions on who is meeting the student.
  • If you are picking up a student, try to obtain a gate pass so you can meet your student as she comes off the plane.  Most airlines will give you one especially if you mention the student doesn’t speak English.
  • Make certain your student has phone numbers, and knows how to dial.   If your student is coming to the states, you may wish to send him a phone card via email.  Type clear directions on usage.  Let the student know it’s ok to call at any time.  Your student should call when she arrives in country, and again when at the host family’s home.
  • Track flights via the airline websites or flightarrivals.com

You’ll be able to recognize your new foreign exchange student.  He or she will probably be with one or 2 other FES’s.  Husband and I can spot them easily.  (I’ve missed one student in almost 20 years, my son Cle.)  Typically, they’ll have a jacket, backpack, or t-shirt with a country flag.  They look overwhelmed.

They’ll try to make a good impression, but will probably be stinky, tired, and hungover.  They all have huge going away parties, and don’t sleep the last few nights before they leave home.  The US drinking age is much higher than in other countries.  Many students start drinking at 14 or 16, generally responsibly.