Surprised by the Mundane

It’s not exciting here anymore.  We wake up in the morning, Scott and I go to work.  The kids work on their summer reading during the day… Well, Nahm does.  I think Charlie is saving his, hoping to make that throbbing vein in my forehead actually explode over Labor Day Weekend.  At night we have dinner together, watch tv, and the kids do whatever it is kids do on the internet.

Today I’m taking the kids back to school shopping.  Last night I was reminded of the driving to the mall involved in having a teenage girl in the house when Nahm went to the mall with the other girls who are being hosted by our high school.

It’s downright dull.  Probably not the whirlwind that she was expecting.  Certainly not the gigantic, culture blending mile a minute for a year that I was expecting.

There are a lot of youth exchanges out there, but I believe AFS was one of the first, if not the first.  It’s mission is breathtakingly large – to promote peace through understanding.  I think its method is brilliant, and downright subversive.

Because I think a lot of what happens in supporting AFS’ mission – creating peace through understanding – happens in the mundane.  A year is too long for the student’s experience to be a whirlwind of  excursions and sightseeing.  A lot of time in a year is sitting around the house time.  Eating dinner time.  Grocery shopping time.

And it is true.  Once you’ve lived with someone, it becomes harder to paint them with that “other” brush.  Because once you live with a person for a while, what you see is the ways they are like you, or like other people that you know and love.

Brilliant in its simplicity.  Using teenagers to accomplish this?  Downright subversive.

Today is the birthday, on the other side of the world, of a man I have never met.  A man I may not ever meet.  A man who is doing my family the honor of sharing his daughter with us.  It increases my stake in what happens in his country.  It helps me to see with new eyes, and to hear with new ears.

Walk together talk together all you people of the earth, then, and only then, shall we have peace – AFS theme song, circa the touchy feely 70s.

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It’s about time

We have FINALLY worked out the computer and cell phone issues.  Our router was apparently on its last legs, and the good people at Verizon replaced it at no charge, which is awesome, so now Nahm’s computer has internet capability.  There was a period while Scott was working on it that there was no internet going on, and I thought I might have to kill him, but then I didn’t because he got it working again, so that worked out alright.

Another host parent told me that Verizon let him add a line to his family plan with no contract, since he had an old phone that was his own equipment that he could use.  I was eligible for an upgrade on my phone, so I upgraded that, gave Nahm my old phone, and bada bing, bada boom!  Phone issue, Solved.

Tonight we are solving the issue of teenagers that haven’t had a break from sitting around the house, by going out for dinner.

The kids have fallen in to a really lovely brother/sister rhythm with each other.  She is definitely the older sister, what with the eye rolling, but he has also developed a protective streak.

They are fun.  I love them.

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Maybe I should re-name the blog…

This is not, so much, about adventures, as we don’t seem to be an adventure having people.

“We defied death and went…. to the grocery store….”

“We had an exciting weekend…. cooking at home….”

The adventure here, is in the mundane.

Learning things like, well, like teenagers? Fundamental similarities, all over the world.

Yesterday Nahm, my helpful child, came in while I was washing dishes and offered to help. And as I started to say yes, I thought to ask – “wait. Are you just coming in here because you don’t want to read The Old Man and the Sea”? She looked down, turned around, and headed back to the living room.

Hey. I’ve been training for this host mom gig for the last 22 years.

Score!

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This is not my AFS Student

She is not the student I deserve, not the student that karma matched up with me, at least not the karma I would expect.

This is a different kind of karma – the kind where your own shortcomings are clearly laid out and illustrated for you by the juxtaposition of the good that is possible.

She is engaged and engaging.  When she is sad, or feeling nervous, or just feeling down without knowing why, she says so, opening up possibility for communication.

She is kind to my child.  To my husband.  To me.  So far, this experience is making me face my own shame at my brooding rage, my baffling 16 year old behavior toward people attempting to welcome me to their homes.

Perhaps in facing it, I can begin to heal it, and let it go and embrace what was good.

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Hectic Evening, Hectic Day

Tonight the kids went to a get together of all the AFS kids who will be at their school this year, and their host siblings.

When we went to pick them up, there was a low hum of laughter and chatter, sort of like the kind that makes me never want to walk into a mac store again.  Or like a vuvuzela.

They seemed to have a really nice time.

When we got home we sat and talked a bit, and Nahm told me a little more about her family at home.

In the car on the way home, the kids had the giggles so hard that I had to check and see if they were all right.  Nahm tried to teach Scott to count in Thai, and Charlie tried to teach Nahm to count to ten in German, which made her say “Stop teaching me that!”

A good day, all in all.

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A new kind of music

Nahm and Charlie are working on the dishes.  Every so often I hear Nahm say “Charles” in a wonderful Thai falling tone.  In English it sounds quite stern.

The snippets of conversation are hysterical.

Nahm, trying to teach Charlie words in Thai.

“I don’t want to say that…”

“Oh, I am sad.  My brother doesn’t like the country his sister is from…”

a little later….

“When someone sneezes, you can just say ‘Buddha bless you…'”

“I think I don’t want to…”

Little snatches, questions and answers about her home, her country, her religion, accompanied by the clinking of silverware and plates, and the gentle splash of the sink.

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Hey! Got any GRAPES?

Some things got accomplished today.  Not everything, but some things.

First, and most impossible thing.  Getting Nahm set up with a cell phone is becoming ridiculously hard.  We can’t change the sim card in her cell phone, as it turns out her phone is locked.  That was our first plan.  We have been to AT&T.  She said she thought her friend knew how to unlock a phone, but then she remembered that it might be illegal to do it in the US.  Then we went to Verizon.  Their plans were more expensive than she wanted to spend, even on the pre-paid level.  There is light in the tunnel, though, I think.  I think that the next step is to look in to adding her to my existing plan.  The only issue there is that we need to do a two year contract, but the savings might be worth it.  We’ll see.  So I have to call Verizon.

We got her hooked up with a laptop, which, for some unknown reason, will not connect to our wireless service.  Scott just took that one back to the store to see what they have to say.  I am hopeful.

We did, however, got her signed up for classes.  She’s on a science track in Thailand, and takes 3 sciences a year.  Here, she was disappointed that she could just take one.  So, she’s taking Physics, which she thinks she needs to keep practicing so she won’t forget, and Biology, which is her favorite.  Students here take Biology in their sophomore year, so she’ll have Biology with Charlie.  She is also required to take PE for her school at home, which is also not offered to Juniors and Seniors, so she and Charlie will have that together.  She’ll be taking Painting for half the year, and Ceramics for the other half, so I am looking forward to some artwork.

Charlie also made some adjustments to his schedule, so he’ll be taking Geometry, basic programming (Not to be confused with BASIC programming, I think) and AP European History.  And in the spring, Driver’s ed… Gulp…

Oh, yeah.  This post has nothing to do with grapes.

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