We have just completed week one of our hosting a Foreign Exchange student from China. To say it has been an adventure might just possibly be the biggest understatement of the new century. Yes, I am going back 12 years and saying this is bigger than all the previous understatements.
Our journey began in late November when we heard about the need for host families. I have never had any desire to host an exchange student so it took me completely by surprise to hear in my head, “I want you to do that.” A day or so later, or it could have been that very day, the girls started talking about it and really wanted to do it. I distinctly remember telling them not to get their hopes up because chances are “Daddy will say no.”
They talked with him and he promised to pray about it. I prayed about it. The girls prayed about it. And Russ brought back the verdict.
“I have no reason to say no.”
We contacted the Christian school and let them know we were interested in pursuing the possibility. We filled out an application and had the interview.
We passed. And we were selected. At times I wonder if it was simply a matter of they had enough families express interest as they had children who needed homes.
Our student is named Catherin. (Yingyuan in China) She is 11 years old and in the 6th grade. Many of you know I myself have an 11 year old sixth grader. Catherin is a couple of months younger than our oldest.
We were assured a few things by those in China about the students. We were assured they were proficient in English.
We picked Catherin up at the Christian School last Saturday at about 3:45 and the adventure began in earnest.
On the way home Catherin had a bloody nose that lasted forever…in my mind. Those that know me well know I was completely useless. Mr. FullCup took over and admitted to me later he was having a little trouble himself. The next morning at church she had another one.
I am so very thankful that people in my church have no qualms about stepping in and fixing things. Even bloody noses.
Catherin was at school bright and early Monday morning. We found her classroom and met her teacher. (The same teacher our 11 year old will have in April when she attends school for Achievement tests) When she was settled in, we left.
And I thought our day would be normal. Hah! It was normal in that it was again just the three of us at home working on laundry and school. But the threat of 3:30 loomed large over our heads.
We had a friend’s birthday party Monday night and Catherin got to experience an American birthday and bowling. She told us in China on their birthday they get cake and that is how they celebrate. No gifts, no parties no real fanfare.
I might have failed to mention that all the students that came were decidedly not proficient in English. I would say 95% of what we say, Catherin does not understand. How she is making it through school speaking and hearing only English is beyond me.
Tuesday was a little better. A little smoother. Tuesday afternoon Elizabeth told me she liked having another “sister” because it meant she was never alone in her room, but she would really like for it to be just the four of us again.
Wednesday Catherin was sick. For those who know me well, know I don’t handle sickness well at all. We had one of the Chinese sponsors (Audrey) come and check on Catherin to see how she was and what was wrong. I learned in China when children are sick they still go to school. The teachers are very strict and critical of students who are not in school and the parents want their children in school. So different from the way it is in America.
Wednesday I spent the day pretty much falling apart. For those who don’t know me, I don’t cry easy. When Mr. FullCup got home I sobbed how unhappy I was. How much I wanted to be just done. Some of it was the stress of the day and some of it was the stress of the whole thing.
I was informed at least twice on Wednesday that Catherin would be in school on Thursday. So Thursday dawned with Mr. FullCup taking her to school on his way to work. He took her an hour early so she could skype her mom.
Friday was yesterday. Catherin volunteered at supper what she had for lunch. That is a first.
Catherin has no qualms at telling the girls rather gruffly, harshly even, “No” when they do something that is not up to her standards. She hovers over Elizabeth when she is practicing the piano and barks, “NO!” when it is not perfect. We have had to tell her “This is Elizabeth’s time to practice” and Catherin will go to another room. I think she doesn’t see Ariana as a peer but more of an almost adult. She has more respect for Ariana and won’t be as gruff. Poor Elizabeth.
Catherin is here until the middle of May. It seems a long time…eternally far away.