Hosting a French Exchange Student: Part 2!
NarniaSparks just met the exchange student who'll be living with her for the next 3 weeks—and she's realized that she may have bitten off more than she can chew!—Sparkitors
“Let…go!” I yelled at the vacuum cleaner, wrenching my hair out of its hungry, plactic jaws. I gave it a contemptuous glare as I ripped the plug out of the wall, and then hurried out of the sous-sol (basement), where Anne-Lise would be staying. Grabbing my jacket, I wondered if that had been an omen about how the exchange would turn out—after all, nothing good could follow nearly getting eaten by cleaning appliances, right? Then Henry, who moonlights as my Voice of Reason, piped up and told me to chillax and I quit worrying.
I got into the car with my mom, and we went to the supermarket to buy things like toilet paper, bread, and even some cheap flowers for when Anne-Lise arrived at the airport. I pointed out the potential awkwardness that could result from the whole flower thing. Her hands might be full, where does she put the flowers when she gets home, where does she put them when we’re in the car, what if we’re the only ones with flowers? My mom said we could throw them away if we saw that no one else had brought any for their students. After arranging Anne-Lise's room in a convenient but oh-it-always-like-that! way, I left with my dad and sisters to pick our student up from the airport.
The only way to describe the night that followed is awkward. Anne-Lise is nice (she even got my little sister a birthday present!), but shy. It takes me a few moments to come up with responses, and it’s only now that I realize how limited my vocabulary is. Really, Brain, you can’t come up with anything for “show”? Not only that, but my dad keeps throwing words and idioms around, expecting her to understand. One conversation on Friday night went like this:
Anne-Lise: Ok, good night.
Others: Bon nuit!
Dad: If you ever need anything, don’t be a stranger!
Anne-Lise: Uh… *Looks at me*
Me: *Looks over at sister for help* How do you say friendly? Est comme une amie? N’est pas une stranger?
Anne-Lise: *Looks confused*
Me: Uh, just… Bon nuit!
Anne-Lise: *Hesitantly smiles and leaves*
Yeah, the next few weeks are going to be fun.
The next morning we served her a strategic breakfast—no, seriously, we strategized. You have no idea how long it took us to think of something American. We decided on eggs, pancakes, grilled cheese sandwiches, and cheese. I figured that she should get a good breakfast before she’s forced to eat PopTarts with me at five in the morning.
That morning, I found out that it is very hard to pig out around a French friend. They eat so…so…neatly! You can’t chow down eight pancakes while a Francophone girl is picking at her eggs next to you. It’s just impossible! I can already feel my clothes becoming looser.
Saturday consisted mainly of walking through the mall and getting her some University of My State sports t-shirts (no way was I going to let her get University of My City wear). Communication became only slightly easier. I’ve started rehearsing whatever I’m going to say before I actually say it, which ultimately led others to ask who in the world I was talking to. When we speak, I speak in Frenchlish. When we don’t know a word, I pull out my translator app. With all of this, we just barely managed to function on Saturday.
Later that day, we watched a movie, and to make it easier, we put it in French. Ok, fine, there were English subtitles! And fine, I spent the entire time reading the captions. And perhaps I only understood one out of every twenty or thirty words. I admit defeat.
On Sunday, I decided it would be a good idea to do something that would at least keep us from just standing there awkwardly—bowling. (It seems that I forgot how awful I am at that game.) Unfortunately, two games of bowling hardly even took an hour. In our incredibly boring town, there are only ever two things to do: watch a movie, or go to the mall. So, my mother took us back to the mall, where she bought Anne-Lise an outfit that I’m rather sure isn’t something that she would wear. However, she was probably too polite or shy to say anything about it. Anne-Lise likes t-shirts and Converse, and my mom got her a sparkly white tank top with a blue and white striped blazer, complete with needlessly long necklace. I'm sure she'll be comfortable in that.
Since Friday night (especially on Sunday, when my older sister went back to college) we’ve both gotten more confident—or more desperate—and we’re speaking more. I've found out about her school day and her town, which we looked up on Google Maps and found out that it is one hundred times nicer than our city. Communication has gotten easier, especially since my parents are there to keep the conversation flowing, even if when they ask about her favorite food, my Arabic-speaking grandma yells, “You want rice?”
Hey, you see that? I think that’s hope! It’s back!
Hang in there, Narnia! It'll get easier soon! Any advice from other Sparklers who've hosted an exchange student?
Related post: Hosting a French Exchange Student