The Accidental Hostess

Hosting the Ocean

Loved July!  It was jam-packed from the get-go and is wrapping up just the same.  Most of what was planned was, well, planned.  Whether that was our huge annual 4th of July celebration and family reunion, an extended stay of my niece from Arizona, or one of the several rehearsals and/or productions my kids were in…all on the schedule. One thing that wasn’t, our families cultural immersion with a young lady from Lyon, France named Océane.  Read More…

Late last month, a fairly new acquaintance had shot me an email asking whether I knew of any girl teenagers that she could hook up with a foreign exchange student that she was hosting for 3 weeks in July.  Of course, I do…I told her I’d just check with them (my 14 and 16 year old daughters).  Being as though it was our crazy fun-filled month, I thought I should give them a heads up, we’d/they’d be doing a bit of entertaining for a stranger from a faraway land.

Océane is a beautiful, dark long-haired and olive skinned, quiet and polite petite girl…skinny and stylish.  Ready, willing and excited to experience life in the United States.  Though well-traveled throughout Europe, this was her first trip to the U.S.

Two days after her arrival, she met the girls and off they went: a day at Six Flags Great America!  How’s that for immersing her into our culture?  Where else can you meet a bunch of superheros (Batman, Superman….) plus,  Bugs Bunny and the gang; eat way overpriced “fair” food; go surfing; witness unique fashions; ride extreme amusement rides.  ‘Tis America at it’s greatest!

She hung out with the girls on occasion.  My thought was that we would entertain her, perhaps a couple times a week.  Granted, the host family consisted of a married couple and their two young children, plus one on the way, though, it became apparent to me about halfway through her visit that we pretty much were  her only access to entertainment.  With the extreme hot weather, pregnant mom, small kids, plus a working dad, venturing out of the host family’s home was not much of an option.  I guess I was free to be a surrogate host mom as much as I could around our obligations.

While we didn’t venture any further west than Oconomowoc (fun day of boating, swimming and tubing), or north than Milwaukee (jamming in a crash tour of the city via the beautiful lakefront), she did get to experience crewing for a race on a large sail boat, and watch the series of Harry Potter movies and taste my incredible stovetop popcorn!  And what could be more exciting than riding shotgun in our old rusted minivan with my new 16 year old driver in the house , picking up and dropping off her younger siblings?

Truth is, I have had the fleeting thought of perhaps taking in a foster child or a foreign exchange student.  I may have mentioned it once or twice, probably not too seriously, to my husband.  I think we both concluded we really wouldn’t feel comfortable with a stranger in our home.  Our house is “strange” enough! Could anyone even tolerate our crazy family antics?  Swear, it is NEVER quiet around here.

I found myself, kids, (and neices) bonding with Océane.  I loved listening to my nieces (both having taken French class) attempt to dialog in French with her. Océane’s passion for photography was intense.  Her photos are amazing.  My kids loved the fact that Océane desired to eat at  McDonald’s, a lot!  We indulged her in Big Mac’s and Coca-Cola’s!  Of course, my kiddos benefited, as well.  My stomach didn’t.  Apparently, the cost of eating at the golden arches in France is a bit more expensive than other fast food restaurants.  One she mentioned was called Kebab.  I will Google that.  That’s where she and her friends frequently dine.

So I guess I got a taste of hosting and by accident, quite enjoyed it. Océane was the perfect guest in our house, on a limited basis, as this wasn’t her home base. It’s too bad you can’t test drive potential guests? What if the calm ocean became turbulent seas?

Either way, our Océane experience was awesome and memorable.  We miss her, though hope to relive our fun when we see her pictures posted on Facebook.  Oh yeah, we’re all friends there now.  My first French friend!

Are you interested in making friends with a French gal?  Or perhaps providing a home for a boy from Poland for the school year? There are kids coming to the U.S. in need of host families on a short-term basis, others, a bit longer.  Here are a couple of companies that coordinate these experiences:

CCI Center for Cultural Interchange www.cci-exchange.com

ACES – American Cultural Exchange Service http://www.exploretheworld.org/

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