Monday, November 06, 2006

Exchange Student Excitement

Last week we bid adieu to or Chinese student. For the final night, we had a banquet type dinner at a local Chinese restaurant whose decor met with the approval of our student.

With only a week, I felt bad that we didn’t take him more places. Our domestic schedule kept us pretty homebound but we tried to expose him to as much everyday life as possible.

Sunday. See my previous post. We fed him buffalo burgers and Kraft mac-n-cheese. I don’t feel guilty since we eat this ourselves on a regular basis.

Monday. My son shows him how to operate the washer and drier for laundry. Making our kid help with the laundry is our major contribution to the skill sets he will need to survive at college. That and cooking mac-n-cheese. We have a potluck dinner. We brought rice and lemongrass chicken. Other dishes include lasagna and jambalaya.

Tuesday. My wife and I take the student to the mall while my son is at band practice. We visit the Apple Store and notice that iPods are made in China. At the sporting goods store, the shoes are made in either China or Vietnam. He finds the food court similar to places he’s been in China.

Wednesday. My son had a math competition after school that the exchange student tags along to. He is very excited that he happened to visit on a competition week. I’m glad he’s impressed. From there they have to go directly to the rocketry club meeting.

Thursday. The kids order pizza delivery over the internet. I take the student to the grocery store to buy snacks for the band practice. A fellow band parent donated a golf cart to the band and the boosters decided to serve hot chocolate and cookies to after practice to celebrate. At the grocery store, he is not impressed with the instant powder soups in the ethnic food aisle.

Friday. My son’s saxophone teacher has a concert featuring his jazz quintet. It’s the first time the student has seen or heard jazz. The concert is at a local arts center that has a lot of very strange art on exhibit.

Saturday. My son has to go to BigBoxOfBooks™ to find a book for English class. It’s out of stock, but Soduku puzzle books are on sale. I buy 3 for 2 and teach the student how to do them. He gets hooked and starts solving the ones marked ‘tough’ that I don’t even try. Then we go to a band competition that ends up being cancelled because the power was out at the venue. Five hours of prep and transport and everything shot. A bummer, but the kids all had a good time anyways.

Sunday. The trip sponsors take all the kids to DC for the day. Judging by the photos, they saw most of the monuments, the National Gallery and a few other museums. It’s nice to live near Washington and not have to do the whirlwind tour. For dinner we cook the all-American meal of spaghetti and meatballs.

Monday. The big banquet dinner. Every five minutes is a photo op and dozens of cameras go off. Lots of tears are shed, hugs are given, and promises are made. My wife has every intention of honoring the return invitiation.

Since there was such a big language gap, there were lots of awkward silences during the week, but we were lucky to host a student with interests similar to my son’s. One week is way too short to give anything but a taste of America, but I think the kids were suitably impressed.


Anonymous said...

I'd be very curious to hear what he thought of the Chinese restaurant. I always wonder what the relationship is between Chinese food you get in the states and what Chinese people actually eat.

Of course, if he's from a big city in China, he may be eating quite differently from people in the countryside anyway.

I thought about your student today when I read this much sadder piece in the Sun on a young Chinese man in the country illegally, working in an unidentified Chinese restaurant in downtown Baltimore:,0,3512735.story

It's a pretty heartbreaking story, mostly because the kid is so isolated and his experience here was so different than he expected. He came here hoping to go to college and start a business, but is working 60+ hour weeks at a fryer. Nobody back in China believes him when he tells them how much his life sucks. The article mentions that many people in his position are not dirt poor but are middle-class strivers who see the US as their get-rich-quick ticket.

I'd be very curious as to the social strata your student came from as opposed to the fellow in the article. Do you think your student is well off? What kind of future does he see for himself in China?


yellojkt said...

That is a hard luck story. Word should get out that these snakeheads cheat you miserably. You would think they could get false papers on the black market, but then the gangs couldn't exploit them.

Our students seemed very middle class. They all seem to be college bound. One was a concert pianist that had won competitions and had released CD's. Ours spent a lot of free time studying for a national test he had to do well on.

His dad was a teacher at his school so his dad drove him to school everyday. We made him ride an American school bus one day just for the experience.

Mooselet said...

That is very cool to put yourselves out there for that experience. I know I would be too intimidated by the language barriers to do that, so I'm most impressed.

It sounds like you gave him a compressed, yet accurate, experience of middle class American life. I wonder what he thought of it all.