Friday, November 11, 2011
Bonjour et Bienvenue!
A few weeks ago, upon posting my most recent past blog post, I fully expected to post daily from that day on and chronicle our family's 10-day experience hosting a foreign exchange student. The whirlwind of activity that began around 11 pm on Tuesday, October 25th threw me for a loop and resulted in a change of plans. Our student left last Friday, though - just in time for the rest of us to rally behind Jeff who, superhumanly, ran the NYC marathon for the third time on Sunday - and now I'm back to recap. I should start by acknowledging that we won the foreign exchange student jackpot. Our 13-year old young lady from Bordeaux, France was intelligent, interested, interesting, fun, kind and exceptionally polite. It was a pleasure to have her in our home and to see our city through her eyes. I expected the experience to be a positive one for our family and hoped that our children would benefit greatly from the experience. It was and they did. We all did. I will admit, though, that I didn't fully realize how demanding this adventure would be (for me, I mean). It's not easy for anyone to be "on" all the time and, as much as I appreciated the opportunity to practice speaking French, it's is particularly difficult to be "on" in a language other than your mother tongue. Our daughter, with whom the exchange student was paired, was performing in her school play (which was awesome) and mending a badly sprained ankle during the visit, which made things more challenging than they might have otherwise been. In addition, our daughter does not speak a word of French. None of our kids do. And that was a challenge as well. Still, on the first night, when we all sat down to dinner together, somehow teenage girls from different worlds, speaking different languages, were able to communicate the fact that mean girls exist in all of their schools and none of them had any desire to be part of "that" crowd. It was fascinating and fabulous.
The experience really did teach everyone to be a little more sensitive and a little more flexible. It also taught me that, in an effort to make our guest feel comfortable and make my own family look good, I am perfectly capable of not yelling at my kids for 10 whole days. C'est bon!
The Little Prince. Actually, we read it in French, Le Petit Prince (not boasting; it's just that I grew up in Montreal), and it has turned out to be one of those classic stories forever etched in my memory. In English or the original French, it's a highly recommended adventure. If you want a slower start at the French language with your younger child, I suggest you pick up a copy of Fancy Nancy: Bonjour Butterfly. by Jane O'Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. That Fancy Nancy - she's always a crowd pleaser!