Wednesday, August 12, 2009
A Foreign Exchange
Flora visited us at school today, all the way from Hong Kong...and that's amazing.
She looks beautiful, ten years older and all so very grown-up. I remember when she lived with us that year. Counting our ninth-grader, our tenth-grader, and our foster child senior, Turtle and I had four teen-agers in a little house with one bathroom. Life was hectic and hassled, but, looking back, I'm glad I lived it that way. A foreign exchange student brings something to your family that you can't really duplicate by chatting online. They live with you and really share your life, be it crowded or lonely. They learn your idioms and idiosyncrasies--and thus make you more aware of them. They are brave souls in a strange world. . . so very different and so very alike and both are equally surprising.
One night Flora made Chinese food. We ate it at nine-thirty, due to things just taking longer in America, but it tasted wonderful. She loved school, especially math. Every evening, she did calculus homework at the kitchen table while I cooked supper. I'd like to say I helped her, but that would be a total lie. I didn't understand the numbers anymore than I understood the Cantonese she spoke on the phone late at night to her family. Elijah played bratty "little brother". One day we found "Flora is a wiener" poems posted all over the house. Of course, it became a running gag. The girls were into wild fingernail polish and talking about boys; he was into nunchucks and football and playing the piano as if it were the opposing team being pummeled up and down the line of scrimmage. We banned television until weekends, cut off the internet so they would sleep at night, and never had a moment of quiet in the house. They played games, gossiped, and argued over deep philosophical issues. I heard a door slam occasionally, but I also heard a lot of laughter.
Flora, you were good for us.
Now you've brought a friend to school...all the way from Hong Kong. Does he play mah jong? do calculus? like poetry? Will we love him like we learned to love you? I think so.