Saturday, 26 July 2014

Foreign Student in De House

For the last two summers, we have had a foreign student staying with us for a few weeks.  Last year, a 16y year old Spanish girl called Marina and this year, a 16 year old French student called Maelys.  They went to language classes in Athy college during the day.  I didn't quite know what to expect last year, but thought that it would be a good experience for my children - to see beyond their small, little world.

If you are thinking of having a student yourself, you might like to consider the following.

* Do not renovate/decorate your house just before the student arrives.

Last year I had some renovations done to the house, just before our student arrived, including the messy job of ripping down a ceiling.  With all that was going on, I didn't have time to repaint the bedroom, so I touched up the wall, with what I thought was the same coloured paint.  It wasn't.  It was car crash stuff ... and too late to change ... At least it was clean ... New shower doors were only fitted the day that our student arrived.

This year, having learned absolutely nothing from last years experience, I found myself on a step ladder, painting a bedroom ceiling, the night before our student arrived.  It really needed a second coat, but I was afraid that it would actually drip on a tired student on her night of arrival.

Having said that, use the opportunity to have a bit of a Spring clean.  I found that the house was never cleaner and the fridge was always full.  The grown ups tend to be nicer to each other too (even if it is through gritted teeth).

* It is essential to Spring clean the entire house, taking note of areas that will be of particular interest to 16 year old girls.  I started cleaning under my bed and in the attic.

I pretty much cleaned the whole house, except for the children's bedroom.  Having given it a good clean a fortnight previously, it now looked like we had a break in.  Of course, it was the first place that the children brought our student into.

* Throw caution to the wind.  Go mad.  Do stuff you wouldn't normally do.

Use the opportunity to rediscover what is on your doorstep.  Last year, I brought our Spanish student to the church and graveyard in Kingscourt where my grandparents are buried.  This may not sound like a riveting day out, but Marina was fascinated by all the vastness of it and I enjoyed it, and remembered how beautiful the church was.  There was actually a Polish mass going on when we called into the church, which was a new discovery for me too.

This year, myself and our French student ran a 5km race in Athy.  (See my previous blog post for details).    Initially Maelys had said that there was a 'marathon' in town that she would like to participate in.  If that was the case, I would have been on the sidelines.

Thankfully we have had glorious weather for both visits, which makes everything easier.  It reminds you what a pretty little country we have.

* Throw caution to the wind Part II.   Such as allowing chocolate spread in the house.  I bought it, as our French student liked it.  My kids couldn't believe their luck.  Breakfast, lunch and tea, they wanted the stuff.  At least they had it on pancakes (not quite French crepes, but hey!), which diluted the badness.  I had a romantic notion of collecting eggs from our new hens every morning for the pancakes, but only one hen  is laying so far.  Shop bought free range ain't too bad.

* As the previous point suggests, there was a lot of pancakes during our student's stay this year.  Having said this, I would suggest not feeding your student the same meal for 5 days in a row.  Given that there is a wood burning pizza oven in Poppy Cottage and the weather was rather fabulous, we invited friends over one evening and French students over another evening for pizza.  We also had a day trip to the beach in Wexford, where we ended up in a 'pizza or nothing' restaurant.

We were then invited to a friends house for dinner the following night.  Beef stroganoff was on the menu for meat eaters - and a bit of variety for out student, I thought.  But the way things worked out, our student was leaving early, going to a student get-together.  So our friends had prepared ... you guessed it .... pizza ...

Disclaimer * our French student told me that pizza was her favourite food, and cooked in a wood burning oven, they are mighty fine *

*  Expect your children to make an absolute show of you.

This year especially, my children were pure bould for two weeks.  I can blame the excitement, late nights, early mornings, the heat and most of all, their daily indulgence in chocolate spread.   I was starting to sound like a broken record, saying 'they aren't normally like this ... '.  Leon, having a thing for older, pretty girls, has been charmed by both exotic beauties that we have had to stay and is the small boy equivalent of a cave man, pounding his chest, ready to drag a gal by the hair into a cave.

The children were also manky dirty most of the time.  Late nights meant that I couldn't always face the battle to put on the pj's, so they often went to bed in their clothes, without as much as a lick of a face cloth, never mind a shower.  And I confess, maybe no teeth brushed ... When I arrived home from work the following evening, they were often still wearing the same clothes.

I looked at a rather distinctive pair of green socks that Leon was wearing on a Thursday and remembered that I had put them on him on Sunday, when we were going to Wexford.  Mya, having a wardrobe the size of Penney's children department only wants to wear two pairs of well worn shorts, that she can barely tie the button on.  I tried to explain to Maelys my son's attachment to his flittered, stinky school shoes that he wears, instead of his brand new runners.  I'm sure that I had a similar conversation with Marina last year.

* Try not to cry when your student leaves.  Especially not in front of all of the other students and parents.  If you do, (a) blame the student for starting it and (b) pretend that you have dust in your eye.  In either case, vacate the scene as soon as possible, avoiding eye contact with any of the locals to ensure minimal embarrassment to you student and yourself.

Overall, we have had a great experience with our  two lovely girls.  It's a few days now since Maelys has left and the house feels different.  We hope that we have developed life long friendships with the girls, whom I hope will visit us again and sure, you would never know, we may turn up on their doorsteps in Spain or France !

Right now though, I'm just glad that the chocolate spread is finally gone

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