Advice for the Host Family

Norma at Dallas Blooms, Texas, 2007

Norma at Dallas Blooms, Texas, 2007

I hope you found this post because you are thinking about being a host family for a foreign exchange student. I wrote a post earlier offering advice to students thinking about becoming an exchange student and I wanted to balance it with a post directed toward potential host families. Continue reading

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Cafés: Arkhangelskoe, Russian Federation

Olga and Pavel, Arkhangelskoe, Russian Federation, 2008

Olga and Pavel, Arkhangelskoe, Russian Federation, 2008

Outdoor cafés are wonderful places. In itself, an outdoor café requires only some tables, chairs, and perhaps an umbrella to block the sun and rain, but nothing more is necessary. What makes an outdoor café so special is that it takes on the culture and characteristics of it’s location, whether it is on a street, in a park, on a city square, or along a seacoast. There is no need to create an atmosphere because the atmosphere is already authentic. When food is a cultural experience, there can be no better place to enjoy it than amongst the culture and geography from which it was created. Continue reading

Tunisian Brik

Tunisian Brik

Tunisian Brik

We once had an exchange student from Tunisia who stayed with us for far too short of time. I’ll always be grateful to her for introducing Tunisian brik into our home. Technically, I think these are actually called Fingers of Fatima as brik are traditionally triangular and feature a raw egg, but brik is what she called them and that is good enough for me. Plus, it’s easier than explaining who Fatima was and why we are eating her fingers. Continue reading

Good-bye Scout

Scout

Scout

Last Thursday night, I took Scout for her last walk. It was a good walk and we made it about half a block. I can still remember those long walks we took when she was a puppy, walking for hours, both morning and evening, in a futile attempt to expend her limitless puppy energy.

Scout’s floppy ears were the definition of soft… I don’t think there can found anything on the earth softer. For sixteen years those ears were stroked, pulled, stretched, and twisted, and she loved every minute of it.

If it is possible to say that a dog can have no vices, then you would have to say that about Scout. She was loving, obedient, and always wanting to please. She quietly ruled our pack and kept it in line. She was wonderful with little children.

It’s amazing how one little dog can completely change your life.

When Scout came into our life she was our first puppy. Looking for guidance, we found Good Owners, Great Dogs by Brian Kilcommons. Kilkommons devoted one page of his book to saying good-bye to your old friend. I remember reading this page several times, trying to imagine letting go of my new friend. Then the book got placed on the shelf and the page forgotten for fifteen years. A few weeks ago it came time to re-read what was read so long ago:

People ask me “How will I know when it is time?” and I always tell them “Love them, care for them, and when the pain is greater than the comfort, you’ll know. Trust yourself, you’ll know.”

Good-bye Scout.

Scout passed off this earth on January 30, 2009

Advice for Exchange Students

Shadi, Texas State Fair, 2007

Shadi, Texas State Fair, 2007

We have had one unsuccessful exchange student. I’ll call her Julia. This picture is not of Julia but of Shadi who came the fall after Julia’s departure.

Julia did not even make it to the end of October. I wouldn’t classify her exchange as an exchange student horror or nightmare, but I will say it was a horrible time for myself, my wife, and for undoubtedly for Julia.  I still have a tinge of remorse that we could not save Julia’s exchange, but I am also confident, with six successful exchange students passing through our home, that we and our organization did as much as anyone could to salvage her year. Continue reading

The Russian Forest

peterhof-russian-forest

Forest, Near the Bay of Finland, Russian Federation, 2008

European Russian is a geographically divided country. In the south stretches the grassy steppe, the territory of ancient Rus and the birthplace of the Russian state. In the north stretches great forests, the place of refuge for the Slavs from the invasion into the steppe by the Golden Horde in the 13th century. In these forests later arose the princedoms of the Golden Ring, Muscovy, and finally modern Russia. Continue reading

Update on Kate

Kate and the Aurora, Moscow, Russian Federation, 2008

Kate and the Aurora, Moscow, Russian Federation, 2008

For anyone keeping track of Kate, she will be making a big trip soon. This time it will not be on a train from St. Petersburg with a cabin full of crazy Italians but on a plane back to the United States.

Kate has her interview with the United States Consulate on January 14th, just two weeks from today. Assuming that everything goes to plan, it will take a few days after that for her to receive her new visa. Then she will have a couple of weeks to close out her work in Moscow and allow enough time for her mother to come see her off.

So, Kate should be back in Texas sometime in the first half of February. She will return to her husband Mike, a new position with the same firm she worked with in Moscow, and a newly renovated condo…Way to Go, Mike!