Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Annie Played the Bucket Drum
Annie Played the Bucket Drum
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
The application read as follows:
“Looking for families eager to host Korean exchange students. Our program seeks typical Kiwi families with healthy, clean homes who provide room and board for our young children.”

There was a small payment associated with the job awarded to the successful candidate families, but hardly enough to provide any real temptation. Feeding another kid would easily eat up the tiny stipend. So that isn’t our excuse. I don’t know why we applied. In our application, we noted:

“We are eager to host a Korean exchange student. We are an atypical American family with a rental lovingly dubbed Chicken House, because it is about as healthy to live in as a garden shed and chickens routinely wander down the halls.”

We were a bit surprised when the program coordinator called to schedule an interview and house visit. We were dumbfounded when we were put on the short list to host a student. Honestly, the level of desperation required of the program coordinator to declare us a healthy, clean home is a bit worrisome. Nevertheless, the Conger crew was excited about being selected to host a student. We may not be typical Kiwis nor do we own a home to which you’d want to board your household pets let alone your middle school age child. Yet, we are good people, eager for new experiences.

About a month ago, our student Annie arrived. Annie is not her Korean name. As happens with many students who study a foreign language, she adopted an “English” name for use during class. She said she wanted us to call her Annie while she visited. Annie is 12 years old, and her family lives in Seoul, South Korea. She attends school with Mera during most of the day. Her afternoons are largely spent with her fellow exchange students in math and language classes. It seems that the regular school day is insufficient -- to which homeschool mum that I am, I can only empathize.

On the weekends, Saturday is free choice and Sunday is family day. Annie’s presence has broken us out of what was fast becoming a suburban weekend rut. We’ve returned to explorations of the greater Auckland area. We took Annie on a tramp through the bush, to the Auckland Museum, and to a symphony concert at the hall downtown. Weather permitting, we hope to go on the rope climbing course this weekend.

Annie has been great. She speaks and writes far better English than any exchange student we have ever hosted. As she got to know the family, she gradually relaxed and opened up to all of us. She has a nice smile when you can catch her doing it. She is shy and reticent to engage DrC and I, but Aeron and Mera have completely taken her under their collectively noisy, charming wings. They watch movies, play, and shop together. I love to see the connections forming, and I hope sincerely Annie leaves us with a positive image of both New Zealand and American families.

Our Annie
Our Annie
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
When I twittered about her arrival, not a few smart alecks commented on the craziness of the Conger family taking on yet one more thing in our lives. And I suppose it might seem that way, though Annie hasn’t been the slightest bit of extra work or effort. Maybe this is just an extension of a cruising attitude. We made an effort to host kids from other boats whenever possible to the point where the addition of one or two (or sometimes five or six) extra kids was normal. We became “That Boat” where folks could drop their kids, and our kids could host their friends. Annie is just now one in a long line of children we’ve let into our lives, our home and our hearts.

Do you hear me Isabel? Sam? Tim? Josh? Carolyn? Skylar? We miss you. Annie is no substitute. Come be an exchange student and move into our spare room. We’ll put you up any time, any place for as long as your parents will let us have you. We may not be clean or typical, but we are eager, friendly hosts.


Jim and Heather on Meerkat said...

What about me? I am kind of done with the whole being an adult and working and being responsible thing.

Seven C's said...

That is absolutely too cool!
Personally, I think that is fantastic - to be able to host an exchange student :)

Pat said...

Sweet! I'm with the Meerkat crew - can I be one of your exchange "students"?

Freely Living Life said...

Exchange students is a wonderful opportunity for both the student and the family housing him/her! You learn so much from one another. Continue to have fun and keep smiling! =)