In My Opinion

Celia Rivenbark: Welcome to the United States. Please call me The Celia

October 12, 2013 

When the Princess asked us if we could be a host family for a foreign exchange student for the next few weeks, I agreed almost immediately.

This would be great!

It was only after I ticked off a list of potential chores (regrouting the bathroom tile was at the tippy top, since you ask) that I realized that she and I had entirely different notions about why you would invite a stranger into your home and feed them for days on end.

“It’s so we can learn about each other’s culture,” huffed the Princess. “It’s not some sort of free labor program.”

“I knew that,” I said. Secretly I was thinking, “Doodoo.”

Fast-forward to this very afternoon when we will welcome our new friend from Ukraine which, it should be noted, no longer calls itself “The Ukraine” perhaps after finally realizing that it sounds a tad uppity. (Take note, Ohio State.) Other than that, I know absolutely nothing about our exchange student’s country of origin.

Before the deal was sealed, we had to meet with the other exchange parents and get a crash course in hosting. Most of the other parents had hosted before and I felt immediately inferior. Perhaps I would start calling myself The Celia, and that would help.

The excitement in the room was palpable. If these parents were dogs, they would’ve all been wagging their tails. This would be, one assured me over some really tasty mini hot dogs, one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

“It’ll change you,” he said a bit dreamily. “There’s really nothing better.”

Obviously he had not seen the series finale of “Breaking Bad.”

“Yeah, I guess,” I responded. “But I was really hoping she could at least re-screen the porch.”

He looked at me as if I were a little loony, so I tried to immediately put his mind at ease.

“I’m going to start asking people to call me The Celia,” I said as he scurried away.

The rest of the parents’ meeting was packed with practical information and advice.

The only real surprise was that exchange students from Ukraine are seriously into Target.

“They LOVE Target,” one woman said. “They could spend HOURS in there.”

Me too! I had a real “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall” kind of moment. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so hard after all.

The foreign exchange student program doesn’t let just anybody host, you know. You have to complete a bunch of paperwork that is designed to really get to know your family dynamic. I wanted to make a good impression. Questions included how many pets do you have (“four cats”) and how do you like to spend a typical weekend (“taking our cats to Target.”)

Today, a perfectly nice Ukrainian teenager who speaks four languages is winging her way toward a strange country filled with people who can barely speak one. I sure hope she likes grits.

rivenbark.com

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