Many of you have asked how things went with our Ukrainian exchange student. Most of you have added, “You don’t seem like the type to do something like that” leading me to wonder if I seem particularly ungenerous and clannish. Ha! The joke’s on you. Things went hunky dory, as they say in Ukraine. OK, no, they don’t.
Yuliah was a delightful and bright girl who made up her bed every morning as soon as she got up. The very first morning they were getting ready for school, the Princess rushed into the kitchen, clearly upset.
“She wants to know where the iron is,” she said with genuine panic.
“Well?” I said. “What did you tell her?”
“I told her I didn’t think we had one.”
OK, let it be known that of course we have an iron. Somewhere. But who knew that a Ukrainian teenager would need it someday?
A few minutes later I was hoisting an iron and ironing board last used circa 1983 to iron a Smurfette costume upstairs to Yuliah.
“Oh,” she said, which is Ukrainian for “Oh,” since you ask. “I hope twas not trouble for you.”
“This?” I said, blowing the dust off the iron. “Nah, I was just using it downstairs but, sure, you can borrow it.”
“How do you … open this?” she asked, pointing to the ironing board.
It was 6:30 a.m. and I wanted to say “Damn if I know!” But that would’ve set international relations back to, like, pre-Lady Diana being killed days.
I fiddled with the underside of the ironing board and it suddenly sprang into its standing position, knocking me into Yuliah’s carefully made bed.
Yes, we were off to a rollicking start.
Later that day, the other host moms were emailing about how things were going.
One casually mentioned that her exchange student seemed to enjoy his eggs and grits and sausage before school.
It never occurred to me to feed Yuliah in the morning. Can anyone seriously digest food at that hour? The next day I placed a Wildberry Pop Tart on a paper towel, unheated, and handed it to her as she left for school. She looked at it curiously. “Sank you,” she said softly.
“De nada,” I said.
Well. It’s not like I took three years of Ukrainian in high school, is it?
The next two weeks flew by. I grew accustomed to everyone saying things like, “Has anybody seen my Ukrainian?” It sounds terrible the first time. I mean they’re not your own personal Ukrainian. But it just saves time. There were three Yuliahs in the group of 8.
“Yuliah must be a common Ukrainian name,” I said to My Yuliah.
“No, not really.”
After days filled with studies, sightseeing, shopping, and, God help us, a night at Hooters, it was time to say goodbye. Yuliah gave us many pounds of amazing Ukrainian chocolate as a parting gift, which translates into “She is welcome anytime.”