Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Twain Shall Meet

In late August, I welcome Jumpei – a Japanese exchange student, into my home for three months. As part of Rotary International exchange program, he comes to the US for one year – his final year of high school, though not every student who comes here does graduate at home as some countries do not accept our school credits.

Over this past several weeks, I made one significant change in my home as I prepare for having a second person live here. The change is to switch the guest room (small) and the larger room generally called “office” giving my three-month guest the larger of the two rooms. There has been a lot of work involved in this switch: move five bookcases of books into the small space; arrange for the cable and computer access to come directly into the new office space, find a table to serve as his desk, find curtains and bedding that are not frilly. I hope Jumpei likes what I have done, though he won’t know of the effort put into the change.

As I carried stacks of heavy books from one room to another, I wondered what I got myself into by volunteering to have this child-man who is traveling halfway around the world for an “American Experience.” I already know that his English is quite poor, so I plan to sit him in front of the TV to listen and try idioms, to talk back to the TV and then to try things with me. When I was in my doctoral program, many students were from China or Taiwan. For the most part, fellow graduate students too frequently gave up expending the effort to listen when the English was poor. Maybe we can get him up to speed before Wellsboro kids give up on him.

I also wonder about having a teen live with an older woman – no kids around to amuse him, no one to share homework answers, no one to show him the ropes of living in this single-person home. I have lots of professional training with kids living out of home but most of it entails rewards/punishment to encourage modeling appropriate behavior. I hope I do not have to worry about this type of relationship.

Other things I hope I do not have to worry about:

* does he smoke? Many Asians on television do, and mine is a nonsmoking home. Nonsmoking extends to the porch and the back deck. So if he smokes, how to handle that.

* Jumpei’s biography states that he does not like tomatoes – though I note ketchup is good. I can handle that and hope that other food choices are not issues. I eat lots of fresh vegetables and chicken and fruit. Rarely do I eat cereal and I have not had a glass of milk in at least 20 years. I don’t mind fixing different foods – will he help?

I also wonder

* if he knows how to do laundry?

* does he clean the bathroom after himself? (I have another bathroom that I will use, but three months of grunge when he moves to the next home would be a pain).

* Will he put away the things he gets out?

* Will he have patience with me?

*Will we hate each other at the end of three months? Looking ahead, 90 days does not seems to be that long; living those days – day by day – can be a huge challenge.

When your children are your children for life, they learn the expectations a bit at a time – here we need a crash course in “Living with Sharon.”

As I wonder these things, Jumpei is getting ready to move to the US for 12 months and he must be wondering why he decided to leave home and come here. I imagine he has questions too

* what about his host families! What are they like?

* What foods do they eat?

* How many kids? How old?

* How to get to school?

* Curfew?

* Will they force him to go to places – like church? (Living with a pastor for the first three months may make this concern somewhat real.)

As a child, I lived in Japan – I am excited to have this young man here and hope that we do have a good relationship. You can keep both of us in your thoughts and prayers (end of August to end of November) as Jumpei faces homesickness and English challenges and friend making. Oh, and he loves tennis, so a tennis partner would be a good request.

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