Australian home stays — please be kind


It’s October and my students have gone to wrestle crocodiles in Australia for a month. But that’s not why I’m worried. Until now, they’ve wrestled with the English language so much, they should be in good shape to take on any croc. I’ve warned them about other dangers of Australia, such as kangaroos with boxing gloves and Vegemite. What I’m worried about is their home stays.

Sometimes the girls can’t make the cultural leap necessary to enjoy the host family experience. I remember once when my family hosted an Iranian high school student for a year. His name was Ardeshir but we called him “Ardie.” On the first day, my mother told him: “Ardie, this is the kitchen. And here is the refrigerator. Just eat whenever you want.” And we wondered why he was so skinny after coming to our house.

Shortly after, we received a note from his uncle. “Iranians are too polite to just go to the host family’s refrigerator and take food. Please offer him food.” Oh, of course.

“Ardie,” my said the next morning, “Would you like breakfast?”

And Ardie said, “No, thank you.”

At lunch she tried again, “Ardie, here is some lunch for you,” but Ardie just said, “No, thank you.”

At dinner time, my mother said, “Ardie, you haven’t eaten all day. Please eat some dinner!” But Ardie always politely refused.

When Ardie was near starvation, so weak he could no longer stand, I was at his deathbed when we received a note from his uncle. “Iranians are too polite to accept food on the first offering. You must ask him at least five times. On the fifth time, he will accept.”

So I wrote a note for each student to give to her host family in hopes that it would make her home stay smoother than Ardie’s:

This girl often mixes up her r’s and l’s, so please do not embarrass her by laughing if she says, “I’d like to eat lice” or “May I go swimming in the liver?” This girl has a big heart and is the kindest girl in my class. Please take care of her, as she is my favorite student.

This girl, while very quiet, is extremely perceptive. On the first day of class, she gave me a little cake, a souvenir from her weekend trip. The cake was labeled Cheese Steam Soft Cake. How sweet of her. Then I noticed the tiny letters printed on the wrapper in English: “Only you are a superstar that I found on a street corner in the city.” This freaked me out. How did she know I spent all those years on the street corner? This extremely perceptive student is my very favorite.

This student’s father works in a glue factory but has managed to paste together enough money to send her abroad for a month. She is not one to sit glued to the TV all day. She’ll stick to her chores and adhere to all house rules. I don’t think you’ll find yourself in any sticky situations with this student, and she is sure to bond with her host family.

This girl weighs only 39 kg, so should not be left unattended on windy days. If necessary, anchor her down. One run-in with one of those kangaroos with boxing gloves and she’ll be gone. She’s half Japanese and half Filipino, and with her big brown eyes, she’s as cute as Paddington Bear. She is by all means, my favorite student. Please take care of this bear. Thank you.

This student is deathly afraid of Vegemite. She has never tasted it, but the students who have gone on this trip before have warned her. The mere mention of the word “Vegemite” sends this girl trembling. I have tried to refer to it by the euphemism “concentrated yeast extract,” but this doesn’t seem to help. But she really loves pizza, which is what makes her my favorite student.

Please be careful with this student, as she is cute, flirty and wears her skirt a little too short. She does that thing in class where she kneels on the chair, leans on the desk with her elbows and sticks her tush up in the air. I’m afraid that since your family has five sons, she may come back with five boyfriends. Please send her to her room straight after dinner and secure the door. Besides, she is my favorite student.

Good luck, girls!