What we have here …

… Is a failure to communicate.


On Sunday afternoon, we welcomed two middle school Japanese girls to the Walker household. They will be with us until Friday morning. They have limited English and we have zero Japanese. Thank you, Google Translate! But it’s hard to adequately make someone feel at home when you don’t speak the language. Mostly I’m just afraid they’re going to starve under my watch.

So far, we’ve learned that neither have pets. I rushed into their bedroom after I heard a scream, and there was Pearl, hiding under the bed. (“Good call,” said Eric on the screaming. Pearl isn’t all that friendly.) “Do you have pets?” I asked, and they looked at each other, then shook their heads. Well, we got through that conversation, at least.

Basically, we’ve got the two shyest kids in their group, and they’re staying with three introverts. Um, and we’ve never hosted international students before. I feel like I’m lacking in certain skills that are necessary to succeed in this thing, but nevertheless, here we go. What could happen?

Will update as the week goes on … Tips appreciated!

Update, March 21: Tonight is our last night with the girls. We weren’t able to do as much with them as I’d have liked because their schedule was packed with activities, but we shared meals (gringo tacos, hamburgers and tater tots, and spaghetti and garlic bread — the hamburgers were the biggest hit) and an episode of “Survivor” (I do wonder what they thought of that). We showed them around the yard (they took photos of the mountain and the cats). I learned that bagels and cream cheese is a hit and that peanut butter is too.

I’ve learned that there is only so much Google Translate can do, but you can get pretty far with mime.

We’ve got the quietest two of the group, which is awesome because we are also quiet. But it would have been handy to have Abby around; she’s our cruise director and would have had us all whipped into shape. The girls like to hang out in their room with the door closed and unless we invite them to watch TV with us, they seem content to be by themselves. As an introvert, I understand the tendency and want to allow them that space. As a host, I hope that I’m not failing them somehow by not insisting they be with us every waking moment.

Even so, I’ve been gratified to see them get more and more comfortable here as the days go on.

I think that, were we able to communicate better, this would be so much easier. At the same time, I’m glad that we have been able to host these darling girls — they’re such sweeties — and give them a taste of American life. And maybe it’s good that the introverts got the introverts?

That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway. 🙂

And hey: They got to see a professional basketball game, go skiing, go shopping in the city, go shopping in our tourist trap of a town, visit sister city sites of importance, have a cooking lesson at the best restaurant in town and visit Johanna’s school. I’ve got a greater appreciation of our sister city program and the people who chaperone the many activities. It’s really cool to be a part of that.

We’d host again is what I’m saying. But wow, I’m taking all the naps this weekend.

5 thoughts on “What we have here …

  1. Roberta says:

    I was an exchange student in Japan as a child. Come up with things you can do together that won’t take much talking. I’d play an easy game, and pull the rules up online with Google translate to make that part easier. Plan a movie night with a simple movie — Disney maybe? — and popcorn (or whatever you’re allowed to eat). I don’t know what your weather is like, but try to fit in a hike, especially for Wednesday and the first day of spring. Take them to normal US shops — I’ve heard that is *very* popular with exchange students.

    When I was with my exchange family, the mother kept asking me if I liked to eat certain things. “Do you like yogurt?” My mother warned me — firmly– that I would eat anything they put inn front of me, so I answered “yes” each time. And so the food kept coming. I was getting so sick! Finally I answered, “yes, but not now.” It was only years later that I realized she meant “*Would* you like” not “*Do* you like.” They probably went to the neighbor’s house to get enough food to fill up their giant American kid!


    • Trisha Walker says:

      Oh, that’s super cool — what an experience! Love the food story. That’s totally me pushing the girls to eat!

      They have highly regimented schedules — skate night at one of the elementary schools, they’ll go into the big city to shop, they’ll head up to the mountain to ski — so we really only have them three evenings. A Disney movie is a great idea! We may try that tomorrow night. (They won’t be home until 10:30 tonight — wish me luck trying to wake them up in the morning.) And no, I can’t eat popcorn, but everyone else can! Appreciate the ideas!


  2. sarahn says:

    Smiles! and lots of mime!

    My Japanese homestay mum asked me in the first hour (whilst still with all the other people and parents) in mime if I was on my period, as she’d intended to take me to an onsen, and that’s a no go. For reasons that aren’t clear to me, she did NOT ask about tattoos, which are also a no no. Anyhow, lucky I’m a good mime interpreter, and was not, as it was a fabulous experience to go to an onsen with Japanese, and then share with the group when we had a hotel with an onsen (much smaller, and wasn’t open to the sky).

    You’ll survive – as will they! My homestay did one night eating out, one at home, but it was a cook yourself style thing I believe. I should say, I was an adult when I did this too!!


    • Trisha Walker says:

      Ha ha, that’s awesome! I’ve been doing a lot of pointing. Also, if there’s a game of charades going on, I want you on my team. 🙂 We’ll get it sorted out. I’ve learned that I need to speak in simple sentences and stick to the facts. I think I’m confusing them with my natural ramble.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Chris N says:

    First, I think it was incredibly brave for your family to host the students. I would have been too intimidated. Of course, our house is the size of a peanut so they would have had to sleep stacked up or something. But I’m glad it was such a positive experience and they undoubtedly loved it.


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