Here is the story….
Monday evening a friend called, reminding me that I had once expressed interest in housing an exchange student. “That is true,” I told her, “but when I mentioned it to Lance he said ‘No’ so it is not an option for us. Why do you ask?”
She explained that there was an exchange student from Sweden, attending Roy High, whose host family moved and who needed a home immediately. I wished her luck in her quest to find the girl a place to live, we exchanged a few pleasantries, and the conversation ended.
Lance, who overhearing the call, asked me what it was that he had said “no” to. When I explained the situation he said, “I could do that.” The kids, all of whom were gathered around the table at the time which is a small miracle in and of itself, leapt immediately onboard the idea. “Yes, yes, YES” was their overwhelming response.
Ever the pragmatic one, I questioned them, “Are you sure?” pointing out that she would be a member of our family, not a temporary guest to be enjoyed and sent home. “Yes, yes, YES!” remained their response. “Grace, you would have to share a room….Are you okay with that?” Again, they responded “Yes, yes, YES!”
Okay. I called the friend back and told her that if the as-yet-nameless student did not mind sharing a room with Grace, dealing with six people and only one bathroom, and was okay not having a TV in the home, we would love to have her the join our family. This started a series of phone calls that culminated in the filling out of an online application form and consent to background checks for everyone in the household over 18 years of age. This was Monday evening.
Tuesday afternoon Grace said, “Mom, will she come tonight? My room is not clean…” “No,” I assured her, “these things take time. They have to check out our references, complete the background checks, and process the paperwork. It will be awhile.”
Later Tuesday afternoon, about 4:30 p.m., I got a phone call from the local exchange program coordinator. “Is it okay if we bring Sara to you tonight about 8:30?”
“I guess that means we have been approved as her host family,” I thought.
“Sure,” I said…..and then flew into semi-panic mode. Grace’s statement that her room was not clean was a major understatement; if the clothes and junk on the floor were mud, hip waders would have been required to move through it. Additionally, the bunk bed the girls would share was in Miles’ room and would require un-assembly to move through the doorways AND there was no (as in NONE) closet space available. Team:HISLOP flew into action. Grace tackled her floor and I tackled the closet. Armed with a power drill and socket wrenches, Grace and Tanah took apart the bunk bed, moved it into Grace’s room, and then reassembled it. Lance “fixed” dinner. Miles watched as his room became a dumping ground and did not complain (well….maybe a little bit….). I was removing the last inches of dust from the shelves when the doorbell rang at 9:15 p.m.
Gracious, tall, and blonde, with an enchanting smile, Sara captured our hearts immediately and still owns them. Having her in our home has been pure joy. She played catch with Miles (a football, of course), invited Grace to a party, discussed homecoming dresses with Tanah, volunteered to pick tomatoes for me, and laughed at and with Lance. She has been incorporated into our chore chart and our Family Home Evening chart. Perfect.
Sara does not get educational credit for attending high school in the USA. When she returns to Sweden she will have to repeat this year of high school. Apparently Swedish schools do not have a high opinion of the American educational system. And, it appears, that their opinion may be justified. In her Calculus class, Sara is reviewing things she learned in 9th grade at home. She began taking English in 4th grade and chemistry in 7th grade. She says that her English class in Sweden was more challenging than her English class at Roy High. The most telling was the warning she received about our knowledge of geography. “Lots of people,” she was told, “will confuse Sweden with Switzerland.” Her thought was “They cannot be that stupid” but she says, “they are.” Even some of her best friends at school still confuse the two countries.
Sara may not be getting education credit but she is certainly getting an educational experience…and so are we. Some Swedish to English translations are charming. The word for pomegranate means grenade apple. The literal translation of taste buds is taste onions and tonsils are throat almonds. Our favorite is the term she uses for her mother’s step son. She calls him her “bonus brother”.
Sara is our bonus daughter/sister and we absolutely love having her in our home. Our Sara surprise has been a glorious one.