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Amidst the backdrop or rather backyard filled with 60 odd baby boomers still rockin’ it, came my two new Japanese students, Shin and Hiro. Not a clue what the real names are, I understand even less Japanese after doing this last Christmas. They are cute kids, 11 and 12 and these two are friends from Tokoyama. This is my second foray into the international student host arena. Lucky for them I only do the short, one week stints. The plan was for my brother-in-law to pick them up and sneak them in the front of the house so they would not be alarmed to find scores of people out back drinking, dancing, and dining. I explained to the head of the host company that I was hosting a house concert and therefore perhaps I shouldn’t host the students this time as they would be arriving just about the time the first note was struck. She had a host of reasons why I should have them anyway!! Such immersion in the American culture, she says, what a great experience for them! Yes, because all American backyards turn their porch into a stage, replete with dandy new burgundy curtain and invite some 60, fifty and sixty somethings to a paid show in their yard.   I acquiesced, especially since the money is so good. What, you think all the host families do it for altruistic reasons? Of course we do, but paramount is that potential extra income earning bedroom that is collecting dust.

So in they came and Uncle went out and got them some of the pasta and meatballs we served and got them fed and squared away. Japanese jetlag had them bleary eyed by 7pm. They showered and said good night and off to bed they went. Sometime after the party around 10pm or so, I saw the light still on and knocked to check on them as I hadn’t been able to really spend time with them. Lo and behold, there is Shin on his twin bed under the covers snug as the proverbial bug, when who do you suppose is lying next to him with about an inch before he crashes to the ground with a thud? That’s right the Hiro of our story. I eyed his suitcase sprawled open on the other twin bed where he was supposed to be sleeping and with lots of what I believe are fine Japanese hand waving translations, I asked, “What the heck are doing sleeping there?” Get over on your own bed! Now with even more limited English potential than my previous charge, he starts waving his hands about to let me know that Uncle told him to open his suitcases on the bed and so that is what he did, literally. Open the suitcases and left them on the bed filled with clothes, and hence no room for him to sleep!! SLAP, that’s the sound of my hand against my forehead. Take the suitcase off the bed and you get in the bed. That’s how it works here in America.

This morning was my first attempt at taking them to the new English class location this company is using this time. I missed it like three times, but first breakfast. My last guests in December wanted nothing but a couple of waffles, a banana and some water all week. I tried offering eggs, pancakes, cereal, yogurt, steak, you name it for breakfast, but nothing doing. Could syrupy lightening strike twice? Could I be so lucky as to get two more Japanese boys whose eyes positively bulge at the sight of an EGGO box? I was going to find out the first morning that’s for sure. How about some waffles, boys? BINGO!! They wanted nothing else. What is it about Japanese boys and waffles? Don’t know, but what an easy breakfast week this will be. Now on to dinner. They had pasta the night before, so I threw a pot of meatballs in the crock and thought well I’ll make them some rice. Might as well make them feel a bit at home along with some broccoli, more to assuage my conscience that I was feeding them healthy food. I offered them a meatball sandwich, which they loved but then when given the choice of the white rice I made or the pasta, they opted to go Italian again!! I love these boys, especially since there is like a mountain of pasta left from the house concert/birthday party the night before.   They ate and then gave me the gifts they brought me which I was too busy and impolite to stop and receive last night due to the aforementioned sixty odd people in my backyard. I love getting these things. So imaginative really. I got four, not one, but four sushi key chains. No, you can’t eat them actually. I got a stack of handkerchiefs of various sizes, origami and Ninja stationary which has to be my favorite of the lot. There are scads of Kabuki masks. Painted wet stuff you stick on your face. Not sure I am brave enough for that. But the best gift of all was from Shi: a small photo album with pictures in it of his life with his family, friends, events and parades and the things he does. That was as sweet as it gets.

This is my second time doing this. I am fascinated by the fact that in any group of two kids, they will not be alike. Last time, one boy made his bed every day, the other didn’t the entire time he was here. One boy was an eater, the other more slight and more picky. And with these two new ones, the theory holds true. One boy was more adventurous and ate twice the amount of the other one, the slighter one less so. One had his bed nicely made this morning, the other a valiant attempt. It reminds that we shouldn’t use a cookie cutter approach to our own children. They are unique and different and we should not expect perhaps the same sensibilities or the same approach to how they will tackle life. We need to not compare or despair but rather let them find the way to their very own best self.   Does it matter in the grand scheme of things if one of these Japanese kids makes his bed and the other doesn’t ? No, they are both still just as nice and polite. Making a bed is only something to judge an outward appearance by, not a litmus test of the fabric inside. It’s a lesson I need right now with my own two sons, who are very different and will always approach life in their own fashion. I may have more of an affinity with one type of approach than the other, but I also need to learn that there is NO one approach to life. Only judgmental, narrow minded people who allow nothing in think like that. I’m sure before the week is out we’ll have some more adventures in Japanese-American hand waving and I just hope they enjoy their stay with us as much as we enjoy opening our homes and our crazy to them.