Almost a year ago, beginning late last August, our family embarked on an interesting new adventure. In typical Quiet Country fashion, this was not a loud, exciting adventure full of bells and whistles, or glitz and glamour. It was rather, the family-oriented adventure of opening our home to an exchange student.
Let's call her Sonnet, for being part of the family she should have a poetry name like the rest of us, at least for blogging purposes. Sonnet, our beautiful Turkish daughter, lived here from August until January. At that point, in accordance with the terms of this particular exchange program, she moved to a second family. My two little boys flung themselves to the floor and wept when she moved.
We didn't see her as much during the following months as we would have liked. Haiku and Senryu still saw her at school, but her second host family kept her very busy. They went to sporting events and got manicures and pedicures and went to the city somewhat frequently. There wasn't a lot of extra time for her to come over for dinner, or to spend the night, though she did so a couple of times.
Three months later, she moved again. Sonnet's third host family was an older couple whose children were grown. By this time, she had a good strong circle of friends which included two German exchange students. For the last month of her exchange, Sonnet moved back in with us. That wasn't the original plan, but her third host family had a trip planned during the last days of Sonnet's exchange. Early in June, she took a trip that the exchange program organized to several cities on the east coast, and then has been with us since that time.
Sonnet is almost exactly between my girls in age. Through all of these months, since the first few awkward days in the beginning passed, Sonnet and Haiku have been like sisters. Like a typical older sister, Senryu has been by turns helpful, annoyed, amused, or tolerant of the two younger girls.
Now we are in the home stretch of this life-changing experience, with less than a week remaining of Sonnet's stay. I don't think the boys will be the only ones to fling themselves down to cry when she leaves. When Senryu left on her exchange to Taiwan, almost two years ago now, we all cried like babies at the airport. We had some difficult times, worrying and wondering about her, while she was gone, but we knew she would be coming home (although I have to admit, it was a very long year!) With Sonnet, we don't have that comfort.
We have learned quite a bit about Turkish culture this year. But, and I think this is the whole point, you really learn most about human nature during a cultural exchange. You learn more about what you have in common than about the differences in your cultures. We have shared so much in these months: tears, laughter and so many stories.
This week, I am making the things Sonnet has loved to eat while she was here: pasta salad, brownies, snickerdoodles. The girls are re-watching movies that they enjoyed watching together. Sonnet and Haiku are walking, one last time, to the tiny lake to lay on the dock in the northern sunshine. We are taking family photos, while we are still a family of seven all living together in the Quiet Country House.
"In unsettled times like these, when world cultures, countries and religions are facing off in violent confrontations, we could benefit from the reminder that storytelling is common to all civilizations. Whether in the form of a sprawling epic or a pointed ballad, the story is our most ancient method of making sense out of experience and of preserving the past. "
~ William Collins