New Home, New Emotions
What a big, stressful day! Already you could tell that students were in a worrisome mood and that they were unsure of what to expect, because in the morning everyone was a little on edge. The previous evening was our last night all together in the hostel and the students werenervous about moving to our homestay families! Half of us had time for breakfast, while the other half was busy packing. By 9:45, we had all brought our luggage to the lobby, returned our keys and were ready to get on the bus. We packed all of our suitcases on the bottom of the bus and already by 10:15 on the dot, we had left the parking lot! The Swiss are very particular about their time…
About 20 minutes away from the hostel, is a Best Western Hotel, where Christina (the homestay coordinator) and Aline had set up our meetings with our homestay families. The room we had reserved was set up with a semi-circle of chairs and a few tables of croissants and gaseous water. Some of us took a seat while others stood, afraid of what we were getting ourselves into. The feeling I had was as if I was getting adopted and I really needed to make sure that my family liked me–I had never wanted to be liked so much before! Parents started coming in at around 11:00, at which point they were greeted by Christina and led to their new student residents. I waited for about 20 minutes, when someone tapped my shoulder and said, “Beata?” I replied, “Oui!” and turned around to see my homestay mom S: this adorable woman with long brown hair, brown eyes, a slim physique (and who likes white pants I noticed later) who looked so excited to see me! She immediately hugged me and that made the situation less awkward than it could have been. She asked me how I was doing and I told her I felt great, that I had eaten well (I don’t know why I said that! Maybe in case she was worried.) and that I was excited to meet her family. She took one of my suitcases, I took the other and headed over to her Audi. We put the suitcases in the back and drove away. In the car, I asked her that if there are ever times that I am doing something wrong, whether it is a cultural faux pas or something in their family, to tell me. She reassured me that there shouldn’t be any misunderstandings, but if they were to arise, we would address them as such.
The ride to Mies was calm and so beautiful. The countryside is exactly as I had imagined it! In some ways, it resembles Yerevan–particularly in the paysage–but in other ways, it is far too clean and maintained to ever pass for an Armenian village. Once we entered Mies, S showed me where the local church was, some tiny boutiques and a few places where I could run. We passed by a field where people play polo and I am very excited to see a real live game! Finally, we arrived at their house. It is the third house in a set of family houses and it is relatively large. The father, M, and the 12-year-old son, Ma, were awaiting our arrival. I hugged Ma, but with M I was more conservative, because I think he just wanted to shake hands for the first meeting! I received a tour of the house and it is so wonderful! The rez-de-chaussée (the main floor) consists of a kitchen, dining table and living room with a piano. Because they are all connected, they are called the salon. They have a backyard, which has a dining table and a ping-pong table. The first floor has three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The second floor serves as the father’s office and it has a huge bookcase that spans the length of the wall and a little computer corner. They also have access to a patio on this floor. The basement is where my room is and I have my own bathroom there! Seriously, these conditions are better than at my dorm and nor do I have my own bathroom at home in New Jersey! The bathroom also has the washing machine and the dryer so I hardly have to move to do the laundry… 😉
S and I left soon after my arrival to pick up U, the eldest who is 14 years old. He had just returned from fencing camp and he was at a friend’s house (need I mention that the girl’s house is like a little chateau with an electronic gate and her mother has a BMW? Gosh, these people are well off!). Back at home, Ma and U commenced an intense ping-pong game, which I watched with admiration because the boys are amazing! Then again, I probably would be too if I played as often as I think they do haha. I played with U for a couple of games and already improved my game, just in time for dinner!
S prepared chicken in the oven, brown rice, tomatoes drenched in onions and a bowl of broccoli. The food was delicious, but I ate so slowly and patiently that I was full very soon. Of course, S wanted to ensure that I was refusing food because I was actually full, and not because I felt uncomfortable eating more so she asked me “plusieurs fois” if I did not want any more. U was telling long stories about his adventures in camp, and although I understood his words, I did not understand the background of the stories and thus could not comprehend anything. S saw that I was a little confused, so she asked me if I understood what he was saying: I asked her to give me the context so that I could get it. She explained everything to me and I was glad she had asked!
M, S and U took me along with them to Founex, a village where they hold a little market once a year, and where U was performing with his fencing team as a means of advertising his fencing school. S and I walked around a little and I took some photos, two of which are attached to this post. The fencing was so cool! I have never seen fencing in person and I really appreciated the experience. Soon, S noticed that I was a little tired and she offered to take me home so that I could rest for two hours. In my room, I unpacked my luggage and sorted some things in the room. I lay down for simply 5 minutes and later realized that I should have taken a nap.
I was told that it is tradition for the family to eat pizza every Saturday night–if they do not, the boys cry! I was curious to see what kind of pizza they enjoyed so much; until I saw that M makes the pizza from scratch! It was so yummy…he made four types, one plain, one without any cheese, one with meat and one with vegetables. I think I would cry too if I were them!
The day was exhaustive. Towards the end, I realized that I was finally experiencing the culture shock that I heard so much about. However, I don’t know if it was the culture shock or the I cannot believe I will be living with these people and speaking French for four months shock. I guess I’ll soon find out!!