17 September, 2001
It seems chose (well, Arcadia chose) a good weekend for my homestay. The traditional music festival is going on here in Tuam (pronounced [t∫um] or chewm – like ‘tomb,’ but with a ‘ch’) this weekend, which promises to be a lot of fun. Aside from that, however, I don’t know how much of a traditional or even typical family experience I’ll get here. I doubt that most Irish families take in six international students at a time in addition to their own four children.
There are two 17-year-old girls staying until Christmas, one from Switzerland and the other from Italy. There are also two 18-year-old French boys who are here for the week, and an 11-year-old Spanish boy who’s finishing out his month here. And then there’s the 14-year-old Spanish girl who’s staying with the neighbors but spends most of her time here, playing the family’s 5-year-old girl. The teenage girls all speak good English, but the boys seem to be harder time. It’s like being back in Dijon only in reverse – they insist that we converse in English so that they can practice but I resort to French when they appear to be having difficulties.
I tried talking to them over dinner, but the conversation was about as interesting as the food. I can’t remember the last time I had chicken nuggets let alone Spaghetti-Os – but in all fairness, they do have a 5-year-old, an 8-year-old, and a 13-year-old. And I can’t imagine what it must be like to cook for 13 people.
I’ve talked with the parents, and with little Abby, but I’d like to get to know the boys in the family. None of them seem to be particularly talkative; the 19-year-old I only met in passing. The family’s been taking international students for 9 years, longer than the two youngest children have been alive – what must it have been like to grow up with such a transitory family?