Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tempted to adopt Eva

A few months ago, when we had to say goodbye to Laura, our German exchange student who lived with us for a year, I was devastated. She had become very much part of our family and it just didn't seem right to let her go. That was silly, of course... she has a family in Germany and we'd known all along that the AFS exchange program was for a year. Still, the tears were flowing all around that day and, probably to ease the sadness a bit, I asked the liaison coordinator at the farewell event whether I might be able to be a liaison for a German girl (since AFS doesn't recommend hosting two years in a row).

A few days later I was sent information about Eva, a 17-year-old girl from Koeln. Aleks and I finally met Eva a few days ago (that's Aleks and Eva in the picture... they bonded!), and we all felt an instant connection. She's sweet and friendly and very pleasant, just like Laura was. We took Eva out for lunch and she spilled her heart, in broken English, about her current situation in her host family. The family is a dual-culture family, with a Japanese father who barely speaks English and an American mother who lived for 15 years in Japan. Eva was immediately told to call the father "Mr. X." So she can't talk to or understand him AND she has to be completely formal with him. Not a great start. The mom is nice enough, but is one of those very high-stress, "I need a vacation!" type of people who, she admitted, only took an exchange student because thet sent their son to Hungry and felt obligated to take another kid in. Both parents work long hours at Microsoft and, according to Eva, are more into their dogs when they come home late at night than into their own kids or their exchange student. To make things harder, Eva told me that in her application she had requested not to go to an Asian country (prospective exchange students list the countries they want to go to and countries they don't want to go to) AND, under food preferences, she listed that she doesn't like fish... yet this family has fish almost nightly. Because the host mom works at Microsoft, she and I got together for coffee today. She's certainly nice enough, but I wouldn't call her warm and she most definitely has a "just deal" attitude regarding Eva's place in her family and her household.

Needless to say, this all breaks my heart and puts me into rescue mode. Laura's room is empty... Eva's a doll... she says she's unhappy where she is... Tom wouldn't make her call him "Mr. S..." But Kathy, the head AFS coordinator regarding these things knows me well enough to have said to me, "Carol, it's too soon..." She doesn't recommend that we "adopt" Eva; instead, she recommends that we just be like another family to her, having her over for occasional weekends, taking her on family outings and just being there for her.

So, for now, that's what we'll do. Her placement with "Mr X's" family is only through December, so maybe we can "have" her in January. But then we'll have another excruciating goodbye again in June...!

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