Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Monday, 12 July 2010

La Jeune Fille: Chapitre Un (The Tough Part)

So, I gotta tell you about our Jeune Fille and how the whole 3 week exchange thing went down.
First, here's the makeover I did on Small Boy's bedroom.
Despite the passive aggressive resistance, I actually think he quite likes it.

Here's the girls from the BA's school waiting anxiously at the airport before the Frog contingent arrived. Most of these girls will be going back to France in the Christmas holidays this year.

Everything was good for the first week, although getting up in the morning was not her strong suite and her English was seriously worse than my French!!!!
We had been given a list of instructions and advice as 'host' parents and one of the things we had been told was to expect homesickness. We were also advised to give them access to the net to email home etc but not to allow them to spend too much time on the computer. Well, when our JF arrived, she came with her own iphone. Himself naturally hooked her up to our wireless network. Mistake number 1. She proceeded to spend inordinate amounts of time on facebook on her iphone and of course we had no control over that whatsoever!

Towards the end of the week I felt we were losing touch with her but we cheerfully hauled her off to a family Quiz night with a group of friends (including a friend of ours who is French) thinking it would be a cultural experience, a way to connect and a bit of fun all round.
Oh dear.
Firstly, Himself, the notorious games hater did not really want to go.He had loads of work to do and was late in. I suggested he didn't come and he nearly took me up on it, but Small Boy wanted to go and so he came. When we got there, late as usual, it turned out the table bookings had been mucked up and there wasn't enough room on our table. This put Himself in an even worse mood. So, when my dear, but incredibly tactless (well, she is French), friend announced in French to La JF, not to get too excited about our impending trip to Kangaroo Island because it was boring and the food was rubbish, Himself just about exploded. La JF was witness to himself telling our friend to stick it where the sun don't shine and storming out. I'm not sure she really understood what it was all about but it had to be a bit uncomfortable for her.
Well, from there it went from bad to worse.

She spent a huge amount of time in her room. She didn't even attempt to speak to us in English. She wouldn't get up in the morning. She cut classes. She looked bored at everything we suggested. Poor old BA and I were stressed to the max. We were desperately trying to figure out where we were going wrong and coming up with ideas to try and engage her, to no avail."I don't think she thinks I'm cool enough," my beloved BA bemoaned.
"Sweetheart, we are what we are and we have no reason to be ashamed of that," was all I could offer as comfort. Pretty cold comfort for a 15 year old.
From what we could ascertain, La Jeune Fille had five main interests: surfing, sharks, boys, shopping and parties. Unfortunately, in southern Australia in the winter you only surf if you are really keen.; seeing a shark is usually a bad thing; the BA goes to an all girls school and, at 15, parties are something you have on your birthday!! I don't think we were what she had in mind when she embarked upon her visit..

Towards the middle of the second week, she emerged from her sulk long enough to type a request to attend two parties into the google translator. It was the first time I had seen her looking animated in days but as I made inquiries it became evident that the parties coincided with the weekend we had booked to go to Kangaroo Island. :-( Her face fell like a ton of lead. Quelle dilemma!!!!! I was really looking forward to our trip to the island and the last thing I wanted to take with us was a sulky teenager who wanted to be somewhere else!!!!

I will spare you the agonising and arguing that ensued. Himself figured that was the death knell on an already fated trip and wanted to call the whole thing off; but eventually I convinced him to try and delay our departure until the Saturday morning so she could go to the Friday party. Fortunately our friends on the island were kind enough to reschedule us. Then there was the problem of the BA. She had been invited to the party too, in a 'token' way which left her feeling very uncomfortable. She didn't know any of the other people going and didn't really want to attend. Thankfully, one of our fave bands, British India, was playing at The Gov on the same night so I organised to drop La JF at the party, take the BA and her friend to the gig and pick up La JF on the way home.

The following morning, whilst all these compromises and alternate arrangements were still being confirmed, La JF woke up with severe period pain. She moaned and groaned and sniffled all the way into school and I glanced sideways at the BA, rolled my eyes and mouthed 'Her misery is complete'. I escorted her to the Nurse's Station and interpreted for her as they applied heat bags and then left her curled up under 2 quilts listening to her ipod.

That night when I picked her up, she was the most cheerful and communicative she had ever been. She asked lots of questions about the BA and her social life and I used my high school French to explain that the BA did not go to clubs or have parties with her friends as she was only 15 and still a bit young. As we were chatting a huge lightbulb exploded over my head. I think our JF had been pre-menstrual! Imagine having PMT in a strange country with a strange family and very poor grasp of the language! Explained a lot.

When Friday came and we were set to drop her off at 'the party', she had a little panic attack and wanted to come with us to the gig!!! She didn't want to go inside until her (better English speaking) friend arrived and we ended up coaxing her out of the car and introducing her to the charming and caring mother of the house so we could get to the gig on time! Funny!

La Jeune Fille, in a rare smiling moment, briefly stops looking at her own facebook page long enough to look at....the BA's facebook page.

Speaking of the gig, here's a few shots.

This is not La Jeune Fille. And this is not British India.

Still, it's a better photo than the ones I DID get of British India ....


Aaaaaaanyway, things were still a bit marginal when we embarked on our trip to Kangaroo Island the following morning. We had to prise her out of bed and, despite the morning being so beautiful you could have framed it, she slept the whole way in the car and most of the way on the ferry.

And if you want to know how it went down on the island...stop by tomorrow! :-D


headbang8 said...

Love is the answer. To everything.

Jill/Twipply Skwood said...

Aww...so a tough start. The email/internet/facebook thing must make an exchange student experience very different than what it used to be. You could almost just be going about your business on the computer only in a different location and ignoring strangers instead of at home ignoring your own family. She's cute at any rate! Looking forward to the next update!

natalie said...

I was extremely prepared for a very mature looking teenager. She looks just as young as the BA! Clubs? Parties? Boys? (0kay, okay...I get the boys thing) REALLY...do parents let their children do these things so young? I'm sad this experience wasn't all that it could have been. The BA is so sweet and kind...she could have been such a great hostess to an international student. :(

Laine Moore said...

I kind of expected this kind of mentality from a young frog, don't you guys watch French films?!

this is the last one I saw in cinema:

(The French Kissers)


(I suppose I shouldn't judge their culture on movies though, I dislike when people do the same with American college movies, etc.) but generalizations are so fun :)

Arizaphale said...

HB: not sure where you're going with that but...we did our best :-)

Jill: You have hit the nail on the head. I think there is some conflict at home because her mum was so charming in her emails and whenever La JF spoke to her on the phone they seemed to argue.....

Nat: Apparently, according to one of the supervising teachers, they run very well organised 'blue light(police supervised)discos' regularly in the Agen region. All the kids go to them...but they don't open until 10pm!!!!!!!!!! I have a whole other post on this >:-(

Arizaphale said...

Laine: Hmmm. I'm intrigued. It IS meant to be a comedy though, right?

Laine Moore said...

yep it is a comedy, but I think the awkwardness of the whole time is very real. It's from a boy's perspective though, and.... I think they are a bit more pervy haha.

Oscar Zed said...

I can't believe that you just published info about a teenager's menarche in a foreign country.

I was going to ask you to bring me back a couple of packs of sheep cheese, but... Ewww

Arizaphale said...

OZ: look up menarche. I never published any such thing. I am referring to her entry into the world of 'dating' bucko! Sheesh I knew my metaphor was thin but I guess it missed you completely :-D

Maggie said...

What a tough thing to do -- for both of you! I can't imagine having a stranger living in my house for several weeks...especially a teenager, because it doesn't get any stranger than that!