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Reliving my exchange year

Being with my sister's host family brings back a lot of memories from my own exchange year in Panama thirteen years ago. For instance, we haven't really done much for the last three days. A short walk to town, laundry, wrapping some presents. Earlier today I was really restless but I know we leave tomorrow. The parents, on the other hand, work so hard. They are both doctors working hard all week, and then on the weekend they work in the house, do laundry, take care of relatives, shop, cook... They are one of the few families here I know of who doesn't have someone cook for them even though they could probably afford it. Instead mom cooks fantastic meals from scratch every day, personally selecting the vegetables from the market. When we went to buy meat for alambre (beef cut in thin slices and cooked with peppers and onions) yesterday, the butcher yelled to his colleage: good meat for la doctora!

The house itself is a beautiful old style Mexican house, it sits right up on the sidewalk but then opens up to an interior oasis of beautiful flowers and trees, tall ceilings and cool tile floors. It really is chilly at night so easy to sleep well under the covers. I am happy that they have hot water for showers! They have two beautiful golden retrievers that love to be played with.

When you are a high school exchange student, you get a lot of training on cultural differences and all that, and you also get told about a million times not to judge, just to adapt, to be happy and nice, and to accept other habits. I notice that when I stay with other families, especially if I don't know them well, I automatically get into this mode: I am so afraid to offend, and so eager to please, that I almost get stressed. I keep asking if I can help out, even though I am pretty sure they don't expect a lot of help from a house guest who is only here for a short time.

I sure hope we all get along as we embark on our eight day road trip... We leave tomorrow at 2am to avoid Mexico City traffic, and I think we will drive for about ten hours. I am a little nervous as I suck at car trips!

Happy Holidays to all of you!

Comments (4)

It sounds like a very interesting vacation. I felt the same way when I lived with this wonderful woman in Siena for 3 weeks. She was so nice. Even though I was paying for room and board, I always tried to help and wanted to always make sure I was not a problem.

Good luck during the road trip. I also suck at car trips. Ten hours is a long time.

Happy holidays to you too. Can't wait to hear more about your trip.


Wow, those parents have a lot more energy than I do! Love the tidbit about the butcher. Have a blast on your road trip!! (2am, though...ugh!)


It's interesting, I feel the same way about exchanges, even as an adult! And, as Susan says, even when I'm paying as part of an immersion class, I worry constantly about not being a burden or saying or doing the wrong thing in someone else's home!

Mexico City's traffic is so horrendous, I can understand getting an early start. But 2 a.m. must have been painful!

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