Host Family Life

In Growing Up, International Development, Niger, Peace Corps, Sustainable Development on April 19, 2010 at 9:46 pm

For the handful of my followers, you’ll know from my twitter feed that we’ve been hosting two Nigerien exchange students for the past 3 weeks.  As I write this, they’re among the millions of travelers stranded by the Iceland Volcano eruption.  They were supposed to leave yesterday, they spent all night Thursday and Friday preparing to go, their reactions to the news that they might be temporarily stranded here was mixed.  One was stoic, the other dramatic – kind of in line with how they’ve been the whole time.

Azalia and Nadia are their names.  They’re here through an NGO called Visions in Action (VIA), who are implementing a US Department of State program geared towards bringing African teenagers and some of their teachers to America, specifically Washington DC, for civic education and cross-cultural exchange.  This particular group consists of 15 students and 4 teachers from Niger and Chad.  Through a colleague, I got an email from VIA asking for host families.  Since my wife and I served in Peace Corps Niger, and since it was only for a few short weeks, we thought it was worth the imposition.  We could repay some of the kindness that was provided to us when we were Peace Corps trainees in Niger more than 10 years ago.

Overall, I would say the experience has gone very well.  We can speak a mixture of French, Hausa, and English with them, so there hasn’t ben much of a language barrier.  The real barrier is the age old teenage vs adult issues that would bedevil any relationship between 15 yr olds and their adult supervisors.

As a parent of very young children – my two daughters are 6 and 3 – I wasn’t prepared for the strange hours and moodiness.  Maybe I expected the girls to be more outgoing, curious, or appreciative.  I was honestly naive.  They’re 15 yr olds, they miss their families, and – as much as they’ve been good about trying it – they don’t like our food.

I’ll hopefully post some more missives and stories about them in the coming days, it appears that the transatlantic flight situation is touch and go.

Plus, as always, I find myself overwhelmed with the need to get everything out in my blog posts because I don’t blog enough. There’s an outlet for everything, right?


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