Friday, July 20, 2007

International Ep4: Exit Asuka, Enter Ping

Quick note- Lifehack revision's at 45%-ish. Things go slow with the baby, but the world can be patient for Caitlin's sake.

Anyway, Asuka's stay had a few weeks left when the school board rang us up about a new student.

"From China, you say? She's going to be here the day before Asuka goes home to Germany, you say? How do Chinese girls feel about having the sofa for one night?"

Blissfully ignorant, I went to Rei to tell her the news. "Hey, we're going to get a new student when Asuka goes!"

"You say only short time with another student...!
"Well, it's been OK with Asuka, you two get along fine.."
"But you say..."
"Well, the school board has asked us to, and now it would be rude to say no. Besides, she's Asian too, you'll have a little bit more in common...!"

Rei's eyes became huge, and I understood anime in a whole new way. "What? No asian student! Anyone but asian!" Nerf? I didn't want to put my foot in my mouth here, so correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Rei's own Japan part of Asia?

Well, as further research on the topic taught me, it is, and it isn't. Japan has become very westernized, especially compared to China. This seems to give Japan kind of a 'black sheep' status in certain situations. It's also floating off to the side like that, oh, and there's all that WW2 stuff.... yeah well... yeah...

But we suspect none of that was foremost in Rei's mind. An Asian student would travel in social circles much closer to her own in school, and this could lead to the leaking of sensitive information on Rei's ongoing hunt- to which we had very little idea about at the time.

Later, Rei shows up in the doorway of my office again, looking forlorn as she can. "You lie me."
"You say only 3 months. You lie me."
"Well, at the time, I thought it WAS going to e only 3 months."
"It better just you, me, michelle."

Oh man. I had heard tales of the powers of the Japanese teenage girl, and it was in the crosshairs of the 'poor little me' mode. She was good at it, no doubt. A big part of me just wanted to make everything OK for her, but my hands were tied at this point. She stood around looking sad for a bit, and I tossed the occasional comment trying to be supportive, and encourage a more openminded outlook. What do I get?

"Maybe I need live other house." Oh good lord Rei, aren't there any nearby cliffs you could threaten to throw yourself off of? Isn't that the traditional climax to this sort of act?

"Well, I'll talk to the school board about it." I did. But I just commented that Rei wasn't taking the idea very well. It wasn't the first time I felt the need to report Rei's displeasure about having another student around to the school board; I thought it was best to keep them abreast of that kind of thing, and they might have advice. They told me I was doing well, and that she was lucky to have a host parent that was this concerned with her happiness. So, we'd muddle through.

The day came when Ping arrived. Due to scheduling, my wife could only take her halfway from the airport to home, my dad and I picked her up from there. "Hi Ping!" (another codename, by the way) She fell asleep in the car on the way. It seemed this power to sleep anywhere was not unique to Japan.. but we could also pull the 'teenager' card.

We're quick to point to cultural differences. but it's often just teenager-ism, or "rich girl" ism. Almost all the the students that come here from abroad are rather well off. More on that in the next post.

That evening, me, Asuka, Rei, and Ping lingered in the hallway, lite only from the lights coming from the surrounding rooms. Polite chatter all around. Rei was mostly quiet. I think she was a bit relieved that Ping's english was a little worse than her own. Asuka had hints at emotional moments- tomorrow was the big day she'd go home.

My wife and I wanted to take Asuka to the airport ourselves, but because of the large group of Germans headed out, they insisted we just take them to the school board office. From there, they'd all bus to the airport. That morning was emotionally charged. By the time we got to the school board, with those buses staring at us, Asuka was crying, and so was Michelle if I recall correctly.

There was some waiting to be done, and some random socializing happened with other students. Asuka and my wife's crying got steadily heavier, and I joined in a little.

Asuka's friend was pretty sad too... "I fell bad because my host family didn't stay. They just dropped me off and left." This was baffling to me. Asuka had become family despite the shortness of her stay. How can you not treat these brave young students with every hospitality you can? They're far from home, and a lot of them can barely communicate when they get here. (Germans can, but that's beside the point. Every German student I've met are worried we won't be able to understand them.. well, they worry about that until they hear one of the Asian students talking english...)

Mercifully, the time to load the buses up came. Sobbing, hugs, blah blah blah. Michelle and I went back to the car and waited there until the buses left. Our first time sending a student back home.

Next post: I dunno, should I do "Ping VS Canada" or something about the baby for a change?

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