Thursday, September 27, 2012 Exchange students give home and host countries a broader view of the world September 27, 2012 8:47 am Related Media: Glen Montessori School pupils gain gym, library, cafeteria and more By Karen Kane / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Few things may be as consummately American as apple pie, but Andressa Costa of Brazil doesn't want any. She had a slice after arriving in the U.S. a few weeks ago, and the 16-year-old is not interested in another. But peanut butter? Well, that's another story. Unheard of in Brazil, the creamy spread -- especially slathered on warm toast -- has become a morning ritual. Sampling American food has been one of the many pleasures Andressa has had as a high school foreign exchange student who will spend this school year in the Mt. Lebanon home of Larry and Lynn Lebowitz. She is among an estimated several dozen youthful ambassadors to the Pittsburgh region, here for varying amounts of time through several youth cultural exchange programs that operate in the area. While the particulars of the programs vary, their goals are the same: to give the world's leaders of tomorrow a chance to get to know another culture today, in the hope of promoting international understanding and peace. "There's a great cultural understanding that happens within youth exchange. The way you change the future is you influence the youth," said Robin Zoufalik of Peters, chairman of the Rotary International District 7300 Rotary Youth Exchange Program, which covers Allegheny, Beaver and a portion of Westmoreland counties. Eight teens have been welcomed to the district this year through Rotary's nonprofit exchange program, which has been in operation for more than 75 years. "You have a better chance of achieving peace in the world when you encourage people to know and understand other cultures and languages," he said. Interviews with a handful of our region's newest visitors reflect an array of reactions to the experiences, sights, sounds and tastes of Pittsburgh. While one teen from France disdains American school lunches, a girl from South Korea loves our "junky food." While the American school day is longer for Andressa from Brazil, it's substantially shorter for Tiffany from Taiwan. One commonality, though, is each student's interest in mastering the English language. Andressa said she craved the adventure of being an exchange student, as well as the promise of becoming fluent in English. The idea of being an exchange student was sparked by her family's experience of hosting three students in Brazil. "I already had three exchange students in my house. They arrived in Brazil and were saying nothing in Portuguese and when they leave, they are fluent in talking. I want that! I want to be a part of another family and learn about them and their culture and have perfect English when I leave," she said. Mastery of English is one of the main attractions for students coming to the U.S., said Larry Franklin of Greenville, longtime youth exchange chairman for Rotary District 7280, which covers Butler County and areas north of there. "On the foreign end, the idea of having on your resume that you spent a year in the United States and when they see that English language competency, it's a big deal." Jieun Lee, 15, who arrived in January from South Korea and is enrolled as a sophomore in the Moon Area School District this year, said she is determined to master English. She and Yu-cia Lee, 15, of Taiwan, a freshman at Moon Area who goes by the name Tiffany, are staying with Lucy and George Miller in Moon. "Everybody wants to learn English, and I ... can learn English here best. It's important in the world," said Jieun, who will leave the United States to return home in December. The sentiment was echoed by Tiffany: "I want to learn English because English is more important in the world." The promise of being bilingual also was a main attraction for Laure Nicoud, 16, of France, who is spending this year in the 11th grade at North Hills High School, living in the home of Beth Mulzaney and Chris Ramsey. "I want to be bilingual for my future. It's very important to speak English. In Europe, we think English is the first international language. I started learning when I was 10 years old, but I will learn best here," she said. Niklas Juergens, 15, of Germany, put it this way: "Improvement of my English will be a better chance to get a good job." He is staying this year in North Huntingdon and attending Norwin High School. Andressa Costa, Brazil Andressa Costa has found good and bad with the American high school practice of switching classes. The good: "It keeps you awake that you have to walk from classroom to classroom." The bad: It's harder to make friends than in the Brazilian schools, where students stay in one classroom all day with the same set of peers. In fact, since arriving in the United States on Aug. 16, she said she has met numerous people but has found herself depending on her host sister, Alyssa Lebowitz, 16, to make friends. Alyssa has taken the responsibility seriously. "I want to make sure she feels good about things here. I love having her here, but it's tough, too, because I feel a lot of responsibility." Alyssa and her 12-year-old brother, Ben, said the benefits of having Andressa in their lives outweigh any challenges. "I'm interested in different cultures, so it's a good opportunity to really get to know how it's different in Brazil," Alyssa said. For Ben, a seventh-grader, Andressa is a willing cohort with video games -- something neither Alyssa nor older sister Amy, who is away at college, would do. As expected, the biggest difficulty is language. Although Andressa is competent in English, she is not fluent. As Ben put it, "Sometimes it's hard for her to understand and you have to explain ... you have to go back to easy vocabulary." One of Andressa's joys has been the food she has eaten here -- especially peanut butter. "I love it" she said. "I'm going to take some to Brazil." She said she also enjoys "all the American junky food. ... If they let me eat all day, I probably will," she said, adding that one of her favorites is chocolate chip cookies. She said her mother and grandmother didn't want her to embark on the yearlong exchange but relented when Andressa kept pushing for the experience. Lynn Lebowitz said she and her husband, Larry, a school board member in Mt. Lebanon, said that being a host family "was not even on our radar" until Alyssa's volleyball manager sent an email looking for hosts. Andressa had indicated in her student profile she wanted to play volleyball, so her application had crossed the manager's desk. "We had the extra bedroom with our daughter being away at college. The next thing we knew, we were signing papers," Mrs. Lebowitz said. She said incorporating a "new member of the family" has been both "enlightening and exhausting. ... There is a whole other layer of work in our family life, but the rewards of getting to know another beautiful soul -- and that's really what she is -- has been such a gift." Jieun Lee, South Korea Yu-cia Lee, Taiwan For Lucy Miller, adding two more people to the family was no big deal. She and her husband, George, have six children and served as a host family last year for a girl from Brazil. Jieun Lee came in January and will leave in December; Yu-cia Lee, who likes to be called Tiffany, arrived in August and will stay until June. "The best part of it is getting to know the different cultures. The hardest part is feeling like you have to entertain -- but you get past that!" Mrs. Miller said with a laugh. Jieun said the biggest surprise she has encountered at Moon Area High School is the kindness of the teachers. "The teacher is very nice. In Korea, we have many rules. There aren't as many here. There's more freedom,'' she said. One example is the freedom to pick her school clothes. At home, students wear uniforms. Also, she said, the classroom in South Korea is a more competitive environment, with fellow students not as friendly. American schools have far shorter days than schools in South Korea, where she leaves her home at 6 a.m. and doesn't return until 9 p.m. -- and she also attends school on Saturday. She loves American food, especially Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. "I have gained weight. In Korea, we ate rice every day. Here, I eat many kinds of spaghetti, pasta, potato, cereal. In Korea, they think milk is for baby. But here, I drink chocolate milk and sweet tea and they are my favorite things. And Pop Tarts! Everything is bad, but I like your junky food," she said, estimating that she has gained 20 pounds. For Tiffany, the easy relationship she has with the teachers at Moon Area has been the biggest change from school at home. "I like [the teachers] because they're very kind," she said. Classroom learning is challenging because of the language barrier, but she is undaunted. "I will learn,'' she said. She selected Tiffany as her American name because it is the name she was given in her English class at home and it is easier for locals to pronounce than her given name --which is pronounced OO-CHOW. Niklas Juergens, Germany Niklas Juergens, 15, was amazed by the choices he had in planning his schedule at Norwin High School, where he is a tenth-grader. In Germany, students are placed into one of three educational tracks following elementary school, based on academic ability. At Norwin, he had choices. Among the classes on his schedule are robotics, food, trigonometry, English, biology, history and physical education. "It's really good here and the teachers are not so strict," he said. Niklas is the seventh exchange student that Tracie Allen and her husband, Keith, have hosted -- but their first since moving to North Huntingdon a year ago. "When I was in high school [in Great Falls, Mont.], we had a lot of exchange students," Ms. Allen said. "I was always interested in learning about their cultures. We thought it would be good to give our son the opportunity. He's an only child so this gives him somebody to interact with other than Mom and Dad," she said of their 8-year-old son, Alexander. Niklas said he finds Walmart amazing. "In Germany, you have a food store for food and a store for cosmetics. At Walmart, you can get everything." He said he finds people to be especially friendly. "Everybody talks to you. They wouldn't come to you in Germany. If you come to them in Germany, they will talk to you. But you should be the one who interacts or starts the conversation." He's excited to be on the Norwin swim team and to improve his English. "I think it's better than what I expected," he said of the United States. Laure Nicoud, France Hailing from a small town in France near the border with Switzerland, 16-year-old Laure met an exchange student last year who piqued her interest about living abroad. "My mother was very happy and very interested because she thinks that it's a very good experience for all your life," Laure said. Having visited New York and Los Angeles as a tourist, she had some familiarity with America before arriving in July at the home of Beth Mulzaney and Chris Ramsey in Ross. Still, there were surprises, especially when she began the year as a junior at North Hills High School. "School is amazing ... it's very different from the French. It's better here. ... We don't choose our classes, we have a schedule. Here, it's amazing to do photography, world food -- these fun classes. It doesn't exist in France. I also get French, American literature, American government, personal fitness, chemistry, trigonometry." She said she is awed at the level of extracurricular activities, noting that, in France, the school system doesn't have sports teams or clubs. She has chosen to join the tennis team at North Hills. She also noted that the technology is more advanced in the U.S. and the school buildings are newer. If she has one criticism, it's the food. "I pack my lunch here because the food is disgusting at school. Hamburger and pizza? ... I like the food in my family here, but not at school. At home in France ... everybody eats at school. You can have pasta with chicken and vegetables and you have salad and you have cheese if you want and dessert. It's a very complete lunch and it's healthier and tastier," she said. Still there is one American food she loves and cannot get in France -- corn. Ms. Mulzaney said her family's curiosity about the world was at the foundation of their decision to take in an exchange student for the first time. She and her husband have a 16-year-old daughter, Jamie Ramsey. As a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Ms. Mulzaney encounters many students from other countries and she had observed the added dimension they bring to the classroom. Jamie said she had been a bit nervous before Laure arrived. "It's a big change and it's a whole year. But it's gone really well," she said. Friends at school are very interested in her new "sister," and she enjoys the daily exchange of information at the dinner table. Karen Kane: or 724-772-9180 . First Published September 27, 2012 12:00 am Read more:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Random many This is my daughter Alyssa with our French daughter Lalie and her family. They were able to host a couple walking the Tour De France by foot in a little over a year. What a great experience! Alyssa is in France with them for the summer and we greatly appreciate the invitation. It has been one of the best experiences of her life.
Victor from Nigeria and his new family. Victor is on a full government grant and had to beat out thousands of applicants in his area in order to get here. He's a kind and smiling kid with a huge culture shock. I'm so proud of him for working hard to learn all of the differences in America and so glad for his host family for helping him with all the little things.
Cute Vanessa from Germany and her host sisters. They took her out for "froyo" for the first time. Frozen yogurt is a huge thing in Utah.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The official first student of the 2012-2013 year!

Congratulations to Vanessa and the McNeely's! This is my first student for the school year. :) YAY!

Germany's America party!

I had to post this cute gal's going away to America party. :) Is that ranch dressing I spot? Truly American food. :) They also had Hamburgers which struck me as very funny considering HAMBURG is in Germany but we claim them as our own. haha. Looking forward to her coming to the U.S.A.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Living with a host family

I just have to share, I was watching this today and my little Ana, age 4, came in because she heard the Spanish accent. She said, that sounds like Javi! He's from Spain! Now that was fun. My 4 year old can identify a Spanish accent.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Javi's photography blog Javi returned home to Spain and was able to finally pick up the camera he won. He's started a blog with his photos.

Monday, July 2, 2012

See was a pioneer!

I'm so proud of my girls. They returned from a pioneer trek and I feel honored that See would participate in this as well. This was a 3 day commemoration honoring those who walked more than 2000 miles while being persecuted for their religion and their only belongings fit into a handcart which they pulled themselves. Here is a little bit about the story of the pioneers who first came to Utah. The girls were able to experience a small part of what it was like to pull the handcarts, sleep in tents and eat pioneer food although they only walked a few miles each day, had nice safe tents and had much more food than the pioneers were able to eat. It was still hard work for the modern day reenactment and it will be something they remember forever.

Best Teryaki Korean Food

We had a fun day and ate at Best Teryaki for Korean food. Thumbs up from us all.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 Cool! Sa from Thailand made the front cover! Check out the article inside too.

Thursday, April 26, 2012 Host families learn about themselves through foreign exchange Written by nicolehennessy on April 24, 2012 — Leave a Comment By Nicole Hennessy Westshore A bouquet of fresh red roses sits on the coffee table; however, it’s the scent of another, unidentified, flower that hangs heavily throughout the house. James and Natalie Leek, sitting together on the couch, say they never had children – so the prospect of hosting a foreign exchange student became more and more exciting, until they decided they definitely would. The Leeks made arrangements through the CIEE, meeting with local coordinator John Church, to determine who would be best-suited to stay with them in their North Olmsted home. In August, Lea Herberg, a 15-year-old German girl, will arrive. She will spend five months absorbing a culture foreign to her, despite the stereotypes all countries acquire. “We have such a big house and extra space, why not just do this?” James figured. Because the couple never had children, they hadn’t had much to do with North Olmsted High School, within walking distance from their house. Now Herberg is enrolled, and whatever interests she cultivates, such as sports or theater, will give all of them a better understanding of a local school system, which, having grown up in India, Natalie never had the chance to see firsthand. “You hear the football games going on,” James says, inching toward wanting to go. “You’re hearing the loudspeakers, and you’re seeing the lights … You see the school buses go by, and there comes the band …” Natalie interrupts, laughing. She knows he wants to go to those football games. “It’s also nice to see, well, how are the schools going?” James continues. “Because you can hear the school board and what happens in the community, but if you actually have a student going there, then you can learn more. Are they doing a good job? Or, are there things we could do as a community to try to improve our schools?” Church says host families offer the student the opportunity to discover America through their eyes. And, in the process of doing so, these families actually learn about themselves and where they come from. While the Leeks worry about Herberg acclimating, they see North Olmsted as a welcoming community. Still, there are cultural differences, and kids will be kids, as some people say. In addition to Natalie’s Indian background, James was raised by Dutch immigrants, which he later illustrates, jokingly referencing an edition of “Dutch for Idiots.” “But most of my growing up was kind of isolated in the Ohio area,” James says. “So, that’s my world.” When he saw India for the first time, he learned even more about people and culture than he had growing up. He is excited to share that experience with Herberg, who will have the opportunity to have her own adventure. “Equate it to a coin,” he supposes. “We see the heads coin in this country, but if you turn the coin over, it’s tails. You just see a different perspective.” When studying business at Case Western Reserve University, Natalie says, she was taken in by a family. “Even though I was much older, it was still very important in forming my own character and giving me the confidence to integrate into the community, to be successful at what I was doing,” she says, citing this as an incentive for her being a host parent. Still, they both laugh at the bottom line. “We’re welcoming a teenager into our home!” Natalie laughs again. “Both of us have been teenagers, and I was a feisty one.” Carol McDiarmid, who, through CIEE, hosted a German girl in her family’s Westlake home, says it was a great experience, but she’s not sure she’d take on the responsibility again. That’s not to say it was too burdensome; rather, it was the opposite. “She was a delightful girl; she acclimated very nicely with our family and with the school,” McDiarmid said, worrying she would not get such a great student twice in a row. With a daughter who’s a freshmen and a son who’s in sixth grade, she added, “they were very sad when she left.” Still, the family keeps in touch with their host student, Corina Corsten. And with all the technology available, the distance between them doesn’t seem nearly as great. Like the Leeks, who look forward to learning more about their local school system, McDiarmid said Corsten was very interested in American politics, specifically the events centered on the presidential primaries. “So we found ourselves discussing our political process in much greater detail than we probably would normally,” McDiarmid remembered. “It was also interesting to hear a young German person’s perspective of Nazi Germany, and how it’s still so much spoken about.” She doesn’t want to call it guilt, but she got the impression that there are still wounds healing, culturally, and there’s a sensitivity associated with it. For the most part, CIEE students are responsible for their personal expenses, so McDiarmid said taking on this responsibility affected her and her husband Brian’s budget to a very minimal extent, aside from the trips they chose to go on as a family to places like Cedar Point and New York City. Providing an extra meal every day, McDiarmid said, “is well worth the experience.” James Leek has noticed lately there’s a German cultural center in Olmsed Falls, and both he and Natalie see the benefit of encouraging Herberg to become involved with the community there. In addition, Case Western has a program with which the Leeks are involved in which they have a Chinese girl assigned to them. Her first time in the country, she’s come to the Leeks home a few times. Their role is to make sure she is OK and to help her through any struggles she might be having. So, learning about Chinese culture will also be possible for Herberg. Soft instrumental music playing in the background, James and Natalie look forward to August, excited about the effect this will have on their and Herberg’s lives. “Having been a student that lived in someone’s home, I feel that you’re providing something so precious and important,” Natalie says of being a host family, James nodding along in agreement. “We’ll serve as ambassadors for this country.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cool school of the week!

Cool! Some of our students were on TV for the "cool school of the week", Layton Christian Academy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The World in Disneyland!

We just got back from spring break in Nevada, Arizona and California. What an adventure! Here are some of my favorite pictures.
Ana fell in love with Javi on this trip but she couldn't say Javi so she told him, "I'll call you Bobby!"
Kenny wore his legs out so Andrew is carrying him to the car.
Javi and Rachel hamming it up on Splash Mountain, Pond and Fah are ducking behind them.
See with her Korean decorated Easter Egg. We had a hunt in Nevada.
A tickle war on Pond!
California adventures!
Hunting for fossils in Arizona. Javi was impressed by the real cactus.
The REAL Pacific Ocean
Our old state capitol, Filmore Utah!
Cove Fort in Utah

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pi Day!

We celebrated Pi day (as in 3.14 pi, not pie) with fresh homemade pumpkin pie and ice cream for desert. I love it when we have pie with our students because it's such a cliche American thing. I think we under appreciated pie before this.

Friday, March 9, 2012

someone new, someone borrowed, someone blue?

Last night I was thinking about all of my host families, our current Korean daughter, our French and Spanish daughters, our kids with Aspergers, all of the challenges that come with hosting and supervising and truth be told, I was becoming a little bit overwhelmed.

Then it hit me.

How does one "learn" to live successfully with a roommate? To be an adult at work with others? To be married? To be a problem solver outside of one's family?

I was thinking back on my younger days there was family which had one big family dynamic for 18 years, everyone knew how the family worked and then BAM...there were college roommates...a completely different scenario. My roommates spoke a different family language than I did, one was disgustingly messy, one was OCD neat freak, the messy one loved to cook dinner every night and the OCD one loved to complain about the mess. I don't know where I fit in cause I'm just me. None of us knew how to manage money or pay bills, how to divide the food costs of what we ate together, or anything remotely business like. You did NOT speak to one during one week out of the month or you'd get your head bitten off by a raging lunatic. When one had her boyfriend over very late every night and it really bothered me I just sat in my bed reading while they sat in theirs. I didn't say anything because I had no idea how to handle it. I didn't want to be rude to someone not in my family. Now if that had happened in my family I would have run over and sat on them all and started bouncing and telling embarrassing little kid stories, then run up to tell on them, "DAD, Adam has a GIRL here!" I didn't have an in between, didn't know how to interact family style with someone that wasn't raised with me, with the same family cultures and customs, with the same ideals.

I mentally froze. I don't want to try to communicate. It's not worth it. This person is not my family. I don't want to be rude. You have to be polite and not say anything. That's it, communication over.

This is where I am starting to see something that I have never thought of before. The good times with our students are amazing and the challenging parts, well, they are challenging. But now I understand that they are there for a reason. My kids are learning how to communicate with someone who was not raised as a family member but is trying to become one, they have different cultures, ideals, and methods of communication. What I would view as "proper" respect is different in each country and in each family. One student retreats to their room when finding they've done something wrong, one rushes to fix things and try to make it right, one gets frustrated and says so right then and there.

Learning to communicate and problem solve with different new family members is giving my kids a gift that doesn't generally come until college or marriage.

If I could describe the look of shock and horror the first time our new "big" sister told her "little" sister in typical foreign blunt style that she needed to hurry because she was always, I'll remember that look forever. Anger, sadness, embarrassment, frustration and then looking to me for help. I stayed silent and let little sister think about it for a while, little sister got over it and started to be a little faster. Life lesson learned. Thanks big sister.

The time one got into the shower and the other got up late? Well, we won't go into that but there were communication lessons learned.

An exchange student is meant to be a real part of the family, they do what the family does and they assimilate into the families habits and customs but they also bring their own habits and customs and ways of dealing with problems to the mix. They have to learn how to show respect in our family and we have to learn how to show them respect and show them that we're understanding what they're saying...even when we don't really understand. An exchange student isn't always happy and a host family isn't always happy, most certainly neither are always perfect.

Hosting=many awkward pauses as we learn to live with a new family member and they learn to live with us, as we think of how to best communicate with the "new sister".

I am so happy that we have taken this challenge and our family has had the blessings of learning to work with three individually unique new family members and big sisters. I hope that these lessons will follow my kids and my new kids through college, work and marriage and anywhere they have to learn to communicate with someone who thinks differently than they do.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

It's time to approve families for the 2012-2013 students!

I'm looking through applications and approving host families for the 2012-2013 school year.

If you would like to volunteer your home and family to host an exchange student now is the time to start. We need hosts as 6 week welcome families and also hosts for the school year. It's an amazing experience for people of any age or family style. Yes, you do get to choose the student who fits your family the best. We have a full profile of each student and you may see them after you are approved to host. It is one of the most fulfilling volunteer experiences you will ever have. Bring the world to your home and gain a new family member from across the world.

Hosts provide meals, a bedroom that may be shared with a sibling close in age and loving guidance. Students will have their own spending money for personal needs, admissions for outings, etc. They also have good insurance in the USA. They live as part of your family and will do the same things that you do.

You can start by calling, emailing or filling out an application here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

mmmm, American cheese in a can

Although I hadn't had cheese in a can for many years we had to buy some for this trip because I had just read through an application from a German boy who said he had many questions for his host family including, why do Americans eat cheese from a can? Ha ha ha ha ha! I figured if we had that reputation we had to either show her why we ate it or disprove the theory. See loved it. I'm looking forward to taking the other students on a Disneyland trip where we can all eat cheese in a can.

See had her first "Idaho potato" at the Ballroom nationals.

Fiddler on the Roof

See got to meet "The Fiddler". We were so excited to see The Fiddler on the Roof at Ogden High School and it starred our very own Jeremiah Robinson. It was an amazing play and absolutely enjoyed it. I have to say that it was one of the best high school plays I have seen and the newly remodeled theater was absolute luxury.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A trip to Idaho for ballroom competitions

OK, this isn't really an exchange student activity, in fact it's kind of just my turn to brag, but SeeHyun did come with us and it was in another state so I'm going to post it anyway. hahaha. Alyssa had Nationals in Idaho so we left the little kids home and had a fun vacation at my aunt's home. Alyssa did great in the competition, especially considering that it was her first time competing in individuals.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Antelope Island in The Great Salt Lake

Today we visited Antelope Island in The Great Salt Lake. Brrrr it was cold. We saw some bison, antelope and birds. Kenny braved the bison jerky but everyone else wanted chocolate. :) After the visitor's center we went to The Fielding Garr Ranch to see how the pioneers lived on Antelope Island.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

See's Hanbok

See brought a hanbok! When Alyssa was in Korea she wanted to buy one but had run out of money. It was such a surprise to see that she had brought one here. It was beautiful and these terrible pictures of mine don't do it justice.

Friday, January 27, 2012


See is making us Tteokbokki, yummy!
She doesn't really cook so we are all experimenting, then if she likes it she says "It's ok", if she doesn't like it she says, "I failed." :)
I say, we have chickens so nothing is a failure, it's just chicken food and we don't know what tastes right anyway so it's all yummy for us. LOL! Here is a little video explaining how it's usually made. We went to the Korean store and bought noodles and sauce and just had to add some veggies.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The world is defining itself

I want to thank all of the exchange students who have come into my life. When I was in elementary school I knew about Americans, Russians, Germans and Mexicans. When I was in high school my world view expanded to include Asians and Europeans. We thought Asia consisted of China and Japan and Europe was anyone fancy like the French and Italians. Germany was still Germany and was not included in Europe but people who spoke in a certain way must all be Germans of course. Germans also drank a lot of beer and played polkas on their tubas for fun as we learned at Octoberfest in Park City. Anyone who looked Hispanic was Mexican and they spoke Mexican, not Spanish even though we took Spanish class.
Fast forward twenty years and many experiences later. My world map now has countless countries. I understand that Spain, Mexico and Ecuador are all completely different cultures and each has their unique and wonderful traditions, foods and personalities. Their dialects of Spanish are completely different. Their political systems are completely different. Brazilians speak Portuguese, not Spanish. Europe now includes Spain and I understand that the Spanish from Spain are proud to be European. A Spanish tortilla is a thick potato and egg pizza type thing cooked in a skillet and has no refried beans near it while a Mexican tortilla is wheat or corn flour that is thin and griddled. Eating Mexican food is a completely new food experience to someone from Spain and eating dinner before 10 pm is just plain strange. Germany is also a part of Europe and has absolutely amazing and strong teens and real families who weren't just from two categories of nazis or nazi fighters, they were caring families trying to do what they believed was best for their children. The people of Germany are nothing like the movies I used to see. I see Germany's heart and it is good. Slovakia does not just consist of frozen Russians, in fact it is also European and proud to be so.
Did you know that Asia has more than two countries? Really! And they are all extremely different and have their own foods and traditions. I have learned that the people of Thailand are some of the most caring and friendly I have ever met. Their food, mmmmmmm yum! But, when I so proudly made "Asian" food from Thailand for my daughter from Korea she barely picked at it. She said, "this can't be Asian." After buying a Korean cookbook I started to see the vast differences between Thai and Korean cooking. No, all Asian food does not taste like Panda express. My Chinese student was so happy to find a "Mongolian" barbecue because it tasted like home but laughed at the food at Panda and said, "this is not Chinese food". I know now that Australia has a huge land mass, almost as big as America. I thought it was a little island like Hawaii. And, Australians are real people too, not just hunters who wrestle crocodiles!
Before we started this grand adventure my friend who had students in her home as a child told me that people are people no matter where you are. I get it! I really do! As the world separates into it's own countries and cultures it also comes together. As we understand the differences we can also understand better the similarities. We don't need to all be equal and all the same in every way. America is amazing for who we are but when we value people of other countries we will not want to change them into "one world". They already have their own country. Politics and religion aside, people are people, kids are kids and teens are teens. They all want to be loved for who they are. Aside from certain moral bases there are so many things in this world that are not right or wrong, just different. I used to think it was terrible if someone didn't wash their hair every day, then I was told otherwise by my Spanish daughter who said we would ruin our hair if we washed it so much. Her hair was always beautiful, never greasy and perfectly conditioned while she washed it once a week. Who was right? Nobody, it was just different. People all need a real experience to understand what the rest of the world is like. Otherwise, we all live in the TV with a little map and stories from other people to form our opinions of the world. Each exchange experience is different and it's not all good but it is all life changing. The world is defining itself. Once you experience a country from the eyes of an exchange student you can't ever look at it the same way. It will no longer be a tiny and insignificant spot on a map. It will no longer be a sentence in a history book. It will be real. For the good and the bad, it will be real.
My German student laughing at the "German chocolate cake" in America. Unfortunately, it's not German.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A mini?

See went to Iceburg with Alyssa and friends and was very surprised when she ordered a hamburger and a "mini" shake. Yes, welcome to America...where companies try to fatten you up any way they can.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I'm Human

This one made me cry and I had to share. Remember the important things in life.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wow, they look different!

I had a proud moment today. I took SeeHyun (we call her See) to the asian store today. Normally all the writing looks the same but today I was able to identify Korean, Chinese and Thai writing all by myself. YAY! That is a milestone for me. Of course we ended up with more candy than real food but that's ok. We went to the gym afterward to jog and swim. I got See a gym membership card so she can exercise with Alyssa and the family. :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

See Hyun's blog
See Hyun has started a little blog as a way to communicate to her friends and family here and in Korea. Here it is. :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

YAY! Welcoming See Hyun from Korea

We get a new daughter from South Korea. We are so excited! Ana of course has an insta-sister. She just loves our exchange sisters and wants to be with them every second of the day. See Hyun plays the piano beautifully and it has been amazing to hear my piano make those kind of sounds...the touch of the master's hand. We're excited to start choosing school classes. Alyssa wants to learn a bit of Korean but mostly she likes having a sister to hang with. :)

Andrew is excited for his new sister

Ana loves her presents from Korea

Yummy! Ana is eating nori (seaweed) with her new chopsticks and loving it.'s an insta-sister. :)