Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hosting an exchange student

Right now, we are 4 days into our 13-day hosting of an exchange student from Gifu Prefecture in Japan. It's been an amazing experience so far, one that's enormously rewarding for us (and I hope so much is also being fun for her!)

Since collecting her from the school on Sunday afternoon, we've done a few things. We've introduced her to the wonder that is roast lamb (she had never eaten lamb before and really wanted to try it); she has dressed up the girls in her yukata; and we've been shopping, which she thought was wonderful (many differences between shops here and shops in Japan!)

We've played card games and watched anime and walked the dog; we've made okonomiyaki together (our first time cooking it); and we've started to get better (both ways) at communicating, with the invaluable support of Google Translate. She goes to school every day with my elder two girls, on the bus, which is also an adventure!

This afternoon, we did the first of the special
activities we'd planned for her visit, and fulfilled a long-held ambition of mine and the girls, as we went to the Langham Hotel to take High Tea.

It was an utterly superb experience. I think it may be one of the most indulgent things I have ever done, actually.

Probably the only three memories that compare were when my friend Lucy took me to the Park Hyatt for fancy lunch, massage, and day spa as a pre-giving-birth treat when I was 36 weeks pregnant with my eldest (so, 14 years ago); our wedding night at the Ozone Hotel in Queenscliff in the huge luxurious bridal suite overlooking the ocean; and having lunch at the Plaza Hotel in New York (both of these were 20 years ago).

I can't speak highly enough of the Langham's service, food quality and attention to detail. The gluten-free high tea stand was every bit as luxurious as the "regular" ones, and for once, my 12 year old and I didn't feel second-best or a nuisance.

They even provided us with a waitress from Tokyo who was able to explain everything to our student fluently, which helped her feel relaxed and like she knew what was going on. We learned how to say "cheers" in Japanese and
clicked glasses in great satisfaction with the world overall. Afterwards, we went for a walk along Southbank up to the Arts Centre to see the spire lit up, which was also well-received.

This experience overall is proving so valuable, interesting and enriching for us. Seeing our home through the eyes of someone else is fascinating, and the challenges of communication are at the same time a great learning curve.

It has also started all kinds of ideas in my head about language and words and meaning and how much gets lost in translation and how much is retained - both heart and head stuff. I know there will be more than one poem germinated from these seeds.

We're trying to intersperse doing-things times with relaxing times so we don't exhaust her (or ourselves), so our next outing will be on Friday to my eldest's jujitsu class then out for dinner afterwards. The weekend holds Werribee Zoo and Mansion, ice skating at Docklands, and possibly city-based laneway wandering. It's so much fun to rediscover your own city through the eyes of someone new.

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