Well, I’ve written all the fun and games, and some of the not so much fun, that took up our 3 weeks welcoming Kristin. Today marks 4 weeks since she arrived and Monday marks one month since we brought her home. So what are some of the things we’ve learned about each other?
1. Iceland and Icelanders are used to dealing with natural disaster. Americans panic at the thought of a severe thunderstorm. Unfortunately, with the way the media blows the threat of impending storms way out of proportion, it causes natural families in Iceland to panic at the thought of their beloved daughter being swept out to sea on the waves of a vicious killer hurricane, after the entire Eastern seaboard is broken off in a killer earthquake. In contrast, a 12 hour loss of electricity doesn’t seem so bad. There are currently cluster earthquakes happening in Iceland centered around a major volcano. While it is worrying, Icelanders seem to be adopting a “wait and see” attitude.
2. Halloween is getting so crazy here in the US that Kristin is powerfully excited for October 31 to roll around. In Iceland it is customary that the children dress up, go to local shops and sing a song, for which they are given treats. By contrast, Kristin has been taking picture of Halloween miniature villages in craft stores, debated costume choices, pondered Halloween parties, seen candy displays in stores, and enjoyed looking at inflatables for the yard. She literally giggles every time we see something and last night confided, “I can’t wait for Halloween!” I hope she’s not disappointed that she’ll spend the day in school and trick or treating is no big deal. Fortunately, AFS is having a Halloween party if nothing else.
3. Christmas has come up already as a time that she feels she will be very depressed and homesick. She explained that in Iceland they have 13 Santa Clauses, and they get small presents every day for 13 days prior to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, they open their gifts and have a big dinner and get all dressed up. I explained our Christmas traditions, and was informed they are “stupid”. I chose not to be insulted by this, mainly because Kristin’s favorite word is “stupid” and she uses it to describe everything from the fact that there are no sidewalks in our neighborhood to the fact that the color of a building doesn’t suit her. I told her that provided she’s still with us, I would be happy to incorporate some of the things she is used to doing for the holidays into our celebration, but internally immediately panicked as this indicates a long-term view of this hosting experience with which I am not yet entirely comfortable! However, I do believe that since it is not only Kristin’s exchange, but ours as well, that if she’ll let us, we would incorporate some of her traditions into our celebrations as a fun and new way of doing things.
4. Teenagers share certain similarities the world over. Where Penny would spend an hour curling her hair, Kristin will spend an hour straightening hers. I am assured by friends with teen daughters here in the US that their girls behave similarly.
5. The weather we’ve had has been a challenge for Kristin. She said last night that was so excited to come to Virginia because she was sure it was going to be sunny and warm and she’d get an awesome tan. Unfortunately, it’s done a whole lot of raining since she arrived. She says everyone at school is so nice and brown, and she was very proud of the tan she did managed to get until she saw all of them. I pointed out they had an extra few months of sun and she was working inside all summer bagging fish. Her response? “Stupid fish”.
6. Kristin really is pretty obsessed with big houses and fast cars. I think she was under the impression that we all live like they do in Malibu or Beverly Hills, with flashy cars and fancy houses and tons of cash to throw around. Sadly for her, that is not the case. And of course, our house has been in a state of rebellion since she arrived. Still, when we were up in Vienna for the pool party, she saw all the big houses and stated, “I’d like to live here!” Whenever we’re out, she looks at all the cars she finds amazing when we pass and says, “Cool car!” Sadly for her, she’s stuck in middle-suburbia with a host mom who drives a station wagon.
7. Kristin didn’t know what Columbine was. We watched a fake documentary about 2 boys who plotted to blow up their school and kill a bunch of people, and at the end, the scene in which they carry it out was taken directly from the video of the Columbine library. She was shocked that something like that actually happened, and I showed her pictures of the real people involved and told her about the fact that Mike and I were on vacation when Columbine happened and 3 years later got married on the anniversary of it happening. I find it interesting that it never entered her consciousness, but I guess kids of a certain age and kids who aren’t American have no frame of reference….
I really have enjoyed the past 4 weeks very much. I feel far more mellow than when Penny was here, I suppose in part because I view this as a largely transitory experience, although I do have thoughts of it lasting all year from time to time. Kristin implied on Monday that she is afraid to move somewhere else where she doesn’t know the people due to the largely positive experience she’s had thus far, and I admit there was a little lump in my throat when we thought we’d found her a permanent family. We’ll see what happens!