(Part of a blogging series on orphan-hosting with Project 143)
THE LANGUAGE. Wanna know how to say to “I like hot dogs” in Latvian? I thought so. Like this: “Man patīk cīsiņš.” Thank you, Google translate. That was Sunday’s team-effort Latvian phrase when we got home from church and were making lunch. The other one we fiddled around with on our way out for ice cream afterwards (thank you Google translate app), was “Vai jūs vēlaties saldējumu?” for “Do you want ice cream?” And yes… we all most definitely did.
All this to say: as we get ready to host, we’re poking our way slowly forward with our Latvian language. So far the phrases for “Good morning,” “please” and “thank you” have made it into everyday lingo. Also we’re good with table, book, flower, and house – because those are the first words that the Memrise basic Latvian course teaches. I’m the one who does the language lessons most consistently among our household members because a) I love languages, and b) it seems like I’m the one who’ll gain the most from having some words at my disposal for interaction.
Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time with (by which I mean reading) Jennifer Fulwiler, atheist-turned-Catholic, who writes the popular blog Conversion Diary. Her new book, Something Other than God, came out last month and I haven’t been able to put it down. When I told a friend that we were hosting this summer, she said, “Didn’t Jen host an orphan a while back?” Had she? I didn’t know. But I poked around on her blog and found that yes, lo and behold, Jen and family did host a teenaged girl fro Columbia a few summers ago – from another hosting organization named Kidsave. Coming home from the airport after picking up Rita, Jen wrote this: ”We quickly found out that when they said in her bio that she speaks some English, by ‘some’ they meant ‘not a single word.‘ A Colombian social worker named Maria was with us as well, and she didn’t speak much English either.” Perfectly expressed, in Jen’s classic style.
(I looked up and read through all the posts that Jen wrote about hosting Rita, by the way, and they were helpful from every angle. It was one of the reasons I decided to blog our experience.)
We expect W.’s English to be extremely limited, and unlike Jen and Rita’s case with Spanish, there won’t be other native speakers around to help ease the challenge. So more Latvian for me will hopefully translate into a smoother experience for W. and for all of us. At least that’s the theory!
THE CHAPERONE. Similar to the accompanying social worker that Jen references… Project 143 does send adult chaperones to host families’ homes for a period of time during the 5-week stay, generally for around a week. So we will have the benefit of another Latvian-speaker in our home for a bit, one who will speak some English and help flesh out the experience – and presumably the communication issue – for all involved. We’re very much looking forward to it! (Putting up a chaperone for a stint is a P143 hosting requirement, incidentally; if for some reason you’re unable to host one, you’re required to make a $100 donation to assist with his/her housing and accommodations while in the US instead.)
PLANNING THE AIRPORT PICK-UP. In the same post Jen relays the car ride back from the airport in which words like “stressed,” “tense,” and “exhausted” all make appearances. Makes sense. Rita and the social worker had been flying all day, were in a different timezone, and in totally unfamiliar surroundings. Oh, and with total strangers. It’s gotta be a crazy experience.
Project 143 directs that host families not travel more than 3 hours with children on their arrival day because it’s too taxing on them. Makes complete sense. W. will fly into New York City midday on a Thursday, which is a 5-hour drive from our house. The options are to stay overnight in or near NYC and drive home the next day, or fly from Washington DC to New York, meet him, and fly him home the same day. We hemmed and hawed over this one for a bit, researching in-city and near-city options for staying over. Our son has cubscout camp that week, and trekking north for a 24-hour, driving-intensive trip with a trio of girls 6 and under who need frequent bathroom breaks didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. (Plus I kept asking myself, “What’s the least awkward way to get hotel accommodations for yourself and an 11-year old boy you’ve never met, who’s totally overwhelmed, and whose language you don’t speak? Same room, two rooms in a suite? And then– getting jammied-up and sleeping twinsies… is this something that’s going to put a damper on the remainder of our time together?!”) In the end we decided it would work best for our family for me to fly solo up to NYC, pick him up, and come home later that afternoon. So we pulled the trigger on the tickets, and that’s the plan.
And with that, I’ll bid you “ar labu nakti”…
Originally published in May, 2014