Sunday Gratitude – Host Family

Owlets in Brazil

Last night, the Owl family re-watched Ted Lasso (third time) because we wanted to question our house guest about its similarity to “real” professional soccer locker rooms. Our guest, Jordan, is a former professional soccer player and current coach–arriving in the US a week ago to work with an owlet’s club team. Our family had volunteered to host him until he’s on his feet here–not driving on the wrong side of the road, figuring out that no one knows what a kitchen “sieve” is, and introducing him to Costco and Market Basket. In return, we have laughed and talked nonstop for a week, and one of the owlets is delighted by someone who “gets” his soccer obsession. Oh, okay, Mr. Owl too.

Jordan, by my count, is our tenth international guest over the last 12 years–and I mean “international guest” in terms of exchange student, homestay student, or coach. If we counted Brazilian family visiting us in the US or US family in Brazil, we’d have had 4 million. Only a slight exaggeration. The Owl family has learned something every single time, and there is only one guest with whom we have lost contact — though some of them are not frequently in touch, it would be easy to re-contactt them. Probably I will send this post to each one so they know that they changed us.

Those who visited us in São Paulo: Debbie, a recent Wellesley grad, on a Watson Scholarship to learn martial arts around the world. She came to us from South Africa where she had studied stick fighting and was in Brazil to learn capoeira. She also taught us a a little bit about crime and racism–she was robbed on a bus while someone taunted her about her looks. And I learned how to file a police report, which was not my favorite experience.

Katie came in only for a few days–another Wellesley–this time a student who had been in an exchange program in Fortaleza, passing through on her way back home. She would come back after graduation for a master’s degree in Brasilia, meeting and marrying a Brazilian. She is now part of the foreign service.

Playing “on the bus” with the Swedish girl (so mad at my memory) and Mathilde. Ranch weekend, Joanopolis, 2011

Lest you think we host only Wellesleys (okay, there is a slight bias), the next two were Mathilde (French/Danish) and sadly I have forgotten the name of the Swedish girl who joined her for a month. We became very close to Mathilde who was on an architecture program, I think it was, in Sao Paulo. She stayed six months of so, her dad (who worked for the prince of Denmark which always cracked me up) also stayed a week when visiting. We hope to someday travel to Copenhagen to catch up with Mathilde.

When we moved back to the US in 2014, we hosted the daughter of an Argentine friend we knew in Brazil, Candelaria or Cande. She was taking a gap year and truly became part of the family. We joke that she was our dog Coal’s best friend–they went on many adventures together and on her last day here, Coal leaped up on the counter and ate a huge plate of brownies that Cande had made, and browsed her suitcase for the treats she was taking home to Argentina. Cande is now back in the US after 5 years in Argentina, and hopefuly we wil get to visit her in New York soon.

Coal obsessed with Cande

We hosted three international homestays from Wellesley over the years–one from China, one from Japan and one from Greece. Yichen used an American name of Chloe, and used to make us laugh with stories of one-child policies and goings-on in China. Some of that was clearly not a joke. Kaori introduced us to Japan, in a way tha made me want to visit–a place that had not been on my travel list until then. She spent junior year in Italy and I went to a presentation of hers at the college before the pandemic–such an adventurer.

Irena is the third and last of our Wellesley homestays (pandemic has shut down the program) , and the one we have seen the most. She is now finishing her master’s degree at Brandeis. She is of Albanian descent, and while I say she is Greek, we learned much about how that country is treated by Greece, where she was born, but gained citizenship only three years ago. We learned how it is to be from two countries but not to really belong to either.

Gui was our Brazilian ray of light, a high school student from the south of Brazil, you read about him (or not) in the Owl in January. He remains “our” kid and someone who makes me smile every single time. He now studies in Montreal.

Of the Brit coaches, we have hosted two. One was Jake, a high school student from Portsmouth, who came first for a week with his team, which was hosted in various homes around Weston. He then came back that summer to coach for a local club team. One owlet contemplated going to study in England at his high school–he may still. And now Jordan, who is older, more independent and brings new adventures and learnings.

My Sunday gratitude is to ten visitors to our home–those who stayed days, weeks or months–and to the curiousity they inspired in all of us about their homes, their lives and their dreams. We receive much more than we give.

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