White on Rice

One thing I need to warn tell you about my international family is that we are in NO WAY politically correct. We are a more like a cultural phenomenon:

One Korean born dude with a German last name who grew up in the midwest and speaks no Korean. Read: Twinkie

One white girl from the PNW in complete denial of her ancestral redneckedness who USED to say worsh, not wash, and often ended sentences in prepositions. Gasp. See: Where would you like to meet at?

Two little half and half spawn from Twinkie and Redneckdenialgirl that are incredibly beautiful, and no one believes they are from my womb.

One Chinese son who goes by the name Fred because, he wanted an American name this year.

One German son who goes by Philipp, because that is the name his parents gave him.

One daughter, by international exchange, who is back in Serbia but still in our hearts. Every. Day.

And finally one and a half dogs.  Because my old dog has a goiter the size of a puppy on her neck.  We named the goiter/puppy Lance (the verb). I know, gross huh? So.. one and a half dogs.

The fact that we are all so different and under one roof is a test to our sanity every day.  So we laugh a lot. Have great dinner discussions, and embrace our diversity with racist humor.

One evening over a dinner of steamed veggies, baked chicken, and rice, our beloved Chinese Fred says:

“Mom, I’d like to take some rice and veggies for lunch sometime. Will you teach me how to make rice?”

You could have heard a pin drop. Even the 9 year old was shocked. Then my husband, the twinkie, turns to him, slugs him in the arm and says, “Dammit Fred! You can’t make rice?! You are a disgrace to our people!”

When I finally found my voice, I said, “Really Fred? You don’t know how to make rice? You never did… YOUR ENTIRE LIFE IN CHINA? Ok, I’ll teach you how to use the rice cooker. It’s quite simple.”

Philipp, our German, God love him, perks up, “Fred, I would be happy to show you how to make rice. I know how!”

I wish you could hear the accents.. it adds so much to this story.

I sat back in my chair and said, “Well isn’t that something? I’ll have to shoot video of this and call it White on Rice.”

Twinkie laughed.

Volim te………..B.

The  real reason, the REAL REAL reason I have not written in so long is this one story that is so hard to write. But………………here  goes.

In November of 2009 a 16 year old Serbian girl moved in with my family. Random, right?  Not so much in my world. I work at a school, she was an exchange student, and her original host family situation went SOUTH, so much. So my boss was all.. Lisa, you have a  guest cottage, a huge heart, and you can’t say no ( as he heard from my college days).

I couldn’t say no, even though our cottage was really a workout room/storage room/hubby’s office. I couldn’t say no, even though we were already living paycheck to paycheck.  I couldn’t say no because she was 16, on the other side of the world from her mom, and crying. “Just until we figure out a new permanent host family,” says my boss.  “Probably just the weekend.” Well, Bojana was hardly with us 24 hours before we all decided WE were going to be her permanent host family.

I’ll never forget her first night with us and listening to her tearful and passionate skype conversation with her parents back home in Serbia.  We couldn’t understand a word, but it was very intense.  She was pissed, defeated, sad, homesick, and like I said, we couldn’t understand any words.

So, I’ve thought so much for too long about what I would write about our ‘B.’  I could do this as a timeline of her stay. What Christmas was like, the winter, spring, blah blah.  Screw that.  That’s what I had. I want to tell you about what I HAVE now:

A daughter, on the other side of the world from her mom. Yeah. That.

Lots of people host international students, and love it.  Friends for life, cultural experiences shared, and that is pretty much what Mark and I thought we were in for. But B was so fluent in English, people could rarely detect an accent.  Culturally, she was just like any typical American teenage girl.  She danced in her room, loved online fashion sites, had crushes on boys, and hated homework. But there is something more that I find so hard to describe.

See?  This is why I haven’t written in months!  How do I describe this relationship, give  its depth justice, and not come off sounding creepy?

My whole family fell in love with Bojana.  Oh, I could say, who wouldn’t?!  She is fun, loving, adorable, goofy, and so beautiful she makes you gasp sometimes. She loved my children so much, and still does. But, I think it was mostly B and I that fell for each other.  If we were the same age we would with out a doubt be the best of friends, but I had the role of ‘host mom’ which brought some challenges to our friendship.  I had to say:

There is no way you are leaving the house in a skirt that short.

Get your homework done or you can not go out with your friends this weekend.

Come out of your room.

Clean your room.

Be home by 11:00 pm.

Be good.

And sometimes I had to say:

Don’t give up. I’ll help you. Please don’t cry. You can do this. Don’t  sell yourself short.  You ARE smart. I am always here for you. How can I cheer you up?

I love you.

Now, here’s the thing: I said this to her a year ago, and I said this to her last week.  We are still that close, and both agree we will always be.  Always.  We skype a few times a month and FaceBook weekly.  She’s hit a rough patch with schoolwork and things back home. I swear I could feel it thousands of miles away.  And so, we are both really missing each other.  She has a wonderful, loving family,  and that is comforting. But I want to hug her.

So much more than an international connection.  So much more than sharing your home with someone for a year. So much more than a friendship.

Not many moms can say they discovered that they had a teenage daughter on the other side of the world but that’s what I have now.

Love you B.