Tuesday, 22 July 2008

El viva Espagna.

I saw the advert in the local evening paper a couple of months ago; a language company looking for host families for its foreign students.
“That’ll be good fun”, I said to Hubby, thrusting the encircled newspaper ad under his nose.
“Don’t you think we have enough kids Alice? Be honest. You are pretty much threaders with them all as it is. Do I really want to come home and find you rocking back and fore with a wild look in your eye, the house in disarray, my dinner as yet undecided?”, he then stroked his chin and added, “Oh wait, that’s how it is now. Yeah, why not. Go ahead. My domestic needs couldn’t be less administered to anyhow”.
And so, after three weeks, three fifteen year old girls have just returned to their home countries leaving me to rush back, change sheets, hoover rooms, scrub the shower and plan another set of menus as I await the arrival of my next three guests.
Where I was nervous before meeting my first lot, this time I am ready for the onslaught of demands that young Spanish girls, let loose in the city of Plymouth, hell bent on a summer of love insist upon. Perhaps I was naive to think that teenage girls on a cultural exchange would want exactly that, so that a few evenings would be spent with us chatting together over dinner and sharing stories. We had big plans to take them out and about. Unfortunately their agenda was less cultural exchange and more saliva exchange given their determination to attend ‘le disco’ every single night, without fail, even in torrential rain, even on a Sunday evening where no bus comes back to Torpoint, even in fact when there is a strike on the Torpoint Ferry and Hubby and I have had to collect them from St German’s railway station just before 11pm.
One of the girls was Finnish and I must not tar her with the same brush as the other two senoritas. The Fin has been a joy – sunny and smiley and happy to be part of the family. She has attended one or two discos but is happier ‘hanging out’ with us. The other two in contrast have demanded the bus timetable, ‘immediately’ even when my hands have been inside rubber gloves inside a sudsy sink and, instead of seeming to appreciate their dinner, it has been an inconvenience to them especially if said dinner was on the table ten minutes later than I’d promised. “We must catch ze bus. You make us late”. They have argued and raged and yelled at me for phoning their course leader when they were still out at 11.30 pm and for being aggrieved when they turn up on a Sunday night at eleven, even though I knew full well their disco finished at 9.30.
“Where were you in the meantime?” I asked. They rolled their eyes before a flurry of Spanish was hurled at me.
I shook my head and said “Enough. I know that you can speak English perfectly well enough to explain where you’ve been.” They could not understand why I was therefore more than a little annoyed that I did not find the fact that sitting up on the Hoe was perfectly acceptable for tiny, Spanish girls late at night.
The last straw for them was finding out about industrial action on the Ferry.
“But we must go to Plymouth. Si, we have to. My leader, she say that school is only 15 miles away”.
“Actually it is about 20. That means 20 miles there and back and again to collect you. It is too much to expect”. Imagine my shock then on finding on my computer that they had Googled backpacking hostels in Plymouth, so determined were they not to spend a night in.
Hubby and I capitulated. He drove them around the Tamar Bridge in the morning and at night I went and collected them from the train. I have tried to comfort myself by repeating ‘It’s a cultural thing. It’s a cultural thing’ but I know in my heart of hearts that even the most primitive tribes have words for please and thank you.
“Remind me why I’m doing this again?” asked Hubby as he bundled the girls into his car, their faces scowling and petulant. “The occasional por favor, wouldn’t go amiss you know”, I heard him say to them but they just giggled and nattered away in Spanish oblivious to the fact that Hubby was doing them an almighty favour and also oblivious to the fact that at breakfast they hadn’t even said good morning to their fellow foreign student, who morning after morning has sat at our dining table looking terribly lonely as the senoritas completely ignored her and excluded her from their conversation.
Luckily my daughter and the Finn have become fast friends and have spent hours together watching movies and giggling over Leonardo Di Caprio’s seemingly myriad merits. Her tears that she didn’t want to leave when it was time to go home reassured me that Hubby and I weren’t severe and austere parents who are completely out of touch with the (even continental) youth of today. Hell, no doubt were I young and gorgeous and sashaying down Las Ramblas of Barcelona free of parental restraint, that I too would be happy snogging the local hombres, but I’m sure that even then I would have said gracias for the privilege.
So, as I await the next lot, two French siblings and a Spanish girl I am prepared: a) I know the ins and outs of buses and discos b) far from preparing food that is spurned in favour of MsDonalds, it will not be d’accord to dine there five nights a week and c) we shall play games en famille.
“Entente cordiale, Jeux Sans Frontières an all that ”, I said to Hubby confidently.
“Careful love, you’re beginning to sound like Stuart Hall”.


Anonymous said...

Oh, my! Hooray for the Finn, and may your next crew be many times more polite than the first!

Eloise said...

Yikes! I'm so glad those girls weren't Americans! Sorry about your experience. At least the sweet Finn redeemed her generation a bit. I hope the next group is cordial and appreciative. I'm sure you are a wonderful hostess.

DL said...

With three teenagers in the family, we have had our share of exchange students over the last few years. And, like you, we've been more than a little taken aback by the lack of simple common courtesies. And worst was when we had two friends from the same village (males, in our case). All the time they could (anti-)socialise with each other, there was no need forthem to stretch themselves towards any pleasantries with us.

Pull up the drawbridge!

Anonymous said...

Oh my. How long were they there? As someone who has lived in others' homes in Spain and Brazil, I sure hope I showed a little more gratitude than these ladies!