Kids will be kids
Care to go for a truism to start your day? In the name of world peace and global inter-connectivity? Then start with kids.
And in that light, here’s my oh-so-self-evident observation, based upon 36 hours of hosting a teenager from Latvia in our hybrid little American homestead.
The bad news is: kids will be kids, the world over. The good news is: kids will be kids, the world over. And ultimately, that is very good news, indeed. In fact, perhaps teenagers are our finest ambassadors on the world stage.
Entertaining house guests
When money is tight, and you’re not at the top of your game, the last thing you want is to entertain a house guest. Especially one from another country, when of course you’d like to represent your own, in the most positive light, while providing an authentic experience.
On the other hand, if you have a house guest who is entertaining, and adds a jolt of energy to the environment, wild and funny conversation around the kitchen table, loves your cooking, and you hear laughter and music into the night – it could be just what the doctor ordered. Maybe not for the physical health, but absolutely, when it comes to mental health!
Spirit booster: smart teen guest + sense of humor
Other than the fact that our Latvian house guest is verrrrrry tall and broad, and I suspect he is a bit cramped in the storage closet guest room, we have just survived Night Two and embarked upon Day Two. Showers were timed reasonably well, warm rolls and juice were heartily consumed, and lunches packed consisting of four sandwiches, assorted fruits, chips and drinks. A roast is defrosting in the kitchen for dinner, and schedules (outings, tennis practice, pick-up times) were semi-coordinated at drop off… (weary woman crosses fingers and toes).
Mix in: unlimited parts raucous laughter around the kitchen table + one very smart, very smart-ass, very good-natured, very verbal guest (exactly our style) – and things really couldn’t be going any better. This somewhat “out there” kid is ideally matched to our not-so-standard Euro-American household. Serendipity? Quite possibly. And hallelujah!
For the extra work of having a guest (and it most certainly is that), there’s no question that we are a household that thrives on humor and energy. There is also no question that we get that “juice” from a crowd of teens. It’s a spirit booster – to me, and to my son.
Is it a hassle and a half? Sure. Worth it? Absolutely.
Frugal feasts and food fun
We’ve been introducing our guest to some entertaining foods. We are a family on a budget (make that the UnBudget), like millions of others. Nonetheless, he’s been very anxious to eat “whatever is American” – and he and my son, both, are enjoying the fact that I am cooking constantly (breakfast, dinner, and desserts – daily). Not so easy on me these days, but their pleasure is so clear that I’ll manage.
I imagine our guest expected hamburgers, hot dogs, and frozen pizza (we do eat those things, but not often). He is getting our “usual” cuisine, though certainly not his usual. Among the variety of foods and meals already on the menu, that seem to be appreciated with a certain gusto:
- Bagels and cream cheese (our guest loved the bagel, was so-so on the cream cheese; my son and I were smirking)
- Caeser salad – packaged, but with added fresh spinach leaves and ground black pepper (big thumbs up)
- Lemon cookies (another big thumbs up; we’ll go chocolate chip next!)
- Chicken à la Popeye with sautéed potatoes (INHALED in massive quantities, and thankfully it’s a great budget meal)
- London Broil (coming tonight – mischievous blue Latvian eyes widened when they saw me take it out of the freezer this morning)
I may spring for the French Twist Mini Pecan Pies tonight for dessert – if I’m up to it. I have the ingredients in the house and they don’t take long to prepare. Frankly, the pleasure of kids enjoying what they eat makes it worth the trouble, no matter what.
However – my son doesn’t know it yet, but tomorrow night he’s cooking. I’m guessing it will be omelettes, potatoes, and a veggie.
International programs, international travel
And here lies the beauty of the unknown, of the sublime and the ridiculous – in other words, agreeing to take this kid last minute, considering that we were ill-prepared to do so. This is also the delight of international travel – at any age, and whether you are welcoming an international visitor to your home, or grabbing the passport and heading to another country yourself.
If you are traveling, staying at a bed and breakfast (at the very least) or in someone’s home, the cultural experience will be so much richer. Even a few weeks – for yourself or your teenagers – will open eyes and doors, and make it pretty clear that for all the dissimilarities that exist, human interaction and communication bridge our differences. And kids, especially, are kids. They eat, drink, crack jokes, love to laugh over (exactly the same) ridiculous things – word play and gross-me-out imagery, while remaining wondrously inquisitive and ingenuous. They ask, they observe, they engage. At times they let loose outrageous statements that lead to fascinating discussion.
Recipes for teenage bonding
The fact is, my 16-year old and our guest are bonding over food, music, and humor. They spent hours into the night taking turns at the piano, as well as listening to wild techno music on the computer and YouTube (our Latvian teen had his own rock band when he was 14, 15, 16 years old). They are chuckling constantly. Over what? I couldn’t tell you. But both were teasing me mercilessly on the ride to school. Already. And I loved it.
As for more specifics – not this morning. I’m pooped! Even if you handed me a ticket to Paris at this moment, I’m not sure I could hop on the subway, then the direct flight, then the metro, and “just do it!” (But if anyone wants to dangle a ticket in front of me, I might leave the teens to fend for themselves, and try… )
Suffice it to say, our house guest has enthralled us already with some of his remarks, and has led us into conversations that are philosophical, linguistic, historical, and hysterical. What could be better than that? Isn’t this exactly the way to transform the world, one individual at a time?