An International Incident

I should make this clear right away. I say that with tongue in cheek.

Every summer for several years, I have volunteered to host Chinese students who come to LSSU for a few weeks to take classes, improve their language skills, and get to know us. Normally, I take two girls for the weekend. This year because there was a dearth of available people to host students, I said I would take four girls. I have only one guest room, but I do have an air mattress to put in the living room. Two could sleep in the bedroom, and two could sleep on the floor. I told the girls they could figure out among themselves who got the bed and who got the floor. I realized immediately that these girls were clever and fair, because they had already decided they would switch the second night, and the ones who slept on the floor the first night had the bed the second night.

The four girls were unrelated, but their behavior seemed like sisters. They genuinely seemed to enjoy each other’s company. And I enjoyed them right back. I asked the girls if they would like to see a classic American film about young people and they eagerly said yes. I pulled out my copy of Dirty Dancing because the foreign students I entertained last winter seemed to really enjoy it. These girls liked it, too, and I gave them a running commentary to explain some of the expressions and behavior.

On Saturday, we formed a convoy with other friends and drove to the Oswald Bear Ranch, a facility that rescues bears and is licensed by the state and federal governments. I had to twist the girls’ arms a bit to get them to pose for a picture with a bear cub. I told them it was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity, but they seemed to enjoy it. They especially enjoyed feeding the bears apples from viewing platforms that allowed better vision of the animal enclosures. The bears were funny as they had learned to sit up and beg for the sweet treats.

After a picnic lunch at the bear farm, we soldiered on to Whitefish Point where we took in the museum and the girls had a chance to enjoy the beach scene. By 4:30 we were all dragging, but we still had to get home. I told the girls they could go to sleep if they wanted to, but as for me, I had to sing all the way so I wouldn’t fall asleep. I put some ‘60s music in the cd player and sang all the way home. They may have gone to sleep to avoid listening to me, but I think it was that they were tired out. Once home, we had a lovely dinner, and then I put Mamma Mia in the cd player. The girls kindly woke me up halfway through and told me it was okay for me to go to bed, and they would shut everything down. I took them up on it, bless their hearts.

On Sunday, we had the international incident. My four students had asked me on Friday if I like Chinese food. I told them I do like it very much. They were all excited and asked if they could cook a meal for me. I said sure, we could do that on Sunday. On Sunday morning, they spent two hours planning the dishes they would make. I showed them the vegetables I had in my house and told them to feel free to use whatever they wanted. They were pleased that I already had ingredients they could use. When they were done with their planning, we piled in the car and went to Walmart. It was great fun watching them shop and make decisions about what to buy.

The best part of this story was watching them take over my kitchen. My kitchen was brand new three years ago and larger than it previously was, but the sight of four girls all peeling and chopping and rinsing and chopping and cooking and chopping in my small kitchen just put a big smile on my face. It certainly was an international incident. Occasionally, they would ask, “Miss Crees, do you have…” I told them they didn’t have to ask permission to use anything. Just go ahead and use whatever dishes or pots and pans they needed.

When a friend arrived with her two students and more ingredients, it got even funnier and noisier. We now had six girls chopping and cooking away in my kitchen that seemed to get smaller by the minute. Steam poured out of pots on the stove. Oil sizzled as ingredients were tossed into the wok. My friend wisely sat down in the living room to finish some work on her laptop and then pulled out her flute to practice for a concert. I seldom see that level of activity in my house. The flute music and the happy chatter in the kitchen was a glorious thing to behold.

When the meal was ready, we laid it all out on the dining room table and fell into the feast. The food was colorful and delicious. It was a meal fit for kings and queens. Suddenly, the chatter stopped as hungry mouths filled up with wonderful dishes.

The kitchen, however, looked like a bomb had gone off. After dinner, I didn’t have to say a word. All six girls attacked the dirty kitchen the same way they attacked the job of preparing the meal, accompanied by happy chatter. It wasn’t long before the kitchen looked just as good as it did before they started. They even wanted to scrub my floor, but I drew the line there. I told them I would take care of it the next day.

I had to take my girls back to their dormitory, and my friend left with her two girls. There were emotional hugs and expressions of thanks in the parking lot. A lot of it came from me as well. I have always had fun with the Asian students when they visit LSSU, but this visit was especially fun. Maybe it was having four girls instead of two. I certainly think that having other friends along on Saturday made it more meaningful for my girls because they had other young people to relate to.

So there’s my international incident. I have never seen such activity in my kitchen, and it will probably be a long time before I see that much again.

Cris Roll

mboucher

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