It's hard to believe our 5 weeks with Hyeon Ju will be coming to an end in just 9 days. It really flew by, partly because I spent a week on the other side of the world, but also because she's really been a joy to host. Her confidence with English, our house, our dogs, and food grows with each passing day. Here's a few of the more notable moments from the past week or two, and proof that, once comfortable, all teenagers are the same.
- The high school students were taking final exams last Wednesday so, rather than sit and be bored all day, the Korean exchange students went to Olympia for a tour of the state capital and got to sit on a legislature meeting. They then returned to the high school by 2:30 for a party the Key Club (Student Council) was throwing for them. I was told to pick HJ up at 3:30, but this was faulty information. Nevertheless, I arrived at 3:30, found my way to the party and... was promptly ignored. She smiled, said hi, then went back to talking to her Korean friends. Finally one of them looked at me and said, "She'll call you when the party is over." HJ gave me a look like, "Gosh, dad, leave me and my friends alone, you're embarrassing me!"
- We took HJ to the Chinese New Year feast we attend each year in Seattle's International District (yes, Seattle is too PC to simply call it "Chinatown" like everywhere else in the world) and, before leaving, I asked Kristin to have HJ change out of the windbreaker she was wearing all day. It wasn't cause to wear a dress or for me to wear a jacket & tie, but we thought it'd be nice if she at least put on the nice sweater she had with her. She told Kristin no. So Kristin tells me this and was prepared to let her do what she wanted. I was having none of that, so I went and talked to her. She seemed agitated, but she put the sweater on. Clearly, "don't make me tell your dad" is universal the world over.
- Kristin invited a couple of HJ's girlfriends over for our Super Bowl Party on Sunday, expecting their own respective host families to want them with them on the weekend. Oh, were we mistaken. All three showed up over an hour before kickoff and wouldn't leave until the game was over. They didn't watch the game. Not a second of it. Instead, they spent the first hour or so in the kitchen woofing down more food than you'd ever think four 80-pound girls could possibly consume. One of our friends brought over a couple dozen red velvet cupcakes and they weren't on the table for more than five minutes before HJ and her friends were going back for seconds. They sampled everything. Including one of each flavor of the Thomas Kemper sodas I had in the non-alcoholic cooler. Ginger Ale may as well have been the devil's piss judging by their reaction to it, but they promptly ran upstairs to Kristin's laptop and started emailing HJ's older brother back in South Korea about how great the soda was. She came downstairs and asked me if she could bring a bottle of "American Soda" home for her brother, "he really wants it".
- The girls spent the entire first half of the Super Bowl upstairs in HJ's room talking and doodling and surfing online Korean comic books and cartoons with Kristin's laptop. Kristin is afraid she'll never get her laptop to work in English again but, hey, at least the girl knew to leave my setup alone. They came back down at the start of the third quarter, as if summoned by a dinner bell, and promptly put a serious dent into the various salads and sausage & peppers that were available. I have no idea where they put this food.
- HJ was a bit too anxious to help us clean up after the party. Perhaps she had something on her mind? Perhaps she was trying to score points before asking a favor of me? Could it be? Why yes, that was exactly what she was doing. We were just about done cleaning up when she asked me if I can drive her and a friend to the outlet stores on Tuesday after school. I right away thought of my workload and having no time to spend at the outlet stores, so I asked what stores she wanted to go to. "No stores, just you drop us off and we call when we're done." I would have been annoyed at being reduced to a taxi service, if not for the fact that this worked out much better for me.
- Kristin took her to the aquarium on Saturday and (again) to the outlet stores where HJ bought Gap shirts for her siblings. The shirts are plain tee-shirts with a giant Gap logo on them. I imagine for a small town five hours south of Seoul, having some western branding splashed across your chest will indeed be a big time status booster for a teenager, but I couldn't imagine why anyone would ever wear these shirts -- who are these stores selling them to? Are they surviving on exchange students from the Far East to get by? Then I remembered how willingly the teenagers here seem to embrace being billboards as well. Gap may be a bit long in the tooth at this point, but the thought is still there. Probably why HJ passed on the much-nicer workout pants we offered to get her (for gym class) in favor of the ones with the big ol' Adidas logo.
That's all for now, more to come next week. I'm sure this Saturday's Rock Band party with all the students and host families will provide plenty of material...