Thursday, September 22, 2016

How Do You Say...?

I do not like voids in my life, therefore, when the opportunity arose to fill Ian's spot, I took it. Within days of Ian moving to Villanova, I moved Gautier into his room. Gautier or Got (pronounced "Gote") is a 16-year-old exchange student from Tours, France. I took "exchange" quite literally, trading in one teenage boy for a new model. Not that Gautier is a French model. I wouldn't want a gaggle of teen girls showing up at the house with misinformation.

You may recall that I attempted this exchange student thing before, about four years ago. Jess, however, was from Quebec, which doesn't really count, plus she had already graduated from high school in Canada, which means she had no skin in the game. What I'm trying to say is that it didn't work out with Jess. She left us a couple months early. Boyfriend troubles, apparently, though there were rumblings of dissatisfaction around a certain family member's bathroom habits. We won't go there. No pun intended.

Filling the empty hole in my soul from Ian's leaving was not the only reason we ordered an exchange student. I also was looking for free labor, someone to empty the dishwasher and wash the cars, much like Long Duk Dong’s host parents in "Sixteen Candles." Abby also wanted an exchange student from France. She's taking French and figured it'd be like having a free, live-in tutor. Unfortunately, she didn't count on having to tutor him in English, and let's just say patience isn't her strong suit.

Got’s English is passable, but there are definitely conversations where I’m lucky if I understand half of what he says. While it can be difficult, personally, I’ve found much of the language barrier to be charming and/or amusing. For example:

“What was your day?” (translated: How was your day?)

“They don’t have bus for to go home. I will work.” (translated: I missed the bus. I will walk)

“Thank you for your helping.” (translated: thank you for your help)

“I past the first test. I don’t understand all the answer.” (translated: I finished the first test. I didn’t understand any of the questions)

“I work outsider with lily.” (translated: I took Lily for a walk)

“For this moment I don’t really have hungry.” (translated: I’m not hungry right now)

I also love the way Got describes nearly everything as “big,” which is certainly appropriate in America where everything from meals to our vehicles are overly large. He noted that the only thing small around here are teenage girls’ jeans. Actually, that was me. He hasn't mentioned girls' jeans. Got also refers to many things as “funny,” when I’m pretty sure he means nice or good.

While I pick up a decent amount of what he’s trying to communicate, I’m pretty sure Got gets about 10 percent of what I throw at him. I’ve learned that if he gives me a straight "yes" or "no" answer it means he doesn't understand what I’ve said and is trying to fake it. There have been some alarming examples of this. For instance, he responded “yes” to questions like "Will you try to kill me in my sleep?" and "Do you have any intention of hitting on my daughter?" And he replied "no" when asked "Do you like my cooking?" and "Do you think we’re a nice, normal family that you’ll enjoy living with?" Clearly these were not the responses I was looking for, nor the answers I believe he meant to give. Although, to be fair, he probably doesn't like my cooking, as evidenced by the fact that he keeps offering to make meals for us.

The most important thing to know about Got (besides his potentially murderous intentions) is that he’s very polite, respectful and eager to help. Kinda like I imagine my children are when they’re with anyone but me. He’s also a big fan of the way Americans treat our flag. Apparently that level of respect and display is unheard of in France, or many countries for that matter. It’s pretty cool to hear him talk about it.

Overall, I’d have to say things are going well. When I asked Got about his next host family (he moves to a new family in January), he informed me that he’s planning on staying with us. I told him that's fine, as long as he takes over all the cooking. Anyone interested in a nice French meal?

No comments: