Sunday, 12 February 2012

Au Revoir, Jean-Pierre

Jean-Pierre, our French exchange student, left on Wednesday morning after spending a week with us and, I have to say, I miss him a little.

It doesn't seem that long ago that we were waiting at the local girls' High School for their bus to arrive. There were many parents like us, a little on edge and wary, accompanied by fidgety, gauche teens. When the French contingent shuffled into the dining hall and lined up with their cases, I thought I'd spotted ours. I was about to scoop him up and bundle him into the car when Rory pointed out that I had picked the wrong one: ours had grown his hair since his photo had been taken. Once JP had been located, embarrassed smiles, enthusiastic nods and clunky 'Je m'appelle's were exchanged and so our week began.

The schools had done very well in matching the children up. We were given a French Rory: a year older than ours but similar hair, body shape and an uncanny aptitude for sitting with a laptop on his knee. He also loved to sleep late at weekends. And this French model did come with some nifty upgrades: it didn't leave its crusts and it carried its empty plate to the dishwasher.

JP ate everything I put in front of him, apart from broccoli, for which he can be forgiven. He ate beef stew, Thai chicken, chilli con carne, roast pork and Lincolnshire sausages. His Tupperware box for his packed lunch came home empty every day (unless he'd tipped it all into a nearby bin) and he enthused about its contents. He was so overwhelmed by his breakfast on Saturday morning - a bacon omelette, toast and baked beans - that he took a photo of it to show his family.

His English was excellent; honed, he told me, from years of reading English comics which had given him a natural confidence with conversation. Unlike the Burgess household who really did struggle to speak any meaningful French at all. I remembered the word for slippers, 'les pantoufles', but had no recourse to use it during the week. Thankfully I remembered the words for 'clothes' and 'wash' as JP didn't seem to have brought enough socks and pants with him.

This was JP's first time out of France, his first time in an aeroplane. He was so excited by everything. He came back from his trips to Cambridge and London in awe of what he had seen. We sat beside him as he clicked through all the photos on his camera and enthused as he showed us the souvenir he had bought: a Homer Simpson T-shirt. I slipped him an extra tenner for his London trip and he came back with....another T-shirt.

I needn't have worried about how to entertain him at the weekend. A group of French and English kids had decided to go to the cinema to see Mission Impossible 3. This worked well until they missed the bus home just as a snow blizzard hit our part of the country. Some terse text exchanges were made between me and my original son as to the value of checking timetables. They sat in Sainsbury's cafe for a while, caught the next bus and Dougie was dispatched to pick them up from the bus-stop. On the Sunday the snow was so deep that all French and English teens within a five-mile radius descended on us. They had a fantastic time playing basketball, table tennis and table football, made a huge snowman and created the following artwork in the back garden to prove that boys will be boys no matter what their nationality :


Were there are any mishaps? Only one and, thankfully it didn't involved Jean-Pierre. On their final day, when the French students were returning from London in the early evening, six of them forgot to get off at Peterborough for their connection and tootled on up to Newark before returning. I bet there were a few choice words in both languages from the teachers waiting on the platform.

Rory is now looking forward to the return visit to the South of France in March. Apparently Jean-Pierre has a 15 year old sister.


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37 comments:

  1. I'm glad that it went well! I have fond memories of a German exchange as a teenager, we even kept in contact for a few years afterwards and visited each other again. We went out to Germany first, I remember how scary it was to get off the coach and be sent home with a strange family. Looks like you did a great job of welcoming Jean Pierre!

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    1. Hello Jennifer! I'm quite pleased the exchanges are this way round: my son is quite relaxed about going, but moreso now he knows he gets on well with his French counterpart.

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    2. How cool to meet a French version of your son. And what a great eater too and taking his plate to the dishwasher? Maybe we should lure him over her to Ca, that skill is lost in translation here!

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    3. All the other students were well-matched too. Would love to have been in on the conversation to pair them up. It was funny to see how the helpfulness rubbed off on Rory. He started to pick his things up too, nonchalantly walking to the dishwasher as if he'd done it all his life!

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  2. Not at all like the french exchange students in "Son of Rambo then!"

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    1. Oh yes, I think I remember that! When they made a film? Will have to look it up!

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  3. Brilliant, sounds like all went well! Did he like the haggis?!?

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    1. We chickened out on the haggis in the end. Didn't want him completely freaked. Maybe next time...if he ever comes back?

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  4. Isn't the image in the snow the symbol of the french football team (like we have the three lions)? I've only heard about it, never seen it, so perhaps I'm wrong?

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    1. I thought it looked more like a Welsh emblem to me. It is a leek, isn't it?

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    2. That's what old men tell me.

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  5. Result! Well done. Boys is easy I reckon! Good choice you made there 15 years ago lol

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    1. I do love my boy. Couldn't wish for a better son. Gosh I'm getting teary now.

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  6. Ah yes good to know that they still don't have enough underwear with them. Our French exchnage had the most awful smelling socks which my Nan washed every night!

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    1. Have to admit, these were none too fragrant either...

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  7. Fabulous. He sounds really nice. From what I've heard of exchanges, it could so easily have gone the other way.

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    1. I was quite nervous about the whole thing, to be honest. So relieved the first part went well. Now we just need Rory to be OK over in France.

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  8. Sigh of relief - so glad it went well and it sounds like your biggest concern - the food - turned out to be a complete non-issue. I would be tremendously pleased with myself if a Frenchman (even a teenage one) liked a meal I had cooked well enough to take its picture!
    As far as the ...erm...whatchacallit in the snow: I didn't get it right away (but should have, as I have 2 boys of my own.) You'll be pleased to know, though, that Son#2 got it immediately. I guess boys really will be boys...

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    1. I hadn't thought of that; a Frenchman photographing my food. Typical it was the only meal of the week that Dougie cooked!!
      Well done Son#2!

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  9. Nice to see that us old enemies can get along in harmony...

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    1. They both signed the Entente Cordiale in advance of the trip.

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  10. Great that everything went so well! And you see, he enjoyed the food and did not ask for a chip pizza... ;o) Hope Rory will enjoy his stay as much as Jean-Pierre did.

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    1. He even asked for more bread to mop up any remaining gravy/sauce. I was so proud.

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  11. What a relief! He sounds like a really nice boy. It would be cool for both boys to stay in contact especially as it's so easy now on Facebook. I met my (now ex-)husband through my French penpal/exchange student.

    The south of France in March can be really pleasant so Rory could be on to a winner there!

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    1. You met your ex via your exchange student! Wonder what will happen when Rory meets JP's sister?
      Will keep an eye on the forecast and you can give me some clothing suggestions nearer the time!

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  12. How smashing that it all went swimmingly.....and love the nonchalant copy cat behaviour of Rory!
    ps you will miss him when he goes to France...but you and the mister should plan something just for the two of you as a distraction...

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    1. I didn't comment on his behaviour, bar the odd smirk. All gone downhill since, mind!

      Yes, Dougie is taking some time off so we plan a couple of days in London.

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  13. How did he like Raymond's croissant?

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  14. You have just described what would be a frightening ordeal for the likes of me. I panic about the feeding front when any of mine have a chum round just for a couple of hours. He would have had to appreciate the gastonomic delights of Captain L'oiel d'oiseau in this house. Well done you lot.

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    1. I think he might have liked les doigts de poisson. He very much enjoyed Monsieur Kellogg's flocons de mais.

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    2. Oh I bow to your francais superiure chere Trish @ maman est allons non oh le buggeur je suis tres merde au blooding linguistiques....

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    3. I used a dictionary and google translate. Je suis une fraud.

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  15. Glad it all went off okay. I still have to lie down in a darkened room when I think of our German exchange boy from a couple of years ago!

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    1. That sounds very ominous but very blogworthy I think?!

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  16. Ahhh he sounded lovely. Loving the giant snow willy as well. Mine made a massive one in the front garden. Boys eh?

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    1. It stayed there for days. Every time I opened my bedroom curtains I witnessed a morning glory.

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