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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Accidental Farmwife Becomes Surrogate Mom

I became a mom again this week. Well, surrogate, anyway. My new child is a 16-year-old boy from China. Jia-Yong Xin, pronounced John Shinn in English, will study in Grade 11 at North Grenville District High School in Kemptville, and he will live with me (and the Farmer) until next June. Maybe longer!
Canada Homestay International came to do a live interview at STAR 975fm in Kemptville earlier in August. They said they were having trouble finding homes for all 225 of the international students that will be placed throughout the Upper Canada District School Board this year. We just became empty nesters, the Farmer has hosted children before and I taught English as a Second Language for three years when I lived in Taiwan. We’re kind of the ideal candidates for this sort of thing. Besides, I’ve always wanted a son.
I conferred with my husband and it didn’t take long for us to come to the decision that yes, we would open our home to one and maybe two international students for the year, so that they would keep each other company. I contacted Canada Homestay and within the week, our paperwork was processed.
John slept off and on for the first couple of days after his arrival. I took him to the store and attempted to get him connected on his beloved iPhone (and failed miserably, I might add). That was an exhausting afternoon. He handled it gracefully, suggesting we wait until after his orientation meeting with the other (more experienced) homestay leaders. We’ll work it out. Have to get him a Canadian bank account and card as well.
Each morning this week the Farmer and I went to work and left our new son to explore the house on his own. Each night I asked what he had eaten – because I didn’t see any dirty dishes or obviously diminishing food. Those first few days he didn’t say much and I wondered how we would get through the first stage of his transition to Canadian life. I worried he would get frustrated and discouraged without being able to understand or be understood.
Then, something happened. Hallelujah. I came home from work one afternoon and suggested we go on a shopping trip – something I used to do with my ESL students in Taiwan as a language lesson. First stop, Canadian Tire. Within seconds of entering the store I learned the following things:
- when John said he loves cars, he meant fast sportscars; not antique or classic cars.
- John’s previous English teacher says the Montreal Canadians are better than the Ottawa Senators (I will be connecting with that gentleman on Facebook and setting him straight).
- My Chinese boy thinks fishing is boring. This may just break the Farmer’s heart.
- John has seen the military shooting demonstration in China. He would like to learn to shoot a gun also. Not sure if this is going to be possible but we will find out.
- John is not fond of water or swimming but he is looking forward to going kayaking.
- He owns a big backpack for climbing mountains in China but he doesn’t sleep in tents. He climbs back down the mountain and goes home to his own bed.
- Before today, John did not know the word “boots”. They were just water shoes. He is in for a surprise come winter.
- He has never played hockey, baseball or volleyball. He loves table tennis.
- In Qingdao (or Tsingtao, like the beer), John’s home city, the population is 5 million people and pets (for the few that have them) live outdoors all the time.
- Liquids are best consumed at body temperature; not too hot or too cold.
- Jackie Chan is probably his favourite actor.

And the main thing I learned today: a young man in a strange new environment comes out of his shell and talks a blue streak when he has had enough sleep, feels safe and is happy (because he has chatted online with his mother and has just found out that his best Chinese friend will also be hosted in Kemptville).
If you happen to meet my boy, make a good impression, will you? He’s planning to finish his high school here, then go to university and probably settle in Vancouver, where his family will immigrate to join him.
I am proud to share my culture, my country and my tiny little town with him.

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