Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Argentinian

   My sixteen year old brother, let's call him Connor, is known around our house as "the talker". He talks a lot, and not just about himself, but everything going on around him, even secrets he is supposed to be keeping. Never will I forget the year we were getting our father a bike for his birthday. It was going to be a huge  surprise and my mother had sworn us both to secrecy. But the instant my father came home from work, Connor was on him, screaming: "Dad! We got you a bike for your birthday, and it's a secret!"
   So, talker as he is, it was a shock last December when Connor announced that he had forgotten to tell us that he signed up for an Argentinian exchange program and we as a family had one day to decide whether we wanted to do it or not. We eventually decided we would because it would be a great experience for Connor and something new for the rest of the family.
   However, as the exchange grew more and more real, I began getting nervous. What had I been thinking, I wondered, to have agreed for a total stranger to live in my house for three weeks, then take my dear brother off to Argentina for all of June? The kid was bound to think I was a bit strange and quiet, to say the least, and he would be invading my home, my sanctuary, and my mind palace, where I unload at the end of the day. What was I going to do?
  I was so nervous as the car pulled up to me for the first time, picking me and my mom up from the other side of the airport. (We had come home the same day from a college tour) I took a deep breath and climbed in.
  My worry was unnecessary. The boy was as nervous as I was to be meeting his "sister" for the first time. With my family around me, I was able to feel comfortable talking to him. A few days later, he patiently sat and told me about the history of his country, showed me the University he wants to go to, and talked about his future. I realized he is funny and loves to talk about history, which is also a great love of mine. Our conversations became easier and easier, and suddenly I realized this kid was now a part of my family. We talk about everything from language classes to our after school activities, and it is genuinely a ton of fun to get to know him. My whole family and I have become great friends with "our" Argentinian, and I can't wait for the next two weeks because I know all of us will have a ton of fun introducing him to our strange American customs and sights in our country.
   Aspies, don't be too afraid of any outsider coming into your home, even an exchange student. Yes, it disrupts routine a little, but it's really fun experiencing a new culture and teaching them yours.  You can make a lifelong friend out of this person and help be their guide to wherever you live and whatever language you speak. Imagine if you were alone in a foreign country, wouldn't you want someone to be your friend? I can tell you it is rewarding to help and becoming friends is easy as, as my Argentinian brother would say, un pastel*.

*pie

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