This is a journal that was kept by a middle-class christian woman from 2001-2003 chronicling the ins and outs of daily life when teenagers from other cultures were invited into the family. At the time, the family lived in busy Southern California but has since moved to the Cincinnati, OH metro area. The book captures many positive and negative experiences associated with her own family's experience as well as those of other host families after the author became an area representative for one of the exchange organizations.
The book has two sections: The first is titled "Sven and Alex." Sven was a teenage boy from Denmark who stayed with the Smiths for about three weeks including September 11th. Due to several trust issues, it was decided that a different student would be more suitable. Alex, from Germany, arrived just a few short days after Sven was relocated to a different family. Alex was everything they had hoped for and readers share in the reality of everyday life and vacations to other parts of the United States.
The second section is titled "Arne." The house felt so empty after Alex left, and the positive impact he had left on the children, enticed the Smiths to take on the adventure for one more year. Arne, also a teenager from Germany, had a distinctly different personality than Alex, but fit into the family just as nicely. It was during Arne's year that Joan was an area representative. She was able to capture experiences much different than the ones of her own family.
The book offers a very real representation of what the hosting experience is like and should help people decide if they have enough time, money, or inclination to take on the adventure. It is also a nostalgic look back for those who have already welcomed foreign students.
This report prepared by Joan K. Smith