Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bon Voyage

Pola, our favorite exchange student, leaves on a 4:50 p.m. flight this afternoon, so closure has been on my mind. Today's post started out as a review of last night's dinner and a short segment on the importance of formally bringing closure to community.

Years ago I co-authored a work book for student leaders and the final chapter was dedicated to suggested activities someone like an resident assistant could do with students on her floor. Whether with an exchange student or a group of 70 residents, the principles are the same...

Organize a celebratory event, chock full of balloons and themed decorations.
Serve food, since food has a magical way of bringing people together (hamburgers were Pola's request for her last American meal).
Facilitate an interactive activity, allowing people to share their feelings and memories.
Top it off with a little comfort food to soothe the pain that comes with sadness (apparently brownies are uniquely American),
A keepsake to commemorate the experience, and of course...
a final photo to document your cherished time together.
A recap of principles and a tribute to Pola is how today's post started.

Really though, this post isn't about closure. It's really about the time spent together that makes closure between people seem warranted. We got to host Pola for 104 days and in that time she became part of our family. We got to know that she loves ice cream, hates waking up early, loves spending time with her girlfriends, but could do without our dog May Day. She got teased by Richard and Ricky, jumped on my Matthew and Jack, spoiled by her U.S. grandmas, and doted on by me - the only other girl in the house.

She became part of the family.

We laughed when Richard paid her $10.00 to finally make a decision in 30 minutes or less, listened when she cried about missing home, cringed when she put milk in her orange juice, and watched with admiration at the discipline required to earn "A"s in classes not taught in her native language.

Last night we brought closure to Pola living in our home. The truth, though, is that our connection to Pola is just beginning.

I think that's the way it's supposed to go with real communities, isn't it?
Signing off until tomorrow...


Heather said...

Bon Voyage Pola!
And there is a place at the HLA table for you anytime!

Looks like a great way to end a great experience.

Kat said...

That looks like a great way for her to remember her last night with you guys!

Jessie Freeman said...

Just think - now you have an excuse to go to Germany and she has reasons to come back and visit!

Cheryl said...

Aw! 104 days goes by so fast!! It seems like yesterday that Claudia told me an exchange student was coming to live with her family. :)

Safe journey, Pola!!

Peggy said...

Claudia, you are the best PR person to promote America. She'll have a ton of great memories because of you and your family.

Not sure I get where you are going with the closure and community thing, though! hmmmmm.....

Katie said...

Safe travels, Pola! It was great to have met you!

Claudia @ Highlowaha said...

Way to hold me accountable, Peggy. I realized after re-reading my post that my point was not clear.

I think the point I was trying to make was that when communities come to a natural conclusion (the end of a committee, soccer season, etc...) that formally bringing closure to the experience is important. It's nice if the experience doesn't simply end with no real closure.

And yet... closure t is not important unless work has been done all along the way to create connections among community members. So, in the end what you are celebrating is not closure, but really the continuation of a new relationship.

Some days you're on and some days your not. That is for sure!