Our new arrival enters our home on Wednesday to moderate fanfare. Blessed with a flexible career, I work from home that day. My husband and daughter help clean and buy groceries for our guest. They find a welcoming balloon in red-white-blue at the foodstore that reads "Welcome Home". We figure it was designed for returning troops, but it still seems appropriate.
My three year old daughter is giddy at the prospect of having a "new friend from another country" stay in the bedroom next to hers. Every car she hears outside triggers eager chimes of "is it him, mom??" My father is excited too, in his way. Although on the East Coast, he seems pleased with our decision, particularly when he learns that Pon is a practicing Buddhist. "Having a real Thai Buddhist in your home is almost like inviting one of the Apostles to be your guest!" he beams over the phone. The statement is even more interesting since my dad is Jewish. Visions of bearded, round-bellied prophets with shepherds crooks and sandals dance in my head momentarily.... naaah.
Pon arrives at our home around 3pm. Lisa has driven him in from the Seattle airport, about 2 hours from where we live. She is plump, apple-cheeked and exuberant. In a loud, assertive voice she shuffles Pon into our home. She then eagerly recounts the details of her drive and informs us that Pon's bed has arrived concurrently. Dave quickly steps outside to help move the mattress.
The first thing I notice about Pon is his height- the boy is gigantic. He towers over me by about a foot and a half. My husband who is 6'4, is shorter than him by at least two inches.
Pon's height is only surpassed by his quiet nature. He appears shy, nervous and immensely jet-lagged. An interesting juxtaposition to his boisterous American sponsor. Lisa puts her arm around the boy, who appears a bit shell-shocked. "Honey, go help Host-Father with the mattress" she commands. Pon nods and politely obeys the order. I giggle to myself at the prospect of Dave and I being called "father and mother" by this ponderously tall teenager who could only be my son if I had gotten pregnant at 11 years old. I make a note to myself to let him call us by our first names once Lisa is out of earshot.
I am later told by my husband that before she left, Lisa took him aside and in a grave tone warns him...
"Pon may need some correction in the way he expresses himself. I took him to McDonalds and he told me he didn't like the food. He said that Thai McDonalds tastes better" Dave rolls his eyes as the recounts the tale. "But I told him that it isn't better, it's just different. You'll need to work on that with him"
Dave and I shudder at the thought that Pon's first experience with American cuisine is McDonalds. And we both grin at the thought that of all the international variations of McDonalds ours is the worst... because the truth is... he's probably right.