Monday, April 25, 2016

A Clean Slate Awaits

There is a myth about ex-pat life (well, there are many myths) that was dispelled early on for me: many parents who place their students in private, international schools are no more invested than many parents whose students attend public schools. 

Students from international schools travel quite a bit for sports or academic events, and in order to keep travel costs affordable, parents are called upon to house (and feed and transport) students when their school is hosting an event. But it's about more than the costs. Like the school-wide fundraisers, housing students shows support for our students and our community. Not everyone sees it that way.

Parents of athletes are required to sign contracts indicating that they will house visiting students. The sad truth is that most parents do not house, leaving a minority of parents to bear the responsibilities of the Selfish Majority.  But their excuses are fabulous! My favorite is the one from the mom of one of Anna Grace's friends, who is "proud" of never having housed. Apparently their home has been "under renovation" (for four years!) and there is no place for a student to bunk. 

Some parents do not want to house students of a specific gender (which is permissible), but use that as an excuse to not house at all. Others don't want to "waste" a Friday night tending to housers, and I'm sure there is a long list of excuses I have yet to hear. Elementary School parents don't feel the issue is theirs (but happily voted to wipe out the capital reserve funds raised by everyone for an expansion of the elementary school); and Middle School parents don't want HS students in their home. And on and on it goes. 

You can see where this is going.  This academic year alone we housed a grand total of 30 student nights, in support of the Speech & Debate and MS Honor Band events at school; and the required hosting during basketball season. Yet, Anna Grace is neither a MS student nor participates in S&D. Her housing requirement this year, on the other hand, is a meager 7 nights. Certainly we have volunteered more than our fair part this year alone. 

Last week AISV hosted the AMIS MS Honor Band of 70 students. Having already housed more than our fair part, we felt that perhaps other families should step up and volunteer their fair part. They didn't, of course, and after four calls for housing by the Events Office, we finally offered to take two students.

But the Selfish Majority is strong. We were later invited to take a third student.  Our boys were fabulous house guests, who really, really loved Clayton Theodore.  CTF loved the attention. We were spared a fourth student, so I only needed to prepare 21 additional meals last week instead of 28. Call it the silver lining.

But, still. Thursday I canceled plans to attend a much-anticipated Bosnian wine tasting event; it's no fun attending alone, and we can not leave MS students without an "adult" present. On Friday evening, rather than attending ourselves, I had the joy of scrolling the many AIS music families posting on FB about how much fun they were having at, "Long Night of Research" or just being out and about because they were relieved of the "burden" of housing music students.  We, instead, combined forces with other families who were housing and hosted a barbecue. The evening was lovely. But, still.

On Saturday the AIS T&F team headed to Hungary for the annual AIS Budapest Exchange with several other schools. Tony and I look forward to attending the event; we pack a picnic and spend the day cheering on the team and our favorite Lady Knight. But not this year. 

My sadness, disappointment, and general pissed-off-edness was obvious on Saturday. Tony did his best to cheer me with lunch at a favorite restaurant.  The proprietor offered, "Unsere Stammtisch" (our usual table) and jokingly asked if we even wanted to see the menu. Obviously the proprietor has taken note of how I never order soup but always share Tony's, and this time brought two spoons. I was slightly cheered.
Later in the afternoon we attended the Honor Band performance at a venue we have never visited, the Odeon Theater. If we could not be in Budapest to support our own student, we could at least support the students we were housing.
This is an Internet photo of the concert hall where the students performed. The setting was gorgeous, and the performance, equally as beautiful.
Later that evening Anna Grace messaged en route home with the exciting news that she had taken a first place in three of her events.  That was the straw, and I cried myself to sleep. 

Our housers departed for home rather early on Sunday, and after lingering for the first time in days over our morning coffee, Tony and I headed out to visit the neighbors in an attempt to salvage something of the weekend. Bratislava was hosting its, "Open Doors" weekend event, with palaces and museums offering special programs and gratis entry.  
Slovakian embroidery is beautiful, I think, and I am in awe of the talent of those who can create these exquisite works of art.




We wandered through a couple of palaces and museums that we had (surprisingly) never visited, took in the sights, and tried two new dishes at a favorite Thai restaurant for lunch.













At one museum I picked up two booklets containing vintage postcard scenes of Bratislava and the city's extraordinary tapestry collection. As it goes in these parts, even a purchase of €0,11 warrants a receipt!
 One of my favorite buildings in the city. Oh, the potential...




This housing experience has without doubt left us resentful and with a growing disrespect for some of our Selfish Majority "friends" within the school community.  Some are posting elsewhere and some will soon make the annual summer migration across the pond. Out of sight will be out of mind. And the sooner, the better.

The week is already off to a promising start. On this morning's constitutional with Clayton Theodore both the Baron and Baroness von Heron (thanks, Robin, for naming the birds!) were at the pond to greet me; and as I write, the housekeeper is making the detritus left behind by three middle school boys magically disappear. A clean slate awaits.