Les French | Sojourners

Les French


Les French
By Ed Spivey

Editors’ Note: Despite the vital importance of golf to the national debate, the following article contains no reference to Tiger Woods. We apologize for this omission, but a much more important topic demands the attention of our troubled nation: French kids.

When we sent our oldest daughter to France last year in an exchange program we got excited about what we might get, you know, in exchange: perhaps some good cheese, or fine wine, or maybe one of those really ugly French luxury cars (the ones that look like giant slugs, only less stylish).

But what appeared on our doorstep this summer was none of these things. It was a French kid. A French teen-ager, to be precise, who expected to live with us for the same amount of time that our daughter spent with her. (Apparently she didn’t understand that giving is much better than receiving.)

But who could blame a foreign-type person for wanting to visit the most powerful, most advanced nation in the world? In fact, she spent much of the first day wide-eyed and speechless, at least until I stopped driving on the sidewalk. (I was in a hurry, and I was careful.) Coincidentally, one of her first cultural lessons was the unique way American drivers interpret traffic lights. I patiently explained that in our country green means "go," yellow means "also go," and red means that drivers curse loudly to themselves: "Dag! I’d better hurry through this intersection because some other cars will probably be coming from the other direction!"

Knowing that the first few hours with a new family and a different language could be uncomfortable, we tried to set our guest at ease by asking questions that any typical 13-year-old could answer: Who is your favorite rock singer? What kinds of foods do you like? Why does your government sell weapons of mass destruction to Iran?

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1997
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