Friday, 14 July 2017

Our Summer Son from Spain

Last Tuesday morning, my friend called to ask if I might know somebody who would be interested in being host parents for a boy from Spain. He was arriving later that day. 

She had signed up with two different organizations hosting students expecting to get one from Spain and another from a different country. As it turned out, both groups sent boys from Spain. Since students are here to improve their English, it is against the rules to place two Spanish speaking students in the same house. 

Seven years ago when our son was fourteen, we hosted a boy from Spain through Broadwater Education Centre. It was fun, but challenging coordinating around our son's schedule and our weekend biking at the time. Now that we are empty-nesters with no specific plans for the month, I thought it might be even more fun this time.

I volunteered on the spot, but my friend suggested checking in with my husband first. Luckily he was excited about hosting again too.

Jorge (pronounced Horhay) arrived Tuesday afternoon. I was at work, so my friend picked him up and brought him over when I got home. My friend has been hosting students for the past six years and is very familiar with the process. She had picked up a Canadian-themed insulated lunch bag and water bottle, perfect for their daily packed lunches. 

She went over house rules and expectations then explained how to use the buses referencing a bus route map she had brought. She even offered to take Jorge on the bus to and from school the next day which helped immensely as I have never used the buses in London.

We got together again on Thursday night to take our 'boys' - Gonzalo (Gonthalo) and Jorge (Horhay) to Sunfest at Victoria Park. We parked at Galleria Mall to show them the library and movie theatre then walked to Victoria Park pointing out points of interest and bus stops along the way. 

Here we are posing by the flower garden at Victoria Park before leaving the boys with their friends to explore. They took a bus home later.
The students have a full itinerary Monday to Friday every week. They attend English classes from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., lunch from 1-2 p.m. then activities with computer/internet and a teacher available for extra help until 4 p.m. except when special group activities are planned. After school, they are free to hang out with their friends and are expected to take the bus home unless a ride is arranged with their host parents.

Weekends are free to enjoy time with family or friends. There are no firm expectations, but it is nice to fit in a bit of time for both. We hope to show Jorge some of the local attractions not covered on the school itinerary, leaving plenty of time for him to hang out with his friends.

Day excursions are scheduled each week usually on Fridays. Students are dropped off at school at 7:30 a.m. and return at 8 p.m. We have arranged car pooling with another host parent in the neighbourhood. She is retired, so does morning drop offs while we cover evening pick ups.

Toronto was their first full day trip last Friday. They visited the CN Tower and the Eaton Centre

Jorge was impressed with the view from the CN Tower. He especially liked standing on the glass floor with a view 342 m (1,122 ft) straight down.
Jorge shared this photo showing him crossing a street in downtown Toronto copying the famous Beetles Abbey Road album cover ... nailed it.
As luck would have it, a storm blew through London knocking down power lines near our home Friday night. Our electricity was out from 6 to 11 p.m. We had planned to watch a movie with Jorge. Instead we sat outside watching fireflies and chatting. We loved the peace and quiet with no noise from air conditioners or pool pumps. 

After a busy first week, we slept in Saturday morning. I made a special breakfast consisting of pancakes, fresh berries, maple syrup and bacon. It was a welcome change from our regular weekday oatmeal and fruit bowl.
After breakfast, my husband and Jorge headed off to Costco to shop while I cleaned up and walked the dog. There is no Costco where Jorge lives in Spain, so we thought he might find it interesting. 

We planned to take Jorge to Grand Bend and Bayfield ... two popular nearby destinations on Lake Huron. I made reservations at The Black Dog in Bayfield and sent a message to my sister-in-law. We were also hoping to stop by their cottage located between Grand Bend and Bayfield to watch the sunset after dinner. We set off shortly after noon.

It was busy in Grand Bend, but we managed to find parking and enjoy a soft ice cream treat on our way to the beach.
We checked out the view from the top of the Grand Bend Beach House and Pavilion before walking the length of the beach in both directions. It was windy and cool by the water, but Jorge assured us the lake is not as cold as the ocean near his home in Oviedo, Spain.
We paused for a photo by this boat at the beach parking lot entrance.
Another photo was taken at this designated 'selfie' stop on Main Street.
And one more photo at the Grand Bend Main Street Arch.
After touring Grand Bend, we got back in the car and headed North to the Village of Bayfield where we strolled along Main Street checking out all the little boutiques and art galleries before heading to the Black Dog Village Pub and Bistro for dinner. It had been a long time since breakfast and we were hungry. First, we shared a yummy appetizer (chorizo and shrimp) then Jorge and I thoroughly enjoyed our veg curry bowls while my husband raved about his pork cheeks ... a new favourite.
After dinner, we visited a few more shops. Jorge had never tasted fudge, so we bought some (maple, chocolate and Reese's Pieces) to take to the cottage. We also paused for a photo with Captain Harry, a wood carving of a sailor watching over Main Street in Bayfield.
Next up - Lasting Memories Cottage. My husband's brother and his wife bought it last summer and love spending time there. It is located midway between Grand Bend and Bayfield with gorgeous views overlooking Lake Huron. If you're looking for a great place to stay, they do rent it out. You can check availability on their website here.

My sister-in-law has a 13-year old girl (daughter of a friend from Italy) visiting for the month of July. Jorge enjoyed playing frisbee and hanging out with both Julia (pronounced Yulia) and Solomon (the neighbour's 14-year old son).
The kids loved tasting fudge for the first time. Fudge and maple syrup are not commonly available in either Spain or Italy.
We headed down to the beach to watch the sun set. The kids entertained themselves with skipping stones.

The sunset did not disappoint. It was gorgeous as always. 

Meanwhile my husband's brother had lit a fire. After enjoying the sunset on the beach, we headed up top to make S'mores ... a popular fireside treat in Canada.
S'mores are messy, but you can't have just one. They taste so good you'll be tempted to eat s'more.

This Friday they are visiting Niagara Falls where they will be taking a Maid of the Mist Boat trip to the Falls. Next Friday, they are off to the Pinery for fun activities like biking, canoeing, kayaking and swimming. Their last trip is to Canada's Wonderland. Jorge is very excited about that one.

Other activities listed on their itinerary include: swimming and beach volleyball at Port Stanley, Spikes indoor beach volleyball, swimming at St. Mary's Quarry, East Park for water slides, mini golf and Intensity Sports and Lazer Quest.

Jorge seems to be enjoying his time at school with his friends and with us.

Our plans for July changed last Tuesday when Our Summer Son from Spain arrived. Our summer suddenly seems a lot more fun and interesting. We are thoroughly enjoying Jorge's company. I can hardly believe he has been here almost two weeks already. Time flies when you're having fun.

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  1. Jorge is a nice young man and his manners are lovely I am sure his parents are very proud of the son they are raising. He is making your summer interesting and fun for sure.

  2. He is very lucky to be with you and Lee. He will have a wonderful experience

  3. Wonderful that you are doing this!! Always fun to see familiar places and sights through new eyes!