Cedar House Exchange

IMG_1663 Photo by Carli Kovel Will Nuelle A group of five students and one chaperone—Amara, Ben, Damien, Megan, Xeno, and, a Cedar House math teacher, JP—arrived to Latin after a few days in New York at about 9:30 AM on April 1st. While in Chicago, the students stayed with various families in the upper school including the Artola family, the Fifield family, the Kelleher family, the Schultz family, and my own. The group, hailing from Cedar House in Cape Town, South Africa, was excited to get a start on their exploration of all things Chicago. They came with one assignment: to be curious. The first night at dinner, Damien openly asked my family, “How do you guys like Obama?” Although he received a mixed response from my family – my parents don’t necessarily lean one way or another on the political spectrum – this became a prime example of why we loved Damien. On their second day in town, the group had breakfast at Elly’s in the morning prior to visiting Upper School classes with their respective hosts. When their plates were brought to them, their eyes widened. The Cedar House students realized that Elly’s portions were obscenely large (a trend across America), something that they would have to grow accustomed to over the coming days. Damien often told me how he though “it would be better if they gave you smaller portions in America and made you pay less because everyone wastes two thirds of their food anyways.” The group went on several touristy expeditions visiting Millennium Park and the Art Institute on one day and the Willis Tower and the Loop on another. The Cedar House Students often came home worn out from long days of exploring, but said that they loved the sights. On Saturday evening, they went to see the Blue Man Group. Damien told me it was one of the coolest things he had ever seen. Their visit went exactly as the students had hoped it would go. They had a nice time at Latin, and they saw the highlights of what Chicago had to offer. Simple as that, right? Right?! Well, we’re forgetting one important dimension: ourselves. The Cape Town, South Africans certainly left a lasting impact on the families that hosted them. When my family was first asked to host a student, we were unsure whether or not to do it because we were all so busy. Finally, however, my mom stepped up and said, “it will be a good experience for our family.” That statement definitely turned out to be true on the micro level for our family and on the macro level for our school. SAB organized several events that incorporated Latin students into discussions with the South African students of which the best was surely the SAB luncheon on day two. It was amazing how many students came. Students filled every chair in 411 and then some just to have a regular lunch conversation with the students from the other side of the Equator. Everything from our cultural differences to our schools’ respective disciplinary policies was discussed. They brought with them a willingness to comment on our traditions, habits, and lifestyles that would never occupy our thoughts had they not said anything about it. The Cedar House students went home just this past Wednesday morning, and I already miss them, all six of them – Amara, Ben, Damien, Megan, Xeno, and the wonderful JP. They came to Chicago and had the trip of a lifetime, in fact Damien told me so, but as they left I realized that we were the fortunate ones in the exchange; they left us with a lesson that will last a lifetime: by inviting someone you don’t know into your home, you can learn a lot about their culture, but you can also learn a lot about yourself.    ]]>