Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Host UK and a November Visitor

Valentine’s Day and what a better time than to post something about Remembrance Weekend 2011! Nothing like being three months behind!

        In October John and I connected with the Host UK organisation—a volunteer organisation that provides adult students from foreign countries an opportunity to stay in private homes and experience “real life” in Great Britain. Host UK had contacted the Parish Office asking us to run an advert for them in the Church Parish’s weekly news sheet and/or magazine. They were looking for people to host international students over the Christmas holiday. For us, Christmas is a time to open our home, especially since two of John’s daughters now live a fair distance away. John’s sister, Sewing Queen, now lives in South Africa, having moved in October.
I remembered living in dormitories over holidays. The thought of foreigners staying in institutional buildings, no family around, with most businesses being closed over two days for the holiday was abhorrent to me, and I wanted to make a difference for a stranger. So I sent an e-mail.
Our regional representative, Paul Ryall, came to our home for a chat and to complete the application process. Within a day of our visit with Paul, we were notified of our first guest—who would becoming in November. Host UK operates year round—not just special weekends or holidays. John and I were very enthusiastic—and said we’d host once a fortnight (every two weeks) through Christmas.
It is up to the guests to contact us first. Once we hear from them, I send them an e-mail. This is a template of what I send.
Hello.  Thank you for contacting us.  John and I are looking forward to welcoming you into our home.  We truly enjoy meeting new people and learning about different cultures. 

We are accustomed to having lots of guests and have towels, sheets, etc.  All you really need to bring are your clothes, spending money and probably your camera. 

When we have guests, I always like to ask them about food:
1)Do you have any food allergies?
2) Do you have any particular favourites?
3) Do you prefer savoury or sweet?  Hot and Spicy?  (I personally don't like curry, but John loves it!) 
4) Are there any vegetables you don't like?

I've attached a photo for you, so you will recognise us when you see us.  John and I are looking forward to your visit--which is less than two weeks away.  So, how are you coping with the weather?  Are you constantly cold? 

Just a couple of things:

1) It is best to bring layer-able clothes, as it can get a bit cold in our flat after dark.  Also, this autumn has been a bit warm, so having layers will make it easier to deal with the changeable-ness of the weather. Our flat sometimes feels cold, so bringing some extra warm socks is a good idea. 

2) I work a few hours on Fridays, so more than likely it will be John who will meet you at the bus station.  He will have the HOST sign and a sign with your name on it!  And you have the photo of him as well, so hopefully that will help.

3) Have you had a chance to check on bus schedules and possibly train schedules? 

4) Each fortnight we meet with a bunch of friends at 7:30 pm for dinner and Bible study.  The group is about 10 adults and eight children.  We do have a lot of fun.  However if you think you would be uncomfortable, or are not interested, please don't feel any pressure to go.  I only make it about half the time because I struggle with fatigue.  However, the group is very welcoming and love meeting new people

Djuna H. is from Australia and was studying for one term at Royal Holloway University in Egham, Surrey. John and I were very excited and pleased when we received the first e-mail from Djuna. Photos were exchanged by e-mail, and arrangements made for John to meet her at the bus station in Slough. Djuna arrived on Friday, 11th November.

That Friday evening we took Djuna to the Hillsong Connect Group. Djuna has no church back-ground, so she found the evening different to what most people think of church. Seeing as how half the group are Filipino, it was an excellent opportunity for her to taste Filipino food.
Cooking a favourite dish for a guest is fulfilling for me, which made preparing pancakes for Djuna on Saturday morning a joy. Since this was something she couldn’t prepare in the dorms, and not served as a breakfast dish in the UK, it was a treat for her (I hope, anyway!). Chatting with Djuna on our couch was enjoyable, as we both liked Midsomer Murders, travel and meeting new people.
After breakfast, on Saturday morning, being the bicycling enthusiast, John kitted Djuna with cycling gear and took her out for a ride, using my bike. Though it had been a while, Djuna kept up with John. After they got back, there was some television time. I was a bit tired, but decided it was a nice enough day to venture out. So Djuna and I took a local bus to Flowerland in Iver. It’s a big green-house, nursery with lots of gardening furniture. There are other cubicles with speciality items—including a pet shop and aquariums. After looking at the different fish and booths with Christmas decorations, we went to the Tea/Coffee Shop. Djuna had a cream tea and I had chocolate cake with a cappuccino.
The bus ride was expensive, ten pounds for both of us. If I’d had a car, we could have gone to Iver for about two pounds!
Sunday morning Djuna went to St. Mary’s church with me. On Remembrance Sunday each year there is a procession from one of the local churches to the Epithet in Langley Memorial garden. John wanted to join the parade starting at Christ the Worker Church. That Sunday was my turn to serve coffee at St. Mary’s, for those who were not going to attend the laying of wreaths on the memorial. Djuna had met a couple of people after the service and she walked with them to the park where she met John. After the memorial service, John took Djuna over the Christ the Worker to meet more people and show her around a bit. I met them back at the flat and prepared our lunch. Djuna was very kind and remembered to sign our guest book before she left to catch the buses back to Egham.
In some ways, John and I wish we had more to offer our HOST UK Guests in terms of travelling and seeing things. Having a car would be wonderful, so we could take them to island between Windsor & Staines (Runnymede) where King John supposedly signed the Magna Carta; or to the plain of Salisbury to see Stonehenge and then over to Salisbury Cathedral.
On the flip side, we live on the train lines so getting into London is convenient. We can also take the buses and catch the underground in Hounslow. It is more convenient to take the Transport for London buses and the underground than to have to try to find parking and then paying an extortionate amount for parking in London. There are many fee things in London, like the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Tate Art Museum, the Tate Modern Museum, the Museum of Natural History, walking in the parks of London (Hyde, Regent, Green, & St James), seeing the changing of the guard, walking through China Town.
Slough’s big draw is the large industrial estates where people find work. It isn’t great for touristy stuff. Yet, we are thankful that we have a home to share with strangers. After all, the idea behind HOST UK is for students to learn about the life-style of everyday Brits—sharing authentic food, with common daily life, doing what locals do with those locals.
It was a pleasure to have Djuna and learn more about Australian culture. She is an inquisative, intelligent, articulate, independent young woman. She has respect for other people's opinions and beliefs. I've enjoyed keeping up with her travels and studies through her blog:
Hosting internation students is a great way to enrich one's life. It has opened my mind to think about countries I've not been curious about previously. Seeing my culture(s) reflected against a different one, whilst still in my own home, is certainly a twist to cross-cultural experience for me. I would urge anyone to open their home to students, missionaries, and even business people from other countries. Here in the UK, contact

1 comment:

  1. I spent a couple of delightful nights on John & Dalletta's couch a couple years ago. They truly are gracious hosts!
    Allen Nyhuis
    Indianapolis, Indiana (USA)