francois has made many friends over the years on the internet. people who spend some time online, will know how such friendships become quite important.
as he has 5 weeks of holidays in june/july, because of the football world cup, and because his 2 year masters degree course affords him some time to do some travel planning, he decided to use this opportunity to do spend some of his long-term savings, and do some overseas travelling. in fact, everything seemed to be working out for him, to make this trip possible.
so he decided to go to USA. but where does one start? visiting a good friend seems like a great way to go about it. so, slowly the trip is taking shape. first he had to apply for a passport, then a visa. as the USA is quite strict in their visa requirements, especially for a single young person, he had to collect a number of documents and letters and references, and he also had to provide proof that he has enough money to fund a holiday. quite a mission.
a few weeks ago i asked francois if he was going to stay at the family of the friend. he said he didn't want to inconvenience them. i told him that i would love to meet and host any friends of his. especially since overseas travel is very expensive. so, he asked. and the family responded with great enthusiasm! they have gotten involved with some of the planning, and with many suggestions and ideas. and an invitation to stay at their house.
all the requirements were met, and the tickets were bought. the ultimate destination is the town where his friend lives in Illinois. this will be the start and end point of his trip.
i have had some (very little) interaction with his friend through comments on my blog, and facebook. but francois told me that her family had started to read my blog, to get to know a little about this stranger coming to visit. i felt a little disadvantaged because they knew at least something about us, and i knew nothing about them. i mean, my baby is going to visit strangers in a strange country. he may be all grown up, but i still worry, you know!
so, i decided to reach out. i got the father's email address from francois, and sent him the following email:
I got your email address from Francois.
I just wanted to touch base, and tell you how much i appreciate it that you are a contact for Francois for his trip. Going overseas is always a daunting challenge, and doing so alone as a young person for the first time is quite an adventure! It helps to know that you are keeping an eye on him, so to speak.
He is rather a good boy. He is responsible and intelligent and charming. He also has the attention span of a gnat, and his table manners are a little lacking, in spite of 23 years of constant coaching. But i am sure he will be on his best behaviour during his visit. If not, you have my permission to ground/spank him. :-) He can wash dishes, but not cars.
Please let me know if you need anything. You have my email address now.
His reply had laughter-tears running down my cheeks!
Thanks for your message. My trust in the success of Francois' visit is based on three factors: (1) He must be a rather high quality person or my daughter would not have developed such a broadly based friendship with him online over the past few years; (2) The unusually detailed font of information about him and the family as described on your extensive blog, the entirety of which I have perused, and throughout which your fondness for him is well documented, and (3) the e-mail communication I have had with Francois, which reflects his most interesting personality, wry wit, politeness, and excruciating respect for the English language.
Nevertheless, I appreciate the "heads up" on the new information about him that you provided. I will have to do some research on gnats in order to interpret you comment on attention span. Francois' academic achievements alone would suggest to me that there are some extraordinarily contemplative insects in that part of the world. Table manners are not among the strong points of anyone in this household, and our dining style could not be less formal. I have raised three fine children and so far have not felt the need to ground, much less spank any of them, and I am not about to start with an international guest who is an adult graduate student. And finally, were he to wash the dishes it would amaze, shock, and shame my daughters to tears as they have never seen anyone other than their parents do this and it is apparently not considered a 21st century skill.
We are very excited about his visit, and are making lists of things he might wish to do, eat, or visit. So far we have arranged a flight to see our son in San Francisco, and hope to drive up to Wisconsin sometime. I suppose that Francois and X might come up with additional destinations here in the Illinois area.
I feel like I know you already, certainly more closely than any of our neighbors, from the wonderful array of postings on your blog. I am sure Francois will tire of answering questions about this and that which I have read there. We will do our best to make his visit safe, productive, and interesting. As I have tried to make clear already, we are not very typical as Americans go, and the diversity of lifestyles in the USA will not be revealed to him in the time available. But he did express a desire to go off the beaten path, so to speak, and "middle America" is pretty well represented in this state, with a mixture of urban, small town, and very rural environments.
i like these people already, and i feel quite confident that francois will have a great time in visiting them..