Sunday, 17 May 2009

Excitement is in the air

Art Nouveau TarotLo Scarabeo

Today, my card of the day was the card of swiftness - The Eight of Wands.

This card suggests excitement is in the air, and its full steam ahead for new ideas, goals and career moves. And with its fast–moving energy, obstacles are swept aside, and problem solving’s been given the green light.
And when the Eight of Wands appears in a reading there could be new opportunities or events that unfold fast.

But, with its main message being movement -travel, letters, emails or long distance communication are definitely on the cards at this time.

Reversed, you feel weighed down by the fast pace of events, redundancy, strikes, fights or travel delays.

Speaking of travel…

Last Monday morning, tears flowed freely as our two Thai students waited for the bus that would take them to London to catch a plane home. Weeks had flown since we’d welcomed Tan, 16 and 14-year-old Nuch into our house.
Seeing Bruno, our small terrier’s tail wag a greeting, Nuch went stiff with fear.
‘He doesn’t bite, I reassured her.

‘She can’t go near dogs, Tan said in broken English.

‘Does she have an allergy?’ I asked.

Tan shook her head, ‘She’s Islamic,’ Tan explained.

That night I studied their profiles. Nuch wanted to be placed with a Muslim family. Their they’d be hound free, wouldn’t eat pork and would remind her to pray 5 times a day

Being Catholic, (although not a practicing one) I understood her need for prayers, and while I can take or leave pork products, the dog rule was a mystery to me.

Trawling the internet I discovered that animals with wet noses were considered dirty. One Muslim girl said, dogs could be kept as pets as long as they remained outside or in a room separate from where you pray. Another stated that Muslims are not aloud to touch dogs because in their Qur'an (Islamic bible) the dog is believed to be impure. If touched, they were to wash their hands 7 times with soap.

But Bruno never quite got the message and would got out of his way to get a cuddle (it never happened) or kind word from Nuch.

Once, while we were sitting talking, he sneaked behind the sofa and licked her hand.

Nuch rushed to the sink and scrubbed at her hands, and Bruno was in the dog house. Although Nuch couldn’t keep a dog, she had a cat. Cats are constantly grooming themselves and unlike dogs they bury their faeces. I asked what her parents felt about dogs, she replied, my Grandmother kicks them if they come into our yard.

Nuch was given an upstairs room with telly, hi-fi and double bed, but after the first night, this was kept solely for prayers. Many a night or early morn we were woken by the sound of footsteps and the bedroom door closing as she entered the bedroom to say her prayers. Instead, Nuch slept on the sofa in Tan’s bedroom, while Tan huddled beneath crisp, clean sheets in the single bed.

Cooking was a challenge as they said from the beginning they preferred spicy food. Tan had brought her own bag of chilli pepper to make sure the food she received wasn’t bland.

Nuch’s Mother cooked a meal in the morning, and it was shared throughout the day. The only meal Tan’s Mum cooked that wasn’t spicy was breakfast. I like cooking so when the girls asked to cook for us I wasn’t too sure. However, they were so insistent, I finally gave in.

We ate papaya salad, dressed in a hot chilli and garlic dressing. Tom Yum Kung (Thai spicy soup), which was so hot it made the sweat pour from Charlie’s head, and it made little old chilli-lover Me, shed a tear. They also served sticky rice and red Thai curry with palm sugar, coconut Milk, kaffir Lime Leaves, fish Sauce, Thai Sweet Basil and red chillies. The meal was delicious; they served it to us and washed up afterwards.

In their bedroom was packets of instant Thai noodles. These would be brought out if the meal wasn’t on the table in time, or if there was English food they couldn’t or wouldn’t eat. Not that they’d refused anything I put in front of them. Once they tried spicy cauliflower, but like most young girls vegetables were a no-go and they pushed peppers, mushrooms, and other types of veg to the side of the plate.

One night, Charlie asked the girls if they’d like to try an English meal - like beef dinner or fish and chips, (after all they were on a culture exchange visit) but, they shook their head and exclaimed NO! The only meal they liked (apart from Thai) was Kentucky chicken or Pizza with very few chips.

So I set about learning to cook Thai. I can now cook authentic Tom Yung Kung, Thai omelette, red and green curry, Thai fish cakes (small like their Mama’s would make) and Thai kebabs. Along with many other spice-laden Asian dishes.

At the time, deciding what to cook was a bit of a nightmare. But the beautiful, homemade “Thank you” card from the girls, more than made it worthwhile.

Carly came home from School the other day and told us her school wanted parents to host students from international countries. At the meeting, teachers pleaded for parents to take more than one student, and Charlie and I, (gluttons for punishment) looked at each other and nodded. So in June, we will once again, open our home to students from Asia or Europe for a week.

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