Host Family

This is Tahiti

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

 By Midori Ng

Island of Moorea

“Bonjour”, “La Orana”, and “Hello” surrounded us as we disembarked the airplane and into the overwhelming humidity. Since I only speak English, I was immediately culture shocked with the French and Tahitian languages. The LePendu’s were our host family who warmly welcomed our UW group of 22 students with flower lei’s, shell necklaces, and friendly kisses. This marked the beginning of my Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMAD) study abroad journey in Tahiti for one month, exploring the towns of Punaauia, Fa’a, Papeete, and Moorea.

A small island with an even smaller population, Tahiti is home to natural wonders of sandy beaches, exotic flora and fauna, and clear blue ocean waters. To the outside world, it is known as paradise. However, many people never truly experience the aspects of Tahiti that make the island so alluring and captivating.

Our journey focused on making connections within the Polynesian community and learning about the Tahitian culture beyond the stereotypes and pre-perceptions. We spent weeks studying the traditional Tahitian canoes Polynesians used to voyage across miles of ocean during migration through guest speakers, readings, and discussions. Afterwards our group canoed in open water, swam with stingrays, and learned to how to paddle board with the LePendu kids. This type of active learning was applied to multiple aspects of the Tahitian culture.

Heiva Dance Festival

Heiva Dance Festival

During our second week, we attended the Heiva Dance Festival in downtown Papeete to watch an entertaining Polynesian show full of chanting, dancing, and singing. Afterwards, we got to partake and create our own Heiva festival, learning four dance routines, two songs, and a traditional chant within 48 hours to perform for the Punaauia community.

Volunteering at a kid’s camp and elementary school were the most rewarding experience of the trip. We spent all day with the children learning about their culture by weaving handmade baskets, making coconut milk, and preparing the dish E’ia Ota (Tahitian lime-marinated tuna). I also loved sharing parts of the American culture by playing basketball, soccer, and football with them. We also attended an American Football game between two local high schools to support the students the UW Athletic Football Department helped coach in June 2013. The football team performed the traditional Hakka dance for UW showing their appreciation of our support.

This was my first time out of the country and first time studying abroad. Through this program I realized the importance of slowing down and enjoying the moment being presented in front of you. Only staying for one month, every day was a new adventure and memory that would pass by too quickly.

Tahiti was an eye-opening study abroad trip that has no doubt changed my life. It is a destination that offers the greatest of simple pleasures rooted in a culture that values community, nature, and diversity. I found I am genuinely happy with Tahitian lifestyle of minimal accessibility to technology and materialistic items. More importantly, the LePendu family taught me a lot about living with a positive outlook, big heart, and open mind. As I am settling back into my life in Seattle, I am extremely grateful and humbled to have experienced the trip of a lifetime.

The Host Family Experience

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Written by: Patricia Mayer, studied abroad in Leon, Spain, Fall 2012

PatriciaMayer2Patri, mirrraaaaa”
Mira=look, or in Jorge and Miguel’s language “hey look at meee!”

I should have learned the first time. Never, ever, look. A few days ago my host family got home after picking Jorge up from karate practice. As I was studying in my room Jorge ran in dressed in his Karate robe and practiced one of his moves on my arm. A few minutes later I hear “Patri, mirraaaa!!” I glance over to my doorway where Jorge, who escaped from Chety’s grasp midway through changing into pajamas, stands butt-naked dancing and sticking his tongue out at me. I almost fell out of my chair laughing, and the best part was, after a long day at work Chety didn’t have the energy to wrangle an unruly Jorge and let the incident go without punishment.
This might have been the reason why yesterday, as I walked out of my room I was met by Jorge mooning me. Wanting to be just like his big brother, Miguel quickly joined in. And soon I was trying to figure out how to yell the boys are mooning me in Spanish. Something I don’t think I will ever have to say again in Spanish.

And another prime example of the adventures of Miguel and Jorge:
Today, a distressed Eli burst through the door as both boys screamed and talked a mile a minute. I learned they had been at the super market earlier and had been refusing to behave. (Note: they are normally very well behaved, eat all they are given, tell their parents they love them and give them a kiss) But today, they wouldn’t listen to Eli at all in the supermarket. Somehow, while Eli grabbed something off the shelf, Jorge became in charge of pushing the cart which held Miguel as a captive passenger. Because he is 5 and can’t see over the cart, Jorge plowed straight into a coca cola display, knocking a ton of stuff over, and catapulting poor little Miguel out of the cart. Miguel showed me his leg which at the present moment has a giant purple bruise.

I don’t know how I’m going to say goodbye to these guys. After spending 3 months eating my meals in the center of chaos (and the best free entertainment you could ask for), I don’t want to leave!