We have had students from other countries stay with us on and off for the past 13 years. One of my regrets is that I haven't kept a record of these interesting people!
This month we said good bye to Aziz. He stayed with us for about a year. A year?! wow. Time flies!
Aziz is from Saudi Arabia. He has a large family - it seems to me he said there are 17 children, and he is the youngest. His father died when he was a child. He was raised by his mother and his 'aunt'. His dad had two wives and they have continued to live in the same house after his father died. I think the 17 children are from both women.
Aziz had to be the best student we had at trying to get to know Canadian culture, learn the language, and be a part of our family. He also tried to infuse some of his culture into our home. He didn't think we were celebratory enough when someone returned home and would always rush to the door when anyone returned home to pronounce a hearty, "Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!" (on my off days this sometimes prompted me to quietly enter through the front door where he wouldn't hear me LOL). A lot of students who have stayed with us have been serious students, but he was probably the most earnest learner of English that I have met. It was amazing how much he learned in a year.
Aziz really loved our children. Sometimes his care made them uncomfortable though. He developed a habit of grilling Jill about where she had been and Allen talked with him and told him we do not treat daughters like that in our culture. We trust Jill and don't expect her to ask for anyone's permission to do things, except her parents. He lightened up on that. I think he was just trying to play the role of protective older brother, but his approach made Jill and us uncomfortable. It was too close to that Moslem control girls issue. He also got on a kick where he was trying to arrange a marriage for Jill with one of his nephews. He said she would always be looked after and that his family would give us lots of money (like a million dollars!) the entire discussion made Jill uncomfortable and often angry. He gave that one up to. Then he would talk about how he would love to take Peirce to meet his family. Peirce was curious, but I think a little afraid Aziz really would take him there and not bring him back. He was probably a little afraid because even though he thought it sounded like an interesting adventure I would always say no to the idea I wouldn't even joke that it might be okay. After Peirce's complaints Aziz finally gave that one up too.
That being said, Jill and Peirce loved to watch TV with Aziz, they loved how he always had treats for them. They loved helping him with his homework (it is always flattering to be a kid expert). And they had a lot of fun teaching him about Canadian things like tobogganing, skating, not wearing flip flops in snow, and things like that.
I appreciated the things Aziz taught me about Saudi culture and his religion. He prayed many times a day at specific times. He loved his family and spoke with them often. He had a favorite sister and whenever we mentioned her name (even when not talking about her specifically) he would clutch at his heart and say, "Oh my Sarah. I love my sister Sarah. she is my favorite." There are many things in his culture about women that I hate: they cannot drive, their work opportunities are limited, they must get permission from their husband or father (or whoever has been assigned to stand in in those roles), and they must cover themselves. Whenever I would ask him about these things he had answers that almost swayed me to think the customs were rooted in care and respect. Almost.
One thing Aziz and I discussed a couple times - and after a couple very dynamic discussions wouldn't discuss it with him anymore - was the Israeli Arab conflicts. We could not come to an agreement. He could see no other way than the belief that his brothers there have been wronged and the wars and killing are justified....even celebrated. Now and then he would drop comments that made me think he even admired Hitler. I could barely tolerate this, and Aziz knew it. We both greased very lightly on that sensitive topic.
We often had religious discussions and discussed many similarities between Muslims and Mormons. He said his family worried he would convert to Mormonism because he often told them how much he admired our religious ways. We invited him to come to church but he never did come on a Sunday. He came to a couple parties, and that was all. He was amazed at our grand church house and wanted to be able to visit the temple here when it is finished. He was always amazed when I knew Old Testament stories of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, etc. I don't know if he ever really understood that I got that knowledge from The Bible. He would always be aghast and say, "You know Abraham?! I cannot believe it."
One thing about Aziz that was odd was that he never really adjusted to our schedule. He would go to sleep after school, then wake up at a certain time for his prayers, and then stay up until 3 or 4 am talking on Skype, studying, and praying. He would often sleep until noon or later when he didn't have classes. Sometimes he stayed at the University all night studying in the library, and after a couple days of that he would come home and sleep for 12 hours or so straight.
Aziz was generous. He would always ask me if I needed anything if he was going out. He paid us full rent but very rarely ate here (that is part of the deal). He would often bring home treats for the kids and always offer food to us. He had a big heart and truly tried to be part of our family.
I have always found that when someone stays for more than six months I get a little tired of hosting. Aziz could sense that and I felt bad about that. He left at the beginning of December to move to Halifax and go to school there. He will be doing a masters degree in geomatics (I think). He already has an undergrad degree from a Saudi University.
I admired how Aziz loved his country, was grateful for his king's generosity, and how he was generous in praise towards our family. I am grateful that we got to know him.
I never could figure out what the watering can in the bathroom was for though.