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Yesterday, Hubby, Daughter and I went to one of the ‘burbs near the Twin Cities for an orientation meeting in advance of our French foreign exchange student arriving next week.   We were told that European foreign exchange students have a different expectation when they come to the United States than when American students head to Europe.  Americans expect to see touristy places, whereas Europeans want to see how our culture works on a normal, everyday basis.  They want to get a good grasp of our language, as well.  We were told that we don’t need to plan a whole bunch of special events and outings to fill our student’s time.  We were also informed that we don’t need to change the way we do things in our households for our students.  French students are used to eating with their families at a dinner table.  Suffice it to say, we rarely do that.  Mostly, we plop down in the living room with our plates of food and eat dinner while watching (and commenting) on the news.  While it might be tempting to eat at the dinner table in order to make our French guest comfortable, it won’t give her a true picture of American life.

Even though we’ve been warned not to treat our guest as a guest, but as a regular member of the family, we sure as heck aren’t going to bring her home to a filthy house.  While the house was due for a thorough cleaning, the expectation of a guest gives us a deadline to work toward.  When we clean the house, all members of the family are assigned different jobs, which makes the process speedier than if one of us was stuck with the whole thing.  I tackled the living room, which meant dusting my knick-knack cabinet, picking up detritus, vacuuming the furniture and sucking up the starter cats, and mopping the floor.

While I had the shop-vac out (I was wearing earplugs to protect my hearing), I decided to vacuum the hallways, front entry, and Hubby’s and my bedroom.  As I moved around the bedroom, I came to a corner that has a small bookshelf in it.  The arrangement creates a hidden corner that dust and starter cats collect in.  It’s the sort of space that’s easy to miss, which got me to thinking about all the hidden corners in the world.  You see, I’m still reading Alan Weisman’s “The World Without Us.” I was reading the chapter about the island of Cyprus this morning.  In particular it discusses a hotel in the town of Varosha that was abandoned during a political conflict in the mid-1970s.  An electrical engineer by the name of Allan Cavinder had been hired to repair the air-conditioning in the abandoned hotel.  He couldn’t take the silence.  “It actually hurt his ears, he told his wife.  . . . .  The sheer absence of human voices bouncing off walls was unnerving.”  (pg. 95)

An abandoned hotel is a pretty big hidden corner, but it can be hidden nonetheless – at least from us prying humans.  The idea that a space, no matter how big or small, can be hidden from us is fascinating to me.  There is implied mystery in hidden corners.  For me, the mystery deepens when a corner or space that was previously known to humans goes back into hiding again.  Why?  As soon as that question gets asked, a story begins.

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