Here's a piece wiritten by Jane during a visit of two children from Belarus during Christmas 2006.

"When asked if we would be interested in hosting two of Sergei's three friends at Christmas, we gave the matter some thought.  We had concerns. How would it affect our children? How would we communicate? Would it spoil Christmas? However after putting our concerns to bed we said YES.

As the day approached we looked forward to the arrival of the boys but our concerns came to the front of our minds again.  The 17th December seemed a long day, and we spent the afternoon pacing round the house and looking out of the window.  Finally, a little later than expected, Sasha and Vanya, our house guests for the next three weeks, arrived. They were given a quick tour of the house by Sergei and Inna, and then we were left to it.  We quickly commissioned the computer into action and got the on-line translator up and running, being mindful not to bombard them with a mini inquisition.

After a while, the boys unpacked and reappeared a few minutes later with many and varied gifts for us.  We had been warned, but even so we were shocked at the number of cakes, sweets, glassware, linen, pottery and spoons that we were proudly presented with. We had a quiet rest of the day with a phone call home, and a meal. The boys went to bed early as they had been up at 4am to get to Minsk airport.

As the days have progressed it has become clear that our concerns were mostly invalid.  Sasha and Vanya are tidy, polite, eat what is put in front of them, and are always ready when it is time to go.  Communication has been challenging, though we manage to get by with various techniques to help us.  We do find that it is almost impossible to have a spontaneous conversation with them, as you would with your own children, and there are long silences on car journeys when using a computer isn't possible!  However, we have had fun watching videos together and playing non-verbal games, a favourite being Uno Extreme. We are now confident naming colours in Russian!

It is great to see the boys have fun with Sergei and Sergei2, when they really come alive.  They seem to enjoy going to the park, and liked the trip to London. I am sure that there is more fun to come when we all go away for a few days next week.

Christmas was a little difficult as we wanted to keep the day as "normal" for our children as possible.  To Sasha and Vanya it must have been peculiar as Christmas in Belarus is on 7th January.  However, they enjoyed opening their sack full of presents, and dipped in and out of our festivities. They did the Christmas turkey justice and even had seconds of Christmas pudding.  Crackers were a definite hit!

We've had a busy schedule and have been out and about most days, but it hasn't been at all onerous or as tiring as we expected.  We are 11 days into the visit, and we all feel that we are doing well.  Would we host again?  A most resounding YES!"

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