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AFS students compare Falls Village to their homes

FALLS VILLAGE — Three exchange students staying with Falls Village families gave presentations on their home countries — and the differences between life there and here — at the D.M. Hunt Library Wednesday, March 14.Merna Mohamed (living with Dave and Becky Seney) said that in Egypt, lunch is the big meal of the day, generally taken between 2 and 5 p.m.She demonstrated the clothing designed for modesty that young women wear when they go out in Cairo.She also said that, contrary to American perceptions, the use of camels as a means of transport is largely confined to the tourist trade.Feli Eckert (staying with the Downs family) said that in Germany, family life is very different; family members do not congregate in the living room, preferring their own space.She said her family hosted a student from Colombia, where the family dynamic is more like the U.S. model. “She was sitting by herself in the living room” for the first couple of days, until she figured out the German style.She said that traveling in Europe is akin to going from state to state in the U.S. “No passports, no customs, we can just go.”As for food, she said there are a lot of potatoes and sausages in the German diet. She was quick to debunk one stereotype: “People ask, do you eat sauerkraut every day?“No, we do not.”She drew a sharp contrast between the German and American school systems. “We have no school sports, no electives.” Her music lessons are separate from the high school.She was asked if the Falls Village experience would affect her relations with her siblings. “Definitely,” she said. “I will go back and want to spend time with them.”Xavier Quintilla Pinyol, from Mollerussa in Catalonia, Spain, (and staying with Joan and Jerri Wingard) talked about his home, an autonomous region in the far northeastern corner of Spain.The Catalan language was banned for years, he said. Now there is considerable regional pride.He showed the audience a jersey from the Barcelona soccer club, modestly noting that Barcelona FC is the “best team in the world.”He said that local reaction to the team’s fortunes are consistent. “If Barcelona wins, they will destroy your business. If Barcelona loses, they will also destroy your business.”He said that the worldwide recession has hit Spain and Catalonia hard. “The economy is very bad. Unemployment is 23 percent.”Job prospects for young people are worse, with 43 percent of people ages 18 to 23 unable to find work.“We are seeing a very sad situation,” he said. For instance, at his school, the lights are only on for part of the day. “It’s either light now or heat in winter,” he said. Even so, students wear gloves in class.He said that the biggest difference he’s noticed is the role of the American high school as the center of social life. Spanish schools have no sports programs, for example.He said his father’s job makes it difficult to participate in the traditional Spanish siesta. “My father is a teacher who works all day and has no opportunity for siesta.”He makes up for it on weekends.He spoke of the contrast between their home towns and tiny Falls Village. “It shocked me,” he said. “There are a lot of trees.”The Wingards also kidded him that there would be buffalo.

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