Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Exchange Trip From Hell

Michael Gromek, a 19 year-old exchange student from Poland, probably had a different vision of the United States before he arrived in Greensboro, North Carolina. Instead, being hosted by a literalist bible interpreting family gave him coal-face view of hell. Spiegel Online carries his story: (All emphasis mine)

When I got out of the plane in Greensboro in the US state of North Carolina, I would never have expected my host family to welcome me at the airport, wielding a Bible, and saying, 'Child, our Lord sent you half-way around the world to bring you to us.' At that moment I just wanted to turn round and run back to the plane.
Yup. I know that feeling.

Things began to go wrong as soon as I arrived in my new home in Winston-Salem, where I was to spend my year abroad. For example, every Monday my host family would gather around the kitchen table to talk about sex. My host parents hadn't had sex for the last 17 years because -- so they told me -- they were devoting their lives to God. They also wanted to know whether I drank alcohol. I admitted that I liked beer and wine. They told me I had the devil in my heart.
Welcome to Fundie-land. It gets better.

My host parents treated me like a five-year-old. They gave me lollipops. They woke me every Sunday morning at 6:15 a.m., saying 'Michael, it's time to go to church.' I hated that sentence. When I didn't want to go to church one morning, because I had hardly slept, they didn't allow me to have any coffee.

One day I was talking to my host parents about my mother, who is separated from my father. They were appalled -- my mother's heart was just as possessed by the devil as mine, they exclaimed. God wanted her to stay with her husband, they said.
Ah yes. Now that they've made sure he knows he's possessed by the devil, let's make sure his family is also debased with Christian superstitious crap.

Then, seeing as we were already on the topic of God's will, the religious zealots finally brought up a subject which had clearly been on their minds for a long time: They wanted me to help them set up a Fundamentalist Baptist church in my home country of Poland. It was God's will, they said. They tried to slip the topic casually into conversation, but it really shocked me -- I realized that was the only reason they had welcomed me into their family. They had already started construction work in Krakow -- I was to help them with translations and with spreading their faith via the media.
So... Christian, if you know what I mean.

It was clear to me that there was no way I was going to do that. The family was appalled. It was a weird situation. After all, these people were my only company at the time. If I hadn't kept in touch with home through e-mail, I might have been sucked into that world.
What young Michael didn't get is that they weren't really company either. They were on a mission.

It was only after four months that I decided to change my host family. I had kept hoping that things might improve, but it was futile. Telling them that I wanted to go was the most unpleasant moment I experienced in that half year. Of course they didn't understand -- how could they? They had grown up with their faith and were convinced of it, and then suddenly I turned up and refused to fit in.

From that moment on, I counted the days. The two months that followed my decision were hell. My host parents detested me. There were constant rows. I could sense that they just wanted to get rid of me. They didn't know what to do with me any more.
This young fella deserves a lot of credit. He held out for about 119 days longer than I would have. As for his host family destesting him, well, that's pretty Christian.

67 days later, I was finally in a new family. They were young, actually more friends than host parents, and I was very happy there. Because my new family was only 50 kilometers away from the other one, I was distrustful at first and afraid that things wouldn't be any better. But the change was worth it.

Despite everything, I still haven't come to terms with my experience. I want to write to the religious family soon and explain to them, clearly and calmly, why things went so wrong. It shouldn't just end this way."
That's a very moral approach to the whole situation. Unfortunately it's not something his Fundie family will understand. Intentionally allowing their genitals to atrophy for 17 years doesn't suggest a higher moral foundation. In fact, they have no morality. They're brainwashed.

Perhaps Michael should send a few pictures of Polish cathedrals given that 96% of the Polish population claims to be Roman Catholic.

Just so the Fundies get this, although I suspect it will have little effect, there is a customer reaction that applies here. An unhappy customer will tell approximately 27 other people about their experience. A dissatisfied customer will tell approximately 10 other people about their experience. Satisfied customers will tell approximately five other people about their positive experience.

Bad news travels fast. And, with the internet it travels far.

Doesn't anybody screen host families before subjecting some unsuspecting student to them? Perhaps Michael's fundie family could have used some training.

No comments: