Whew, what a week!
Mark and I hosted 2 twelve year old Lakota girls, plus my eleven and thirteen year old nieces, because we thought it would be fun for everyone!
And it was. Having 4 tween girls is a trip.
Going into the host family experience, we really just hoped to provide a fun and enriching time for all of the girls and to enjoy their company. We did that and more.
Briley and Erica became comfortable at our home pretty quickly. We encouraged them to help us with meals and to feel free to use the kitchen as they would in their own home.
Because there were so many girls in the home, I didn’t get as much time as I hoped getting to know Briley and Erica individually, but we did carve out some time. My favorites: making Mac and cheese with Briley as she hilariously narrated the whole affair as if we were doing a cooking show on YouTube… ‘Cooking with Susan’. Taking Erica on her first ever roller coaster ride. She went in the first car with our niece, Ava, and LOVED it.
The girls all loved swimming in the ocean the most and were game for everything.
We were in charge of decorating a piñata in the shape of a horse for tipi day. Briley and Erica showed us how to make it look like a Lakota horse, but the girls went a little crazy with bows, lipstick and eye shadow and declared in the end that it looked more like a Barbie horse.
I did a photography class for all of the youth on the first day of their stay, which then culminated in a photojournalist exhibit of their work. What they created was stunning. For example, just before the trip, Erica got a pair of beloved ‘Vans’ with a checkerboard pattern. She included her Vans in the foreground on many of her pictures to show all the places she had been, super creative!
In addition to meeting all of the kids, I was able to spend time with their Lakota advisors and chaperones, Nikki, Ethan and Christy. During car rides to events I learned about housing on the Rez from Nikki and about Lakota hand games and lacrosse from Ethan. It was lucky to go on a lot of the outings, and these conversations were some of my favorites.
The other wonderful thing was to meet all of the other host families. We have been friends with Joy and Bruce , the founders of Lakota Youth Stay, for a long time, but none of the other host families were known to us. What an amazing group of kind and interesting people we had the pleasure to bond with at potluck dinners and outings. I expect that we will stay in touch now.
We plan to visit the Rez with Ava and Liv, to see Briley and Erica and meet their families. In the meantime we’ll write and text and Snapchat 🙂