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From a host’s views: Our first two months

October 22, 2009

Sarah Jackson is the host mom of Tijjani (TJ) Attahir of Sokoto, Nigeria. They live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and TJ attends Cedar Rapids Washington High School.

Sarah’s post focuses on the first two months with their YES student and all of the new things they’ve experienced. She hopes that other host families will be able to relate to some of the stories and maybe get some ideas…

tj nigerian dressCan you believe it’s been two months since we pick up our IRIS students? In some ways, it feels so much longer because we’ve already experienced so much. Yet in other ways, it still seems so new.

I started thinking about all the things we’ve experienced with our new son already and thought other host families might enjoy some of these experiences or maybe get ideas. So here goes:


Ramadan – 30 days of fasting takes a toll on the person fasting, but it also takes a toll on the cook in the family. It seemed like I was preparing double meals for leftovers. We also now really understand how much family time takes place at the dinner table and are glad to have TJ a part of it again.

Yusuf Adam, TJ, Kim and Nura at the apple orchard

Yusuf Adam, TJ, Kim and Nura at the apple orchard

Apple Orchard – post-Ramadan celebration.  Thanks Healy’s for hosting!

Caves – visit to the Maquoketa caves.

Homecoming – dress up days, parade, bon fire and football. Apparently, we Americans do weird things for fun.

Beach – So it was just the Coralville Reservoir, but there was sand and water! Our two-year old finally talked him into getting in the water.

TJ snowSnow – thanks to the crazy fall weather, TJ has already experienced his first snow.  It didn’t stick around long, but lots of people called or sent a text to make sure he noticed it was snowing.


Italian – in the form of pizza, spaghetti and lasagna. TJ says he always knew he would like pizza because he’d seen it in the movies!

Chinese – the local place delivers!

Indian – the closest so far to his native Nigerian

American – hamburgers!!

Nigerian – Jolliff Rice and Okra Soup that TJ and Yussef made for Eid al-Fitr


Baseball – our 8-year old really wanted to teach TJ baseball, so we had a small “game” in the front yard. We’re probably done for the fall, but spring training will start before we know it.

Football – The American kind. TJ loves to go the high school games, even in the cold or rain. Mostly, I think he likes hanging out with his friends more than he like the game, but it’s fun either way. Plus, neighbors gave us their extra tickets to a Hawkeye game.

TJ plays soccer with his dad, Mike Jackson

TJ plays soccer with his dad, Mike Jackson

Soccer – TJ has played with dad in the front yard (only passing him 9 out of 10 times), a group of adults from other soccer-loving nations that get together at a park a couple times a week and with some high school friends.  He’s looking forward to “official” games that should start in November (indoor of course).

Tennis – at the court in the park. He did great for the first time ever playing.

Golf – mostly driving the cart, but got in a couple of drives too!

Bowling – what else do you do on a cold, rainy Columbus Day?

Interesting Lessons:

Had you ever noticed that our garbage process is pretty complicated?  Some things go in the trash, others in the recycling, yet others are composted or go in the garbage disposal.  I didn’t want to overwhelm TJ with so many details in the first week, but after finding empty milk jugs in the refrigerator, I had to attempt to explain what goes where.

Hot water – most of our faucets have one knob for hot and another for cold. Except for the kitchen… TJ had just gotten himself a glass of water from the kitchen faucet then had to put an ice cube in it because it was too hot. He didn’t realize that you can get both hot and cold from the same faucet depending on which direction you push the handle. It only took us a month to discover that we hadn’t shown him that. Wonder how many glasses of hot water he drank?


TJ has been great about just being part of the family. He and our 2-year old, Macie, get along famously. You should see them dance together. TJ does some crazy dance moves and Macie tries to imitate them.

Some days, TJ is quiet. Being the “fixer” that I am, I always ask if something is wrong. He assures me nothing is wrong, and now that I have reviewed this list, he’s probably just trying to take it all in.  rocessing all this new information takes a lot of energy!


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