Tuesday, November 11, 2008


One of the hidden costs in hosting a foreign exchange student is for toilet paper. Actually, it's not all that well hidden. One notices this sort of thing. I am not yet sure where exactly all this toilet paper is going. I mean, I am perfectly aware of the natural purpose toward which it is to be most generally applied, yet I am not fully convinced that quite this much could be disappearing toward the satisfaction of this purpose alone.

Compounding the mystery is that there appears to be no trace of the route it has taken in the process of this rapid consumption. I have discovered none of it in other rooms of the house, nor in the waste baskets, nor have I seen even so much as a square of it trailing behind anyone's shoes.

My dog used to eat the toilet paper--fresh off the roll, thankfully--but he broke this habit long ago, having traded it in for the dirty socks that he gets from the laundry room.

So it's not the dog's fault. For once.

Aside from that, however, Mamdouh makes himself relatively cost-free. He does not eat, for instance, anything other than potato chips as far as I can tell, and these he buys for himself. A while back he bought a package of cookies for the family that no one likes, and so these he ate as well. He does not even drink our Folgers Instant Coffee. He is perhaps too accustomed to the real stuff back in his own country.

It turns out that Mamdouh's government, or his embassy, or educational sponsor--anyway whomever his handlers are--want him to transfer his studies to Seattle. This because there is a larger Saudi community there. But hold on a minute . . . I thought the point of foreign study was to mix and mingle with foreigners--learn their culture, learn their language by being thrust among them without escape.

I do not understand the basis of their desire to move him. And aside from that, we love him, and we don't want him to go. And he doesn't want to go either.

Perhaps we can find a way of granting him asylum. We'll see.

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