Experience a CISV International Home-Stay: Six kids + 1 lake = lots of fun!

On Friday July 20th, CISV Ottawa families gathered in Confederation Park to meet up with the kids from the Greenspace Guardians CISV village being held in Pembroke. The kids were easy to spot in their matching green t-shirts, singing happily, full of beans despite a long hot shopping day in Ottawa. Lots of us joined in to the classic energizers including the Pony Song and a new one (to me, anyway) “Alele”, led with panache by the Mexican leader.

 Then the kids and families were matched up for the weekend. We had 4 girls: Isciane (France), Lily (China), Francesca (Italy) & Gabby (GB).  Our 2 daughters Annick (14) and Alex (12) were happy to meet them and return the favour of hosting, as they had been hosted by home-stay families at their villages.

First of all, getting to know one another was quite the experience - Gabby and Francesca spoke English, Isciane – French and Lily – Chinese… clearly gesturing, pointing, drawing pictures and smiling would be a big part of communication!


With the aid of pictures, we quickly explained to everyone that we were heading to our cottage. Denis and I packed the van full and drove off to our family cottage on the Big Rideau Lake, stopping only for the traditional Dairy Queen stop in Smiths Falls. Arriving at the cottage in the dark, we had a quick tour, reviewing basics, like which tap to drink from, and not to go swimming without an adult, then all 6 girls settled down in the sleeping cabin and immediately conked out.

On Saturday morning we all got up and had a pancake breakfast with fresh fruit and of course lots of maple syrup.


After breakfast we slathered on the sun-screen, anchored the “splash island” water trampoline and spent all day swimming, jumping, snorkeling and rowing the inflatable boats.  Gabby and Francesca discovered they could catch sunfish and small perch using nets, so they put them in a big tub on the dock and studied, photographed and of course patted them before dumping them back to catch them again later.


In the afternoon, we got the boat out and went tubing. They went in pairs and could be seen through the spray, grinning from ear-to-ear, with one motioning for faster and the other one for slower at the same time.




After dinner, we all watched and took pictures of the lovely sunset, then the kids ran around playing hide-and-seek in the dark until they couldn’t stand the mosquitoes, and everyone got into bed, nice and tired. Once everyone was tucked in and kissed, and we had said good night in all 4 languages, Lily, whose English was limited, frowned, pointed at her pillow, and firmly declared “this! too tall!”. I quickly ran to find another (flatter!) pillow, Francesca took Lily’s “too tall” pillow and added to her own, and everyone was then able to sleep with their preferred pillow-height! There were a few mosquitoes sharing the cabin, so the kids learned the importance of opening and closing a door “the Canadian way” (very quickly!).

Sunday morning, breakfast was eggs and toast and of course more maple products – this time maple butter.  Isciane discovered that she really like maple butter and it occurred to us that this may be a better gift in the future than maple syrup, since you can put it on your toast. The girls again spent all day swimming and fishing. Then we packed everything up, had a last swim and piled back into the car with wet bathing suits hanging in the back for the drive to the traditional CISV rendez-vous point of Billlings Bridge parking lot.

At the bus, we met the girls’ leaders, and friends, and lots of people came over to meet the guinea pigs. We were happy to hear the kids telling their friends about the weekend activities, and Isciane telling her delegation-mates “guess what? They spoke French!” to which the others replied “Lucky!!”  We hugged all the kids many times over, then drove away sadly, all wishing that we could continue on to the village with them, or go back to our own village, no matter how long ago it was (37 years in my case!).

~ Jane and Denis