The summer after my sophomore year of high school I was part of a touring orchestra. We went to Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and Rarotonga in the South Pacific for a three week whirlwind tour. It was amazing.

Most places we were paired up with a friend and stayed in home-stays. We stayed with a great family in Auckland that had a six year old daughter who knit sweaters, a slightly odd family in Christchurch who gave me my own suite and the weirdest of them all, the family in Brisbane.

We were jolted awake by the tour bus pulling to a halt. It was dark –just barely 4 a.m.– and we were exhausted. We gathered our things and shuffled down the steps to greet our next round of “house mums”. My best friend A and I were directed to a large woman standing in front of a small car. “In you go!” she laughed.

We arrived at her house soon after and were surprised at the appearance of her home. Everything was white. White walls, white furniture, white tile floors. And no artwork, except for a gigantic glamour shot above the fireplace of a big girl with even bigger hair.

“Why don’t you girls drop off your things and then take a shower before bed,” House Mum said. Shower? At 5 a.m.? We were tired…sleep seemed much more important. But she persisted and we didn’t want to be rude, so we showered before we slept.

I woke up hours later to House Mum’s face above mine, fingers wiggling in the air as she cackled “Riiiiise from the dead!” A screamed and I hid under my blanket. What was this woman doing?

“OK, girls! Up, up! Time to shower!” Shower? What? AGAIN? We had just showered five hours ago. She left the room and A and I stared at each other, unable to comprehend our wake up call and request to shower. A sighed and grabbed her towel. “I’m just going to run the water this time,” she said. “I’ll be out in five and then you can pretend too.”

Breakfast was dry toast and Tang (yes, really!) before an orchestra rehearsal at a local school. When rehearsal had finished A needed to exchange some money. I was exhausted, so House Mum dropped me off at the house and took A to the bank.

I woke up an hour later and sat upright in bed. Standing in the doorway was a boy about my age that I’d never seen before. Staring at me.

“You’re in my room,” he said.

“Sorry?”

“Mum made me give it to you. I didn’t want to. It’s mine.”

“Oh…did you need something in here?”

“No.”

He turned and walked away. Now awake and curious, I followed him. I found him in the all white kitchen. He asked if I was hungry. I was and when he pointed to the fridge I figured I should help myself.

Inside was three jugs of Tang and rows and rows of apples. That’s it. Tang and apples. So I ate an apple.

That evening we sat down with the entire family for dinner. Us, House Mum and House Dad, the boy and another brother and the daughter (who was immortalized in her glamour shot) and her fiancé. They ordered six pizzas for eight people and laughed at us when we asked for a cheese pizza. Apparently they don’t do that in Australia.

We were asked to shower multiple times that evening and began to get suspicious that there was a camera hidden in the bathroom.

Before bed, A and I were talking in our room about how weird the family was, when suddenly a cockroach crawled under the door. Cue to screaming “House Mum! House Mum!” until she came in.

She threw open the door, took one look at it and said, “It’s just a cocky!!! And it came out of YOUR suitcase!” A’s face fell as House Mum pointed at her. “It did not!” she cried back. House Mum would not hear it. She stepped on the roach, turned to leave the room and said, “you girls should shower.”

A and I slept in the same bed that night, afraid of cockroaches and afraid of our House Mum. The next morning, standing above us like she had before, she woke us with “All aboard!!! Choo! Choo!”

As we packed our bags to leave that morning, she asked us again to shower.

We couldn’t have gotten out of there any faster.

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