Bass Line Comparisons

Yessimbol, from Kazakhstan, had arrived only a few minutes earlier and didn’t speak English. So it was in Russian that he asked me why the zombie mannequin hanging from the ceiling was dressed in lingerie and high heels. My wife and I prefer to host guests who don’t speak English. The first, prosaic, reason is that it gives me a chance to practice my Russian – a language immersion program where I don’t have to leave the house. More philosophically though, after eight years of hosting international visitors for World Chicago, we’ve figured out that guests who already speak English don’t need us much. They’ve probably already traveled, if not to the US, then to another English-speaking country where they’ve gotten used to American-inspired quirks and customs, and are comfortable fending for themselves. Those who don’t speak the language are more likely to need us as ambassadors, to show them around, and to explain the nuances of Chicago life. There is something empowering about having a blank slate upon which to create a first impression of Chicago and the USA, and that opportunity only presents itself with non-English speakers who feel too vulnerable on their own. Now, if that sounds like the mom who added a bit of poison to her daughter’s food every day so that the mom would always have someone sick to care for, well, yes, it is a little bit like that. Continue reading “Bass Line Comparisons”

Talking Politics: How to Make a Guest Feel Comfortable in your Home

It was early in his stay with us and Billie had just returned from an event at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. He bubbled with excitement at the heady exchange of ideas. I asked who the keynote speaker had been. Billie told me it was a politician from New York, Eliot Spitzer. He continued, raving about the discussion of intriguing, new policy concepts. Then he paused, and asked, “Why are you giggling?” Continue reading “Talking Politics: How to Make a Guest Feel Comfortable in your Home”