Sally told Isabel that she wanted to have Uli and Lucio Zupin to dinner when they came to visit this country. Mr. Zupin had just retired from a key job in the Italian railroad. He and his wife were going to visit the U.S. for six months.
So she called Isabel one Wednesday evening and said, "Let's make it this coming Saturday." We thought to make it even more interesting, we would invite a friend who was born in Germany to the party, and of course, the Seaveys.
The way Isabel and Uli got acquainted is interesting. They both received a forward in email from a mutual friend. The names and email addresses of the 10 or a dozen people to whom it was sent, some in Italy, some in the U.S., were printed at the top of the message.
In Italy, Uli wanted to practice her English, so she chose a U.S. name at random from the list and wrote that person asking if they might become pen pals.
That person was Isabel. She responded right away, and correspondence began. They found they liked each other and proceeded to get acquainted. There was a mutual exchange of visits from Italy to the U.S. and from the U.S. to Italy. This is now Uli's third time to visit the United States.
At our dinner party, we found that Uli speaks English well but her husband doesn't talk much.
The Zupins are staying in a condo of a friend who is away visiting someone else. Most recently, they have been on a two-week visit to New England. They were about to take a trip to the southeast of our country in a few days. We all suggested places for them to visit.
Being retired from the railroad in Italy, Mr. Zupin has an international pass on nearly all railroads, but they were planning to take a rental car for their tour. In Italy, the trains run on time, in contrast to the Chicago to Washington, D.C., Amtrak train we took one time that habitually ran three hours late. Also, railroads in this country are not as ubiquitous as they are in Italy, where they are the most common form of long distance travel.
When Uli visited here the last time, alone because Lucio was still employed, she told us that her son, just out of college, was living at home.
It is a common pattern in Italy for young men to live at home for many years after school. However, Paulo found a six-month-long job in Australia. After that, he came to this country and took an intensive course in English.
He now has a job in Italy, but he was able to join his parents for part of their recent New England journey.
Ilona was a lively addition to the party. She had come to this country when she was 11 years old, so her European background gave her experiences in common with the Zupins. She has traveled in Italy and knew many of the customs Uli spoke of. Their conversation reminded me of my visit to some of the cities of that country - Florence, Venice and Rome in particular.
This international evening reminded us of our experiences with the Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors. In our association with them, their administrative person would call from time to time with the name of a visitor from Europe, Africa or Asia who would like to come to dinner with a typical American family.
We especially remember the pleasure of meeting a young man from Mali and a genial prince from the Gold Coast. The international visitors sometimes brought thank-you gifts, and we still have the basket used to collect eggs in the Gold Coast.
While meeting people from other countries, we have found many differences in lifestyles, but mostly we have much in common. We have found it easy to communicate with them. We don't speak Italian, and Lucio doesn't speak much English, but we enjoyed communicating with the Zupins as much as we could because they added a new flavor to our life experience.
Thomas is a Tribune Chronicle columnist.