Pictures pop up from a year ago. People are sitting around a table at an open-air restaurant on a busy street in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. They are waiting for pizza. It is my birthday, but no one knows that until I tell them. The picture is taken before I tell them, and they are looking subdued. As I recall, telling them about my birthday, reluctant as I had been to do so, livened things up and it became a party. Continue reading
I am hosting a crowd for a funeral in my large mansion somewhere in the deep South. I am bustling about getting everything ready, including an elaborate meal. I have chosen a white eyelet dress to wear but during the preparations I wear a white blouse and brightly colored skirt. The guests have not yet arrived but it is clear that they will of different cultures and races. It is also clear that my butler, George, does not approve of this cultural diversity. I am afraid that his resentment might sabotage the whole event. I am the boss, after all. I try to be firm with George. And then I change into the white eyelet dress. End of dream.
I’ve been doing a lot of crosscultural hosting recently, and I can understand how Butler George represents a part of me, as does the hostess. Butler George is the one who preserves traditions (e.g. Thanksgiving), who assures that everything runs well and that proper form is followed. Butler George was resenting the Chinese grandfather who was popping pistachios into my granddaughter’s mouth just before we sat down to eat. And Butler George was indignant that, in the middle of family time and Thanksgiving preparations, messages were coming from Congo hinting that more money was needed for certain things. Meanwhile, the Hostess (in her prep-time multicultural outfit) was noticing how husband and son-in-law would sporadically ask what they could do to help get meals on but then revert to their computers with the assigned tasks half finished. Continue reading