As the operations manager at The International Center, I sometimes lose sight of the great people we welcome to Indianapolis because I do not see them on a daily basis. However, I recently had the opportunity to make new friends by hosting a home hospitality dinner through our International Visitors and Leadership Program (IVLP). The home hospitality program provides the opportunity for emerging world leaders visiting Indianapolis to experience an evening with a local citizen or family in order to gain a perspective on home life of Americans.
At first I was a bit nervous, much like many of our volunteers who regularly host international guests for a shared meal might have felt the first time they hosted an IVLP group! As a native Hoosier, I had apprehension on how I might be perceived by visitors from the far corners of the Earth. That fear was quickly erased after the friendly meeting I had with Mr. Marcelo Gandaria, the visitors’ liaison, in the lobby of the downtown Hampton Inn, who introduced me to the multinational group studying international crime.
From the hotel, I escorted our guests from Bolivia, Macedonia and Sri Lanka to the restaurant where we would break bread. I was delighted to learn that all agreed they wanted to sample a home style meal from the Heartland. Luckily, I had picked Georgia Reese’s Southern Table and Bar which is known for their hearty portions of comfort food. Together, we sampled the alligator gumbo; savored our entrees of grilled salmon, barbeque ribs and pork chops; shared sides of collard greens, candied yams and fried okra; and finished with a delicious Hoosier favorite: peach cobbler.
The conversation covered many topics. The three visitors I hosted were all high-ranking law enforcement professionals in their respective countries. They were interested in my perspective on issues such as drug trafficking, gun violence, our criminal code and even the upcoming U.S. presidential election.
After seeing our striking Soldiers and Sailors Monument they immediately wanted to learn the history. When I’m not completing my duties at The Center, I write a weekly article for a website focusing on local history, so their interest in these topics fit neatly into my area of expertise. I explained that during the Civil War, Indiana provided over 200,000 soldiers to fight for the Union and that some 25,000 lost their lives. The Memorial was erected to ensure they would be remembered. While telling this story, I quickly realized that each of my guests had experienced war and bloodshed in their home countries, which made me extremely grateful that I have not myself had to suffer through conflict of this nature.
Other interests included national politics and sports. The guests were particularly interested in game seven of the NBA Finals which was to be played that evening and wanted to know a good sports bar where they might watch which I happily informed them about.
Hosting our international visitors is a great way to connect with the efforts of The International Center. If you would like to experience the pleasure of hosting international visitors in your home, please contact me at Jkamm@internationalcenter.org to learn more!
By: Jeff Kamm, Operations Manager, The International Center