Cena Internazionale: Buon Appetito!

An Italian, a Mexican, and an American walk into a flat, where they meet a Dutch woman and a Congolese man.

Not the set-up for a joke, I swear! It was the introduction to one of the most fun hospitality experiences I’ve had recently.

I connected with Laura (the Italian) via email a few weeks before Matthew and I went to the Netherlands in September. When I helped her set up a new email address for prayer requests at Damascus Road International Church, we got chatting on Skype and had a lovely conversation. We found common ground in a feeling of displacement in our current cultures: she is an Italian living in the Netherlands, and I am a Midwesterner living on the East Coast. Not quite the same degree of culture shock, but Dutch people and Rhode Islanders seem strikingly similar in their closely connected social and family groups that outsiders and newcomers can have a heard time breaking into.

When I told Laura we would be visiting Maastricht, she invited us to a meal at her home before even meeting us in person! I don’t think I’ve ever offered that kind of hospitality to a stranger.

On the day of the invitation to dinner, Matthew and I biked toward Laura’s part of town and she met us by the Sint Servaas Bridge to show us to her apartment.

She had also invited over Zippora (Dutch), who was new to Maastricht. We got as a bonus Zip’s fiance, Glory (Congolese), and another friend from the church, Mayo (the Mexican), working in the Netherlands as an au pair.

Even though she had recently been in a rough car accident leaving her with whiplash and a neck brace, Laura cooked lasagna from scratch. My American version of lasagna layers meat sauce, crimped-edge “lasagna” noodles, cottage cheese and ricotta seasoned with parmesan and parsley, and shredded mozzarella. Laura made lasagna with two different from-scratch sauces (one vegetarian and one with meat), flat pasta sheets, and béchamel sauce. It was amazing, and if I can get her recipe, I’ll share it here.

Zip put together melon with prosciutto while Laura cooked and everyone chatted.

Glory got Matthew laughing with a story about bartending for “loud American business men with their two Blackberrys”…not realizing he was describing Matthew. : )

Dinner was boisterous, full of good laughs, good food, and good wine. Conversation flowed in English, Dutch, French, and Italian.

After the meal, Laura set a tray for tea and coffee.

We hung out in her living room till after midnight, swapping stories, watching funny YouTube videos (much humor translates well across cultures), and singing. We only said goodnight when we realized how soon we’d all be getting up for church.

Since leaving Maastricht, I’ve gotten to know Laura even better, and I value the friendship that is blooming from her generous hospitality.

Dinner at Laura’s was a snapshot of the international nature of the community at Damascus Road and in Maastricht in general. I loved the flow of cultures, the open acceptance of differences, and the common faith we shared across language and citizenship lines. I can’t wait to go back.

How can you expand your hospitality to include people from other cultures? Who is new in your area and is looking for friends and a community?

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  • http://NicholeLNelson.wordpress.com Nichole

    I'm sure Castle has an international viewing. Closed caption in French? Spanish? Oh, this question was meant for me. :)

  • Zippora

    It was a wonderful evening! Looking forward to the next international meeting :)

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