By Mary Mares-Awe—ON SUNDAY NOVEMBER 17, 2013, the Chicago chapter of the Fulbright Association celebrated International Education Week (IEW), with an event focusing on Chicago’s immigrant history. The international education week was started about ten years ago as a joint venture between the US Dept. of State and the US Dept. of Education. The aim is to encourage organizations and education institutions to organize events that highlight the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.
The Chapter chose to organize an event focusing on the history of Chicago’s immigrants around the turn of the last century. We planned a tour of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. Jane Addams, a social worker, was instrumental in helping newly arrived immigrants in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s start a new life in Chicago. Through her Hull-House settlement, she provided job training, child care for working mothers, hot meals and other services to immigrant families. Jane Addams was also the first woman to win a Nobel Peace prize for her work.
An area called Little Italy, adjacent to Hull-House, is the home of Chicago’s Italian immigrant community and today continues to thrive with authentic Italian restaurants and the Italian language is still spoken throughout the neighborhood. Our event was comprised of a tour of the Hull-House museum starting at noon, followed by a luncheon at Pompei, an Italian restaurant in Little Italy.
The day started out fine, but by late morning Chicago weather forecasters were calling for bad weather including multiple tornado warnings.
Those of us on the board who participated in the event didn’t find out until after our arrival at the museum around 11:30am, that the Hull-House was closed due to the weather. The chapter’s president Ron Harvey made a decision to direct participants to the restaurant for the lunch gathering. However, the severe weather had begun with rain and high winds.
In a great show of international spirit and cooperation, those driving (including members of the Consular Corps) immediately offered to give rides to the restaurant for those who walked or had taken public transportation. By the time the worst weather was coming down, most attendees were dry and safe at Pompei. Thank you to everyone for your excellent teamwork!
More than 60 participants turned out for the event.
Our lunch was scheduled for 2 pm. Accommodating a large crowd is not an easy task for any restaurant, but when I called Carmela, one of the managers at Pompei, and explained the museum tour cancellation and the weather situation, to my great relief she replied “No problem, Mary, of course you can bring everyone now. Come on in. I’ll let the staff know.”
As everyone started heading for the restaurant about four blocks away, the weather quickly became worse. Five international students from various countries including South Africa, Chile and Ecuador piled into my car and off we went. By now the rain was so heavy that it was difficult to see the road. But, we safely made it along with great laughter and positive energy that was contagious.
At the restaurant, attendees stared to talk to each other —and in the true Fulbright spirit— new relations and connections started to form with ease. Participants from more than 20 countries as diverse as Estonia, Portugal, and Indonesia sat together enjoying pizza, salads and dessert. We were also honored with the attendance of Consul Generals from Taiwan, and Pakistan.
By early afternoon (as strong winds, hail and rain raged outside) inside the spirit of Fulbright was shining its rays of friendship, good vibes and positive energy. Thanks to everyone for participating in the event and for letting the true Fulbright spirit shine through. Special thanks to Ron for his leadership and for everyone else for participating.
Our hearts go out to the Illinois citizens affected by the severe weather that merely inconvenienced our event. If you would like to contribute to the ongoing relief efforts, a good place to start is the Washington, IL Facebook page.
Photos by Mary Mares-Awe, Elio Leturia and Ivy Marischa