Yesterday Joe and I went to his colleague’s pool party. I found myself surrounded by four dogs as soon as the host opened the door. Two of them are bigger than I, and the other two are medium-sized Japanese breed dogs. I froze for a moment. Joe took my hand and led me to the backyard.

Dogs used to terrify me. Whenever I took a walk and saw a dog walker from a distance, I’d go across the street to avoid the encounter. My friends knew to lock up their dogs if I was going to show up at their houses. For years, Jane and Michelle begged me to have a puppy. Finally ten years ago we adopted Joey from a friend whose family was moving to China. Joey is a cute 9-pound Maltese that I didn’t view as a threat after a while. But I continued to fear big dogs.

Yesterday afternoon as I was talking and enjoying the food by the pool at the party, the dogs wandered about, licking and sniffing me. I no longer felt the need to scream or flee. At one pointed I petted the gigantic golden retriever and he loved it. It suddenly dawned on me that I had just got rid of one of the irrational and imaginary fears of my life that had limited me in so many ways! I also found out that Joe had been working with some interesting characters.

Jake had a new babysitter yesterday, a lovely girl who is studying to be a dentist. They had a great afternoon together. Jake said I should call her again for babysitting. I still miss the two best babysitters for Jake, but I am glad we’ve found someone in their absence.

This morning we drove to O‘Hare to pick up a couple who flew from Beijing to visit us. Joe became friend with the husband more than a year ago via social media. One day when they were having a screen chat, I joined the conversation and said to Mr. Zhang, “If you ever come to Chicago, please come and visit us.” Mr. Zhang was thrilled by the invitation. He went ahead to apply for the Passport and Visa for himself and his wife. And there they were at the O’Hare airport this morning, super excited to meet their friends from America face to face for the first time. Mr. Zhang repeatedly said that they would never have dreamed of coming to the U.S. if he hadn’t got to know Joe because both he and his wife didn’t speak any English. He is a successful businessman who has made his fortune from the economic boom in China. Both he and his wife grew up in small villages in Sichuan. Like millions of young people of his age, Mr. Zhang left his hometown to seek a more promising future for himself. He made it. Now he lives a comfortable life with his wife and daughter in Beijing. He told us that these days you could hardly see any young folks in his hometown because the middle-aged had left long ago and the younger generation was sent away to receive better education.

We took them to Naper Settlement and River Walk this afternoon. Although Joe and I have lived in Naperville for almost twenty years, it was our first visit to Naperville Settlement. And it turned out to be a fascinating place, similar to Garfield Farm Museum where I did volunteer work with my colleagues on Friday. We watched the blacksmith making candleholders and he gave Jake one to keep. We listened to the vivid description and display of the tough lifestyle of the pioneers. Mr. Zhang and his wife were impressed by the enthusiasm of the volunteer workers at the Settlement and the careful preservation of the American culture. Even though China is privileged with a longer history, we don’t protect it with the same degree of pride and zeal.

Our friends are going to stay with us for two weeks. There will be many more sight seeing tours and engaged conversations. I want to hear more of Mr. Zhang’s stories and understand the China today from his point of view.