(The title roughly translates to “Learning About My Country’s Culture With Shinhye.” Thanks, 신혜!)
It’s becoming my favorite time of year. I feel like it’s so cliché for someone of my demographic to love the changing leaves (okay, that’s not happening in Miami), going out with friends on Halloween, making pumpkin-flavored treats, suddenly reflecting on what I’m thankful for, and listening to Christmas music.
This year, I have a reason not to be so self-conscious about my basic white girl status, thanks to my roommate, Shinhye. She has come to live in Miami all the way from Incheon, Korea, and has been so eager to take in as much as she can about North American life. She apologizes regularly for asking us so many questions and for filling her sentences of impressive English with pauses. She thanks us daily for being patient with her as we get over the occasional language and cultural barriers that we encounter. I often want to thank her for being patient with us as we assume she already knows everything there is to know about the United States or as we assume she knows nothing about the United States. Long story short, she’s a great person to live and learn with.
Living with Shinhye has encouraged me to learn more about the traditions that I’ve embraced for 22 years. This afternoon, we were discussing our plans for Halloween and Shinhye asked about the history of Halloween in the USA. When I realized I genuinely had no answer for her, we sat down and did some research. Moments like these have helped me better appreciate the traditions I have grown up with.
To prepare for Halloween, our house spent a Saturday doing October-y things. We carved pumpkins (lesson learned: you REALLY shouldn’t expect them to last longer than two weeks), roasted pumpkin seeds (at the request of Quinten. They turned out terribly because none of us knew what we were doing), made pumpkin chocolate chip bread (I messed up the recipe and only half it actually baked), and watched scary movies (Shinhye didn’t have a good night of sleep after watching Saw). Halloween isn’t even a big holiday for me or my family, but living with new people makes each holiday even more fun. I already have all kinds of plans for the best holiday of all – Christmas (and really the entire Advent season).
Experiencing the holiday season through Shinhye’s eyes is like experiencing them for the first time and it’s so, so enjoyable. It gives me energy to go out and do things that I think are a waste of time (carving pumpkins) and to step back and let myself appreciate old and new traditions.
Our pumpkins the day after we carved them and our pumpkins today. We learned our lesson.