There are lots of things that come between exchange students. Some are as complicated as politics and some are as simple as vocabulary. Examples include: The angry circus peanut, whether or not one should refrigerate eggs, and calling class sessions “appointments”. Not only are we all learning to live in this new country, we are all learning about each other’s countries as well.
This can lead to a lot of tense (for me, at least) conversations that often revolve around history, politics, stereotypes, and misconceptions. So far they have all ended amicably. There are certainly much to be learned from everyone, but there are almost always growing pains.
Despite the discomfort, we know how to get together and have a good time. Last Sunday, the people that I live with (and I guess me by extension) hosted a potluck in our kitchen and common room. It is worth mentioning that “potluck” is apparently an exclusively North American term. Once it had been explained to everyone, we learned that the Icelanders have a word for the event as well, but I can’t pronounce it to save my life.
It was great. About two dozen people made their favorite foods from home or tried their hand at Icelandic dishes. We tried, among other things, chocolate soup, skyr cake, yellow curry, and spicy tomato pasta. And people talked about how they prepared their dishes, why they chose the ones they did, which ones they liked best, and which ones they recognized. The common room was full of chatter in at least four different languages well into the night.
On Tuesday we had a birthday party. I woke up to the Facebook group message goiNG OFF because it was someone’s birthday (for the record, I know whose, but their identity is being withheld for their protection). Imagine getting ~30 birthday texts from people who basically hardly know you. That is some international love. Within about three hours festivities had been planned and that night we crammed far too many people into a tiny living room to hang out and sing “Happy Birthday” way too loud. I didn’t stay for the whole party because I had class the next day, but if the stories I’ve heard are true, it was a party that will not easily be forgotten.
And the next Tuesday we had another birthday party! One of the gents who lives upstairs celebrated his 25th yesterday and we, again, learned this from Facebook. After much discussion, it was decided that we would make a lemon blueberry cake as fast as we could. Ingredients were rallied, roles were assigned, and three hours later (baking and cooling time included) we had an iced cake ready to go, complete with almost enough candles. There was lots of laughing and light hearted debate over birthday traditions while a bunch of people from our building ate the fruits of their combined labors; it was probably one of the best impromptu birthday parties I’ve been to. The night ended with the northern lights making an appearance over our building (apparently the birthday boy’s wish came true, even after a full day or pouring rain).
The point of these anecdotes is this: people like food. And people enjoy celebrating each other, especially if it involves food. We’re creating a sort of family, even if we don’t always get along.