Every day at work, I spend about a twenty minutes engaged in a cultural dialogue with the other researcher in my department, a Kiwi who was born and bred in Dunedin. She is quite bubbly and outspoken and she has travelled rather extensively in the U.S., so we regularly have a little back-and-forth about our two countries.
Our conversations about the United States tend to go like this:
Her: Help me understand the electoral college. It hardly seems democratic that your presidential vote has no effect if you are in the political minority for your state.
Me: Look thoughtful and try to remember what they told us in 12th grade government class. Give up. Shrug.
My questions about New Zealand tend to be much simpler. (e.g. Me: Is there any good American-style pizza in Dunedin? Her: No. And I agree that the pizza I had in America was much, much better than anything I've had in New Zealand. Sorry. Me: Will you proofread this letter I wrote to check my NZ English? Her: You forgot to put a "u" in "behaviour.")
Today I wanted to know if Kiwis celebrate Halloween. Our conversation went something like this:
Q: Do Kiwis celebrate Halloween?
A: Eh, sort of.
Q: So, I should expect to get some trick-or-treaters? I should have some candy on hand?
A: Eh, you may get a few, but don't worry if you forget. They don't necessarily expect it.
Q: What do you mean? Isn't candy the whole point of trick-or-treating?
A: Well, they know that some people won't have it, so if you don't have it, they won't care.
Q: You just answer the door and say, "Ooh, nice costume. But we're not giving you candy." ?
Q: And that's okay?
A: Well, yeah.
Q: Nobody eggs your house?
Q: Do people carve pumpkins? (in retrospect, I now realize this was kind of a stupid question, since we are going into spring here and pumpkins are going out of season)
Q: Do people have costume parties, like for adults?
A: Nah. I mean, if you want to have a costume party it wouldn't be the weirdest thing ever -- especially since you're American people might expect it from you -- but generally, no.
Q: So it's just a handful of kids, wandering the neighborhoods, maybe or maybe not hoping to get some candy?
A: Pretty much. What day is Halloween again, anyway?
I don't know why this conversation depressed me as much as it did. It's not like I'm a huge Halloween person. In the States I was usually digging through a thrift store on October 30, frantically trying to find something to pass for a costume. Last year we had to shut off the lights on our house and sit in the dark because we ran out of candy at 7:30 (except for the peanut butter cups which I saved, of course). But still, it is an important day to mark the season, act a little silly, eat miniature candy bars you would normally never buy, and drink beer with your friends. I believe I am going to miss it. Eat a Reeses cup for me.
A very happy birthday to my dear Daddy-o! I love you!!!