Yesterday I had another revelation about my experience of being a foreigner in America. What does it mean to be a foreigner? My extremely scientific definition: to learn something basic about practical life when you are 22, that most everyone around probably learned about age 7. Just when I think that I’ve got the basics of living in America covered, something else rears its head.
It’s the end of October and the weather here has been cold since September, but as a house of five young impoverished women we are trying to be as economical as possible with the idea of turning on the heat. None of us have spending money that we want to use up on a gas bill. We’re all cheap. Finally, after much discussion, we’ve turned on the heat. But one of my beautiful roomates came the other night and asked me to what temperature we were going to turn down the heat. At this point I was already wearing my fleece pants, my socks and warm shirt. And I was cold. Turn down the heat? What do you mean we have to turn down the heat at night?
Then I realized that once again I was a foreigner. That is, if you were raised in the northern 3/4 of the USA, you probably used a heater. And gas or electric, you probably learned the concept of how to use said heating device. But for me, I was sitting their in my fleece pants wondering how I could possibly survive if it was any colder in my room when I woke up in the morning. For me, weather never dropped below about 70 degrees. For me, changing the temperature in our house meant opening the wooden shutters so that you could get a breeze to cool off the house. For me, fahrenheit is still a concept I’m adjusting to, and a concept that is too fluid to know how cold 60 degrees feels. Is 59 degrees too cold? Or is 63 degrees unreasonable?
Anyway, I learned that night that turning down the heat is just something that has to be done. It’s too expensive to keep the heat up all night while everyone’s in bed anyway. So if you think of me in my fleece pants, pray that I stay warm this winter, or at least learn how to live with the cold.