Every once in a while, I disappear to a place none of my friends have visited: Chile.
Twenty-five years ago my dad, an American man named Tim, started working as a mining engineer in Tucson, Arizona. One weekend, he decided to vacation in Prague, in the Czech Republic A Chilean woman — Rosario — who was running her own marketing company in Spain at the time, was also vacationing in Prague that weekend. When my dad offered my mom a seat at an open-air jazz concert, she couldn’t resist. The rest was history — my history.
Growing up in a cross-cultural home has had a pivotal effect on my upbringing. But my story is only one of many at Hillsdale.
Emma Purdy, freshman, Chilean-American
Freshman Emma Purdy’s mom is also from Chile, and her dad is American. She described growing up in a cross-cultural home as “a whole different lifestyle.”
“At times, we laugh within my family that even though my dad grew up in Plymouth, Michigan, he has more tendencies that are Hispanic than American,” Purdy said. “Sometimes my dad will interject something in a conversation that has a Spanish ring to it.”
But the mesh of cultures hasn’t always been easy. Purdy recalled times where her mom would suggest hosting large dinner parties at their home in Ann Arbor. At first, her dad would typically say, “smaller is better.” But through the years, he’s acclimated to the Chilean culture his wife has cultivated within their home. This acclimation was an act of love, she said, and in some ways, subconscious.
“My dad has assimilated more to her culture and to her desires, more than she has had to assimilate to the culture here,” Purdy said. “He does see the beauty in Spanish culture, and he has been able to shift his preferences toward what she wants, and because of that, they have really developed a really great and healthy relationship.”
But Purdy said she struggles with some aspects of Chilean culture. While in the United States families are spread across the country, in Chile, no one lives more than 15 minutes from one another. Because of this, Purdy said Chileans have a tendency to go with the flow of their family instead of trying new things.
When her mom left the country, Purdy’ grandparents were devastated, particularly her grandfather.
“He couldn’t believe that she was leaving everything,” Purdy said. “He knew she was going to have to adopt a whole new way of life.”
Though Chile is not a luxurious country, having maids and chauffeurs is normal, so laundry, cooking, and cleaning were all on the list of new things for her mom to learn.
But some traditions came to the United States with her.
“La Hora del Te” — or the hour of tea — celebrates rest and good food. Around 4 p.m. every day, most Chileans sit down for tea, coffee, and an assortment of afternoon snacks. Purdy recalled enjoying the hour with her mom and sister every day.
“Every day after school, from preschool until I was a senior in high school, the three of us would sit down and have tea, and have pan con palta (bread and avocado), and cookies, and just talk about our day.”
Genesis Rivera, senior, Mexican-American
Senior Genesis Rivera was born in a little village in south Mexico called Mapimi. But their family didn’t stay long.
“We lived in the middle of a desert,” Rivera recalled, “and when I was born, my lungs were very weak. I couldn’t even really go outside, because I wasn’t able to breathe, so we ended up moving to Kansas and later to Michigan.”
Upon arriving in the United States, Rivera says her parents were shocked by Americans’ overcommitment to their work.
“Mexicans are very family-centered, and spending time with your family and your loved ones is most important to us,” Rivera said. “Here, everyone is focused on their career. I think they think that American’s should take the time to smell the roses every once in a while.”
Rivera said this is because the small villages in Mexico demand a culture of dependence and everyone relies on and helps one another. For her, the sacrifices of her family have instilled in her a deep respect for her loved ones.
“I call my mom every day, not for a sense of obligation but because I want to talk to her every day. But some of my friends will call their parents once every two months or something,” Rivera said. “I don’t think it’s a lack of respect, but we just have very different ways of showing that respect.”
Their traditions carry out these values as well.
Dia de Los Reyes celebrates the wise men’s arrival to baby Jesus. To celebrate this, someone cooks a round loaf of bread in which three plastic babies — symbolic of Christ — are buried. The reward for whoever finds them? Cooking tamales for the next family gathering.
Rivera said though her childhood was different than most other Hillsdale students, it doesn’t have to be difficult.
“With any culture and being immersed within it, it doesn’t have to be completely contradictory to American culture,” she said. “If you just stick to what you think is most important and those priorities and perhaps the characteristics and traits that you find you value most, you can still appreciate American culture and live an American life within it.”
Steven Weideman, sophomore, Albanian-American
Seven years had gone by until sophomore Steve Weideman realized that his parents were divorced.
In Albania, he said, hardly anyone gets divorced, so his mom continued living in their home in Gross Point, MI, to cook, clean, and take care of the family until she remarried in 2011.
“She and my dad are still super tight,” Weideman said. “She lives right around the block, and she still comes over to cook and clean. He respects her, and he’s the reason she was able to come to America.”
Weideman grew up speaking only Albanian, so for a while, he and his dad didn’t speak the same language.
“Then my dad started taking me out to the movie theatre twice a week so I could learn some English, because my dad doesn’t speak Albanian,” Weideman said. “He couldn’t really talk to me, which he found kind of upsetting.”
While Weideman celebrates less Albanian traditions here in the United States, he said his mom has still held onto some Albanian superstitions.
“She doesn’t like it when you whistle at night,” he said. “She always yells at me and says it’s bad luck. Oh, and if you eat with two forks, you’re going to marry two wives.”
But the best lessons, Weideman said, have come from the high value Albanians place on quality of life. Growing up, Weideman said his mom would never buy him Lunchables or any “commercialized boxed foods.” Steaks and fresh salads kept him full. Even here at Hillsdale, Weideman says he has no problem driving half an hour to Coldwater for a good meal.
“I guess you could say I have expensive tastes, and I’m terrible with money,” he said, laughing.
Weideman added that maintaining this quality of life sometimes means school comes second for him.
“I think that I value the quality of life more than work ethic sometimes,” Weideman said. “If something is really stressing you out and ruining your health or making your relationships very depressed, I have no problem turning a project in late.”
Vika Nunez, sophomore, Russian-Puerto-Rican-American
Sophomore Victoria (Vika) Nunez was born in Moscow, Russia, and immigrated to the United States with her Puerto Rican-American father and Russian mother.
Through growing up in Michigan, Nunez said she has found a new appreciation for freedom. Her dad celebrates the American dream and is an idealist, Nunez said, and her mom has taught her to truly appreciate the freedoms she didn’t have growing up in Russia.
“My dad loves the story of America and its principles and that was something he really likes to talk about to us,” Nunez said. “But my mom balances that out, and teaches us what it was like to live without that in a society. All that to say, I’ve learned how to laugh and cry simultaneously.”
Nunez said coming from a part-Puerto-Rican heritage, some people expect her to be someone who is “always happy and playing their guitar on the streets and cha-cha-ing,” but this isn’t always the case. Nunez said she uses that joy to balance the hardship reflected in many Russian traditions.
One tradition is the typical Russian New Year’s celebration. While eating food for eight hours straight on Dec. 31, the Nunez family watches “Enjoy Your Bath,” a four-hour-long Russian film. This “topsy turvy” story ofNew Years Eve mishaps reflects the hardships of Russian culture, according to Nunez.
“I think my desire to see the beauty in stories that may not seem like they have happy endings is a Russian idea,” she said. “ If you just look at Russian history, it’s just one bad situation after another one. I don’t think we should write it off, but I do think we try to see the good things, the redemption and renewal in every new season of life.”
It’s also a New Year’s tradition for everyone to take a bath, Nunez added. It’s a time to cleanse the hardships of the previous year and enter the New Year “clean and fresh.”