Catching up with the IHC

Audrey Marthin, Podcast Reporter

On this week’s episode of the “Whitman Wire Podcast,” reporter Audrey Marthin sought to demystify life in the interest house community. She spoke to Nana Kumagai and Sophia Bianco, resident assistants currently living in the IHC, on events they’ve already held this semester, how their house fits into a broader community and some of their plans for the rest of the year.

The following interviews have been edited for length and clarity. 

The Wire: What are the goals of interest houses? 

Sophia Bianco:  I think a lot of people on campus don’t actually know what the interest houses are. The interest house community is a bunch of houses on Boyer, behind Lyman [and] behind Cleveland that are based on specific interests that all the residents share.

La Casa Hispana is the Spanish House, so all of the residents in that house [are] either learning Spanish, speak Spanish fluently or [are] native speakers. It’s just about speaking Spanish, sharing Spanish music, Spanish films and Spanish food – [just] being together in Spanish. 

Nana Kumagai: The Japanese House is designated for students who are interested in not only learning about the Japanese language itself, but the culture and immersing themselves in the Japanese living environment. 

I don’t know if you’ve been inside the Japanese House before, but we have interiors that are more Japanese style [with] tatami mats and tables that are very low compared to western style tables. We have cushions that you sit on in traditional Japanese style housing. When you’re living in the Japanese House, not only do you like speaking Japanese, but you’re also sometimes physically exposed to Japanese culture.

Wire: I’ve heard you’re hosting or getting ready to host an event. Could you tell us about that event?

SB: We’re calling [our event] Amor y Alfajores, [which] translates to “love and alfajores.” We’re just going to be crafting Valentines. No art nor Spanish knowledge required.  

We’re going to have alfajores, obviously, as the name implies. Alfajores are a little sugar cookie that’s really common all around Latin America, but definitely in Argentina. We’ll also be having abuelitas, which is Mexican hot chocolate.

NK: This month, when I was trying to think of what event to do for the Japanese House, I was talking to my housemates and we all came up with Setsubun because in Japan, when you think of February, the first event we come up with we think of is Setsubun.

Setsubun is when we wish [for] good luck for the upcoming spring season. Feb. 3 was the day when it is believed that it will be the beginning of spring. On Feb. 3, we had lots of soybeans, both edible and for throwing. We had people come over and make some masks to mimic the bad spirits. Some of us used those masks to be the bad spirits so people could throw soybeans at us. It was pretty fun.

Wire: Are there any other events you hope to host?

SB: Oh, definitely. As a house, we’re required to put on three to four events this semester … We’re considering a garden party with the Multicultural House. That might be later in the semester when it’s warmer outside.

We’re also thinking of doing a joint event with Tek, the Japanese House, and maybe [hosting a] Studio Ghibli movie night. We’re also thinking about putting on a concert as a whole IHC.

NK:  We’ve been thinking that we could do more seasonal events this spring because there’s lots of traditional events in Japan that are related to seasons. 

[In]  March, we could [celebrate] a Day of Girls where we celebrate girls [and] just growing up. We have these traditional dolls that you put up and traditional food that you eat. There’s also Day of Boys, which is also known as Day of Children and we celebrate all children growing up; that’s in May. We could also host a cherry blossom appreciation day, maybe in April, because that’s the season of true blossoms.

These interviews are only a small portion of The Wire’s conversation on life in the interest house community. For the rest of these interviews and more from other RAs and IHC residents, listen to this week’s episode of the “Whitman Wire Podcast,” releasing at 11 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 17 online and airing on KWCW. Full episodes of the podcast can be found here.