Tag Archives: American Culture

Happy St. Patrick’s Day 2012

St. Patrick’s Day is nearly over. I didn’t do too much this year– I wore my requisite green shirt, and striped green socks, and even drank a holiday themed beer in the evening, however overall the day was relatively low key, as P and I were both busy working on projects, shackled to our respective computers.

Conversely, P’s younger brother U was in Dublin, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in style with our Irish friend RH and our former neighbor D (who several months ago resettled in the Emerald Isle). U was periodically uploading pictures of his St. Patrick’s Day activities on Facebook, giving us a glimpse of what the party was like in the Irish-American “motherland.”

U, RH and D in Dublin

I’ve mentioned before that my family considers itself “Irish-American.” On my mother’s side my grandfather immigrated from Western Ireland (I believe in the 40s), and my grandmother’s parents were also both from that region of the country. On my father’s side the connection stretches back farther, but the family still takes pride in it’s “Irish-American” roots. As an “Irish-American” St. Patrick’s Day has always been an acknowledged and celebrated part of the spring calendar.

Growing up my father was part of an Irish-American club in the town, and I remember many childhood St. Patrick’s Days spent at the club helping to serve corned beef and cabbage dinners to townspeople who came by the hundreds every March 17th. Many of them probably considered themselves “Irish-American” as well but I’m sure others just wanted to join in the fun and celebrate along with their friends and neighbors.

We would watch Irish step dancers perform and listen to recordings of Irish pub songs that relied heavily on accordions and fiddles. Everyone in the club was bathed in Kelly Green… shirts, pants, dresses, socks, scarves. Some wore plastic shamrock shaped shot glasses hanging from green Mardi Gras bead necklaces, others wore headbands with cheesy shamrock antenna, and little kids often sported sparkly green shamrock stickers on their cheeks. As far as I was concerned, as a kid, everyone in the world celebrated St. Patrick’s Day.

Then in sixth grade I signed up for a youth magazine that had a pen pal section in the back. For several years I often responded to pen pal requests, and I advertised for pen pals as well. I had quite a few, some in the US, but also several from abroad– including one kid I exchanged several letters with from Singapore. He had responded to my pen pal request printed in the magazine, explaining he was of Indian origin and his name was Manuj. In response to the letter he sent I told him a little about myself, and talked about my excitement for St. Patrick’s Day, which was coming a few days later. In the letter I asked him about how he celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, and what people do for the holiday in Singapore.

A few weeks passed and I received a letter back that contained shocking information for the sixth grade version of me… “We don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Singapore, as there are not a lot of Irish people here. Since my family is from India, we have never done anything for St. Patrick’s Day, but it was interesting to hear what your family does.” It was one of those “aha” moments for me that made me realize that other parts of world really are different.

After meeting our Irish friend, I’ve had several other “aha” moments about my understanding of “Irish-American” culture, and how it differs from “real Irish” culture– including my name. I think I mentioned this before, but I always thought my first name was a super-uber Irish name, but later realized (and this really shook up my world!) that my name is only popular in Irish-diaspora cultures like the US and Australia, and hardly anyone in Ireland proper has my name because it is a gaelic noun.

I think RH had similarly strange “aha” moments (I am assuming, he can correct me if I am wrong) after coming to the US for his graduate studies. Many Americans, particularly in New England which is a large “Irish-American” stronghold, had a lot of stereotypical views of what an “Irish” person was supposed to be like, and RH often didn’t adhere to their expectations.

So when U decided to travel to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day RH was a little worried that U would be disappointed. St. Patrick’s Day is often an excuse for people in the US to go a little crazy, drinking green beer and sharing their Irish pride all over the place… but these crazy celebrations are often in Irish-diaspora cities. Dublin has a parade and celebrations, but RH worried that U might expect the biggest St. Patrick’s Day party ever, the granddaddy of them all, so to speak.

It seems from the pictures that the festivities were fun, and U had the “authentic” Irish St. Patrick’s Day party he was hoping for.

If you are interested in learning more about the creation of “Irish-American” cultural identity NPR had an interesting 45 minute radio program on Tom Ashbrook’s “On Point” the other day called “How the Irish became American” arguing, in part, that “Irish-American” identity was one of the first hyphenated identities in the US. It’s definitely worth a listen.

Hope you all had a nice day… whether you celebrated St. Patrick’s Day or not :)

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Musing on Gas

My blogging ebbs and flows, depending on what is going on in life, how busy work tends to get, and if I need a distraction. Even if I’m not a super consistent writer (although I try), I’m usually lurking on other blogs, and when I get really hooked on one and all of a sudden there hasn’t been a post in a few weeks (or months) I find myself thinking, “Come on!” [in the voice of GOB] “Where did this blogger go… I miss them!

Alas, as of late, I’ve become one of those absentee bloggers. Je suis très désolée.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, I just sometimes lose the motivation to sit down and put it together in a post. I have a bad habit, during dark chilly New England months, of burying under blankets in the evening and reading good books. Perhaps I was a hibernating creature in another life.

So, to transition in to writing a little bit more, I decided to share an amusing story from the weekend.

January 15th is P’s western calendar birthday (his Nepali calendar birthday was near the beginning of January, and like every year he didn’t know it was happening until he got a call from his parents one night wishing him a happy birthday) and this year it was also the Nepali holiday of Maghe Sankranti. I’m not totally clear on the details of this specific holiday (although the ever handy Wikipedia gave me a better idea), other than it marks the start of the Nepali month of Magh and the passing of the unlucky month of Poush, and that on this holiday you eat boiled cassava and purple colored sweet potato that can only be found locally at the Vietnamese grocery store.

This year, as last year, S-di invited our local crew over to her place for the day. Between S-di, M-dai and his wife’s cooking there was much to be had—the required boiled cassava and sweet potato, sel roti, a giant bowl of homemade ghee, sesame sweets, rice, taarkari, chicken, etc.

And as usual, we went to her house thinking that we would only stay for a few hours… and we wound up being there for eight or nine. After our bellies were full, and M-dai, Bhauju (M-dai’s wife), S-di, P and I were settled on the couch under cozy blankets, we spent time chatting and M-dai told a funny story.

M-dai grew up in a village up in the hills of Okhaldhunga district. When he was a kid there was a Peace Corps volunteer who worked at his school. He even remembered the volunteer’s name… “Spike.”

Anyway, they used to find this foreign teacher really interesting. He was quite different from the rest of them in various ways, but he had this one habit that all of the students found really bizarre—he used to fart in public like it was no big deal.

Now one could speculate. Maybe this guy was a bit of a bum, and he would have farted in public anywhere, including in the US. Or maybe the combination of Nepali food, a different altitude, and intestinal bugs continually agitating his GI tract, left him with no choice but to let loose, or else be plague by terrible gas pains (hey, it could happen). Yet it’s also possible that maybe this guy simply thought passing gas wasn’t a big deal in Nepal—burping certainly isn’t, although apparently there is a different feeling about flatulence from the other end—and never thought much about doing it where ever he was, alone or with others.

Certainly Westerns fall into this mentality when it comes to clothing while traveling in the “developing world,” myself (formerly) included. Sometimes even the most “culturally interested” or “attuned” just fail to realize things. I used to think that when walking through dirty, dusty streets, or living in a village, it didn’t really matter what you looked like. I’m not really one to get really dressed up in general, but I wouldn’t bring my “nicer” clothes on my study trips to Kenya or India, in part, because I was worried about “ruining” them, but also I just figured there wasn’t really a need to bring them. Even before my time in Kenya was over, I was starting to catch on and dress a little more “East African chic,” but it wasn’t until my embarrassing first clothes buying experience with P’s family in KTM that I really realized that in the “developing world” (and, let’s face it, most of the rest of the world outside of America) clothing is more formalized than back home. When you go out, you dress up, period—whether it’s for school, going to a party, going to a friend’s place, going for dinner, going to the market. It’s simply not acceptable to show up in a shabby pair of shorts and a dusty t-shirt, even if you sit next to a goat on the minibus you take to your friend’s house!

So maybe this guy thought the same way about farting—hey, it’s the “developing world,” people burp, I’m not in America where they have social etiquette rules about this, I feel gassy, and I’m going to let it go. According to M-dai this guy would fart all the time, including while he was standing in front of his class, and the students just couldn’t believe it.

“Sure people fart.” M-dai said, “But not in front of others, and certainly not in a formal situation like a class, or in front of elders!”

So from this early ambassador to American culture, the young M-dai thought that in America it was acceptable to fart at any time, that there were no social taboos in the US about doing so in public.

When he came for graduate school in Massachusetts five years ago he was shocked to discover this wasn’t the case! ;)

A Weekend With My Dad

This weekend we took P’s parents to my home town, about a five hour drive from our New England abode. My dad, who spends most of his time in Vermont these days, was back at the old house for the week, and was able to host us on Saturday night.

There were a few reasons I wanted to take them to my home town. First I wanted to show P’s parents where I grew up. We currently live in a city, and P grew up in a city, but I’m a country girl at heart. I grew up in a wooded area, climbing trees and going on adventures in the woods with my dog. We spent a lot of time outside, riding our bikes, swimming, picking wild blackberries and raspberries and eating them off the bush, planting vegetable gardens (and eating cherry tomatoes and small cucumbers off the vine as well!) If was a pretty fun childhood.

I also wanted to bring them to visit my dad because I wanted my dad to have the opportunity to bond with P’s parents a little.

My parents are divorced, something that P told his parents early on (and for a little while reinforced P’s mom’s view that—“See Americans will divorce you!”). They have met my mom a few times (in 2005 my mom came to P’s graduation and met his dad, in 2008 they stayed at her house in Virginia for a weekend, and my mom stayed with us a few days before the wedding) and they like her a lot. She is very entertaining (bordering on showy sometimes), but she is a great person to have when there is awkward silence, because she fills the silence with idle chatter (or embarrassing stories, which was the case during the wedding weekend). She is very extroverted, and animated, and easy to get to know because she lays it all out there for everyone right away.

One reason that my parents are divorced is because they are very different people. My dad is opposite to her in nearly every way—where she is loud and boisterous; he is quiet and reserved; where she likes to hustle and bustle, be close to the action and the city; my dad is happy to sit on his own, do things at his own pace, and live in the wilderness apart from others; where she is carefree, extroverted, and easy to know; my dad is difficult to know, introverted, and relatively serious (unless you get to know him well, then his dry sense of humor comes out).

P’s parents know very few divorced people (practically none). My theory is that they probably assume that in a divorce situation one partner was essentially “good” and one was essentially “bad.” Now my parents’ divorce is very complicated (much too complicated to begin sorting out in a blog post) and there are good and bad things on both sides, but the basic assumption that one person was totally wrong and “bad” and the other was totally right and “good” doesn’t fit this situation in the slightest. However that was the schema that made the most sense to P’s parents. Although they never outright said anything, since they met my mother first, and she is so bubbly and entertaining, right away they assumed my mother was the “good one” (I could tell by the way they would ask about her, but never my dad). I tried to explain to them in 2008 that the divorce was complicated, and they were only seeing one side (my mom’s side), but I think it was difficult for them to understand.

P’s parents first met my dad in 2008 when they stayed with my mother in Virginia. He drove down from New York to attend a program for my younger sister, and my mother insisted that he attend the “P and C family meeting” at her house, on her territory. Although everyone essentially behaved themselves (no arguments, etc), it was a bit of an unfair advantage for my mom, and I’m sure my dad was uncomfortable and more awkward and happy to escape to his hotel room once the meeting concluded.

I remember we were all sitting on my mom’s back porch. My mom was filing in the silence with stories (I remember one such story where she was telling about meeting P’s cousin MK for the first time, and how MK kept having to take smoke breaks—now the family kind of knows that MK smokes, but it’s one of those “she does it in secret” and they “pretend not to know” type of deals. I was standing inside the kitchen looking through the sliding screen door motioning with my hands for her to stop the story, and she said, “Oh look, C is trying to get me to stop, ha ha, anyway—so then…”)

My dad sat there mostly in silence. I remember P’s dad looking at him, hopeful for some “father to father” chit chat, but P’s dad didn’t know what to say (I think P’s family was relying on my parents to guide conversation since P’s parents were shy of their English), and I don’t think my dad felt that comfortable speaking. Eventually I said, “Hey dad, why don’t you talk with P’s dad.” And my dad turned and said, “So, how about the weather?” and that was pretty much it for conversation.

This awkward situation probably didn’t help their vision about my dad. He looked serious, quiet, and tough looking. Prior to their 2008 visit, when they would call and talk to me, P’s dad always asked about my mother and sisters and told me to say hello to them, but never mentioned my dad. After the 2008 visit he rarely, if ever asked about my dad (but at least slightly more than before).

Likewise, at the rehearsal dinner, between my parents, my mother dominated conversation again. She is just better at it, more comfortable, she doesn’t mind if P’s parents don’t really understand what she is saying, it’s easier for her to chat then sit through silence.

At the wedding my mother was dancing up a storm—dancing with everyone, including P’s dad. My dad mostly stood with his relatives on the porch, drinking beers and catching up on stuff. It’s the age old introvert/extrovert dichotomy.

I felt my dad needed his time and space to adequately share his personality with the P family. A short weekend trip to his home seemed like a good idea.

I’m glad we did it, because I think being in my dad’s space and on my dad’s time helped a lot. My dad had the opportunity to share his hunting stories without being talked over (my mom would surely find an extended conversation about hunting boring and dull). I think P’s dad really liked the one about my dad being on a bear hunt, and having a giant grizzly bear itching it’s butt on a tree no more than eight feet away from my dad’s hunting perch. My dad decided not to shoot it (P’s dad: “You had a gun ready, pointing at the bear?”) because his friend had killed a bear the night before and they were going to split the meat, so my dad just watched this giant animal walk around, so close he could practically touch it. Or the story about crawling two miles through the grassy plains of Montana stalking elk. Or about hiking out of the northern Canadian woods in waist high snow dragging a sled with 100 pounds of freshly killed caribou meat (my dad had pictures of the caribou hunt to help visualize his story).

My dad made a “Central New York” dinner—grilled deer meat (and veggie burgers for me and Mamu), fresh local corn on the cob, salt potatoes and melted butter, and apple pie made with local apples. We sat on the screened in back porch listening to the crickets, while my dad talked about things he was familiar with or that he enjoys—like how to make maple syrup (while we ate homemade blueberry pancakes in the morning) and which trees in our backyard were maples, what New York is famous for, what vegetables are locally grown, how he built our house himself, etc (again, conversations my mother would have found totally dull, but P’s dad seemed interested to hear).

My favorite questions that P’s dad asked that night were, “Do you have lions and tigers in America?”

Dad: “No. But we have mountain lions, which are big cats out in the Western US [He went inside and came back with a hunting advertisement with a mountain lion on it to show P’s dad what it looks like and how big they can be.] We don’t have them around here.”

P’s Dad: “Do you have elephants?”

Dad: “Nope.”

P’s Dad: “Monkeys?”

Dad: “No monkeys either.”

(I liked these questions because these animals are “normal” for P’s family, but exotic for mine. For P’s family it’s kind of strange that we don’t have monkeys running around, where as my dad probably thought the question was from left field.)

They talked about the animals we do have—skunks, beaver, opossum, fox, porcupine, etc—and which were also found in Nepal.

I think P’s dad liked being in the countryside. He desperately wanted to see animals (my dad told him there were generally some turkeys and sometimes deer around. We showed him a salt lick that my dad uses to attract deer to his backyard). On the screened in back porch P’s dad said it was like being on a jungle safari in Chitwan National Park—looking down into the woods to find the rhinos from a high perch. He told me in the morning that he got up in the night to watch the “jungle” from the porch to see if he could spot any animals but sadly didn’t see anything.

I think it was a successful trip. I think they realize that I don’t have one “good parent” and one “bad parent” but two very different parents, with different interests, energy levels, and personalities.

I feel confident that once they go back to Nepal and we chat on the phone again, they will now ask about and say hello to my mom and my dad.

My dad and I taking P's family around the sights in town-- including the city harbor on the shores of Lake Ontario

P's mom and dad pose outside my childhood home

Wedding Weekend Post IV: Rehearsal

(Friday Part I)

Again we were running late. We were supposed to be at the white wedding venue for the rehearsal by 3pm (there was a wedding at the venue that evening so we had to get there early), and our entourage didn’t fully arrive until 3:45. I tried calling my dad, but he wasn’t picking up his cell phone (I later learned he accidentally left it in Vermont. Of all weekends to forget your cell phone!), and I hadn’t had time to check my email to get the phone number for the woman who was officiating our ceremony. As my mom and sisters drove up, both my dad and the officiant were standing at the gazebo waiting for us. Thunder was cracking in the background, threatening to start the rain up again before we had a chance to finish the rehearsal.

I met with the wedding venue coordinator to give her the final seating arrangements, place cards, ribbon for the cake, check for the food, etc. She stood by as we did a run through of the ceremony—who was walking in with who, who was standing where, where the table for the “earth mixing” and “unity candle” had to go, who would walk out with who, and where we needed to go after the ceremony.

The cake was beautiful--good thing I left that red ribbon-- AND tasty ;)

Then we were all there, standing at the gazebo/altar practicing the readings, and pretend-lighting candles. Those last few weeks went by so fast, it didn’t really feel like a wedding rehearsal. It felt like we were all little kids playing make believe.

One thing we didn’t practice was “the kiss” because P was embarrassed. He already felt awkward knowing he had to do the kiss in front of his family for the actual white wedding, he didn’t really want to do more in front of them if he didn’t have to. Then we all walked out—me and P, my maid of honor K, M and S, R and D, AS and RH, my parents, P’s parents, and U stayed behind to play “All You Need is Love” on his guitar as we walked out.

I think P’s family was a bit relieved to have a rehearsal for the white wedding, so they would know what to expect, having never been to a white wedding before. I’ve heard a few Nepali friends joke that they thought it was funny that white weddings need to be “rehearsed” (“Why do you need to rehearse getting married?”), and I thought—it’s kind of true, the whole process is pretty smooth sailing, doing a rehearsal almost does feel like too much.

But my parents were nervous. There was no such rehearsal custom for the red wedding, and they didn’t have a clue what to expect. I gave them a program, and encouraged them to talk to P’s parents to learn more about what to expect, but unless you’ve sat through a wedding, or watched one in a movie, it’s kind of hard to visualize. I think for P’s parents, because they were so used to red weddings, and already had a glimpse at what to expect for the white wedding, they had a hard time imagining how nerve wracking it was not to know what will happen at the red ceremony. They kept telling my parents, “Don’t worry. There isn’t much. You will be fine. The pundit-ji will tell you what to do when you need to do it.”

Next was the American tradition of the rehearsal dinner. I had decided a few months back that it would be nice to have the dinner at an Irish restaurant (a nod to my Irish-American heritage) considering that the rehearsal was a white wedding event. It gave people the opportunity to go back and forth between their comfort zones. Friday-western, Saturday-eastern, Sunday-western. At least it guaranteed each set of parents would have at least one meal they liked—my dad ate well on Fri and Sun, but didn’t eat anything on Sat. P’s mom barely touched her food on Fri and probably Sun, but had a nice large meal on Sat.

The whole crew took up a private room in the restaurant. We ordered food and drinks. P and I gave our bridal party presents—pearl necklace and earring sets for the bridesmaids, matching red ties and personalized tea/coffee mugs for the guys. I gave my dad his tie, and ceremoniously gave him his “special Nepali hat” (dhaka topi) I’d been promising. I had to measure my dad’s big head and have it specially tailored in Nepal to make sure it fit. As I placed it on his head, everyone clapped.

Dad receives his dhaka topi. Gotta love the cheeky smirk.

Dad and sisters (K and M) at the rehearsal dinner

My dad, as per family tradition, gave P and I toasting glasses for the white wedding reception. He said he tried to “encapsulate the red and white theme” which he did nicely with red stained glass goblets with clear steams.

Picture 1: toasting glasses at the reception, Picture 2: P and I put the toasting glasses to good use

Then the speeches started… my sister M stood up and gave a sweet speech about how P “joined our family” when she was just a seventh grader, so he has been with us for most of her life. How he is a brother she never had biologically. She said that having an older sister with such a wide world view inspired her to challenge herself more and learn more about other people, and travel and see the world. It was very touching. Next U got up, and spoke about meeting me for the first time, and how he feels at home with us, knowing that P and I have been there to look out for him. It was also sweet.

With the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner out of the way, it both started to hit home that the weddings were on their way, and weirdly at the same time was hard to believe the weekend was upon us. We departed the restaurant, and R, my sisters and I worked on flower arrangements—making the flower garlands, boutonnieres, bouquets and corsages until at least 1 in the morning. The boys took P out for a last minute drink/I don’t know what, don’t ask don’t tell. And it was off to bed for our last night as a non-married couple.

Flower malla that R and I made, on top of the dubo ko mala (grass garland) brought from Nepal

Wedding Weekend Post II: A Birthday Dinner, Another Cop, And Last Minute Prep

I decided to call this series “Wedding Weekend” since it went with the theme of our wedding save the date magnets designed by my younger sister:

I realize that I have to start writing about our wedding eventually because more stuff that I want to write about keeps happening, and now I have a big blog backlog. I can’t keep bogging myself down with figuring out where to start, so I should just jump right (write) in.

The last pre-wedding post I did was July 6 (Wednesday). July 7th was P’s brother’s birthday. It was also the last day I worked in my office before the wedding. P and I got a lot done before his parents arrived on June 29th, but there were still last minute things to do—planting all my centerpiece pots, making the white wedding programs, stuffing the sagun bags, making the placecards, creating the flower arrangements. And of course I’m a control freak that was giving too much attention to every detail, so I was bad at delegating tasks.

The white wedding centerpieces that I made. I have a thing for funky looking succulent/cacti so I figured it would be fun to make dish gardens people could take home and enjoy rather than flowers that would die right after the ceremony. The table numbers were red construction paper pinwheels with "Happiness" written in different languages. Above is the "Nepali" table and the "Thai" table

White wedding place cards (can you tell the photographer sent us photo proofs?)

The white wedding program "fans" for the outdoor wedding on a hot sunny day.

Sagun bags, on display at the red wedding

Homemade flower arrangements-- red for the bride, white for the bridesmaids

While I was at work all day, P and his brother were “working from home” with their parents. I felt that it was tough to sneak out once I got home from work because I was gone all day, and the parents expected to spend time with all of us in the evening. I spent many of my lunch breaks racing around the city doing last minute errands, and I would occasionally leave work early but tell P I was working late, so I could have an extra hour to get things done. I kept thinking that a lot of bride’s feel stressed as the “big day” approaches, but they have so much more freedom of movement! What made me feel a bit stressed was not being able to freely run around and do crazy-pre-wedding stuff when I needed to. Although most things were in place by U’s birthday, I still couldn’t 100% relax until I knew that all the pieces for the two ceremonies were in order.

My mother and sisters arrived that Thursday afternoon, and I left work a little early with them so that I could help facilitate the C family and P family hanging out together at home.

A few years ago I was in the wedding party of a friend who got married on my 25th birthday, so I know what it is like to have a birthday when people are running here and there for their wedding stuff, and how special it was when they remembered, amidst all their organizing and planning, and gave me a cake and sang “Happy Birthday.” So we decided to take U out for a birthday dinner with a few local friends and our two families to give him time to celebrate.

Of course, as per my “bad luck” (telephone pole incident, tire exploding incident), as I was driving with my mother and sisters behind P (who was driving with his parents and brother) I passed a crosswalk, and then a cop on the side of the road motioned for me to pull over. I didn’t have a clue why he was pulling me to the side, thinking maybe my sister’s car’s registration had expired or something.

He came to the window and said, “Ma’am, do you see that man crossing the pedestrian crosswalk behind us in the blue shirt and jean shorts?”

“Yes?”

“Well, he is an undercover cop and we are conducting a sting operation,” (he actually said that, “a sting operation” as if I was on a tv crime show!), “and we are ticketing people who do not stop for pedestrians as they cross the crosswalk. License and registration please.” (This is a state law in Massachusetts BUT when I had passed the crosswalk the man was still on the other side of the four laned road and had just stepped off the sidewalk. Had I been a few seconds later, and he further towards the middle of the road, I could understand a ticket, but this seemed ridiculous!)

“Sir, please! I’m getting married this weekend and we are just on our way…” I nearly wailed.

“You say you are getting married this weekend?” The officer asked.

“Yes!”

“Alright ma’am, enjoy the weekend…” and he let me go. Thank god. But who gets stopped in a “sting operation” for pedestrians crossing the road??? I’ve never even heard of that! And of course, P’s family saw me get pulled over by the cops again. They must think I’m the worst driver on the planet, and that their poor son takes his life in his hands every time he drives with me! I promise I’m not. I may not be the best driver, but my driving certainly doesn’t warrant so many cop interventions in the past two weeks!

We had dinner (without any more police officer issues, although I was teased that I shouldn’t be allowed to drive anymore), then went home to have birthday cake. Since P’s mom is a vegetarian who doesn’t eat eggs I had earlier gone searching for an eggless Vegan birthday cake. We sang happy birthday to U, and D and I ceremoniously smushed the birthday cake into U’s face.

P said he had "photographic proof" of my cake smushing debauchery... but I wasn't alone, D also helped :)

See… I’m a cake smusher, through and through. I’ve had cakes smushed on me, and I’ve smushed cake on others. P knows this, and he was worried that I would smush our wedding cake into his mouth as well. He’d been warning (begging?) me for months not to, and because I love him, I had decided not to, but had to get the cake smushing out of my system at least once that weekend.

That Thursday the C family and P family spent the night together—My mom, sisters and I in my bedroom (on an air mattress, and on our bed), P and U were in the living room, and P’s parents were in the guest room.

At the close of the night, only one day remained until we had our first wedding.

A Night of Classic Americana at the Drive-In

Bill Bryson wrote a book of funny essays on returning to the US with his family after having lived abroad in England for twenty years called “I’m a Stranger Here Myself.” It has about 70 mini-essays that cover different bits of Americana such as road trips and staying in motels to junk food and drive-in movies. I read the book about ten years ago, but I still remember laughing out loud at some of his reflections on things.

Often his British wife and UK-raised kids don’t “get” why Bryson loves some of this stuff. Including the drive-in movies. He explained to his family how the idea was invented by a man in New Jersey in the 1930s, but that the concept really took off in the motor culture of the 1950s, and by the end of that decade there were thousands across the country. He explained the concept to his son, “It’s simple… you drive into a field with a big screen, park besides a metal post with a speaker on it on a length of wire, and hang the speaker on the inside of your car door for the sound.”

However later, as the family arrived at the drive-in he laments, “Almost at once I began to remember why drive-ins went into such a precipitate decline [there are very few left in the US today]. To begin with, it is not remotely comfortable to sit in a car to watch a movie. If you are in the driver’s seat, you have a steering wheel in your lap the whole time. If you are in the back, you can’t really see at all. Unless you had the foresight to clean the windshield before you set off, you will be watching the picture through a smear of squashed bugs and road dirt. The sound quality from the little speakers is always appalling…[and] in a place like New England, the evenings invariably turn cool, so you shut the car windows to keep warm and then spend the rest of the evening wiping condensations from the inside of the windshield with the back of your arm.” Invariably his little outing was a disaster and the family drove home vowing to never go to the drive-in again.

But I have a soft spot for drive-in movie theaters and when I drive by old abandoned ones it always makes me sad. We had a great drive-in near the town where I grew up. I vaguely remember going with my parents a few times as a kid, but it wasn’t until high school that I realized just how fun they could be.

Once you turn 16, and get your driver’s licence it is like a whole new world opens up for you. I remember a few times a summer I would borrow my family’s minivan, load it up with a bunch of my friends, stock up on snacks and drinks and go to the drive-in. Since the movies didn’t start until it grew dark enough to see the screen (around 9 or 9:30) and that particular movie theater used to do a triple feature, it promised a late evening. They also used to raffle off free pizzas in between the movie showings. It was awesome.

So when we moved to our new place in New England, and discovered a drive-in movie theater about fifteen minutes away, I was keen on introducing P to this bit of American culture. We have now lived here for four years, and each summer we go a handful of times, usually bringing new people along to experience the drive-in.

The theater near us seems to be thriving. It has three screens and shows six movies a night (two on each screen). It charges $20 a carload of people, and you can watch any two movies (switching screens after the first showing if you want). Although the speaker poles are still in the field, now all the sound is broadcast through local radio frequencies. We pack the car with blankets and a picnic basket full of snacks (last night we had pizza, beer, and spicy chips from the Indian grocery store). You roll down the windows of the car and turn up the radio, and sit back to watch.

Last night we went with S-di and M-dai, who had never been before. Since (as Bryson pointed out) its tough to see from the back of the car, we usually spread out blankets next to the car so that everyone can see. It was pretty chilly, but we wrapped up in sweatshirts and blankets and washed down the pizza with beers while watching a silly movie. We were going to stay for the second showing but we were a bit tired and cold, and since we only paid $20 for the car you don’t feel bad if you don’t stay for the whole double feature (its also a great place to see movies that you know probably won’t be good, but you still want to see anyway, like what we saw last night).

I hope drive-ins survive until I have kids. I’d love to take them. Bring them in their pajamas and let them stretch out and watch movies until they fall asleep, bellies full of pizza, and pack them into the car for the ride home.

at the drive-in

Ceremony Chronology

This is kind of funny—the other day I wanted to tell a story about exchanging wedding rings, BUT as I started, all these other contextual pieces began jumping in first to set the mood as to why my family has been a bit “sensitive” about how the American wedding is organized. I’ll get to the ring story eventually—but first another side tangent.

Besides the lack of Catholicism in our American wedding, another sticking point in this process is that the Nepali wedding is happening chronologically first. We are doing both ceremonies in the US during one weekend in July. The Nepali ceremony was planned for Saturday while the American one was planned for Sunday. There was a very practical reason for this—in the US the most popular day/time of the week to get married is Saturday night. Thus wedding venues used to Western style weddings often charge (a lot) more if you book on a Saturday.

Since South Asian wedding ceremonies can happen at any time of the week because they are generally based more on astrology than social calendars, there isn’t really the same type of extra price tag for a Saturday booking (assuming you are using a South Asian venue). By organizing the Nepali ceremony on the more “expensive night” of the weekend, P and I were able to save a hefty chunk of change that we could put towards other details, like food for the Nepali reception.

I don’t think my family necessarily sees the practicality in the timings, instead I think they see it as me privileging the Nepali culture over the American culture “yet again.” It will be “the first” wedding, all the marriage rituals will be “first,” I’ve even heard the criticism that people will be too tired during the American wedding because of the party for the Nepali wedding the night before… or even bored, because it will be the second wedding party. Some of these criticisms are probably petty, but it is a way to voice disappointment that I gave the honored “1st” spot to Nepal instead of America.

“You let the Nepalis do whatever they want, and always give us grief. You respect them, but don’t respect us. Instead we are always bending.” is the mantra I hear.

But I beg to differ. Since the Nepali wedding is happening in the US, there are already a lot of changes that have been made—1 day versus several ceremony/ritual days, fewer guests, less family, less formal, fewer traditions, in a place unfamiliar and less comfortable for P’s family. But my family doesn’t really see that—they assume that we are doing everything the way it would be done in Nepal, and no amount of explaining seems to get the message across that there is quite a bit of compromise on the other side as well.

So to save myself from going crazy, and venting too much to family, I’m venting to the blog. I apologize for all the wedding related posts (please tell me if it gets annoying), and I appreciate the feedback and positive energy. I’m actually not tearing my hair out (although it might sound that way), but it is nice to have a sounding board.