Tag Archives: Intercultural Relationships

ANA Coming to Boston

ANA, also known as “The Association of Nepalis in Americas,” is an organization created in 1983 by Nepalis (and friends of Nepal) to “promote preservation of Nepali identity and culture in the Americas, to foster cordial relations among Nepalis and Americans, and to demonstrate the effectiveness of the participation of Nepali-Americans in the communities they live in.”

The ANA website goes on to declare the following goals for the non-profit organization:

  • Continuity and promotion of the cultural, religious, linguistic, historical, and educational heritage of Nepal
  • Promotion and encouragement of dance, drama, and the art heritage of Nepal
  • Recreation and meditation center for Nepalis, Americans, and International guests
  • Research library and referral materials
  • Conference and meeting place for Nepalis and Friends of Nepal
  • Information for tourism, white water rafting, mountaineering, and trekking
  • ANA scholarship project for Nepali students from remote areas of Nepal
  • Nepali safe drinking water and medical assistance program for rural Nepal
  • Nepal emergency and disaster fund
  • Nepali school project for development of more schools in Nepal

A culminating event for the organization each year is the annual ANA Convention, a place where Nepalis (and friends of Nepal) can gather. The convention venue rotates around the US, but this year it just so happens to be in Boston. I’m hoping to attend for the first time.

I’ve asked around to others who have attended ANA conventions in the past. There are many different types of events held, including an opening ceremony, sporting events, academic and political discussions, DJ night, food festival, fashion show and cultural show. Nepalis of all ages have something to participate in. I’m particularly interested in the food festival and cultural show, but you can check the schedule of events for more information.

I think it is wonderful that the Nepali community continues to have such strong bonds, even within the diaspora, and I’m looking forward to the event. P and his brother, along with a few friends from the DC-Metro area are planning a trip up.

Anyone else planning to attend? Perhaps we can get a “significant other” group started at the convention.

Half-Pakistani on the Silver Screen

I’m always on the lookout for intercultural (particularly Western-South Asian intercultural) storylines. So I was excited to check out a movie that AS and N recommended the other day.

The film is called “Shades of Ray” and features a half-Pakistani/half-white American man who is going through an identity crisis of sorts. The premise of the story is that he asked a white American woman to marry him, and as she delays in giving him an answer his Pakistani father, who is having marital troubles of his own with his white American wife, pushes an apparently Pakistani girl on his son to spare him the trials and tribulations of being in an intercultural/inter-religious marriage.

Besides the fact that “Ray” is played by a non-South Asian (not even half-South Asian) actor which distracted me a bit (I know, its post-modern, anyone can play any part if they can make it believable, but still, it would have been nice), I thought that the movie was entertaining to watch. As Ray grappled with his issues, I couldn’t help but think about Raj, P’s extended relation from “Frank Uncle and the Nepali Wedding.”

Raj was a half-Nepali/half-white American who bonded (much like Ray in the movie) with his wife over the fact that both he and she were from half-South Asian/half-American families. As Raj’s wife told me, “My father is Indian–Gujarati, but my mother wasn’t–she’s Hawaiian. My dad was Hindu and we would do a puja, and my mom was Christian and we would go to church… I was so confused as a kid! Thats how Raj and I bonded!” These types of interactions help me to think about and contextualize my own potential children’s potential identity crises when they are older, and think about the consequences various influences, or lack thereof, might have in their lives.

Also interesting in the film was the portrayal of two sets of “white American moms” in intercultural relationships. Ray’s mom wasn’t interested in assimilating to Pakistani culture, while Ray’s friend Sana’s mom was really interested in the culture. The first time you see her she is wearing a salwaar kameez during the family initiated dinner date. A surprised Ray says to Sana, “Hey, your mom’s white!” and Sana sarcastically replies, “She is?”

Anyway, if anyone is interested in watching the film, it’s short and sweet, available streaming on Netflix, and is a subject you don’t often see in movies.

The Delicate Mzungu at the Delicate Arch

Please read the Preface first if you haven’t yet done so–

If you can’t tell already, I love stories. So I am particularly happy when a special event in my life has an interesting story attached to it, even if it is a little embarrassing on my end (foreshadowing).

Setting: Summer of 2008. P’s family had left after a five-week visit. Meanwhile for months I had been desperately searching for an exit strategy from a job I really didn’t like, and had finally found a new position that was a lot closer to both our home and my field of interest. P, S, R and I had been talking about taking a trip, but the timing was never right, so I thought– hey, I can leave this job a week before I have to start my next job, P and S don’t have work for the summer, only R has to take off from work, it’s a perfect opportunity to take a crazy trip somewhere.

Our plan was to drive across the United States in 9 days, hitting as many highlights as possible. We knew that we didn’t have enough time to see anywhere in-depth, but we decided to embrace the “road trip” mentality and hoped for an interesting experience overall. The itinerary was as follows: Day 1: Fly from NYC to Los Angeles, rent a car, and drive up the coast on Route 1 to San Francisco. Day 2: See the Golden Gate Bridge, Yosemite National Park, Death Valley National Park and spend the night in Las Vegas. Day 3: Hoover Dam–Grand Canyon–Monument Valley–and stay in Moab, Utah (right outside Arches National Park… which I made sure was on the itinerary). Day 4: Arches, Salt Lake City, stay in Idaho. Day 5: Grand Tetons National Park, Yellowstone National Park, stay in Wyoming. Day 6: Mt. Rushmore, Badlands National Park, stay in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Day 7: Sioux Falls to St. Louis Missouri. Day 8: St. Louis Arch– drive to Cincinnati. Day 9: Cincinnati back to New England. In true “techy” S fashion he created an interactive website with GPS connectivity so that people could follow our road trip on the web and see live updates, pictures and maps (that’s why R is “Married to a Geek”)

Before the trip I had dropped hints with P that it would be quite romantic to be at Arches, this place I’d wanted to visit since I was in eighth grade, and who knows, hint hint, have something special happen there. Yet as time grew short, and there didn’t seem to be any discussion of it, I figured that P wasn’t ready.

And off we went…  the road trip was pretty crazy– long hours on the road (our first day we left NYC around 8 in the morning, but we didn’t reach San Francisco until about 2am California time). S was taking many of the evening shifts (since he’s a night owl) and I was forcing everyone up at the crack of dawn to get on the road. I wanted to keep us on schedule so we could see everything we wanted to see, but it was tough when each individual destination was so interesting, and everyone wanted to stop and spend longer in each place. Most nights we didn’t reach our final destination until long after the sun had set.

On Day 3 we ate at an IHOP in Las Vegas before starting out on the road. P got up to use the restroom and then we met out in the car… we drove through Hoover Dam, and saw the Grand Canyon. My dad had visited the Grand Canyon the year before so after we left I called him up to let him know, “Hey Dad, just saw the Canyon. It was pretty neat.” The phone was quiet on the other end, then he said, “…And?”

“And what? Nothing much, having fun… the weather is hot.” I answered.

“Oh, okay… That’s it?”

“Yep.”

“Alright then, be safe and have fun.” Then he hung up the phone.

P and I at the Grand Canyon

As we got closer to Utah, we started seeing signs of the Delicate Arch everywhere. Prior to our trip I hadn’t realized it was such a famous landmark for the state. As we entered Utah near Monument Valley the “Welcome to Utah!” sign had a picture of the Arch. Many of the Utah state license plates had an image of the Arch. I learned later that the Olympic Torch from the 2002 Olympic Games even made a pass under the Arch. Going to bed in Moab, it was exciting to know that the next day I was going to see the Delicate Arch from my eighth grade postcard project.

R and I pose with the "Welcome to Utah!" sign on the edge of Monument Valley

P and I at Monument Valley

After driving through Death Valley, the Grand Canyon and Southern Utah I was starting to get worried about the heat. I knew the altitude out west was higher than what we are used to in the east, and that higher altitude, drier weather, and blazing sun were a ripe combo for dehydration. After my experience in Kenya I was terrified of another severe sunburning/dehydration episode. As R, S and P got ready in the motel room the morning of Day 4, I watched the weather on the morning news–it was supposed to be in the high 90s, maybe even the low 100s–and I was already sucking down glasses of water like there was no tomorrow.

Arches was beautiful. High red/orange rock formations with thousands of sandstone arches carved by the harsh elements of the desert. The four of us spent most of the morning climbing through various archways and trails, visiting some of the park’s most famous landmarks. I kept urging everyone to drink water because of the dry heat and slathering sunscreen on my pale mzungu skin.

Hanging out at Arches...

After a few hours of driving and hiking through various parts of the park we finally reached it. The Delicate Arch. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting… it was way up on top of a large sandstone outcropping of rock. According to the map it was a 3 mile walk away. It looked so small from the lookout point, but it was there. The day was starting to get late and I figured for sure we didn’t have time to go.

You can see the faraway Delicate Arch in the middle of the picture.

“At least we had a chance to see it, even though it is all the way over there.” I said.

“What?” S exclaimed, “I didn’t come all the way to this park to see this famous landmark from so faraway. We are going up there!”

“S! It’s about 100 degrees out… a 3 mile walk on exposed rock in the blazing sun in the middle of the day is not a good idea. What if we get half way up there and something happens? 3 miles is really far to walk up hill in the hot weather, plus we have been outside already for so long… we don’t have a lot of water left!” I protested.

“I don’t care. I’m going up there. I already came this far!” S exclaimed.

“What if we get sick?” I said.

“Do you think you’ll get sick?” he asked. I had been pounding waters all day, but it was really dry and hot, and I was paranoid and scared from my previous experience. They all knew the story, but they hadn’t seen the delicate mzungu in action.

“I’m a little worried.”

“I’m sure you’ll be fine,” He said, “Let’s go.”

So we started hiking. Uphill. On the exposed rock. In the noontime heat. It didn’t take long until R and I looked like we were wilting. We passed other tourists coming down the hike, their faces red, but they all assured us it was worth the difficult hot hike up. When we got about halfway, there was a meek little cactus type tree that R and I tried to sit behind for a bit of shade. We shared a juice box, sweat beading up on our faces. S looked at us, and looked up the hill and I’m sure he started wondering if this was a good idea or not. By this time we had already made it half way so it didn’t seem to make sense to turn back, queasy sunstroke-y feeling or not. Because at this point I wasn’t feeling quite right.

We started out again into the strong sun, up the red rock hill, and after a few paces I was hit with nausea. I ran up to a cliff edge and promptly threw up a stomach full of water. R and S were surprised and P gently scolded, “If you weren’t feeling good you should have told us. Is it the sun? Do you need to get out of the sun?” But usually right after  you vomit your body feels better, like it has rid itself of what was ailing it, and I genuinely felt recharged. S started apologizing for dragging us up the mountain, but I took a minute or two to catch my breath, wiped the sweat out of my eyes, and said, “Let’s go… we are almost there.”

The walk up was not fun... R, with P and I in the background. I'm bringing up the rear... clearly hurting at this point.

As you climb up the rest of the way, the path at the top is obscured by a rock ledge, so you don’t realize the Arch is right there until you emerge from around the edge of it, and then bam, it’s right there… beautiful and unique and picturesque. It truly is a sight, and was definitely worth the hike… nausea or not.

When you first see the Arch you are on the opposite side of a rounded rock outcrop that has largely been eroded into a steep drop off. To get from the path to the Arch you have to carefully walk along the edge of the outcrop. S told R, P and I to run over to the other side and stand beneath the Delicate Arch while he took pictures.

Finally! Standing below my postcard picture Delicate Arch! Me, R and P.

After taking so much time to get up there, S wanted to make sure we got our money’s worth. So he snapped lots of pictures then called out for someone to run back over so he could be in a few pictures. P ran back to take control of the camera, and S came to pose. We took a breather in the shade, and then I started to walk back towards P on the rock ledge in the sun. He started walking towards me, his hand in his pocket, but at that moment I could feel the sun effecting me again, and a wave of queasiness made me rush by him to run back toward the shaded rock ledge close to where S was originally taking our picture. P called out and told me to wait, but I said, “I have to get out of the sun for a minute.”

He followed behind, and found me standing with my back to the shaded rock ledge, out of view of the Arch and S and R. He walked up to me and put a box in my hand and asked, “Will you be my life partner?” My head was still swimming a bit from the sun, so at first I was confused. P wasn’t one for big surprises like this. I opened it up and saw an engagement ring.

“Well?”

“I can’t believe you actually did this!” I exclaimed, “You had this hidden the whole time?”

“Yep.”

“And my dad, did you ask my dad?”

“Yeah… I called him yesterday morning, from the IHOP in Vegas.”

“Did R and S know?”

“No, they didn’t. I’m glad S argued with you to get you to come up here… otherwise I’m not sure what I would have done.”

“How should we tell them?” I asked.

“I have an idea… ” he said, and took a picture of the ring on my finger with the camera.

So we emerged from the back of the ledge to find R and S still posing for pictures near the Arch. We walked over to them and P said, “Something interesting happened over there” and gave R and S the camera to look at. They scrolled through a few pictures of the Arch, and then saw the picture of the ring. R looked up with wide eyes and yelled, “Is that what I think??” and they both congratulated us, and took more pictures…

The steep rock outcrop across from the Arch that we had to walk along. It is hard to tell how steep it is, but take my word for it. The arrow points to the ledge behind which P proposed. The tiny black figure near the arrow is S, taking our picture while we stand under the Arch.

A pose in front of the Arch... Now that the "deed" has been "done." You probably can't tell, but the sun is still bothering me in this picture... and I'm worried I am starting to have some heat stroke.

R insisted we take a recreated "proposal shot" even though P wasn't on one knee when he asked.

As we made our way down the trail S started joking, “We went up 1 engaged couple and came down 2!” and “Good thing P proposed, otherwise C would have been mad at me the rest of the trip for forcing her to hike up in the sun and making her sick!” and lastly, “How cute… the delicate mzungu got engaged at the Delicate Arch!”

We got about three-quarters of the way down the path when I started feeling woozy again, and moved off the path to vomit up more water, and after that I didn’t feel as good as the first time. S’s face turned serious and he volunteered to run the rest of the way back down to the car to grab an extra water (we had since run out on the hot hot hike up to the top). I insisted I could make it down, but I wanted to get out of the sun as soon as possible because the direct sunlight was making my head swim.

S caught back up to us as we were nearing the end of the trail and I drank a bit more water. We climbed into the car and headed to the park Visitor Center. I felt better out of the sun, but still wasn’t feeling 100%. In hindsight I think I was so scared about getting dehydrated that I actually over hydrated and that was what made me sick combined with the direct intense sun. Hopefully I never get shipwrecked on a desert island, I probably wouldn’t do so well.

I called a few of my family members before we left Moab and the cell connection died. My dad said that he thought P was going to propose at the Grand Canyon (“That’s where I would have done it…”) and that was why he was confused the day before when I called but had no news. Apparently P had called him when he left the table to “use the restroom”  at the IHOP and said to my dad, “Um… I wanted to ask you for C’s hand” my dad probably didn’t know what P was talking about and said, “You want what?” so P (a little flustered, and already intimated) changed tactics and said, “I wanted to ask if it is okay if I ask C to marry me.” to which my dad said “Sure.”

I spent the next few hours before we reached Salt Lake City passed out in the back of the car, recovering from either over hydration, sunstroke, or some bizarre combination of both. Luckily I was good to go for Day 5.

So there’s the story. I don’t know too many people who throw up both on the way to getting engaged and on the way back (I promise I’m not always so “delicate” the sun was just not my friend in either story)… but it was a memorable experience and Arches will now always have a special place in my heart.

Co-Habitation

I read a few articles recently which prompted me to write about a topic that I was hesitant to post on at first… but then I figured, what the heck, I’m all about confronting taboo subjects on this blog if need be…

A few years ago my eldest cousin married an Australian man. At the wedding one of my more conservative aunts was standing with me, talking to the groom about how Australian culture was different from US culture. The groom mentioned that in Australia it was pretty common for people who are dating to live together before marriage and my aunt cut him off saying, “I’m so glad you decided to follow our culture and not do that.” Knowing full well I was standing right next to her, and knowing full well that P and I were living together. Slam. (I think the “culture” she was referring to was religious Catholic).

Even though “American culture” is supposed to be a lot more open in regards to people living together before marriage (look at the messages we receive through television and movies), in my family I think it still makes people a little uncomfortable. I’m not sure if it is a Catholic thing or what, but P and I have never had a visit from my aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandmother, even if they are relatively close by visiting others or vacationing, and I can’t help but wonder if they are uncomfortable (even after 4 years) that we are living together. When my cheeky little cousins, who are getting to an age where they can figure stuff out but aren’t afraid to blurt out the obvious, say, “Are you two roommates? Do you live together?” my aunts hush them up like it is some sort of taboo. Luckily my immediate family (sisters, mom, dad) aren’t so conservative in this regard, but it is one reason in particular that I’m excited to get married… so that people don’t have to be uncomfortable and awkward. (Although interestingly, our Nepali friends assume my family must be fine with the living situation since I’m American, and Americans “do that kind of thing”).

Meanwhile, P’s family (at least his immediate family, I’m still just a “friend” to anyone living outside of the main house), although probably not overly happy that we live together and are not married yet, have been surprisingly okay with our living situation. While P was doing his master’s degree at a school nearby to where I grew up, P made it sound like he had his own place and I was just around a lot. Perhaps it sounded a little suspicious, but it wasn’t unreasonable, my hometown was just down the road. Yet when P decided to move to a different state and I tagged along, I’m sure it all “clicked” for the family back home. Instead of outright saying, “Mamu, Daddy, C and I are living together” he said, “C is looking for a job, and while she looks she is keeping me company at my new place. We aren’t sure yet where she will be.” At that point P’s dad said, “I hope that she finds work near where you are studying, otherwise it will be really sad.” I guess that was convoluted South Asian speak for, “We know what you are trying to say, and we think it is better that you stay together and support each other.”

So they knew we were living together, but it is one thing to know something, and another to see it. I wasn’t sure how they were going to react when his family (mom, dad, aunt) came to live with us for part of the summer in 2008. P and I have a two bedroom apartment—one room we share, and one with a single bed that is more of an “office with guest space.” Before the parents arrived there was a debate about whether or not we should make it look like I lived in one room and he lived in the other. The reality is, parents aren’t stupid, they knew we weren’t “just roommates” so there was no point in putting on a charade.

I wasn’t sure what the expectation was going to be that first night when they arrived and everyone was ready to settle down for bed. We had decided to put P’s parents (on one mattress) and brother (on another) in our room and P’s aunt and her daughter in the “office” room. That left P and I outside in the living room. We pondered, should we sleep on the futon together or should he sleep on one couch and I sleep on the other? Luckily everyone was too tired from traveling to care (or perhaps practiced a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation) and after everyone went to bed we slept on the futon. Since the older generation was up by 4am the next day, and the living room was already bustling before we got up, everyone knew where everyone slept and there was no discussion beyond that. Ice broken, moving on.

When we went to Nepal in 2009, again, I wasn’t sure what would happen. Sure, J Phupu, Mamu and P’s dad all knew the living situation, but would things be different around P’s grandfather and younger cousin? Again that first night we were exhausted from travel, and P’s dad directed us to his room. No questions asked, we were put together in the same place. Ice broken, no drama.

Actually the funny thing is… of all these various sleeping arrangements, the one that bothered P’s family the most was when a friend came over to P’s KTM house. Before our friends’ S and R’s wedding, S’s family was in Chitwan arranging wedding details, and S was alone in KTM. Rather than stay at a lonely apartment, counting down the days to the ceremony we invited him to stay a few days at P’s place. Amongst our friends in the US it is not unusual for a bunch of guests to stay overnight after a dinner party or for the weekend, and often a whole bunch of us (guys and girls alike) wind up sleeping on couches, air mattresses, futons, or on the floor, so when S stayed over all three of us slept on mattresses on the floor in the same room at P’s house. I didn’t sleep next to S, but I think P’s family found it odd that I slept in the same room on a nearby mattress with this other man there (even though the family has known S since high school).

When we were leaving Nepal and waiting at Tribhuvan Airport J Phupu was trying to tell me something in Nepali. I couldn’t really understand what she was talking about, and I figured (like usual) that I was misunderstanding the language, because why would she be saying… “Don’t… sleep with… other people…”

So I asked, “On the plane?” and she looked back at me startled, “Not on plane… not anytime.” This is now a running joke when we have guests… that I’m not allowed to sleep with other people, I should be segregated somewhere.

Anyway… here were a few articles that made me think about this—

I stumbled upon an interesting online magazine today called “South Asian Parenting” including a column called “No Sex in the City.” One article of interest in particular was… “Sex, Lies, and a Desi Take.”

Another was a posting from the same online magazine about an intercultural relationship including a conclusion on telling parents about “co-habitation” (“Out of Bounds“).

Next was a BBC article about a Tamil actress that had charges brought against her in the Supreme Court for saying it was “not fair of any educated youth to expect his wife to be a virgin.” As part of the defense judges noted that even Hindu gods Krishna and Radha were co-habituating lovers.

And lastly another BBC article about the “virginity industry” amongst some Muslim communities in the Middle East and Europe.

More “Nepali” than a “Real” Nepali?

Let me start out with a video clip… thanks to “Blonde Bahu” who recently introduced me to “Goodness Gracious Me” a British-Indian sketch comedy group from the 90s.

Phew, I’m not that bad (at least I hope not! ha!), but as the saying goes what makes humor funny is that it comes with a little “kernel of truth.” It has been discussed on this and other blogs before about how foreigners (non-South Asians) are sometimes more interested (perhaps “enthusiastic” is the better word) in embracing aspects of South Asian culture than a native South Asian living abroad might be. Of course this clip is a highly exaggerated version (perhaps there are people out there that go that “native”) but I’m sure we all do it to some degree or another…

(Although, on a side note, sometimes I feel like my family thinks I act like the person in this video—I promise you, I don’t—but I’m still pretty sure that my participation and interest in Nepali culture weirds them out a bit and anything “different” gets hyperbolized in their minds and blown a little out of proportion).

Anyway, one such example (in my own life) of the “outsider enthusiast” versus the “insider non-enthusiast” (for lack of a better term) is the female fasting festival of Teej… I discussed this back in August (you can re-read the post here). Gori Girl left a thought provoking comment on the post:

I think it’s a very interesting (and important) point you bring up about the outsider/insider perspective on “borderline” (not the right word, but I’m inarticulate at the moment) cultural practices.

I feel like many of the younger South Asians I meet – both men and women – are trying to distance themselves from cultural practices they grew up with because they see them as unfeminist or “too ethnic” – and then they’re bemused (or sometimes offended) by the Western significant others of South Asians (almost always women) trying to bring these practices into their lives.

In some ways the tone of these conversations/remarks remind me of the generation split between the “original” feminists – people of my mother’s generation – and today’s younger women. The older feminists, I think, felt they had to work outside the home, be successful in business while raising a family, etc, in order to prove that they were just as capable as men. In contrast, I feel like a lot of women of my generation feel like there’s nothing to prove, and thus have no problem with quitting work to raise a family. I suspect South Asians might see a similar reversal to acceptance of various rites in a generation or two to a more balanced approach.

Other examples I’ve seen between “outsider” enthusiasts vs. Nepali community non-enthusiasts: I’ve been in situations where we have hosted a Nepali oriented event (such as P’s Bratabandha) and only the Americans showed up in sari while the South Asians were wearing jeans or other American clothes. Likewise, in our household it is usually me that encourages P to keep up with different festival traditions (“Hey! It’s Lakshmi Puja… let’s light diya candles and draw Lakshmi feet on the floor!”) because I find these traditions interesting, different and fun, and I want to learn about them myself so I can explain to potential children someday what the different festivals are all about, and the stories behind them, and I want to take part in the cultural experience too.

In my opinion, when you are living in a dominant culture (the US for us), you have to work harder at accentuating the non-dominant culture if you want to keep a balance. If you don’t go out of your way to acknowledge the passing of events, or cultural traditions, it is easier for non-dominant cultural processes to get lost in the mix of daily life. It doesn’t mean you have to wear salwaar kameez everyday and tikka around town and speak in a fake South Asian accent like the woman in the video, but it’s okay to go to your significant other’s cousin’s wedding in a sari if you want to, why not?

So I just wanted to take a moment– maybe start a discussion about where others might see these types of things in their own lives, perhaps laugh at ourselves a little (yeah—I like getting dressed up in Nepali dress when I get the chance for weddings and parties, even if I have to encourage my neighbors to do so too so I don’t look a little silly), and remember that being in an intercultural relationship is all about compromise and finding the right balance.

It’s a Small World After All…

I know I have written about this before (here, here and here), but it never ceases to amaze me when I’m reminded just how “small” (close-knit, related, wide-reaching) the Nepali community in America can be.

Part of it is definitely the wider cast of the relationship pool. Last night P, D, AD and I went to see Russell Peters with what I was originally told was AD’s “cousins” but later found out was his cousin (who lives half way across the country)’s wife’s sister and her husband. They just happened to be in the city for a conference and were able to meet up.

D: “So you aren’t really related, right? There isn’t a word for that.”

AD: “We are… bhauju ko didi” [sister-in-law’s sister]

D: “Oh yeah, I forgot about that.”

We met for a quick bite to eat before the comedy show, and at one point I started talking about my blog with AD’s bhauju ko didi. She thought it sounded interesting and she told me about another intercultural Nepali-American couple that she knew.

So then we show up at the venue, a theater with the capacity to seat over 1,000 people, and as we settled in for the show (and granted Russell Peters draws a huge South Asian audience in general, but still) a South Asian man and American woman sat directly behind us (our tickets were numbered, there wasn’t open seating).

Not only was this South Asian man a Nepali, but he just happened to randomly be D’s cousin (second cousin?*), and not only was the man D’s cousin, but the Nepali-American couple was the same couple AD’s bhauju ko didi was talking about at dinner (remember- bhauju ko didi didn’t even live in this particular city, making the coincidence even more interesting). It would have been freaky enough bumping into them while leaving the show, but they sat directly behind us. No “Nepali ho?” needed.

Seriously, it’s a small world after all…

*Okay, I just emailed D for clarification, and D said that his grandfather and the guy’s grandfather were brothers. I don’t even know if I have relatives of that nature walking around, (kind of like P’s relation to the bride in “Frank Uncle and the Nepali wedding“) but none-the-less, they were related, and knew each other, and randomly sat behind each other. It’s still a small world.

The Gori Blogging Meetup

Prior to this weekend, I’m not sure if I have ever met someone in person that I first got to know exclusively online. Times, they are a’changin’…

A few months ago, one of the blogs I really enjoy (Gori Girl) suggested a meetup in her metro-area if people were going to be around. Unfortunately I live quite a distance away, and was unable to attend, but offered that P had a conference in that same area in April, and perhaps we could do another meetup then. April came around, and I reminded about the conference, and GG was happy to facilitate another meet up, and I took advantage of a long weekend from work to finally meet some of the people I’ve gotten to know from the blogging world in real life.

I’m not going to lie, even if it makes me sound like a dork, I was excited– dare I say, even a little nervous, to meet a group from the blogging community in person. The day of the meetup I felt like I was preparing for a blind date. I enjoy reading and interacting with these women online, and I couldn’t help but think, what if they meet me in person and think I’m weird? Or I am nothing like they expected, and that changes the relationship? I really value this online community, and I don’t want to do something to alienate myself from a group I’ve come to really look forward to interacting with.

I wanted P to come with me and meet some of the characters that I talk about from the blogosphere. He has been really supportive of my blogging hobby, and thinks that it is interesting that I have found a creative outlet and a way to connect with other like-minded people, but I’m sure deep down he probably also finds it all a teeny-weenie bit weird, or at least amusing. As I tried to talk him into joining me he joked, “But you don’t really know these people…” while I argued, “But I do! I have learned all sorts of personal details about their lives, sometimes I feel like I know them better than people I actually know in person!” Unfortunately the meetup was opposite a lecture by Jane Goodall at his conference, and he didn’t make it to the meetup spot until about 10 minutes after everyone left.

So after the giddy school girl excitement of the meet up anticipation, the time finally came, and I arrived at the meetup spot a few minutes after the appointed time. I was the fourth person to arrive: GG was sitting with an Indian work friend, and another blogger (who recently started writing, but whose blog is definitely worth checking out: Big Bad Blonde Bahu) was there. As we chatted more people began to arrive including GG’s husband Aditiya, and one of my favorite bloggers Gori Wife, with her Pakistani husband and young son (when she walked in I couldn’t resist the urge to jump up and give her a hug). All in all, I think about 7 or 8 people involved with the blogging community showed up, several with their husbands or partners, making the meetup group about 13.

The meetup was quite fun, as new people arrived we’d ask each other what our username was on GG’s site, if we blogged, what our blog was called,  and usually, “oh yeah, I know you, I follow your blog!” In some cases it was an opportunity to put a face to a name and story. Or to ask for details that might have been blurred out of stories for privacy reasons, or to ask for clarifications. Not personally knowing too many Gori (white girl)-Desi (South Asian) couples it was refreshing to socialize with others who can really “get” your personal back-story, and multicultural household situation.

Luckily, P will be down in the same general area for a summer research opportunity, so I’m looking forward to potentially meeting some of these great women (and their families) again.

After the meetup, I had dinner with a group of friends and I was bursting to share my “Gori social hour” experience and couldn’t help but tell my story again and again throughout the weekend when I met up with other friends. For instance, at the conference I saw an old neighbor who has since moved back to her native Canada to teach at a university and finish her research. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve mentioned you and your blogging in my class” she said, after I told her about the meetup, “I think what you are doing is great. There is a lot of criticism out there that the idea of ‘community’ is dying out, and young people today are too disconnected… but this is an example of how communities are still thriving they just look very different. You don’t necessarily have a community like this in your backyard, but you found them using technology and the internet. Just because it is virtual doesn’t make it less of a community.”

And I agree. We are a community, and I’m glad to have it. Thanks for the fun meetup… I hope we get to do something like that again.

100th Post

This is my 100th post, a milestone I wanted to acknowledge. Wow, it’s hard to believe that I’ve had 100 things to talk about already (although perhaps P would be less surprised). I’m not going to lie… there always seems to be something more to say ;)

I started posting in late August of 2009 because I was looking for an outlet, a place to share stories, connect with others, and to find a new way to feel like part of a community. I know I am not the only American (Westerner) out there partnered with a Nepali (or other South Asian), but it is easy to sometimes feel like I’m the only one going through things. It has been really refreshing and fun to meet others along the way who are in similar situations.

Moving forward, I’m excited to hear more from readers (and maybe have a few guest posts about your own situations too—hint, hint) and getting suggestions for more topics or stories that you might want to hear. In the meantime I’ll continue churning out material as it comes, and I’m glad to have you along for the ride.

So thanks again for being there to listen, I really appreciate knowing that others out there enjoy Musings from an American-Nepali Household.

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”

Over the weekend I watched the classic movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” I’d heard about it before, but never watched it, and figured I’d give it a go. It was an interesting movie that I’d recommend, particularly for those who are in intercultural/interracial relationships.

The basic story of the movie, which originally debuted in 1967, was that the daughter of a white “liberal” upper-middle class California family came home from Hawaii to announce her whirlwind romance and engagement to—gasp—a man of color! The movie takes place during an afternoon when the daughter and fiancé seek the approval for their approaching nuptials from first her parents, and then, in a twist of events when they are invited for dinner as well, the African American fiancé’s parents. I think there were moments where the drama was a little over the top… I mean, it’s hard for me to believe they fell in love in “just 20 minutes” and after 10 days of being together decided they wanted to be married (this coming from the girl who has been dating the same guy for 7 years, engaged for nearly 2, and still not married… I think I’m in a different ballgame), but the rest of the movie was really good, and would have made a great cultural studies or sociology paper back in the day. It was especially interesting watching the “liberal” family struggle with their feelings about having an African-American son-in-law. As the mother said to the father in a side discussion,

She’s 23 years old, and the way she is… is just exactly the way we brought her up to be. We answered her questions. She listened to our answers. We told her it was wrong to believe that white people were somehow essentially superior to black people… or the brown or the red or the yellow ones, for that matter [oohh a bit of a cringe at that dated comment, although the sentiment is there]. That people who thought that way were wrong to think that way, sometimes hateful, usually stupid, but always wrong. That’s what we said… and when we said it, we did not add, ‘but don’t even fall in love with a colored man.’

In addition to this there were a few other great quotes in the movie that really spoke to me. In particular there was this one quote when John (the fiancé) gets into a “heated” discussion with his father who basically tells him, “After all I’ve done for you [working long hours as a mailman, making money to fund your education, etc], all I’ve given up for you, this is how you want to repay me? Marrying a white girl?” John responds:

You listen to me. You say you don’t want to tell me how to live my life. So what do you think you’ve been doing? You tell me what rights I’ve got or haven’t got, and what I owe to you for what you’ve done for me. Let me tell you something. I owe you nothing! If you carried that bag a million miles, you did what you’re supposed to do! Because you brought me into this world. And from that day you owed me everything you could ever do for me like I will owe my son if I ever have another. (But you don’t own me! You can’t tell me when or where I’m out of line, or try to get me to live my life according to your rules. You don’t even know what I am, Dad, you don’t know who I am. You don’t know how I feel, what I think. And if I tried to explain it the rest of your life you will never understand.) You are 30 years older than I am. You and your whole lousy generation believes the way it was for you is the way it’s got to be. And not until your whole generation has lain down and died will the dead weight of you be off our backs! You understand, you’ve got to get off my back! Dad… Dad, you’re my father. I’m your son. I love you. I always have and I always will. But you think of yourself as a colored man. I think of myself as a man.

Parentheses are mine… I love these lines…I know it is a very “un-South Asian” way to think or talk to/about ones parents, it is very individualistic and not very respectful, but I think these words are really powerful and impressive. I’ve tried to say something like this to my mom before, but I don’t think it got through, its one of the major reasons we don’t understand each other…

Spoiler alert!… don’t read further if you want to watch the movie yourself… but the third best line of the movie comes from the girl’s father in the final monologue of the film, when he comes full circle:

There’ll be 100 million people right here in this country who will be shocked and offended and appalled and the two of you will just have to ride that out, maybe every day for the rest of your lives. You could try to ignore those people, or you could feel sorry for them and for their prejudice and their bigotry and their blind hatred and stupid fears, but where necessary you’ll just have to cling tight to each other and say “screw all those people”! Anybody could make a case, a hell of a good case, against your getting married. The arguments are so obvious that nobody has to make them. But you’re two wonderful people who happened to fall in love and happened to have a pigmentation problem, and I think that now, no matter what kind of a case some bastard could make against your getting married, there would be only one thing worse, and that would be if – knowing what you two are and knowing what you two have and knowing what you two feel- you didn’t get married.

It makes me feel warm and tingly, so I figured I’d share.

Nepali Cooking- A Recommendation

Last night we had a farewell dinner for our good friend D’s foreign girlfriend. She had been visiting for several weeks from Germany and the time had come that she had to go back. P and I wanted to give her something special, and I knew she liked to cook, so I thought she might appreciate a Nepali memento—a Nepali cookbook—and perhaps when she was particularly nostalgic for D she could whip up one of the recipes for dinner. P and I went through the cookbook and bookmarked off some of our favorite (or most commonly cooked) recipes and a few of D’s favorites, so that she would have a place to start.

With that said, I thought I’d talk a little bit about this particular cookbook. I’ve mentioned it on the blog before (here and here), but it is worth mentioning again. I didn’t find this cookbook until 2008, by then I had already been cooking Nepali food for years. Most of my cooking style was gleamed from helping my friends in the kitchen while they made various dishes. My cooking style is probably a bit elementary—my two favorite spices are garlic and cumin powder (not to mention cilantro)—but several of my dishes have been refined enough to be considered pretty tasty… if I do say so myself ;) .

However at some point I realized that it would be handy to have a Nepali cookbook. Gathering recipes from friends (AS is a great resource!) was helpful, but sometimes it would be nice to have a resource to look up information, at least for reference. Plus,  I have a stack of vegetarian cookbooks to get ideas for different types of food, so why not Nepali?

I’d never seen a Nepali cookbook though. Most bookstores probably have an Indian cookbook or two, and yeah, some North Indian food is similar to Nepali food, but I really wanted something specifically Nepali. So I turned to the handiest book website around… Amazon. If you search “Nepali cookbook” four different options pop up: Kathmandu Kuisine (1987) which is out of print, Nepali Delights Cookbook (1992) developed by the Association of Nepalis in the Americas, The Nepali Cookbook (1996) which is an updated version by the Association of Nepalis in the Americas, and finally Taste of Nepal (2007).

I bought the two most recent cookbooks The Nepali Cookbook and Taste of Nepal. The Nepali Cookbook is a nice resource, particularly for someone who is either a beginner, or someone who wants to learn a few Nepali dishes but doesn’t plan to eat Nepali food on a fairly regular basis. It was pulled together by a group of women from the Association who each submitted their favorite recipes. It is clear and simple, although unfortunately there are no pictures.

However, the cookbook I really wanted to talk about was Taste of Nepal. As the cookbook’s website notes, it is “one of the very few Nepali cookbooks on the market, Taste of Nepal is a thorough and comprehensive guide to this cuisine, featuring more than 350 authentic recipes.”

I should write a fan letter to Jyoti Pathak, because I’m really happy to have found this book. It is pretty heavy duty, not only because it is hardcover, but it is about 470 pages long. Again, unfortunately there are no photographs of the individual dishes or the process of how to make things (some people, myself included, find that pretty helpful… although I just found a food photo gallery on the cookbook’s website), but she does have the Nepali name and the English equivalent for all the dishes, adds cultural notes where appropriate, and begins each chapter section with a nice introduction. She offers substitutes for Nepali spices that might not be readily available, as well as notes on how to mix your own masalas… not to mention there is an entire chapter dedicated to momos!

Since I’m still pretty set in the way I like to make Nepali food, I prefer to use her cookbook as a reference, blending a little of my style and a little of her style to make the flavor a little more complex and mature. Plus she has many recipes for dishes that my friends have not made before, so I can try a lot of new things if inspiration hits.

I was joking in the car on the way back from dinner that I should make this a new custom, if other Nepali friends get involved in intercultural relationships, I should make the cookbook my standard, “welcome to the community!” gift.

So for any Nepali food enthusiasts out there, or for anyone who wants to learn Nepali cooking styles, keep in mind the two references above, particularly Taste of Nepal—it has C’s “stamp of approval!”