Monday, February 29, 2016

Recipe: Indian Carrot Ginger Soup

One of my friends makes an amazing carrot soup recipe that I constantly crave and dream about all the time. So, of course, I had to find out what she puts in it, and Indian-ize the recipe to make it more flavourful for my spice-lovin' palette! This soup is simple and filling, with a subtle spice. I like to make this in big batches and then freeze it for a quick lunch or dinner (it freezes for up to 3 months!). This recipe is very low-maintenance, and I love how I can keep it boiling and putter around the house to do other things. This recipe is packed with super foods and is very good for your health. Carrots are a high-fiber vegetable that keeps you full all day. Along with carrots, both garlic and turmeric are antioxidant foods. This soup is blended, so it would be great for children too - especially if you're trying to introduce them to a diverse palette.

Madh Mama's Indian Carrot Ginger Soup

Serves 4-6 people


- 3 tbsp olive oil OR butter
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 3 tbsp ginger, chopped
- 7 cups water
- 1 pound carrots (or 6-8 large carrots), peeled and chopped
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp black pepper


Heat up the oil/butter in the pan on medium heat. Add the cumin and sauté for a minute. Add the chopped onions.

When the onions are halfway done, add the ginger and garlic.

When the onions are done, add the water, carrots, turmeric, salt, nutmeg, and black pepper. Boil it for 40 minutes.

Blend it all up.

Return it to the pan. You can add more water if you'd like it more liquid-y.

You can garnish this recipe with (pick one):
- fresh coriander leaves
- dash of squeezed lemon
- a dollop of sour cream /yogurt


Saturday, February 27, 2016

My Intercultural Love: Wendy & Youssef

This fabulous couple is a Hawaiian/Puerto Rican - Lebanese mix who live in my new favorite place: Hawaii! Wendy also writes an amazing multicultural food blog!

My name is Wendy, born in Honolulu, Hawaii and I’m half Hawaiian-half Puerto Rican. My husband is Youssef, born in Beirut, Lebanon and he's Lebanese. We both live in Honolulu, Hawaii and have 2 children (6 year old boy and 8 year old girl).

Three words that describe you… 
Bold, courageous and creative.

Favorite childhood memory…
Going to the beach - any beach in Hawaii!

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
Listening to stories of adversity and watching people overcome them. These people inspire me to be grateful for everything I have in my life.

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
We met in a supermarket while we were both working overseas in Dubai, UAE.

 How long have you been together?
23 years.

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
He's generous, open-minded and caring.

Favorite memory together as a couple…
Travelling cross-country in Europe with our children in an RV for a year.

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
Quite a bit. I lived and worked in the UAE which was a Muslim-dominated country back in the 90's. 

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
We were friends long before we "hooked up"! So many of our friends already knew there was something there before we even knew. But when we decided get engaged, we received all kinds of feedback - mostly negative. Some of his friends kept asking him if he's marrying me for my passport. My own friends asked the same question, everything was about if he wanted to obtain citizenship.

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
Our relationship continues to grow and flourish the older and wiser we become. We no longer let religion, color or culture define us as human beings but instead want to leave a blueprint of kindness of love for our kids to follow when we are no longer here on this earth.

Who proposed and how?
I was in London and flying into Dubai early one morning (like 6am). I was coming out of the airport and saw this figure of a man that looked like my boyfriend standing with a very large PINK sign. It said, "WILL YOU MARRY ME?"  I was confused at first, walked up to him kind of embarrassed and asked "What are you doing?". He looked as me and ask me again, "Will you marry me?". I said, yes, and heard a whole crowd cheering nearby. I turned around and he had rallied all of our friends and family to the airport to be a part of that proposal. It was beautiful and I was completely shocked and overwhelmed.

Describe your wedding…
We got married on the top of a beautiful hotel in Dubai with 100 of our closest friends. I wore a maroon colored dress and he wore a suit. We had an open bar upon arrival, and we greeted each guest with flower leis. We had a beautiful sit down dinner and then just danced the entire night away. It was just one big party.

What does being married mean to you?
It means giving love unconditionally.

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
We want to continue to live the life we currently have. Traveling the world 6 months of the year and spending the other 6 months in Hawaii. We want to continue world-schooling our children, spending time with them, getting to know them before they eventually turn into adults and leave our nest. We then want to live comfortably together in a small home overlooking a vineyard or farm that we own, watching the sunset every evening.

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
Don't discuss your dirty laundry with anyone.

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
Being born and raised a Hawaiian, it was important for me to teach my family about our deep connection to the universe, nature, land and sea. Our land or “Aina” is sacred to all Hawaiians. It has given us everything we need. Not just food, but clothing, housing, weapons, tools, musical instruments, canoes, etc. We are dependent on nature and respect it. Therefore our family’s success depends on living in harmony with nature. This is why we love to travel so much. To see the world that nourishes us.

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
We spend a lot of time alone together whenever possible. Just having a nice dinner, talking or walking. We make time for each other.

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
Our eating habits are much more healthier than they were before. Lebanese cuisine is full of vegetables and fruits, something I never really grew up with (American diet). 

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
We celebrate all Christian and Muslim holidays. We teach our children about both religious holidays but don’t put emphasis on the religion in general. We will wait for them to ask questions when they are older about Mom and Dad’s religious beliefs. Let them decide if they want to embrace a religion or not.

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
Nothing so far. :)

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed…
I used religious prayer mats as carpets throughout my apartment and didn’t know it was prayer mats! When he came to my apartment once he just laughed and told me what they were used for… I felt silly.

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
We put off the wedding date for 3 years because he and I were “stuck” on if I should convert to Islam or not. His side said I “had to”, my side said “I shouldn’t”. This caused a rift that we tried to ignore and eventually had to face. It almost tore us apart because we were listening to others. I didn’t want to, he felt pressure from friends and family and it was causing a lot of stress between us.

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
The best part is knowing we’re different, and we embrace this. The worst part is having to answer silly questions about our religious beliefs to complete strangers.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
That they never last, and the children come out confused.

What are the biggest misconceptions about American Women?
Working in the Middle East for 20 years, every Arab man thought American women were cheap or “easy”. Not sure why… but nowadays this has changed.

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
Not so much. I get asked a lot of questions about what my children “are”. Are they Muslim or Christian? This seems to bother people the most. We just explain to them that we were born into our religions and didn’t seem to think it was fair that we didn’t get a choice so decided to let our children have a choice. Seems only fair… :) We just tell them God loves everyone, it really doesn’t matter what religion you are.

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
We were lucky. Although both families were worried about the other, there was mutual love and respect for others' concerns. When there’s a strong bond of love from all sides it makes things so much easier :)


Monday, February 22, 2016

Best Children's Books About Indian Culture

Whether you are Indian, half-Indian, or just simply interested in Indian culture, there is unfortunately such a lack of books out there for children in this genre. This is due to the fact that many traditions are stories are passed on from generation to generation by spoken word - usually by Indian grandparents or family elders. It has been a real struggle to find any books with characters that resemble my daughter and her dad's family, so I have put together a list of our favorites.

My Mother's Sari, by Sandhya Rao
Children are fascinated by sarees and love to hide under the long fabric. This book is about the fascination and love for the saree, as the girl's imagination runs wild. It is also about the positive tradition of wearing a saree which is handed down to our children. The book is filled with eye-catching colors, a la Eric Carle.

Ganesha's Sweet Tooth, by Sanjay Patel
This book is a modern gem combining the ancient tale of the most-loved Hindu God Ganesh, paired with bright vibrant illustrations. It is an original interpretation of Ganesh and how he inscribes the Mahabharata. We gave this book to our Indian relatives and they adored it!

Tiger in My Soup, by Kashmira Sheth
This book is about a boy's imagination that runs wild during mealtimes. A wonderfully whimsical story!

Monsoon Afternoon, by Kashmira Sheth
This one is another book I love by author Kashmira Sheth. This one is about the special bond between a boy and his grandfather and about all the fun they have during a monsoon. It's a fun story about how you can enjoy the outdoors, even if it's in the rain!

Monsoon, by Uma Krishnaswami
This is another beautiful book about the monsoon season, except it features a female narrator and her mother. This book focuses heavily on the description of senses - sight, hearing, smell - of the monsoon. Descriptive, magical, and well-written.

The Story of Little Babaji, by Helen Bannerman
This book has been around since 1899 and I have one of the original copies that my grandmother kept. Back then, it was called "The Story of Little Black Sambo" and was incredibly politically un-correct. The new edition though, is wonderful because now the family has been given authentic Indian names. It's a fun classic story.

Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji, by F. Zia
This book is about a boy's grandparents who are visiting from India, and the magical stories they tell. It is about the sweet connection between grandparents and their grandchildren, and a shared love of Indian food.

Ganesh and the Little Mouse, by Anjali Joshi
This is a sweet little book about Ganesh and his race around the world. The illustrations are modern and cute!

Indian Children's Favorite Stories, by Rosemarie Somaiah
This is a wonderful compilation of eight classic Indian fables with beautiful illustrations. I would recommend this book to ages 6 and up, because the stories are more complex. Many of the stories are educational and have a "moral of the story" type endings.

The Elephant's Friend and Other Tales from Ancient India, by Marcia Williams
This book is a compilation of eight Indian fables about various animals. It is paired with eye-catching comic book style illustrations that are very detailed and colorful. This book is non-denominational and great for families who want stories that are light on the religious aspect.

Usborne's Stories From India, by Anna Milbourne
This is another compilation of Indian stories, interpreted by a Western author. It is published by the famous Usborne books, so it is widely available in North America. This book has sixteen different stories that are all very different and interesting. This book has a good mix of Hindu and non-Hindu stories.


Dear readers, have you read any of these ones?
If so, which ones are your favorites?
Do you have any to add to the list?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

My Intercultural Love: Melanie & Tejas

This beautiful masala couple just got engaged on Christmas Eve!


Tejas: Hello! My name is Tejas and I was born and raised in Pune, India. I came to the US in 2007 and now I live and work in the Detroit metro area.

Melanie: Hi there! My name is Melanie and I am a white American lady. My family is from the state of Oregon, but my dad was in the military so we moved all over the world. I have lived in 3 countries and 12 US states and like Bogart in a Casablanca I'm a citizen of the world. Currently, I am a social worker at a domestic and sexual violence program and I've been working in shelters the past 4.5 years.

Three words that describe you...

Tejas: Philomath, pragmatic and respectful.

Melanie: Plucky, intuitive, silly.

Favorite childhood memory...

Tejas: My friends and me would traditionally meet after dinner and play cricket, badminton, hide and seek or even go roller-skating on the streets of our neighborhood. Later in the night, we would often go hangout at the local street food carts, grab some snacks and ice cream and we’d just sit back and talk far into the night. I cherish those memories, and it makes me happy that even today, after all these years, we’ve kept the tradition alive.

Melanie: I enjoyed being a kid because it is more acceptable to wear costumes and be imaginative. I dressed up in full cowgirl gear as Annie Oakley when I did a book report on her in 6th grade!

Where/how do you feel most inspired?

Tejas: In nature! I’m amazed and humbled by the majesty of all things around us. It’s this beauty and diversity of nature that inspires me.

Melanie: Either in nature; or going to a lecture of some world renowned figure and being able to ask them questions.

Where/how did you meet your spouse?

Tejas: OkCupid! Only a few days after creating an account on OkCupid I came across Melanie’s profile and I had an instant crush on her. She was beautiful, she had a virtuous charm in her eyes and she had the cutest nose I’d ever seen, and we were a 94% match! I proceeded to read about her and was ecstatic to learn that she, too, was a science/astronomy enthusiast. I instantly messaged her, introducing myself and asking if she’d like to go see a planetarium show with me. She replied yes! We went on our first date to the Rock Creek Park Planetarium the day after Valentines Day.

Melanie: He messaged me on OKCupid and asked me to go to a show at the Rock Creek Park Planetarium on February 15th. He even messaged me Happy Valentine's Day before we even met and that seemed bold to me! At the planetarium, he knew the answers to all the questions the Park Ranger asked and I was impressed, but nervous. Instead of asking him to have lunch afterward I chickened out and told him I had to go marathon House of Cards.

How long have you been together?

Tejas: We first met on 15th of February 2014 and have been together ever since.

Melanie: 23 months and 4 days. We are engaged :)

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?

Tejas: Melanie’s a sweetheart - she's kind, caring, and empathetic. She’s passionate and dedicated to her career in social work and she loves undertaking creative projects – be it comedy, movie making or craft.

Melanie: Tejas is so kind and smart. He truly values family and respects my opinion. He never laughs off anything I like as "girly" and he identifies as a feminist. He is really creative and encouragess me to be my best self. And he is so handsome:)

Favorite memory together as a couple...

Tejas: Melanie and I moved to Michigan in February 2015 and we rented a two-bedroom apartment just so I could move out of the master bedroom and into the second for when my mom visits us in May, for three months. Although my mom didn’t mind Melanie and I sharing an apartment, she did not approve of any PDA – not even holding hands or occasional hugs, and most certainly not in her presence. We both understood her reasons for not letting us be affectionate in front of her and we sincerely respected that. So, we’d often sneak around house and behind corner walls, hiding from my mom’s line-of-sight, and we would, very stealthily, "xo" each other. We’ve been silly together on several occasions, and this is one of my favorite memories.

Melanie: When we go and walk in nature or go on long drives we can just talk for hours and it is never boring.

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?

Tejas: Being raised in India I had only known about American culture through movies, music, TV shows and popular stereotypes, and US being quite literally, traditionally and socially opposite than India, the American culture always seemed fascinating and interesting to me. Only after moving to the US did I get to experience the American way of life and appreciate the sheer diversity in human culture that the North American subcontinent encompasses.

Melanie: Only the basics. I've learned a lot from him.

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?

Tejas: My Indian friends in America were the first ones to know about us, and they were happy and excited for us. My elder brother was next and he, too, was happy for us. Only a few months after could I muster up the courage to tell my parents about Melanie, and surprisingly they took it fairly well. They weren’t super excited, but they didn’t freak out either. Phew! My mom, very calmly, asked me to respect the Indian tradition and not make any hasty decisions until they personally get to meet Melanie.

Melanie: I was a giddy lady gushing about him, so they were happy I was happy.

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?

Tejas: I was quite an introvert and socially remote before I met Melanie, but in the first couple months of our relationship, we went to every possible science lecture, concert, and stand-up show in the city. We even made it a routine to explore and hike all nearby parks. I would personally never choose to do all those things so frequently, but with Melanie, it has always been a great experience and so much fun! I’m also very methodical and painstaking, whereas Melanie, she’s spontaneous and free-spirited. She is fittingly complimentary to my personality, and in so many other ways, she has enhanced my outlook on life.

Melanie: Tejas slows me down. I can be impulsive and rushed when I do projects. He brings up the quality of my output. His values are steadfast and less individually oriented and I love the feeling of being in a true partnership. 

Who proposed and how?

Tejas: We were on a week-long Christmas vacation in the big easy: New Orleans. We were both very excited to see each other after a long time, since we live in different cities, and were eager to escape the cold weather in the North. We had also booked a room at a downtown art hostel and thought we would get to meet all sorts of interesting people from around the world. The art hostel, turns out, was a shantytown inside a gentrified tire warehouse! It was disappointing, and doubly frustrating for me since I’d planned on proposing while we were in New Orleans. After spending two sleepless nights at the hostel we decided to move to a nice, quiet and clean hotel, and I resumed planning the proposal. In next few days we explored the downtown New Orleans, the French Quarters, Magazine Street, music venues and restaurants. All this while, I was constantly on the lookout for an appropriate spot to propose but sadly couldn’t find one. New Orleans, as expected, was loud and raucous and certainly didn’t fit my idea of an ideal place to propose. On Christmas Eve, we decided to stay in, so we got some food and we binge-watched Fargo (an excellent show by the way) then we just laid there talking and thinking how unexpected, yet fun and interesting, this trip had been. I seized the opportunity in that moment and I told her how happy I am when I’m with her and that I wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. It wasn’t what I planned, but when she said yes, it felt perfect.

Melanie: Tejas proposed last Christmas Eve. I can't remember what he was saying, but I cut him off and was like "yes,yes,yes" and gave him a torrent of kisses.

Describe your wedding...

Tejas: We are in the midst of planning our summer wedding - it’s going to be in a Planetarium!

Melanie: It will be in July 2016. We are having it at a science museum with the ceremony in their planetarium. My mom doesn't want me to go overboard with it, but it will be a celestial theme. Astronaut ring bearer, stellar flower girl, moon-walking.... oh my!

What does being married mean to you?

Tejas: In my opinion, marriage is just another popular social construct, like religion. I adore Melanie, and all I really care about is spending the rest of our lives together, being a family and making each other happy. 

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?

Tejas: We want to be a family, have kids, adopt if we can, and retire early enough so we can travel and explore our tiny little planet.

Melanie: Retire comfortably ASAP: make art, enjoy nature, roll with the punches of life together forever.

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?

Melanie: Don't try to change them. 

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?

Tejas: Respect, honesty, forbearance and of course - Indian cooking!

Melanie: A deep appreciation for the written word. And Taco Tuesdays!

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?

Tejas: Lately, since we live in different cities, we Face Time everyday, and we frequently fly in and out to spend time with each other.

Melanie: I make YouTube videos and he helps me film, edit and produce them. They are super DIY, but we have fun. We used to love watching the Daily Show with Jon Stewart together.

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?

Melanie: Definitely the awesome Indian cooking! I love going to the festival celebrations here and can't wait for my first trip to India.

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?

Melanie: They like Indian cuisine and will hopefully come India with us!

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?

Melanie: Well...I found the Madh Mama blog because I was struggling with some aspects, but don't wish to speak of the publicly. But reading a lot of advice on merging two family cultures is super helpful.

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...

Melanie: Having bare legs and not wearing any gold! Ha ha! Also Tejas had his arm around me while we were Skyping with his mom...tsk, tsk!

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?

Tejas: Introducing Melanie to my mom.

Melanie: We are long distance until the wedding so it has hard to have a hug every day, but we see each other every few weeks.

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?

Tejas: I learn something new about Melanie, and her culture, every single day. There is inherently an element of surprise and an eagerness to know more about your partner, and the absence of prejudice, which I think is the best part of being in an intercultural relationship.

Melanie: I like that Tejas doesn't watch any American sports! It just seems like such a time consuming hobby! The worst part is that I only speak English and some Spanish, but Tejas speaks so many languages!! I want to be able to better communicate with his family who are all in India. I can tell them I love them in Hindi though...

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?

Tejas: That intercultural relationships are harder to build and sustain.

Melanie: People sometimes just say weird things like "oh have you always had a thing for Indian guys?" like I fetishize his national origin. Or they'll say "however did you find him?" I always reply "Oh it wasn't hard, he's truly only 1 in 1.4 billion!!!" To me, he just happens to be Indian, but while it is an important aspect of his cultural identity it wasn't the defining reason why we came together. 

What are the biggest misconceptions about India / American women? 

Tejas: India is predominantly a patriarchal society.

Melanie: I guess that we divorce and can't cook!

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?

Melanie: I occasionally get some quizzical stares from strangers who tend to be in homogeneous groups of their own race. Sometimes I do worry that Tejas will be racially profiled for his complexion. Like a comedian made sure he wasn't from "one of the scary countries" when we were sitting in the front row at a comedy club. I worry for his safety sometimes with targeted attacks against brown people in the US who "appear" to be terrorists. On the whole though, no one in my family or friend circle has any qualms with our relationship.

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...

Melanie: Just be as honest about your relationship as possible. Don't take it personally if people's culturally specific reactions aren't supportive. I wrote Tejas' father a heartfelt e-mail that plainly spoke to my commitment and love for him and then he approved the marriage. I believe transparency is key, while also being sensitive to others' feelings. It is so worth it to be with the partner that is beyond your wildest expectations! Just remind yourself that it is a process and not something that comes through overnight!


Friday, February 19, 2016

Now Featured on: Masalamommas (My second article!)

I am soooooooo excited to share my new article, which is featured on my favorite Masalamommas online magazine! This is my second article on this site, am I am absolutely thrilled about it. 

[Click HERE to read my first feature on this site!]

So many times we only talk about the struggles of being in an intercultural relationship, but the truth is that the good far outweighs the bad. My article is about the many surprising benefits of being in an intercultural relationship. Cheers to love!!!

Click HERE to check it out! 
Please do comment or share it if you like it!


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Series of Fortunate Events

You know the saying, "When it rains, it pours"? Well, lately we have had the opposite occur - a series of fortunate events have blessed us in a matter of mere days. Whatever is happening, it feels like all the planets are astrologically aligning for all of our hopes and dreams to come true!

I suppose I should start at the very beginning....

I have a dream. My dream is a lot unconventional and a bit unique. My dream has, and always been, to have both sets of parents living with us. The happiest moments in my life involve the togetherness of our families. Luckily my inlaws and my parents - although very different in personalities - get along famously. Husband-ji is the eldest son, so he needs to take care of his parents; and I am the only child so I need to take care of mine.

How exactly is that possible? Well, we would need two things. The first is that my inlaws would need to immigrate to my country permanently. The second part would be accommodation. We need a place where we can ALL live - which is inconceivable in Vancouver because the spaces are very small (and I cannot live outside the city in some suburb - I am an urban girl!). Also, living in a family of 8 people is kinda a big cluster-f*ck. But, we still need to live together, or at least on the same property. So, the best option would be for us to live in separate spaces in the SAME building. So we basically just need to build our OWN apartment building with the land we own. Yup, go big or go home!

Thus, the birth of my dream. And I am so happy to reveal that it is finally coming into fruition.

Recently, the first amazing thing that happened was that we were FINALLY able to start the construction on our building. This is something that we started to plan 2 years ago, and we have hit so many road blocks along the way. It has been a HUGE struggle financially to pull off, but we did it. We have never invested so much money into something before, so it has been a bit scary. We are working with a talented architect and a team of fantastic builders. After years of preparation and waiting, the building started, and it has been happening so fast in a matter of days. Every day we go and check on the construction and it is a thrilling and exciting process to see our dream home come up.

Less than 48 hours after we started construction, we got some more amazing news: my inlaws received their Canadian Permanent Residency. This means that they can work/live/study in Canada and utilize our amazing free healthcare system. This means they can live with us permanently and we don't have to suffer by being separated by our countries.

We have waited SIX long years for this. Back in 2010, I had this idea that we should see if we could apply to sponsor husband-ji's parents so that they could come and live in Canada with us in the future. At the time, we were not even married yet, and husband-ji had just got his residency and started working. People thought I was a bit crazy planning so far ahead. I organized a meeting with our immigration lawyer and we got all the paperwork together and applied. Our lawyer warned us about the huge backlog for parental sponsorship and said it could take up to 10 years to even hear back. Shortly after we applied, the Canadian government closed any future applications for people to bring their parents in - so literally, we got ours in just in time.

Years and years went by with no news from the government, until last year when we suddenly received a notification that they had finally started processing it. During this time, my heart yearned for us all to be together, and especially after having Maya I felt like they were missing out on so much of her life. I hated us being separated, so we planned to vacation together every 6 months to meet. While I loved vacationing together, it was bittersweet. When we were in Yellowstone, I had to excuse myself and I went to my room and cried because the thought of saying goodbye to them at the end of the trip killed me inside.

Two days before Christmas, the Canadian government requested their passports for stamping. We were all upset that they couldn't join us for Christmas this year and we didn't know why they were requesting the passports - was it just another step in the process or was this it? It seemed like our parental sponsorship application was progressing - fast. They got their Permanent Residency!!!

And, just like that, life can change in an instant. I cried tears of joy and I thanked God for our good fortune. We are so blessed to not have to worry about being divided by our countries. My country has welcomed my inlaws - permanently. Not everyone gets this chance. They were meant to be here, with us. They are meant to grow old here, and become Canadian too. A new beginning. My FIL thanked me for making his dreams come true, and I cried. And not only that, but since our building started, we will soon have a place for us all to reside. This building will be a home for all of us, and it will financially sustain (and house) our family for the future. We are also planning to put our store on the ground level, which means husband-ji's commute to work will be an elevator ride down! It will be so much easier for us to take care of our parents and help them when we are all on the same property. Maya can just take the elevator up to see both of her grandparents. I can send dinner upstairs to my dad. It is what I have always dreamed of for our family, and it has finally started to become real. 2016 is the year that our dreams are coming true!!!

This Summer, my inlaws will be re-locating here and I want them to live with us. I have had enough of us being separated. I have missed them terribly, and I am so excited that we can have them here and we never have to give them back. We will be living as a traditional joint family abroad. Needless to say, I have so much to do to prepare for their arrival - mostly involving de-cluttering, rearranging furniture, and preparing a room for them in our current temporary rental. I am really looking forward to our new life together, and I can't wait to tell you all the funny stories about our adventures living together!

Stay tuned!


Monday, February 15, 2016

Interview With Tracy Slater on her book "The Good Shufu"

Tracy and I connected on the twitterverse last year and became friends, so I eagerly picked up a copy of her book, "The Good Shufu" when it came out. I love reading memoirs of women who have lived abroad, and who are also in intercultural relationships. I have never been to Japan but I have always been interested in Japanese culture, as I studied Japanese for 4 years in grade school. [Fun fact: technically I have been to Japan in utero - my mum spent time there when she was pregnant with me!] I also wanted to learn more about how Japanese culture compares to Indian culture - are there any similarities? I was surprised that there were actually so many, despite being vastly different countries.

This book was one of the best memoirs I have read about marrying into an Asian family and moving abroad. As a narrator, Tracy is funny, irreverent, likeable, and very Carrie Bradshaw. After meeting her Japanese husband, she lived between two countries, but then decided to relocate to Japan to live with him and his father. The book spanned many years, starting before she met her spouse, and then it documents nearly a decade into their relationship. It was wonderful to read her journey as it went through the highs, lows, and unexpected twists of fate.

Today I'm thrilled to feature an intimate Q & A with Tracy Slater on her book "The Good Shufu"!

Prior to accepting the job in Japan and meeting Toru, what did you know about Japanese culture?

Tracy: Almost nothing! As I write about in the book, I'd never been to East Asia, knew very little about Japanese culture other than what you see about it in America at sushi restaurants and in Hollywood movies, and never thought I'd ever move away from my hometown, Boston, not even to another U.S. city!

In the book, you talk about your family's apprehension about you moving to Japan and marrying a Japanese man. What did you think they were most scared of? And how did you address their concerns so that they felt confident in your life decisions?

Tracy: I think their fears were twofold. On one hand, they were afraid for me, because marrying a traditional Japanese salesman and moving with him Japan was so very far from everything I'd ever wanted or planned for in my life. And they were understandably concerned about what it would mean to me and how hard it might be to give up all of that for love in another world. On the other hand, they were also I think a bit afraid for all of us as a family, because of how far from Boston would be if I lived in Japan. In some ways, our family is quite close, and in others we are quite fragmented, and I think the idea of one more fragmentation, especially a cross-continental and cross-cultural one, was a little overwhelming - both for them and for me.

Has your family embraced Japanese culture since then - or learned more about it?

Tracy: They haven't really learned more about it or necessarily embraced it, but they've embraced my building a life so centered on Japan, because they know I love Toru, and they know that for some very real practical reasons (such as Toru's career and our standard of life, as well as for Toru's family obligations), our leaving Japan at this point would present a lot of challenges. And although they haven't really learned much about the culture itself, I think they are pretty interested in the ways it's stretched and grown me and all the things I've learned since living here and marrying into a Japanese family, and all the surprising joys I've found in both, despite how much I still miss Boston and my family in the U.S.

In the book, you talk about finding purpose and meaning in your daily life in Boston. How did that translate when you moved to Japan?

Tracy: That's a huge and scary and great question, and it's actually one of the core stories of the book. How do you go from settled and highly independent and in the place and existence you've always planned to spend your life in, and then one day give it all up for a vastly different world and a love and life least expected? How do you pick up and build from there? And how do you move beyond the fears and little moments of regret about all you might have done or all you've given up? How do you create the best life you've ever lived in a world so different from the one you've always known?

Well, I guess I haven't answered your question here, just added different variations of it! But I hope you won't feel like it's a cop out for me to point to the book as the best way to answer your question and the related ones I just posed. Because it really would take chapters and chapters for me to answer this sufficiently. For now though, let me just say that finding the answer/s was a long, hard, exciting, painful, wonderful, and hugely meaningful process! And at base, what got me through it was knowing no matter what, I'd regret it for the rest of my life if I didn't try my hardest to build a purposeful and meaningful life in Japan, with Toru.

In what ways did you get reverse culture shock when returning back to Boston, after living in Japan?

Tracy: I write about this a bit in the book too. I was surprised by the reverse culture shock. Everything in the US seemed so big, so wide, and both so familiar and so different at once. It was like Japan made my life in Boston 4- instead of 3-dimensional, because it gave me a whole new perspective on what had always just seemed like life as usual. And while this was a bit disorienting, it was also a much richer way to view the world.

Do you still live between the two countries, or have you settled more in one?
Tracy: We just had a baby 2 years ago, so for now, I'm pretty settled here in Japan, since travelling back and forth more than once or twice a year with a toddler is, to say the least, quite a challenge.

What advice can you give to young women who move to an entirely different country for love?

Tracy: Well, I'm a little leery of giving relationship advice to anyone, because I don't want to pass myself off as any kind of love expert! But I guess what worked for me was realizing that, even though this marriage and life were both so very different from the existence I’d once planned for myself, I knew as I said earlier that if I didn't give it a try, I would regret it forever. And a decade later, I'm really grateful I did.

But I do think that one way I was able to make it work for me was to make that country part of my own work and goals, not just part of my husbands'. I did that by writing this book, and it really has made a big difference in how I feel about Japan, because now I can say I'm not just here for him, or at least that being here doesn't just benefit him and his work. I needed to make it part of my life goals, too - even if those goals involve writing about it as a foreigner in a foreign world.

Do you still feel like a foreigner in Japan?

Tracy: Yes. Japan is a very insular country. Even if you're married into a Japanese family and have a child who is part Japanese, you're still very much considered an outsider here. I'm OK with that, though. I like being American, and I don't want to be any other nationality.

In the West, being a housewife is usually looked down upon, while in many other cultures it is a job that is respected. Many also say that you can't be a housewife and a feminist at the same time. What are your thoughts about that?

Tracy: I understand this, and I admit I felt this way too when I moved to Japan, which is why becoming a wife in a world where most wives identify as "shufu," or "housewives," was pretty daunting and complicated for me. But I've learned to have a more subtle view of the roles we play in relationships and family, I suppose, than I did when I was younger.

In one way, since my life doing housewifely things takes place in Japan, in a world so different from my own native one, there exists this really interesting barrier from what might otherwise feel threatening: somehow, it feels contained by geographical and cultural distances from my native “home.” It’s a kind of compartmentalization. But it works. And I think all lives or marriages work in part because of a certain level of compartmentalization, if we’re going to be fiercely honest. We all, to some extent, try to bring the most harmonious parts of ourselves into our relationships or specific situation at the moment and then figure out how to express the other parts in other contexts.

But even apart from this compartmentalization and whether or not it's common or OK or acceptable, etc., in relationships, I've learned that what really determines the nature of a role is the context in which that role exists. What I mean is, I may be a housewife in some ways, but it's a role I've chosen and - perhaps most importantly - a role I have control over, to the extent we have control over anything in our lives. It's a role I can change if I decide it's not meeting my needs or my family's needs. I have that flexibility in my marriage and my life, and for that I am intensely grateful. And I think that's really they key to what makes the role empowering, or at least not un-empowering, and so in its own way a feminist role, or at least a role to feel lucky to have.

In the book, you also bravely document your journey of trying to conceive a child. What advice do you have for couples who are currently struggling to conceive?

Tracy: This is something I've written a fair bit about since publishing the book, actually, since the book ends when I'm still pregnant. So I hope you won't mind if I just point your readers towards a place I've answered this question before. I start off, 

"I remember sharply the sadness and disorientation of not being able to get (or stay) pregnant, the incredible endless-seeming limbo of it. So although of course I don’t know most of you personally, I'm keeping you all in my thoughts, and I hope you know how brave you must be to be wading through the pain of being not-pregnant.

I've written before about some of the myths that my own pregnancy seemed to contradict. I’d be lying if I told you now that I know how I got pregnant naturally and delivered a healthy baby girl after I turned 46. And, no offence to anyone, but I’d guess that most people are lying – or at least are wrong – when they say they know the key to getting pregnant at an advanced age. But I do know what helped me get through my years of infertility and losses, and get through it with my marriage enough intact that my husband and I were still happy to keep trying naturally after my 45th birthday. In the hopes that some of these things may help or at least give solace to some of you, here they are..." (Read the rest of this post HERE.)

The book ends with news of your surprise pregnancy. Since becoming a mother, what have you learned about child-rearing in Japan? In what ways it is different than the U.S.?

Tracy: Oooh, love this question. And I can't answer it yet because 1) I'm still learning the answers, and 2) I'm hoping that the answers add up to a story I can tell in book #2.

Are you still doing "Four Stories"?

Tracy: Yes, thanks for asking! We have an event coming up in March as the only all-English event at the Tokyo International Literary Festival! It's free and open to the public, and more info about the event is HERE.

Why did you decide to write a memoir about your love story?

Tracy: Mostly, I wrote it in the hope people that readers might feel like they've gotten caught up in a great love and travel story, because that’s the part of reading I love the best, the getting-caught-up-in-the-story part. And I’d be really happy if I knew I could give that to other people from my own writing.

I also wrote it in the hopes that readers who are facing paths very different from the ones they ever planned on following, find some level of comfort or hope in my story, some level of assurance that sometimes we can give up or swerve off of our strict plan and end up right where we are supposed to be.

As I write in the book, I learned that you can’t properly find yourself until you let yourself get lost in the first place. I spent much of my adult life, before I met Toru, doing everything I could not to get lost. And in the end, getting lost was what I needed most in order to find the life that fit me the best (or a life that fits me really well, at least). This is a lesson I’m still relying on, actually, as I navigate new motherhood in my late 40s in Japan! But more on that in the next book, I hope...


A huge thank you to Tracy Slater for sharing this amazing book with our readers. For more information on Tracy and her book, click HERE. And don't forget to follow her on Facebook & Twitter too!

To purchase her book on Amazon, click HERE.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Year Of Intercultural Love Stories

Exactly one year ago today I featured the first post of my new series My Intercultural Love which quickly became one of my readers most-loved series. Since then, I have featured 43 diverse couples of all mixes. Originally, I thought it would be a cool idea to feature real life cross-cultural couples documenting their love stories and how they make their relationships work. I also wanted it to serve as a resource for other intercultural couples who don't know many couples like them.

It has been so rewarding for me to host this series and create a platform to celebrate cross-cultural love. I have learned so much from all these couples and have loved reading their stories. My original goal was to do it for a year, but I'n still getting more submissions so I'm hoping it will run as long as there are intercultural couples! The best part about doing this series has been that my readers enjoy it as much as I do!

Here is a look back at some of my favorite couples and their responses:

Allyce: [My relationship has enlightened my life by] reflecting much more deeply on my personal values and opinions. To explain to other people from another culture about why you think something or why you feel a certain way about something first you have to understand why yourself. It has made me question many things I took for granted and opened me up to whole new perspectives on life.

Karen: People’s cultures and certain ways of thinking are built into them from early childhood, and people have a tendency to think that their own way is the “best” or most “natural” or “common-sense” way. But someone else may feel that their own way, is the “best” and most “common-sense”. It stands to reason that this is just our own point of view, and not necessarily “true” objectively.

Brittany: Fight prejudice and racism by sharing your story. So often it is fueled by ignorance. Tell people how you blend cultures and answer their questions - even if they ask in the wrong way.

Cyn: Living in India has changed my life more than I think my husband did. But it is hard to really explain what changed. I have become a bit more flexible, and less prone to become catatonic if things don't go as planned. You need to be super flexible and adaptable to merely survive India. I was already flexible, but it really taught me that I was quite adaptable - much more than I thought I was!

Sophia: When Matthew and I first got married, everything we owned fit into a box - but we were so happy. Our dream for the future is that we can maintain that happiness. Even though God has blessed us tremendously and we are not where we were when we first started, we both see happiness as a key ingredient for a blissful marriage. We have a beautiful baby boy who is a year old. We want to see him grow and prosper. We want to have grandchildren and great grandchildren whom we can pass on our family heirlooms to. The thing is, my son is going to move out. My grandchildren are not going to live with me. My great grandchildren will outlive me. The one thing that stays permanent and stable is my husband. Due to this, we find it so imperative that we stay happy. At 21, my husband made me happy and he took care of me. I want to feel the same way when I am 85 years old. We want to be able to be an example to our kids and descendants of a healthy marriage.

Teja: I live in the American Deep South, so of course we have [dealt with people who disapprove of our relationship]. We have seen KKK members fly their flags in front of us disapproving of our union. We have had Indian people look at us like we are zoo animals. But in the end, our family and our friends support us and that’s all that matters.

Tans: Earlier in our relationship, I felt that I needed to fully understand Indian culture and their way of doing things. I was also concerned that my partner would get tired of the “difficulty” of being with a Western woman. It finally got better once I realized that he fell in love with me, not an Indian girl, so I did not need to change my personality or habits to be more “Indian”.

Desiree: People think that being in an intercultural relationship is more difficult than other relationships. But, I don't think everyone realizes that every family has a culture, and when you get married each culture will clash and you have to work through it. Just because my marriage is more outwardly intercultural doesn't make it more difficult than any other. I have actually found our relationship to be fairly easy compared to many!

Kristy: Many people think intercultural relationships are not as valid as same culture/same race relationships. People always want to ask you if he married you for a green card or you get disrespectful looks and tones when they find out you met online. They can’t seem to understand that people can be attracted to something more than they're used to seeing. They can't fathom people are willing to work this hard for a relationship and they can't understand how it is worth it when there are plenty of men locally.

Tina: Many people have assumed that I pursued my husband only because he was from India - that I was looking for something exotic. Others have assumed that my husband pursued me because I was white, and that he needed a green card (which was not true). These people could not see past the color of our skin. We did not see color/ethnicity/or culture. We saw each other as individuals.

Deb: Just because I fell in love with someone who was not born on the same patch of earth that I was, suddenly we becomes the target of all sorts of suspicions and accusations. There is not a lot you can do to change people's opinion other than living your life and making your relationship a success.

Krishanu: I wish a lot more people would be in relationships that bring together different cultures and upbringing. The key is to have an open mind, always...

Jocelyn: [The biggest misconceptions about intercultural relationships are] that [they] can never work. While culture and language are important and never should be overlooked in a marriage/relationship, I think your relationship – as in, who you’re married to – matters a lot when it comes to whether you’ll stay together.

Radhika: [The best marital advice that I have received is] live each day like it's your last. Love fully - accept the ugly, with the beauty. And always talk it out; but first give him the space to process it! Men need quiet time to make sense of what is going on. Women can just start talking and come to the same conclusion. It's important for us gals to understand this, and give our men the space they need. We can call our mother, call our best friend or any girlfriend, but we can't expect him to be that person. Men just aren't wired that way! He'll talk when he is ready, so allow him to have the time he needs.

Desiree: [The best marital advice I have received is:] “Imagine what it’s like to be married to you, and adjust accordingly”.

Jennifer: A friend once said “surround yourself with friends who will strengthen your marriage and remove yourself from people who may tempt you to compromise your character.”

Tina: I love the fact that we can teach each other about our culture and traditions. It’s never a dull moment in our marriage. I learned to love my culture even more when I shared it with my husband. I learned to love his culture when he shared it with me.

Silvia: I think diversity is at the same time the best and worst part [of an intercultural relationship]. In a way, you are always discovering new views and broadening your horizon, but there are a few times when you would like to just have the same "experience" on things.

Jasmine: Because Hitomi and I come from very different backgrounds, I have the opportunity to see things in a new light. It makes me a more "complete" human being; a better version of myself. I learn a lot from him, mainly because we have vastly different personalities and way of thinking. I also like to see my own country from a different angle - some things I used to think were universal are questioned by Hitomi, because he's not Canadian. It then makes me see my culture with new eyes. That's very enlightening.

Jocelyn: "[Being married means] it’s a partnership. You might say I inherited that from my own parents. They walked through their marriage together as equals, supporting each other in work, family and achieving their own dreams, and that’s what I've always wanted in my marriage. I’m fortunate to have found a husband who wants the same thing – a man who wants his wife to succeed as much as he does."

Andrea: Being married means sharing everything. It means that you have someone who is as excited or scared about your future as you are because it’s theirs as well. Being married is seeing life with 4 eyes + 2 brains with completely unique visions of the world and making sense out of it together.

Jess: [Being married] means love, respect, honesty and future. Being married is a choice. I chose who I wanted to marry and they in turn chose me. We made that choice and we have to respect it - for each other and our children. Anyone who is married knows how tough it can be to stay married. It takes work, commitment and compromise, but it demands to be upheld and admired.

Susan: If the people in the relationship accept themselves and the relationship, others will accept you too. It is only when we ourselves have doubts, that we allow other people’s comments to bother us. If we are secure in our relationship, other people’s comments cannot disturb us.

Ellie: Understand more about your partner's culture before getting married. Be open to doing things that are important to the family, yet remember who you are and let them know if you are not comfortable. Make it clear to each other what is expected and not expected of each other. Enjoy learning about each other's culture and the differences!

Allyce: Really think about what you can and can’t do before getting married. It’s easy to think in the romantic haze and excitement of an early relationship that you can convert your religion or give up meat, but it’s completely different to live that your whole life. Be yourself, your spouse loves you for yourself. If someone wants you to change everything about yourself or will let his parents force you to change then it’s not worth it.

Maya: Enjoy the country you are living in, even if you miss your homeland. If you miss your homeland or think you can't handle living in India anymore, realize that you are doing it for love. With love you can do anything - it doesn't concern nationalities or countries.

Ruth: Inlaw situations can be tense and stress inducing. Remember, your inlaws will be with as long as you are married! Don't say things you don't want remembered that long. Remember, you may represent the loss of pretty much everything they expected for their child’s future. It will take a while for them to adjust to the new reality!

Simi: Stop building monsters in your head and don’t assume things. I spent well over 2 years going through my family’s reaction to Sergio and it was nothing like I imagined. Might as well have saved myself from the anxiety!

Sophia: Never be afraid to stand up for who you love. In my culture, family is number one - and I spent my entire life with the understanding that I needed to make sure all of my decisions would be pleasing to the family. When I fell in love with my husband, it went against my original idea of what I needed to do for my family and what I should see as love. I was scared to fight for my love. I was so afraid of losing my family - my own blood - that I was too scared to stand up for the man I loved. I waited for such a long time to tell them about him, when I wish I had told them from the very beginning! If your partner makes you happy and you both love each other - you should be willing to stand up for them and for your love. It's never easy going against your family, but fear does not make us - it breaks us. The sooner you are able to open up and be honest about your relationship, the more FREE you will feel! My biggest piece of advice is to remember that when it comes to MARRIAGE- your spouse always comes FIRST. He/she comes before your parents, siblings, friends, grandparents, etc. You can't devote your life to a partner who comes second to everyone else.

Raina: Be there for each other. You have to remember as a couple that you are a unit and you must work together for each other. Yes, your parents gave birth to you...but your spouse is your life partner and your loyalty should always lie with your spouse. Especially among Indians, I think this can be a huge issue where parents get away with emotional blackmail and guilt tripping. Don't let your parents do this to you - parents are human beings too and often act toward their own interests. When you get married, you are part of an exclusive unit and you must protect the interests of that unit.


Stay tuned for more real life love stories in the upcoming weeks!
In the meantime, click HERE to read all of their stories!

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