Thursday, March 31, 2016

My April Reading List


The last few months have been crazy busy, with husband-ji going away for his business trip in February to NYFW; I got bogged down with an awful case of Springtime allergies (thanks cherry blossoms!) and we took an impromptu Spring Break trip to Portland (post coming soon!). I got totally behind on my last reading list which took me an additional month to read. My favorite from last month was the wonderful novel, The Japanese Lover - brilliant!

This month, I am reading the following:

Where the Peacocks Sing: A Palace, a Prince, and the Search for Home, by Alison Singh Gee
My friend Jocelyn recommended this on her Goodreads, and when I found out it had a Chindian story-line, of course I had to check it out! I am currently reading this one and the narrative is so, so interesting.

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand
This is a classic novel that I have always wanted to read. Every snobby intellectual seems to covet this book. It looks like a big whopper - I hope I can finish it by month's end!

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas Kristof
This author is a Pulitzer prize winner and this novel was on the bestseller list for ages. I love books about women's rights around the world; and the ways in which women empower themselves - oftentimes with very little. I am really looking forward to reading this book.

Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War, by Raghu Karnad
I love stories about the World War 2 era, partly because my grandparents told me so many stories from back then. And now, being part of an Indian family, I am eager to read more stories from an Indian perspective of what it was like during that era. This book is part history, part biography, so I am sure I will enjoy reading it.

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Has anybody read any of these books?
What are you guys reading this month?

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Now Featured On: Masalamommas (March 2016 edition)


I am so excited to share with you guys that I have been featured on Masalamommas again! After the success of my last article (shared nearly 1000x), they have hired me as a staff writer now to do an intercultural series on their site. Make sure to check out my upcoming articles! Also, let me know if there's a particular topic that you'd like to see on their site!

This latest article is on a subject that we ALL face, whether intercultural or same-culture - what to do when a cultural tradition doesn't work in the tapestry of your life. How do you say "no" to your husband or pushy in-laws?

Click HERE to read the article and please do share if you like it!

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Recipe: Okra Poriyal

This recipe is hands-down a family favorite. We all love okra, especially my daughter, who specifically requests this dish! This recipe is lightly spiced, and the okra is wonderfully crispy. The longer you let it brown, the more tasty it will become! Okra also decreases in size as it is cooked, so make sure to make more than normal! It is important to note that okra will get mushy if you fuss with it too much (similar to potato). When it is browning, stir it sparingly. This is a typical Tamil dish that any South Indian will adore.

Madh Mama's Okra Poriyal

Ingredients:
- 3 tbsp. oil
- 2 tbsp mustard seeds
- dash of asafoetida
- 2 dry red chillies
- 10 fresh curry leaves
- 4 cups chopped okra
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp chilli powder (or more to taste)
- salt, to taste

Directions:

Chop the okra into small round pieces and chop the onion.


Heat up the oil and mustard seeds over medium heat.

When the mustard seeds start to crackle, add the asafoetida, dry red chillies and curry leaves. Sauté for 10 seconds.


Add the okra, toss, and cook for 15 minutes, giving a brief toss only every 5 minutes.


Turn the heat down to a notch below medium. Add onions, turmeric, and toss. Cook for another 25 minutes, tossing only every 5 minutes.


Add chilli powder and salt, and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, until nicely browned.

And voila!

This recipe goes well along with roti/rice, a tasty Sambhar and a boiled egg! It also goes nicely with Rasam.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

News Stories that have impacted me

(Photo via Matt Popovich)

Growing up, my grandfather always used to play the 6 o'clock CBC news and watch it religiously. For their generation - having lived through numerous wars - watching the evening news was a priority. Back then, there was just the 6 o'clock news before dinner, not like the 24/7 news channels we have available nowadays - plus, the internet - which is an unlimited news source. In my parents' home, it was completely different. My dad reads the New York Times and the London Times on the weekend, but doesn't watch TV regularly. Either way, in our family, we regard it as a strength to be informed of what is going on in your city, your country, and the world.

Sometimes I come across certain news stories that just speak to me. Why is that? The way we can become fixated on a case, even though we have never met the person. We may not even have anything in common with such people. But for some reason, it reaches out at our heart and grabs us. There have been a lot of news stories that have affected me like that.

A few weeks ago, Maple Batalia's murderer was finally sentenced in court. The first time I heard about Maple was at my 26th birthday party dinner, when my aunty asked if I heard the news that a young girl was shot at the SFU campus. At the time, I was pregnant with Maya but didn't know. I followed Maple Batalia's case for the past 4.5 years. It was just so tragic. Maple was absolutely stunning with a bright future, and lovely parents. My heart broke every time I heard them on TV. Maple was stalked and harassed by her ex-boyfriend, culminating in him stabbing and shooting her outside her university campus. Metro Vancouver was very affected by this news story, and it raised a serious discussion about domestic violence in general, and especially in the South Asian community. Last week, her murderer was sentenced to life in prison, which was unusual considering he only killed one person, but the judge/jury thought it was necessary due to the domestic violence aspect.

Another case that I have been recently obsessed with is the O.J. Simpson murder trial, thanks to the incredible new show: American Crime Story: The People vs O.J. Simpson. The show is so well done [I watch it HERE]. Back then, I was too young to understand the fascination of the O.J. trial, but now I absolutely do. It's also a six degrees of separation thing - I was in San Francisco with my parents during the infamous Ford Bronco chase. I ate something bad and kept vomiting, so my parents took me to the downtown ER and I was in the next room to O.J's mother who was having heart palpitations after seeing her son on TV! Needless to say, I don't remember it, but my parents still talk about it...to this day.

Another story that I was really into was the Boston Marathon Bombings, thanks to CNN's live coverage - it played out like a live game of cat and mouse on TV. It got much more coverage on the U.S. TV stations than the Canadian ones. I was on maternity leave, so I had all the time in the world, obviously. I felt even more of a connection when it was revealed that the bombers were from Russia - in an area not far from where my grandmother was from. Why did they do it? Two young kids with their whole life in front of them. The older brother had a young daughter. It was just crazy. How did they get radicalized? Nobody will ever know...

After I first moved back to Vancouver, a local news story scared the crap out of me - the murder of Wendy Ladner-Beaudry when she was running in Pacific Spirit Park. I used to walk in that park all the time and it was very safe. She was murdered on a Friday afternoon in the busiest corner of the park, in broad daylight. To this day, her murder is still unsolved, and her killer is roaming free somewhere out there. Since then, I've only seen women walking in groups in the park, however there are tons of men who walk alone in the park aimlessly. The park has an eerie, unsafe feeling after Wendy's murder.

Back when I was in college, two news stories effected me - the Amanda Knox murder trial, and the Natalee Holloway disappearance. The Amanda Knox case was riveting to watch. Did she or didn't she? She looked quite sociopathic in her behavior. Having spent so much time in Italy, I was really shocked by this story. Natalee Holloway's disappearance was also such a mystery, it seemed as if she vanished into thin air. At the time, I was in college and my friends and I were always planning trips to Miami, so it hit close to home since she was almost the same age as me. At the time, I was living in the U.S. and these cases got a lot of coverage.

And of course, more recently was the Nirbhaya gang rape/murder, which made every girl and woman in India feel unsafe. I was no stranger to Delhi, having been many times. At the time of her murder, she was the exact same age as husband-ji's cousin-sister, and I used to worry for her all the time. Not only that, but it made me worry for my own daughter. Would she have a future in India? Luckily, the case was high profile so it ended up evoking a national conversation about women's rights, rape, and the government made a more severe punishment for such crimes.

Many of these stories have no happy ending - many are unsolved. It's also weird how the murderers were made famous, as opposed to the victims who become forgotten - Ron Goldman, for example. It is haunting so see the families of such victims - it is terrifying to think that any of these things can happen to the average person on any given day.  Another common denominator among all these cases is that the vast majority of these crimes were committed by men. It is true that most women walk around in a constant state of fear of men, especially stranger men, because we just don't know when they will snap ("we can't help but think, "Which one of us? And when?" ).

Many of the stories were sensationalized by the news, with people becoming tragic heroes or infamous villains. It is compelling to see how these crimes play out, with new updates in the cases over the years. It is also interesting to note which stories get more coverage in each country. Canadian news focuses on predominantly local and national news; whereas all the American channels are filled with the election nonsense; and BBC/European news is all about the Syrian Refugee Crisis. The Michael Brown shooting, which was huge in America, got very little coverage on Canadian/European news stations.

What about you guys? What news stories effected you strongly? And why?
Do you watch the news regularly?

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Now Featured On: Linda Goes East

Recently I contributed to a friend's blog post about what it's like to wear traditional clothes from Asia - in my case it was my experience wearing the saree on Diwali. I also talk about the Diwali festival and how my daughter observed my saree! Click HERE to read it!

Linda writes a wonderful blog about living abroad in China/Korea and I was so happy to be featured on it. Be sure to explore Linda's blog HERE!
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Monday, March 21, 2016

Best Children's Books About Easter


It's Easter season! Much like every other consumerist holiday, it involves a lot of chocolate and bunny toys on display in every store, which makes shopping with my almost 4 year old extremely hard! Easter is a really fun celebration for kids, which I have really only started to honour after I had my daughter. Usually on Easter, you will have an "egg hunt" - parents hide chocolate eggs in an outdoor area and children run around and collect them in a basket and then they basically get into a chocolate coma. It is a big Christian holiday, but I prefer to celebrate it in a fun, non-denominational way. My favorite way to celebrate the season is to actually read books about Easter to my daughter. The Easter bunny makes for a really awesome character!

Here are my top picks:
The illustrations in this book are so absolutely splendid that I took a picture of it for my artistic inspiration mood board! The story is also quite creative - an eccentric chicken is too busy meandering in nature to focus on laying an egg, but when she does, it is the most colorful egg of them all! (Now...if only I can be like P. Zonka!)

I originally picked up this book because the cover looked old fashioned, like a book my grandmother would have. Turns out, it is a re-print of the 1975 original classic. It is a simple & sweet story of a lonely bunny who finds an egg and takes care of it until it hatches.

Easter Mice!
This is by the same author that did Halloween Mice (one of our faves) and apparently she writes about all the holidays. Somehow, children just seem to love stories about mice! While most Easter books focus on bunnies, this one has the 3 little mice finding Easter eggs around the garden.

This book is a great pick for younger children who are just starting to learn about Easter. It contains fluffy illustrations about a bunny who sleeps in and can't decorate her eggs on time (can't we all relate...!)

This is a classic story about what the Easter Bunny does to prepare for Easter. It is especially good for the curious child who asks 1001 questions - all the answers are in here! Rather than focusing on the religious aspect of Easter, this book concentrates on helping others and finding purpose which makes it a nice seasonal read for all children.

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Happy Easter, dear readers!
What are your plans for the upcoming long weekend?
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Saturday, March 19, 2016

My Intercultural Love: Amir & Bibi


Bibi is one of my favorite commenters and I was so happy when she told me she started an Indian cooking blog!

Introduction....
A warm hello to all of Alex's readers! My name is Bibi Maizoon, I am a white, American woman of Protestant upbringing and Anglo-Saxon and Dutch descent originally from the San Francisco bay area. I now live with my Kashmiri Indian Muslim husband and our small family with a veritable zoo of pets in Nepal.

Three words that describe you...Adventurous, fun, and spiritual.

Favorite childhood memory...Getting dressed up as a little girl to go shopping in downtown San Francisco with my mom. In the early 70's one would still have to be properly attired to go shopping at upscale stores, donning leisure wear such as yoga pants and flip flops would get you disapproving glances if not escorted out of the establishment. My hair would be set on giant rollers and my bangs taped to my forehead in preparation the night before. My outfit would always be white gloves, patent leather Mary Jane shoes, white bobby socks, a frilly frock, and a heavy wool coat because it's always chilly by the bay. Oh, the glamour and excitement of tall buildings and the elegant offerings of the posh department stores! My favorite was the now defunct "City of Paris," a seven story wonder where all things French and fabulous were available from an authentic patisserie to the latest in haute couture.

Where/how do you feel most inspired?I dream of living by the ocean but my home and inspiration is the Himalayas. So I cook. I love using all the beautiful Himalayan produce in my dishes on my new cooking blog "Keep Calm & Curry On." Cooking is such a lovely way to explore cultures too.

Where/how did you meet your spouse?I met my husband on a "soul searching" trek in Nepal. I stumbled into his little shop off the trail, we had a four hour conversation, a dinner date, and exchanged emails. The rest was as they say, "history."

How long have you been together?Fourteen wonderful years.

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?He has this incredible ability to make everyone like him, a fantastically warm heart, is an absolutely hopeless romantic, and despite having no university training he has an innate business skill that is just mind blowing. He went off to another country and started his own successful business at 18 years old, what can I say? He is also the most spiritually advanced man I have ever met. What's not to love?

Favorite memory together as a couple...Our two week honeymoon tour of Delhi and Agra. We arrived in Agra in the late afternoon, after a miserably hot, loud, and dusty journey. The Indian sunset turned the brilliant white marble of the Taj Mahal to a gloriously gorgeous dusky rose color. The entire Taj was this surreally saturated, in this glowing, warm pink for about two hours which then transformed to a glistening, silvery, ice palace by moonlight. I have never seen anything manmade so incredibly beautiful. (If you haven't seen the sun setting on the Taj Mahal nor seen it by the light of a full moon, you simply must!) We spent a couple days in Agra doing the usual touristy stuff. We tried to go to Jaipur but failed to find any sort of transportation. So we rode the great Indian railways back to Delhi and visited all the famous places of India's capital like Nizahmuddin Dargah, the Red Fort, Humayun's tomb, Qutb Minar, Jama Masjid, Lodi Gardens, and feasted at all the finest restaurants of India's capital. We had a marvelous time!

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?Not much. I think most when most Americans hear the word "Kashmir" they think of a sweater, not a region or ethnicity.

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
I quit my job, put my house on the market for sale and began selling all my belongings. Most of my acquaintances, family, and friends thought I was absolutely nuts. A few true friends were supportive of my decision.

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
I now know how it feels to be loved simply for existing. I never even thought such a thing was possible before I met my husband. And that makes all things possible!

Who proposed and how?
My husband proposed to me by email. After one date, a four hour conversation, and exchanging 3 emails.

Describe your wedding...Our wedding was a rather dismal ceremony in the lobby of a cheap hotel in Jammu. A very young Imam properly performed all that was required for the "nikah" (Muslim marriage contract). An Indian lawyer and two paid Muslim witnesses were the only guests in attendance.


What does being married mean to you?Being loved for simply existing. Sharing the life of the most incredible person I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?My husband's business is his life's work. Owning your own business is definitely a lifestyle. He wants to expand his business. Whether he's willing to put up with the headache of having multiple locations and dealing with the constant hassles of managing more employees we don't know yet. I've already had my career and will support him in whatever he wishes to do. I hope we grow old together and retire someplace by the ocean. I'm a California girl, I'll freeze if I have to spend a winter in Kashmir.

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
The best marital advice we received as a couple was from my Kashmiri father in law. My husband had insisted we elope and the Kashmiri gossip mill was starting to churn out horrific tales about his son's new wife. I insisted we meet my husband's father together and in person. My husband was visibly shaking during the entire conversation. I introduced myself and chatted with my new father in law for about an hour. We spoke of verses from the Bible and Quran, my schooling, my deceased parents, and world politics. After that my Kashmiri father in law turned to my husband, stuck his right index finger in his face and said, "Why are these people saying all these bad things about her? They are all lies. She is good, keep her. If you ever leave her, YOU WILL BE IN HELL FOREVER!" And then my frail, elderly father in law rolled over and took a nap. The angelic look of relief on my husband's face was priceless. Now when dear husband starts acting up I just remind him of his father's little lecture.

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?Reason, grounding, and sanity. When the overly emotional Desi histrionics start up my white Anglo-Saxon Protestant stoicism kicks in. Always remember, it's not about controlling your emotions - it's about not letting your emotions control you. If you never figure this out you'll live your life on a miserable, non-stop, roller coaster ride of emotions that will not end well.

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?One thing my husband and I really enjoy doing together is hosting dinner parties. I'm the chef, he's the maître'D, and the rest of the family are the servers. We even have our living room arranged such that with the removal of the coffee table and an ottoman we can easily accommodate up to 20 people. (I'll be sharing my tips for hosting fabulous dinner parties on my new cooking bog, "Keep Calm & Curry On.") Other than that, about every three months or so we take a little 2-3 day mini vacation to somewhere nice. I wish we could travel more, but that's part of the lifestyle of the self employed.

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?I wear Indian clothing always, I wear my make up in 1950's Bollywood glamour styles, I cook Indian food, I run on Indian time, I am fascinated by Sufi Islam, I randomly capitalize things, and I occasionally lapse into Hinglish.

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?My family is not interested in traveling outside of the United States nor learning about other cultures. They are like that only.

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?The lack of critical thinking, the emphasis on assigning blame rather than problem solving, thinking problems that will go away by not acknowledging them, and the mindless parroting that passes for knowledge even at university level.

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...Not serving mutton at a meal for my Kashmiri in laws. Chicken and fish are like vegetables in Kashmiri culture, you have not been fed properly unless there's at least a half kilo of mutton on your plate. The utmost in Kashmiri hospitality is to offer your guest as much mutton as possible, even if they are vegetarian!


What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?I think the first 2 years of marriage are the most difficult for everyone. Our first two years were made even more difficult by my husband's older sister and her brood of monsters. For some reason my husband's older sister decided she and her children were to be the ones to choose his wife. They launched a Desi-style tantrum of monumental proportions against my husband and I. Their campaign of lies and slander got so bad we had to cut them out of our life completely. I later found out his sister and her family have pulled this nonsense with all the other sister in laws, at weddings, and even started feuds at funerals.

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?The best part of being in an intercultural relationship is that you learn something new everyday. Which usually means that you learn something new about yourself every day, and that is true spiritual growth.
The worst part would probably be if you were the sort of person who needed a steady routine and constant affirmation to feel secure. Thankfully, I am not like that only.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
That people who are in intercultural relationships married out of their own culture in desperation. That for some reason we couldn't find someone in our own culture that would marry us due to some defect so we've had to lower our standards and marry into another ethnicity, culture, or religion. I get that from Indians and Americans. I've heard Indians imply that I've somehow demeaned myself by marrying an Indian. I've heard Americans imply that there's something wrong with me because I they assume I couldn't get a white Christian man to marry me. 


What are the biggest misconceptions about white American women in South Asia?
In general, South Asians tend to think all white women were rich, educated, nymphomaniac porn stars who can't cook and neglect their children (or refuse to breed entirely). I had no idea that South Asians felt that white women's fair skin was the epitome of beauty either.

Dear South Asia,
The white women I know in California all wish to be tanned and glowing. I've not met any porn stars, white or otherwise so I doubt their prevalence. I have also met quite a few white women who were neither rich nor educated. As a white American woman I can tell you that cooking is one of my passions, I hate housework, I love doing 'kid' things like games, crafts, sports, and what have you. I'll just leave the issue of white women's libido alone, I like having a bit of an "air of mystery" about me!

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

It's certainly no secret that anti-Muslim sentiment is at an all time high worldwide. To be a Muslim from a hotly contested region like Kashmir is a double whammy. I've gotten anti-Muslim flak from Americans and Indians. For the most part I ignore it. I just figure if someone wants to make an ass of themselves by putting their ignorance, bigotry, and hatefulness on display - let them! They'll suffer the consequences of their behaviors sooner or later. I simply can't be bothered. My life is just too WONDERFUL!

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
After 14 years of being in an intercultural relationship the most important tip I can give to other couples is: DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY. When someone attacks you, or perhaps your spouse or in laws do something you find insulting, 99.999 times out of 100 it is not about you. Either some hidden agenda is at play or what they've done or said is perfectly acceptable in their culture. Do not make the mistake of assuming everyone thinks just as you do. As long as you and your spouse's values are aligned and you are committed to each other your relationship will survive whatever life throws your way. Look at us, we've survived Desi in laws and two major earthquakes here in Nepal!

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How I came to the decision to live with my in-laws


Whenever I tell people - Westerners, in particular - that my in-laws are going to be living with us, it is always met with gasps of disbelief and shock. Most Westerners, even if they get along with their in-laws, like to keep them an arm's length away...for their own sanity. Indians are usually equally as shocked, that I would embrace joint-family living like a typical DIL, and that I actually do get along with my in-laws.

In India, living in a joint family is the norm. Joint family living is very common and has been done for thousands of years - clearly, this is one of those cultural aspects that I think we can really learn from! When a couple gets married, it is normal that the newlyweds move into the groom's parents' house. Our situation is a bit unique, because we plan to live on the same property with both our parents. This is a very modern example of joint family living.

For me, living in a joint family is not so far fetched. I practically grew up in my grandparents' house and it was the best childhood ever. They had this one-level ranch house in the University district with a huge yard, and my grandma was famous in the neighborhood for her garden. My great-grandmother, who lived well over 100, also stayed in "the suite" - a room by the garage. It was amazing to have 4 generations under one roof. When my parents picked me up, I never wanted to leave! Whenever I feel really sad, I always go back to that happy place in my mind, even though the ranch house is long gone.


When my grandparents got older and faced serious health problems, my parents had no choice but to place them in a home for the elderly. Everyone was working and it just seemed like the most cost-effective thing to do. I was completely against it from the start and it killed me to see them in such a place, but I was also not in a position to take care of them having just started my post-college career. It made me severely depressed for years and sometimes after visiting them I would just cry until I was numb. After that, I swore that we would never do that to our parents.

For the past 10 years of our relationship, the concept of living with my in-laws permanently has been weighing heavily on me. It is something that I have thought long and hard about. Although husband-ji says we technically don't have to live with them, it just wouldn't feel right to me to have them move all the way to Canada and stay alone, somewhere else. It is lonely enough as it is in this quiet, cold country!

About 18 months ago, I got into a massive fight with my FIL and I swore I could never live with him. I went so far as to actually change the floor plan of our apartment. However, we slowly started talking again after that, and our relationship now is even better than it was prior to our fight. 18 months later, I am really excited to have him come and live with us. And I actually quite love him, as a second dad. He is also relatively mellow because he loves the salads and smoothies that I make (unlike diva-ji husband-ji, who will not touch any uncooked vegetables!).

After we got the news about my in-laws' permanent residency, I thought long and hard about where they should stay. I carefully weighed all the pros and cons, and then came to the conclusion that they should just live with us. The positives far outweighed the negatives. I would say the three major deciding factors for us were:

1) I don't want to miss them anymore. I want us to spend time with them.
2) The cost of living in Vancouver is extremely high and it is an utter waste of money to rent another apartment (you can't find an apartment nearby for under $1500).
3) I want to give them a strong confident start in Canada by taking them under my wing. They may get some culture shock by moving here, and I want to make their transition as smooth and positive as possible.


Some other pros are:

- Maya will be learning their languages (Tamil, Telugu, Hindi) from my MIL who is a teacher by profession.
- Maya being around her grandparents' and feeling loved.
- Companionship with my MIL (I have someone to watch my favorite shows with, and a workout buddy!)
- I can learn all my MIL's secret family recipes (chef training!)
- Extra helping hands around the house.
- Husband-ji will be extremely happy to have his mum's cooking (he's going to get royally spoiled!)
- My MIL and I can have our own little book club since we love to read.
- Both my in-laws will surely get a lot healthier by living here.
- Saving money on rent/meals, since we will all stay together and share meals together.
- Husband-ji and I could probably go on a date any night of the week!
- It will be an adventure with lots of funny stories to share (the opportunity to learn from them!)

Not to say there weren't any cons, it's just that the cons weren't that bad:

- I might get fat(ter) from my MIL's delicious cooking (I have to watch what I eat!)
- No walking around naked or braless!
- My mum might get jealous (I have to make an effort to balance time with both grandparents' equally)
- the house will be louder (I will be hearing Vishnu Sahasranaman twice a day)
- Maya has to give up her room and we have to move her bed to our room (I'm sure she will love this!)


Whenever I think about living with my in-laws, my mind goes to one particular scene from the past...When I landed in India 9 years ago, we drove to Malkajgiri in the middle of the night and knocked on the door. [You can hear more about that story on World Citizen Storycast podcast!] My future MIL stood in shock, in her pajamas, on the doorstep. She was wary of me, she was scared of me, and I had never even met her in person before - by all means, I was a stranger. She didn't know me, and she didn't owe me anything. And she invited me into her home. She fed me, she washed my clothes, she was kind to me, she was sensitive to my homesickness, she made the effort to get to know me. That night, standing there on her doorstep, as a shy 20 year old girl in a foreign country in pitch-black midnight darkness, she could have easily shut me out and left me there on the road. And she didn't. She invited me in...

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Now Featured On: Multicultural Kid Blogs (Holi Art project!)



The latest in my Art With Kids series is a fun Holi themed art project that you can do with kids of all ages!

This post is featured on one of my favorite blogs, Multicultural Kid Blogs, which is an amazing resource for intercultural families. I am so excited to be featured on this site!

Click HERE to see Maya teaching us how to do a Holi art project!

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

My Intercultural Love: Nancy & Sumanth


Introduction....
Hello everyone! I'm Nancy Viswanathan and I'm an American of European descent currently living in Madison, WI with my Kannada-Tamil husband, Sumanth. He is originally from the beautiful city of Ooty in Tamilnadu, South India. I served in the U.S. Army for 10 years and Sumanth works as a Project Manager in IT. We now own an Indian fusion restaurant together.

Three words that describe you...
Venturesome, Determined, and Intrepid.

Favorite childhood memory...
I remember reading a lot of National Geographic books and magazines and thinking how much I wanted to explore these places. I started studying other cultures of the world, so in a way I was sort of destined to marry someone from a culture other than my own.

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
When I'm out traveling with Sumanth. We love experiencing new places and ideas and then incorporating them into our lifestyle. When we learn together, we feel we are truly living together.

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
We met in college in Minneapolis 3 years ago. I always noticed him and we would chat occasionally. I was very drawn to him because he seemed genuinely polite, was very cute, and had a confidence about him that somehow intertwined with his initial shyness. It took him a year to finally ask me out and I'm so thrilled he did.

How long have you been together?
Two years, with one as a married couple.

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
Sumanth is an extremely smart and motivated person. He never lets anything stop him from achieving his goals. At the same time, he is eager to assist others with anything they need. He has a heart of gold and everyone who meets him just falls in love with him.

Favorite memory together as a couple...
Both of us would say it was our first date. We met for brunch and he ended up pouring salt in his coffee instead of sugar because he was so nervous! He created a clever story about how he actually liked salt in his coffee and it’s been an ongoing joke since. ☺ I was staying with my grandmother that weekend and she insisted on meeting him. She adored him and told everyone in the family about her approval. We then spent a beautiful day hiking and getting to know each other. At the end of the day, I called my sister and said, “If I ever get married, it will be to THIS man!


What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
I was under the impression that I knew a lot, but it turns out I hardly knew anything. I ate in Indian restaurants quite a bit and knew that arranged marriages still existed, but I didn't realize just how extensive the culture was.

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
Sumanth got to meet a few of my family members on our first date, so it didn't take long for the word to get out amongst my family that I was dating him. My family and friends are all very open-minded and adventurous, so it came as no shock. Other members have also married into foreign cultures due to our mutual love for world travel, so my family has become very colorful and exotic.

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
Before meeting Sumanth, I was viewed by people as independent and stubborn. I liked to do things my way and it caused me to have a fear of commitment. Although I feel I was happy, I lacked direction, purpose, and that feeling of belonging to something bigger than myself. Being with Sumanth has given me a feeling of self-worth and I now have a clear vision of the future with this incredibly supportive man by my side.

Who proposed and how?
There was no formal proposal, at least not in the way we think of in the US. Sumanth casually mentioned the idea of marriage a few months into our relationship, and before long, we were making wedding preparations. Neither one of us had ever expected to get married...until we met each other.



Describe your wedding...
Like many other intercultural couples, we had two. The first was a low-key American ceremony at a park where my sister legal married us, complete with a potluck and beer keg. The second was a traditional South Indian Hindu ceremony in Ooty with all its rituals, customs and colors.

What does being married mean to you?
It’s been all about give and take - a learning process that includes compromise, understanding, and in some cases, simply agreeing to disagree. We don’t always have to be interested in the same things, but we should be interested in how the other person feels. We’re in this journey together and all family, friends and everyone we meet are included.


What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
Sumanth and I have a bucket list that is quite vast and we continuously strive to accomplish each goal. We want to have successful investments, travel the world, help others in need, and be surrounded by people that also have strong passions in life. We never want any opportunity to pass us by when we can use it to make a difference.

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
Someone once said that when it comes to communication, what we interpret might not be exactly what was intended. This has been especially accurate for us as we often struggle to understand each other. Our wording and meanings can be very different, so we have had to dedicate a lot of time explaining the “why” behind the “why.”

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
As an American, I have a strong sense of individuality. We are taught to be who we are and to never compromise what we believe in. Sumanth struggled to find his identity for a while as he was taught to be one way and only one way. I was encouraged to never depend on anyone and to always fight hard for my accomplishments. I also have a casual and laid-back attitude that Sumanth has gotten used to. He’s from a culture that is so formal and by the book that he can be afraid to loosen up sometimes.

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
We always make time for each other, even if we are bombarded with life’s demands. Sometimes it’s as simple as just lying in bed talking all night, watching a new TV series together or taking a weekend road trip. We find that trying new things together can battle the monotony of our daily duties.


In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
I used to be an avid coffee drinker, and now I make chai every day. I also have a closet full of traditional Indian clothes, a living room covered in Indian décor and a kitchen cabinet filled with Indian spices. We also attend Indian events and holidays and invite our non-Indian friends along for the experience. We especially love eating with our hands. Sumanth speaks 6 languages so I've also tried to learn some Tamil and Hindi in order to communicate with his family and friends better.

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
Yes, some of my relatives actually joined us in India for our Hindu wedding and they loved it. It was one of the most unique experiences for them and they’re now incorporating some of the traditions, such as eating the cuisine, wearing the clothes and using some of the terminology. They also find joy in recognizing some of these things when they see it as it now makes sense.

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
Sometimes I feel the rituals and traditions can get repetitive and lack purpose. I'm a very curious person and I like to have thorough explanations on why things are done a certain way. In my husband’s culture, many things are done simply because they have always been done and no one questions them. I also feel there is absolutely no privacy, although it can be very nice sometimes to have family and friends involved in everyday decisions. 

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
The head bob. Ha ha! Especially when talking with Indians, I tend to start bobbing my head from side to side in order to accentuate my point. I also eaten with my hands in restaurants out of habit. 

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
When it came time to reveal my identity to his family. Sumanth had to keep me a secret for a long time and I struggling with the reason why. I didn't realize how hard it could be for an Indian man to tell his family that he is marrying someone outside of their culture. Many families don’t even like them marrying outside their caste. It took his family a long time to accept me, but we took a trip to India we ended up getting along great.

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
One of the best is that there is never a dull moment. There is always something new to learn and experiences to grow in. I've also realized how wrong stereotypes can be and I take pride in telling people how things actually are. The worst can be when people make assumptions. They might feel there is a motive behind why two different people are together, such as immigration status, money, attention-seeking, or some strange obsession. One woman asked why I was dating someone with such a different religion, which struck me as odd since we both are open to so many ideas and beliefs. Some people just don’t know how to react so they simply avoid us. 


What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
Some see too many problems down the road and ignorantly decide that the fight will be more work than it’s worth. They also think we are simply going through some phase or rebelling and will come out of it soon once we see reality. Or, my personal favorite, they state every horrible stereotype they have heard about that race or culture in order to see your reaction.

What are the biggest misconceptions about American women? 
Some people view us as being very shallow, naive, and generally unfit as marriage material. I feel the media has a lot to do with this as it has portrayed us as being promiscuous, materialistic, and ignorant, so I completely understand where it comes from.

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? 
Sumanth and I have been very fortunate in that we haven’t come across any known negative responses to our relationship and hopefully it will stay that way. We've gotten some questionable stares when travelling in rural areas, but we are usually in the city where diversity is everywhere and actually celebrated. 

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Never forget why you got married in the first place. Always make time for each other. Continue learning and asking questions. Include family in decision-making as much as possible. Try to see things from your partner’s point of view. Never leave issues unresolved. Never argue about the same thing twice – have a solution. Hold each other every day.

Follow Nancy & Sumanth's restaurant on Facebook HERE!

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Ask Firangi Bahu: How do you get your Indian husband to do more housework?

(Img by Jeremy Thomas)

Sharing a letter from a reader....

"Hi Alexandra,

I have been reading your blog for quite some time and I really enjoy reading your posts. I have a question for your readers. Maybe they can offer me some advice. I have been married to my Indian husband for 4 years now and we have a beautiful 7 month old son. We waited 3 years to start having kids because we wanted to enjoy being married and travel. I have noticed a huge shift in our relationship after having kids. It benefits him, but it has been a negative experience for me.

For example:

Before kids: He would help me equally with household chores like washing dishes, laundry, cooking, and general cleaning.

After kids: He does not help me with ANY household chores. He does not help me with our son. Even if I need to take a shower, he will not watch him. He will sigh and roll his eyes, as if it is a big task for him to watch the baby. He has become useless around the house and just wants to sit around and relax.

I am completely overwhelmed. My son is not sleeping through the night, so I have to get up several times. I am working from morning until night running the household and taking care of our son. It is a struggle for me to do basic tasks like cook dinner or get groceries. And I feel like my once-helpful husband is a stranger. He gets mad at me when I say that I'm so tired, as if he can't possibly understand why. We both would like more kids, but now I'm having second thoughts. I have hired a cleaner to help me out once a week. I have hired a nanny to come for a few hours, once a week. But the one thing I really want is my husband to pull his equal weight around the house when he is home.

My husband also has to travel for work several times a month, so it feels like I'm a single mom. I envy that he can waltz around like a bachelor on these work trips. When he does come home from the trips, he is no help at all. All he wants to do it relax, while I'm overwhelmed with the responsibility. Indirectly, I think my mother in law has a lot to do with it. She told me that housework is the woman's job and that he's working hard and I'm living in his house for free so I should do it!

I have tried to bring it up to him but he thinks I'm a nag. Deep down, I feel like a servant. I want my old husband back, the one who actually felt like an equal partner. I don't understand how someone can change so much after having children. Where did this come from? I have spent the last 7 months in a state of disbelief. We fight a lot because I just can't accept this. Sometimes I wonder why I'm even married. I feel alone. If he would just offer to wash a single dish that would make me so happy.

Going forward, how do you get your Indian husband to do more housework? I would like to return to work, ideally part-time, but I'm afraid it will just add to my workload and I'll feel like quitting, the way things are going now.

Please, I'm desperate..."

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Dear readers, what advice do you have for this bahu?
Have you ever felt like this in your relationship?
If so, how did you get past it?

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Traveling to Yellowstone National Park (with kids!)

Last year, we visited Yellowstone National Park in August and we had a wonderful trip with my in-laws. A lot of people are now planning their Spring and Summer vacation trips, so I'd like to offer you a few tips that we learned from visiting last year. We traveled as a joint family, with ages ranging from age 3 to 56. It was so interesting to see the geology and the geography of Yellowstone.

The cities of Jackson Hole and Bozeman are worth visiting
If you are going to go all the way to Yellowstone, you might as well visit these towns. Both towns had an artsy, eccentric vibe to them. We only spent half a day in each, but I would have loved more time there. If I was visiting again, I would liked 1-2 full days to enjoy these towns. They both have excellent restaurants, unique shops, and historic architecture. The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman was amazing. Their dinosaur collection was truly remarkable. It is also a very kid-friendly museum and their gift shop has a lot of amazing dinosaur themed toys.

Yellowstone has a North Loop and a South Loop
If you look at a map of Yellowstone National Park, it kinda looks like a figure 8. There is a North Loop and a South Loop. Each loop is about a day's worth of driving, so plan to explore for a minimum of two full days.

Allow MORE time than you'd think
When exploring a huge park like Yellowstone, it is always wise to allow more time to fully explore it and take it in. You'll be constantly pulling over and stopping when you see wild animals or a beautiful vantage point. It's best not to rush, and really take your time going off the beaten path. The ideal time that I would say to explore just Yellowstone Park, would be about 3-4 days.

Accommodation books up fast
Accommodation in the park books up at least 6-9 months in advance because there are only a few hotels. Most of the hotels have restaurants, but the food is barely edible. There are also motels or Air BNB rentals located in the town of West Yellowstone, which is located on the West of the park, parallel to the middle of the loop.

There is hardly any vegetarian food available (and the food basically sucks!)
This is the main reason why we decided to stay at an Air BNB rental in West Yellowstone is because it was equipped with a kitchen. I am not a vegetarian, and I still found the food in Yellowstone to be god-awful. Even at the restaurants, they offer you packaged lunch meat with a side of potato chips - so gross! It is much easier to pack food for the day and stop at one of the many pleasant picnic areas and have lunch. All the picnic areas have bathrooms too.

Time your visit to Old Faithful
Just like clockwork, Old Faithful sure is predictable! It erupts about every 1.5 hours and you can check the timings that day. Allow extra time before to find parking, and peruse the gift shops.

Use a big comfortable car
The best thing we did was rent a giant SUV (Chevy Suburban) that made all the driving bearable. While exploring the park, you'd be driving for about 8 hours a day, so I loved having the SUV because it was such a smooth ride and tres luxe to sit my bottom in. We needed additional room in the car for husband-ji's camera equipment and our packed lunches, so it worked out perfectly.

Don't Forget Your Playlist for the Car!
We tried listening to the radio, but soon after it basically shorted out in the Park, as if we were entering the Bermuda Triangle. The same thing happened to all of our cell phones. Make sure to bring some great CDs or an iPod playlist with all your favorite songs for the ride. For us, it was all the Hindi Golden Oldies songs!

There is a lot of walking
Pack comfortable shoes and clothing suitable for long walks. Many of the sights require a lot of walking - at least 20 minutes minimum worth per detour. You will definitely get a lot of exercise!

Get children involved
Before we left for our trip, I got Maya a pair of kid binoculars that she became obsessed with. She loved looking at the natural wildlife with her special binoculars, and we would often play the "I Spy" game. It was a big adventure for her, and she couldn't stop talking about it for weeks after. When we saw a wild animal, we would ask her to observe it and tell what she thought it was doing or where it was going. The coolest thing was when we saw bison fighting! If you have a small inexpensive camera for them, you can also let them take their own pictures. We also kept her entertained in the car with coloring sheets, toys, and cartoons. For older children, there is an excellent Park Ranger program.

The souvenir shops are really cute
Throughout the Park, they have these cute little General Stores that have snack food and souvenirs available. Some of the stuff is very kitschy, but it makes for great souvenirs because they have a great selection. The kids' souvenirs are amazing - a wide variety of animal figurines, educational books, and adorable park ranger outfits. Not to mention, they sell ice cream!!!!

Be careful walking around geysers and hot springs
A lot of the area in Yellowstone is volcanic, with geysers spouting steam and bubbling water, so you need to be extra careful when walking - especially with small children. Most geyser areas have safe wooden pathways, but not all of them have railing, so you need to be very strict about children holding your hand while walking. If they are very young, you can just put them in a stroller/baby carrier. I let Maya walk on her own so it would tire her out, but I made sure to be adamant about always holding hands. Children can enjoy these attractions, but you just have to tell them that it can be dangerous.


Visiting Yellowstone National Park is an excellent road trip for families of all ages. I would recommend it as one of the must-see attractions in the USA if you appreciate natural wildlife.

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Dear readers, have you visited Yellowstone National Park?
What advice & tips would you give to people visiting?

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Monday, March 7, 2016

Recipe: Mint & Ginger Chai


I love a good cup of chai, and this is currently my new favorite. One of my favorite Indian cookbooks mentions putting mint in chai, and recently, a friend told me about the amazing mint chai she had. So, I decided to try it out for myself! I made it very simple, to suit South Indian taste buds - with only a few ingredients. I combined it with ginger to give it a zing which goes along so well paired with the freshness of the mint. It has a slightly Middle Eastern flavor. I really look forward to drinking this chai - every day at 3 o'clock sharp! There are so many health benefits of consuming mint, for example improving focus and concentration - which makes it a great mid-workday pick me up!

Madh Mama's Mint & Ginger Chai
(Serves 1)

- 3/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1.5 tbsp loose tea powder (I love Taj Mahal brand)
- 10 mint leaves, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger
- sugar to taste

Directions:

Set heat to high and add ALL ingredients to a boil.


Then, let it sit for 2-3 minutes as the tea darkens the milk.


Strain and serve in a cup along with sugar...and enjoy!

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If you are a fellow mint lover, don't forget to try my other recipes like Pudina Rice or Rice Cooker Vegetable Biriyani with Mint and Cilantro!

If you like chai, check out my Classic Chai or my Spicy Masala Chai recipe.

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Saturday, March 5, 2016

My Intercultural Love: Elisabeth & Pocho

Elisabeth writes an amazing blog about living between two cultures and raising her children bilingually!

Introduction....
I'm Elisabeth, from North Carolina, and married to Alfonso (Pocho) from Peru. We now live in the U.S. with our two children. 

Three words that describe you...
Creative, kind, thinker.

Favorite childhood memory...
We grew up on books. Though we never traveled outside the U.S., I felt like the entire world was open to me because our family life was full of stories. I had six brothers and sisters, and we were homeschooled most of the way. For us this meant that school was efficient and usually over before lunch - and after stretched out delicious hours to do what we wanted. Most days, that meant either playing outside or curled up with book we could hardly put down. My mom would read aloud to us daily, too, while we sketched or did puzzles. Those sorts of days - simple, wonderful - were my favorite. 

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
I am a teacher, and love the light bulb moments in myself, my students, or my kids. When we solve a problem or somethings finally "clicks", I feel the creativity to my toes - and that's when I feel inspired. It could be a students learning a new word or my baby taking a first step. I love those times. 

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
After college, I moved to the Peruvian jungle to teach English. I stayed with Pocho's family my first year, who frequently hosted young people. There were often teachers and volunteers moving in and out, and he and I became good friends. I wrote out the entire story here!


How long have you been together?
We met nine years ago, and have been married for 6 years.

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
Pocho is always kind and steady. He is a hard worker who never feels the need to prove himself, complain, or brag. I have often wished for that kind of confidence and security!....

Favorite memory together as a couple...
I do sometimes miss our careless days on motorcycles in the jungle and eating plantains in the market, back when we were dating. 

But the best memory was last year when we bought a house together. Prior to that, we'd rented and then lived in my parent's basement for two years while we sorted out jobs and unpaid maternity leaves. Holding the keys to our own home was an amazing feeling. We had both sacrificed and worked really hard - together

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
I lived in Moyobamba, his hometown, for two years, so I knew the culture pretty well. I learned Spanish and lived with Peruvian families, and really grew to love the city and the culture. Of course there were still surprises once we actually got married and started a life together (you think WHAT?), but I am really grateful I got to live there so long. 

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
We started dating in Peru, and it wasn't really unexpected to our friends there. Actually, at the time we had several friends just starting their own intercultural relationships (all married now: Peruvian-Scottish and Peruvian-French), and it made for fun double-dates. 

I had to let my friends and family know by email or phone here in the U.S. and everyone was affirming. When I told my parents we were engaged my Dad said, "Well, if we don't like him, we'll learn to!" I think that was his way of saying they trusted me and would eager to support us, even if it would be an adjustment. 

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
Our memories from living in and being together in Peru still affect us now. It's helpful to know there are other ways of doing things, and we like to take the best of both cultures in creating our own family culture. 

For me personally, it has opened my eyes to the struggles immigrants face when they get here and my respect for them has grown tremendously! I remember when we were first married the huge learning curve Pocho faced. Even things like putting gas in the car or using a credit card were totally new. 

Who proposed and how?
Dating and weddings can be so weird when you are working around international bureaucracy and visas. We had only been dating for about 5 months when my teaching contract was up and I was going to return to the States. Chances were slim he could come visit me, and out of the blue on New Year's Eve, Pocho turned to me and asked if I wanted to get married. 

I was really thrown off: was this a proposal? Or was he checking to see how serious we were? We call it the first proposal now, that strange "Ok, so you're leaving the country... I know we just started dating, but what's our plan here?" I said yes and told people at home we were planning to marry each other, but didn't use the word engaged yet.

I went back to spend the summer five months later, when he proposed at dinner with a ring.

Describe your wedding...
Pocho applied for a tourist visa to come meet my family, but was denied. So we applied for a fiance visa in September, not knowing how long it would take. By November it was approved! Between paperwork and my older brother's impending deployment, we had to set the date for December. I had a month to find us a rental and plan our wedding - and introduce my fiance to my family. 

Pocho only had a week or two to pack everything into a couple of suitcases, say good-bye to family and friends, and fly here. He barely spoke a word of English, and was left to get to know my family and friends as best he could while rushed about like a madwoman getting the wedding in order after teaching all day. 

The day of the wedding arrived, a cold day the week before Christmas. It never snows here in December but that day it did! My fresh-from-the-jungle husband experienced his first snowfall just as the ceremony started. We were married in a sweet old country church with huge windows and decked out for Christmas. The ceremony was a mix of Spanish and English, and beautiful. The snow basically ruined our poor reception, though, as the food was late, and everyone was leaving in southern panic over the quickly piling snow. 


What does being married mean to you?
It means being bound together - by promises, by love, by God - for richer or poor, sickness and health, and all the rest. We probably entered into marriage naively, like most people do. 

There is a lot of joy, and fun, and comfort from being spouses. Marriage also means putting the good of the other person first. It is amazing to know my husband is doing this for me too - I watch him show his love all the time, as he puts our needs above his own.

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
We would love for my blog and TpT store to keep growing so I can be home more. Pocho would love to go back to school and work in an IT-related field. We would both love to live in Peru for a while, or at least be able to spend summers there!

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
The best advice came from our pastor, referencing a book by psychologist Larry Crabb. He talked about distinguishing between goals and desires. A lot of things that are actually desires (I want feel loved, I want my spouse to do such-and-such) are healthy, but they aren't actually goals: things I can control. The only things I can control is what I put into the marriage. It's not easy, but thinking this way frees me to accept my spouse as he is, and love him where he is - instead of fixating on what I'd like to be different. 

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
Intentionally in making goals together, building our relationship, and planning ahead. 

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
We like movies - we both have learned about each other's native language, history, and culture watching shows in Spanish and English. 

As I've started blogging, it's been good as well to work on projects together. Since having kids we haven't been good at going out. Something to work on!


In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
The food! Peruvian food is amazing. I buy rice in bulk, eat eggs with everything, cook Peruvian dishes, add ginger to my chicken broth, and lime to everything. We both miss good fresh Peruvian food!

I also have worked hard to speak Spanish with our kids, and have researched the songs and poetry they would be learning in Peru. We include them in our family "library."

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
As a bit of an introvert, I find all the social expectations overwhelming. It's a big deal to be expressive even on social media, remembering birthdays, etc. I'm paranoid I'll offend someone if I don't respond to a message!

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
Probably not responding to someone online, and I might not realize all the people miffed at me now, hah. I do try! 

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
We had a difficult year when I was pregnant with our first. We had to move in with my parents and a lot of cultural differences were being unearthed, as close friends divorced. 

We went to counseling for a while, the best thing we ever did for our marriage. Our counselor spoke Spanish and English and understood both cultures, which was great. I'm thankful for the hard times in a way, because it forced us to work through things together. 

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
I love the richness and depth two cultures bring to our family. I love that our kids will be bilingual and bicultural. I think that's an incredible gift and perspective to have.

The worst part is that one of us is always far from home. There will be many lost years of knowing one set of cousins, grandparents, and relatives. And traveling is expensive, of course.

What are the biggest misconceptions about Latin / American people?
These are not the biggest misconceptions, but one stereotype is that Latinos are chronically late, and North Americans punctual. We are the exact opposite - I'm the late one!


Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
Honestly, people have been incredibly open and kind. There might be curious questions here and there (especially if my darker-skinned husband takes our blonde, light-eyed son out alone - people are used to seeing the opposite), but we welcome those. I am glad people feel comfortable asking us questions and glad for the chance to share with them.

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Be patient with one another, and don't be afraid to look for help if you reach an impasse. Finding friends in similar relationships is wonderful. Laughter is so good, too!

Do take red flags and real problems seriously: intercultural relationships are complex, and take wisdom to navigate. It's always better to be courageous and confront issues head-on, instead of assuming that love with smooth everything out. The work is absolutely worth it!

(Follow Elisabeth on her blog, Facebook, or Instagram)

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