Saturday, May 20, 2017

My Intercultural Love: Jateen & Rebecca


Introduction....
I am Rebecca, I was born in Los Angeles, CA and my parents are from New Orleans. My husband, Jateen was born in Tanzania and his parents are Gujarati. We live in San Francisco, CA in a much too expensive apartment and have one cat named Shiva. 

Three words that describe you...
Curious, Brave and Compassionate.

Favorite childhood memory...
My favorite childhood memory is when I traveled with my mom during a hot summer in New Orleans and cleaned out her childhood home. We ate all of the local food and I got to see some of her that I had never experienced before. We found old baby pictures and beautiful antique furniture in her dads old house. 

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
I feel the most inspired when I am somewhere else. I really love trains, planes and foreign cafes. 

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
We met online and then in person at a little cafĂ© in San Francisco. We celebrated Bastille day together champagne and appetizers. It was really sweet and the conversation between us felt so familiar and easy. 

How long have you been together?
We have been married for two months and dated for 18 months before that. I feel like we've known each other our whole lives. 

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
Jateen is one of the nicest people that I have ever met. He will literally give you the shirt off his back. I admire his generosity, calmness and genuine kindness. 

Favorite memory together as a couple...
My favorite memory as a couple is eating breakfast in the Serengeti and watching hot air balloons rise over the plains of Africa. We are truly blessed to travel as much as we do. 

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
I studied Ayurveda, Yoga and Keralan Cooking in Kerala in 2007, so I did know a little about Indian culture. I knew enough to understand that his culture is very multifaceted and that I am easily overwhelmed by so many differences. But I hadn't even heard of Gujarat and not much about Tanzania either. I would say that the family is more geared toward Gujarati culture than Tanzanian as their Indian subgroup really strived to maintain Gujarati culture in Africa. 


How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
I actually didn't draw a lot of attention to our different cultural backgrounds and I still haven't. But I do remember some conflict during wedding planning when picking the menu. It was actually a little bit trickier to tell my Indian In-laws that we were going to serve Indian and Middle Eastern/Californian food. My MIL's reaction was "why can't everyone eat Indian food?" and "don't spend your money on more food". I was a little offended by the insensitivity around my cultural food preferences. 

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
My relationship has helped me to become a more calm and confident person. Jateen is so caring towards me that I am able to do my job of care-giving for others even better. My outlook has evolved to include the importance of family even more. We have a large immediate family split between the Bay Area and Southern California and we both make even more effort to spend time with both. 

Who proposed and how?
Jateen proposed in a really sweet way. I was getting impatient with our plans but he kept a straight face and took me on a short after work hike near the Golden Gate bridge. It was super foggy ad there weren't many birds out but he pointed out a flock and when I turned back around he was holding a beautiful ring for me to wear. He video taped the whole thing and I could barely talk through the tears. 


Describe your wedding...
Our weddings were very special. We got married at the San Francisco city hall by a Justice of the Peace with only our family and a photographer around. After the ceremony we went eat delicious southern Soul Food. A few days later we had a big (not by Indian standards) Hindu ceremony at a historic theatre in Livermore, CA. Jateen walked in with his family following and lead by a drummer and then I walked down the aisle with my male ushers. Jateen's father actually performed the ceremony and the best part of it was that my family was under the mandap with us. After our ceremony we has a swing dance lesson, a multicultural dinner and then danced the night away. It was such a fun event! 

What does being married mean to you?
Being married to me means having a team mate. We are tied for life and will keep growing and changing together. It means that I have a big Afro/Indian/Caucasian family and we will all love and support each other. 

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
Our dream is to have a few children, own a home in the bay area and then buy some vacation property on the northern coast. I would like to grow wine and Jateen would like to put a tiny house on that land. We really also want to have love in our lives, regardless of how that ends up looking. 


What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
To always give each other the benefit of the doubt. And enjoy it all, even the tough stuff. One of my patients told me to always touch toes before you fall in bed because no one can stay mad after that, I'll go with that one. 

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
I bring a big amount of decisiveness and self direction from my culture.

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
To keep our relationship alive, we have a weekly date for just the two of us. Lets hope we can keep that up after kids. We enjoy connecting over weekend trips to the coast and we both enjoy road trips. We watch a lot of comedy together and also enjoy talking politics. 

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
We celebrate some Hindu Holidays like Diwali and Holi; attend local Pujas and I am cooking up a few good Gujarati dishes. 


Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
Hmm, that is a good question. My mom wore a sari to our wedding, and both parents came to the pre-wedding functions. My mom has also been excited about making her own chai and they have started sending food back and forth between families in true Indian style. 

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
For sure that would be IST. Jateen seems to have a different sense of time and urgency.

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
I offered his mom some chicken soup without the chicken (she is strict vegetarian)

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
The most challenging time in our intercultural relationship is when we are getting ready to go somewhere at a prescheduled time. I have learned to make myself busy at the exact time that I want to leave because otherwise I just end up looming over him and freaking out being somewhere on time. 

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
The best thing is the extra parties and that is the worst thing too. Really, I enjoy being the center of attention but only sometimes and a lot of his aunties fuss over me and force feed me...both sweet and too pushy. I have really had to focus on boundary setting during family gatherings and doing only what I am comfortable with.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
That our relationship is not as much about shared values as it is about exoticism.

What are the biggest misconceptions about American women?
The biggest misconception about American women is that we plan to divorce your sweet son. Rip his heart out and stomp on it and also that we won't celebrate Hindu culture. 


Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
The only time that I feel disapproval is when we are stared at. Jateen and I were out to dinner and a table of Indian folks were next to us. As we were leaving, some of the women craned their necks to stare at the two of us. We left and laughed about the incident.

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Be curious about the other person's background, they will open your eyes to new things in the world and you will open theirs too. When MIL's get on your last nerve, tell your partner and let them deal with it. Examine what you are comfortable giving and set boundaries to reflect that. For example, my husband likes to visit his family every week and I like my alone time so I let him go and I stay home. Then we have stories to share about our separate times and have both been recharged.

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1 comment

  1. Whee, newlyweds! Congratulations! Your advise on letting your husband deal with his mother, that's what I do too :-D

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