Thursday, 29 May 2014

What Makes People Engage in Cross Cultural Relations

Many times when I used to start another topic of intercultural relations, a thought came to me that of course almost whatever I write about is applied to any union. It is just that cross cultural marriages have that "twist". Today I'd like to analyse what made me and my husband to engage in one of such, why didn't we prefer staying within our zone of comfort, he - in India, me - in Kazakhstan, then marry a person of the same nationality, religion, with the same mentality? The answer is "I have no idea!" 
No, seriously, we both had no intentions of marrying a foreigner ever in our life. Yes, we did have foreign friends in the Internet before, but that was just pure communication: few comments, few likes... Something happened in our case, and we proceeded further.
First, of course, we simply liked talking to each other a lot, exchange messages, share insights of our lives. Then it became a necessity for me to hear his voice and see him at least for few seconds, at least few times a week. I used to be sad when we couldn't chat for long periods of time, when he was away with his family on vacations, when I was away with my family for a weekend... It felt like that. Like I needed him in my life, he needed me too.
Second, it felt exotic, unusual, exciting, romantic to be in the multicultural relations. I dreamt of my handsome Indian boy, his land, possessing such a rich culture. You may call it curiosity or feeling of novelty, unexplored - it also played role in us becoming interested in our relations.
Third as soon as we felt special about all the happening, we both didn't want to lose it, because we felt comfortable when we were together, we had similar views, interests and so on. We knew things were not easy in the beginning and they would be more difficulties ahead, but we were determined and weren't afraid. We felt strong.
Fourth, for us it didn't feel weird to be married to a person whose cultural background is different from another one's. This can be called "open mindness" of some sort. However I shall note here that it doesn't happen in all the cases, especially when a partner is quite conservative or is not ready to adjust for another partner's' culture much. In my case I was lucky to find an Indian man who although was brought up and lived in India, had a different, not-so-traditional thinking what helped me a lot on the initial stages of adaptation.
Just to add to the question: during the course of two years of being employed in his company my D discovered how many of his colleagues from other countries ARE in cross cultural marriages! Like German-Russian, German-Indian, Indian-Ukrainian, and perhaps, many more. The world is uniting in spite of anything.
I am sure that intercultural relations which are valued and taken care of will evolve into strong bond between the partners. Sometimes we also forget what it took us to be together as things seem to have been the way they are always. At such time it is important to recollect how you started your cross cultural journey and why and remember that love brought you to each other across the distance. Cherish it.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Indian Needlework Heritage and A Crochet Potholder

The weekend is nee... Actually for us it starts today evening itself, and since morning I have been thinking of what will I do when I come back home. Some crochet, some cross stitch I am working on at the moment? I have not decided yet and may be I'd simply lift my legs up and read a book. We were also planning few things for this coming up weekend but let us see which ones will get realized. My D suddenly said two-three days ago that he was getting anxious as my due date is approaching and we haven't got anything yet like hospital bag and baby's essentials. So perhaps we are going to finally start shopping for them this time.
Today I wanted to share something special with you, even with those who haven't got  interest in needle work. Some time ago my mother-in-law, seeing my interest in cross stitch, rummaged in her treasures and took out old Indian embroidery (cross stitch) swatches, fragments. I photographed these pieces finally.
These one was made by FIL's mom. It must be at least 40 years old!  I like very much because it is so different from others, and reminds me the latest  discovery I made - Bargello needlework. I would like to try to replicate this pattern, it looks really lovely. 
This one by MIL's mom, might be of the same "age".
 And this - by mother-in-law.
Unfortunately I have nothing of this sort of heritage left from my own grandparents. My mom's mom never used to hand made, she had other interests, and she passed away too soon after my birth - I was a little older than 1. My father's parents lived in Ukraine that time and also passed away soon. So I never knew my grandparents, and always wanted to have a grandmother and a grandfather, listen to their stories, enjoy the relationships. But I know that I am blessed with the love of my parents and now - of my D and his family.
We celebrated the Mothers' Day here on 11th of May, and I am, not being able to give up hand made, made a potholder for my mother-in-law using the pattern Vintage Flower Potholder by Color'n Cream blog's author, thank you Jenn! I loved it, and also loved how colors interlink! My MIL put it on the wall, near her bed :)
That's all for now, my dears. I have started reading and almost finished Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and it is a bad, bad book! It made me crave chocolate so much and I have to avoid eating sweets now... :)
Have an enjoyable and happy weekend!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

☀Dress Code in India: When It's Hot - Short or Better Not?☀

☀ India is a very diverse country. Its big territory incorporates a big number of regions (states). Every state has its own language, traditions, in one word - pecularities. However ways of life in India are as much similar everywhere as diverse if you take into account local cultural characteristics.
We live in a city which is a capital of two states - Punjab and Haryana. Both the states have their own respective languages (besides Hindi), Punjabi and Haryanvi, as well as their own population. Punjab has a predominant population of Sikhs, while Hindus is a majority in Haryana. Both the cultures put a significant influence on our city Chandigarh. Though the city itself is  a creation of the middle of 20th century, it has quite modern buildings and well organized streets, the people here cannot be called "open" enough to accept  the changes of the life style so soon.
Before coming here I read a lot about Indian culture, some restrictions of it, Indian clothing etc. But when it came to practically experiencing it I had hard times (how many?) adjusting, especially in a sense of dressing up. First I noticed girls and women here wear mostly Indian suits, kurtas with slacks, quite long t-shirts, jeans and pants even during hot summer, and almost always "dupatta" (Indian light scarf) over their neck and shoulders.
Second of all I had to forget wearing skirts till knees, too open tops, or even Capri which revealed my ankles and calves, or wear anything too tight or too transparent. These were explained to me by my D, not because he himself was so conservative but because people, basically, males, used to stare at any part of your body which was open, and he didn't like at all his girlfriend to be stared at which was anyways unavoidable because I attracted attention as a foreigner walking the streets with an Indian man.
Okay I must admit Russian women are pretty free to wear what they please, I can even say they won't bother asking anyone what they may wear, they decide the appropriate dress for the occasion themselves. Some days I was just fine with the wardrobe limitations, some days we had big fights over another matter: I wanted to wear at least shorts because it was so damn hot, but I couldn't simply because of "others". I used to say that I couldn't adjust for each and everyone, that I was annoyed by constantly checking if my bra strap didn't come out by accident, and if it did, to feel ashamed and hurriedly hide it under my top. I felt irritated, disappointed, angry.
I also started wearing more of open sandals, slippers, mostly on low heels. It is actually more comfy in summer because your feet don't get tired that soon as on high heels or wedges. But shoes type here is totally your choice. 
Luckily times have changed  a little since then. A year ago, 4 days before our anniversary, we went to the shopping mall. My D then said, looking at the females there who wore dresses and skirts, and sundresses, that the people had started changing their thinking. And that was the day I got a dress which was only till knees. However I'd wear it only when I am with D. 
Also now I don't have complaints since I can wear sleeveless tops and thin pants in the city, nevertheless if you happen to travel deeper in the state toward smaller towns and villages, you shall think better of what to wear there as the population won't be of the same opinion about short/open clothes as you are. Same applies to visiting of temples and other holy places (like Golden Temple in Amritsar for ex.) where I guess it is understood you wear decent clothing items and also a headscarf/kerchief. In Sikh temples "gurudwara" it concerns males likewise.
I see that girls in the city becoming more and more brave and nowadays you can see females in shorts and skirts here and there. But that doesn't mean that people around are okay and favor that. In my previous office even woman used to look at my "naked" ankles. Yes, it depends on where you work too, my new office has no objection of female employees dressing up in feminine clothing items. But I in my turn now feel more comfortable in pants or trousers. 
☼ What to wear in India - Essential Information for Women - a short article as a travel guide.
☼ Modesty of Dress and Indian Culture - an article by The Hindu newspaper. Yes, why should boys have all the fun?
I also understand that such places as Goa allow for almost any type of clothing BUT it is an exception and another story similarly like metro cities Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore created their own world within themselves though at the same time belonging to a particular state. 
On weekend me and D watched a German movie "The White Masai" on one of the TV channels. Have you seen it? Do watch  it if you haven't, and see how sometimes even love cannot promise successful intercultural marriage.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Cat Family - Urban Wild Life in India

The fact that we live on the ground floor and have access to small pieces of soil makes me immensely happy. Not only it gives an opportunity to plant anything you want it also attracts "urban" wild life. Last year I told about a fledgling who found a safe place in our garden and stayed there until it was strong enough to fly away. 
When we have something blossoming there are many butterflies and bees around those plants. But recently we were lucky to have welcomed a cat family who came at our backyard wall two weeks ago. First we heard cat's meowing and saw a big cat among the greenery of our plants. Later we heard a thinner meow... that was of a kitten! Later there were already two kittens. So basically the mother cat was relocating their home somewhere near by our house. We still have no idea where it is. It is said in India that a cat changes 7 homes... Other members of our family occasionally saw the cats few more times after that.

Day before yesterday night I went out at the backyard following the kitten's meow and rustling of our citrus tree: one kitten left his dwelling and jumped down the wall for some reason. He regretted his actions I am sure as he started calling his mom lamentably. We didn't really know what to do because as soon as he saw us he chose the corner of the wall behind the curry tree and was looking at us from there. We arranged some milk for him, but he was too scared to emerge from his hiding place even for food. Later he ran towards another end and sat behind the citrus tree wanting to climb it but not knowing how. When we thought we could lift him up the wall I took some old bed sheet in order to fetch the kitten it, thus protecting myself from scratches and bites... But as soon as I came closer to him he HISSED at me so loudly I sprang back scared. Obviously we decided it was better to leave him hoping that mother cat would come at the rescue. 
So yesterday morning when I went out to check on the kitten  I witnessed much more than expected to my delight: a cat mother and three kittens with her! Me and D spent time feeding them milk and the only meat we had - some salami. Kittens didn't eat it but their mom seemed to enjoy the treat. My D even got late for office because of the cats but was happy of the reason. Aren't they all cute? The kittens have big ears and cute silly eyes. I wish my baby could see these felines too :)
The mother was alert all the time while D was giving food and I was taking pictures. She won't trust anyone so easily. Many a times I thought I'd like to have a cat at home but I feel that having free urban cats who come and let us take care of them is much more interesting and rewarding. The cats were still there when I left home in the morning and I do hope we will make friends with them at last.
We have started our weekend earlier this time, the cat family is now sleeping on the wall. Wishing you to have a carefree and enjoyable weekend, dears! Meow, meow!

Friday, 9 May 2014

9 May, Victory Day 2014 (9 Мая, День Победы 2014)

Today is the 69th anniversary of the Victory in the World War The II. I am grateful to all who made my future possible, including my grandfathers and grandmothers. However I'd prefer celebrating not victories in war but years of peace on earth which is so lacking these days. I pray that people didn't have to die to achieve this peace...
Have clear sky above, peaceful atmosphere amd be happy wherever you are!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

From Russian Soups to Chilly Paneer - Russian Wife in India

This will be interesting for me to look back and see how well I, a girl who spent 23 years of her life in her native country, realigned herself for new settings in just 4 years. It quite amazes me but time flew so fast I now perhaps won't be able to recollect those impressions as they were.
Every country has its unique "taste", so does India, one of the most savoury countries in the world. The food of Indian subcontinent is definitely something to pay attention to, to discuss, to love or to ... dislike. Take it or leave it. Nonetheless if you are a permanently living in India foreign wife, you will have hard time adjusting to Indian food if you cannot stand spices. I was lucky (as well as my D) to be one of those foreign wives to teach my taste buds to like spicy and oily table. The first meal I had here was an omelet we bought at the bus station cafe when we arrived from Delhi. It was yumm, but it had some little green rings of some vegetable in it - green chillies! I had to dig them out from the omelet following a timely advice by my D.
On my first day in the city I was settled in a paying guest (called PG here) facility with some Indian girls. That evening I was hungry and the girls helped to fetch some rice, it looked great, all vegetarian, and I digged into it and had two-three spoons at once... When after a while I realized that my tongue as well as ears were on fire! It was so spicy and felt like it burned all the insides.
The days later my D was taking me to the university canteen where I tried Indian paneer with gravy, which I enjoyed a lot however fighting with chillies in it too. But I started liking Indian food almost straight away and after a while couldn't imagine my meal without pickles or green chillies (I got ya!). See my old post.
The food transition for a Russian girl used to tasty but rather plain Russian soups, minimum salt  and pepper in her dishes, went smoothly. The only thing is that after some time I start missing my country's cuisine very much. In those cases I cook something rather Russian like soup or simply take a piece of bread and put butter on it and eat with tea or coffee. My tongue still craves for "simple" taste without any spices added.
A peculiar thing is that Indians like to eat fruits (grapes, watermelon, papaya, apples) with black salt and black pepper. After I tried it that way several times and my throat didn't thank me, I simply made a point that I prefer a pure taste of the fruits.
Another challenge for me at times (though I don't cook much) is to make a dish which meets my Indian husband's taste. He likes Russian food a lot especially the one prepared by my mom, but I know that he expects me to cook Indian style at least a little bit. As I am a rather independent person I asked Indian food cooking tips from my in-laws very rarely, choosing Internet as my teacher. I believe I managed to make something resembling Punjabi kidney beans and channa (chickpea) and even tried to make South Indian dosas and vadas! Otherwise almost whatever I cook turns out to be of a mixed Indo-Russian taste, I can't help it. Here is what Russian I tried to cook in India, not much but it made me happy:
Taste of Dacha - vegetables in a pan, my Mom's recipe.
Cooking the Crescents - Russian dish vareniki with potato.
Apple Pie - called Sharlotka in Russian.

Friday, 2 May 2014

✿♡♡♡ Working on Your Intercultural Relationships ♡♡♡✿

The last post on choosing the language for intercultural communication had received many comments, and opened up some really interesting facts about you, my dear friends. I didn't even know that so many of you are actually in mixed relationships (next time I shall highlight who all are there), or having got someone who is in, or simply have got intercultural exposure and experience. 
Today I'd like specifically turn to a topic which is one of the most important in cross cultural relations when it comes to making such relations "work".
Love is what brought two people together, it helped them to build those bridges at first, then made them want to be with each other and finally entwined their lives - it's our story in short. But not a complete story. There are many more chapters to be added to it. One of them - what keeps these relations going. I think that I had already touched the theme somehow in the previous post where I expressed my opinion that partners shall try to learn each other language. Continuing this thought I'd say that to Learn something new about each other (also in broader term - cultures) every day is one of the ways to fill up cultural gaps, understand each other better. This can be anything from a conversation to a viewing of a movie or TV program, and reading of course.
In any marriage, you inevitably end up altering a little of yourself for another person. Here goes another building material of our marriage - to Adjust. I in particular couldn't t avoid this as much as inconvenient it was at times. It was painful too, because I felt like I was loosing my identity. One would probably say why would I do that for a whole culture above me? I had such thoughts too, and they didn't make the situation better. We both found balance to help especially me to adjust and adapt to a new cultural environment, to new people, a new family. 
At the same time some things we had to simply Accept.You cannot change yourself completely, and neither shall you demand this from your partner. We take some things as they are, and accept not only within the family but within the society too. 
We are very inspired by our relationships, especially at the prospect of having a child who will connect both of our cultures more. We Enjoy the marriage and think of all the possibilities this intercultural union can bring now and in future, in spite of all the difficulties.
After all it is necessary to Have a Sense of Humour in a cross cultural marriage to be able to face situations of misunderstanding, and not to be so serious in certain moments. Finding a humorous side of some things will help both the partners to see their cultures from another perspective.
There can be other ways as well, but in general it is important to have reciprocal communication in intercultural relations, where both are equally involved, both willing to contribute into keeping relations sustainable and loving. I shall tell about all of these more, it will alone take a whole blog post dedicated to the things I had to learn, adjust for, accept, enjoy, and have a sense of humour about during almost 4 years of our Indian-Russian marriage.
I am also starting to share some nice and useful articles/blog posts/forum posts about the same (or different) issues I offer to reflect on.
Married to an Alien: Can Love Conquer Culture? - an article by Tim Sullivan about cross cultural marriage problems, pitfalls and author's own experience being in an American-Japanese marriage.
Why So Many Russian Women Go Abroad? - a blog post in a "question-answer" style by the author of the Ask a Russian blog. Yes, why indeed? :)
Hope you find some of my thoughts appealing to you as well. Do you work on your intercultural/mixed/any relations or let them have their own course? 
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