We have a Dog!!

About a month ago, we went to the local Humane Society and adopted a dog.  Somehow, it was my idea.  I was really pushing Satya to go to the Humane Society and then once we were there, I decided that we’d like a closer look at this dog.  She was curled up at the back of her cage, but her information page said that she was 22 lbs and house trained.  Then, we took her for a little walk outside.  She walked nicely-not pulling the leash too badly and she shook paws with Satya!  Then, somehow I told the volunteer, “We’d like to fill out an application for her.”  After filling out an application and the Humane Society verifying that indeed yes our apartment complex does allow dogs (max. 2, must be under 50 lbs.) we walked out with Lego.  3 days later we returned to finalize her adoption and now she is ours.

Some things have been a pleasant surprise.  She is very well-behaved in the house-no shoes chewed yet or accidents (knock on wood).  She can sleep in her crate just fine.  One of my favorite parts of the day is in the evening when the 3 of us all go to the park together.  We play frisbee across the park and back with her and it is a lot of fun to see her jump up and catch the frisbee.  Other things aren’t so fun-I don’t like getting up at 6 am so she can toilet outside (better than her messing up the inside though).  We also discovered she has some separation anxiety.  At first, I couldn’t even leave her alone to take out the trash without her barking and whining.  Now, I can take out the trash and she will be quiet and calm, but I can’t leave her alone to check mail without the barking and whining.  We are going to try the advice in Patricia McConnell’s I’ll be Home Soon and if that doesn’t work we’ll call a local dog behaviorist.

I’ve never had a dog before. Growing up I had rabbits.  My grandfather grew up on a farm and thought that it was cruel to have a dog in the city, so he got my mom and aunt rabbits.  My dad agreed with my grandfather.  Dogs are much, much different from rabbits. Like a good ex-librarian, I’ve been trying to find out all I can from watching Cesar Millan’s  Dog Whisperer, to reading books like Tamar Geller’s 30 Days to a Well-Behaved Dog, to ordering Patricia McConnell’s books and pamphlets.  Some things we are doing right-Lego has to sit and wait to enter and exit the apartment, sit and wait for her food, etc.

Lego is a miniture Australian Shepherd.  At the Humane Society they warned us that her breed is very smart and very active.  Lego gets 2 walks a day-morning and evening for physical exercise.  For mental exercise, she has a purple treat dispenser, Busy Buddy’s Squirrel Dude (best toy ever!) and she goes to basic obedience class on Saturdays.  We also practice her obedience commands a bit throughout the day.

Why did we get Lego?  For me, it was for Satya.  He had a dog in India that he loved very, very much and he always talks about that dog.  Also, he is very stressed from work so I thought a dog would be a great way for him to relax and get some exercise after a long day in the office on the computer.  Originally, I’d wanted a labradoodle or barring that, a lazy couch potato dog like maybe a whippet.  Satya wanted a dog who “looks like a dog” which meant no toy dogs.

What have been the effects?  Well, Satya’s stress acne has gone down.  He says my skin as also improved and that my stomach has gotten smaller (I walk Lego by myself during the day and with Satya at night).  I think the two of us also feel more like a family now.  Lego does complicate things though-with her separation anxiety can’t do as much.  We either take her with us (one sitting outside with Lego while the other one grocery shops), or we take her to doggy day care.  Satya’s sister loves to see the dog on Skype which is sometimes sweet and sometimes annoying-like when the dog is asleep and she wants to see Lego play.

Differences between us having a dog now and Satya’s dog in India:

  • Here we have commercial dog food, in India Satya’s mom cooked the dog’s food which was the same vegetarian Lingayat food the family ate.  The dog’s mom brought him bones to chew herself.
  • In India, the dog would be let out to run around by himself during the day.  He was trusted to return on his own. Here, Lego is never off the leash unless we are in the apartment.  We have a long 16 ft. leash for her frisbee games in the park.
  • In India, the vet made house calls here we drive to the vet
  • In the U.S. lots of commercial dog toys vs. homemade ones in India
  • Dog trainers and obedience classes in the U.S. are plentiful in India in the ’90s there weren’t any in his city
  • A lot easier to get vaccines here.  In India in the ’90s Satya had to special order his dog’s rabies vaccine from Switzerland.

 

Has anyone traveled with a dog to India?  Online I’ve read that Europe is very dog friendly and that it is not a big deal to bring your American dog along for a trip.

A very happy looking Lego!

How is it for India?  We plan on going to India again in the spring for 3-4 weeks.

Back Again

I’ve decided to keep blogging.  I love to read what others are experiencing in their relationships and learn more about India.

Satya and I have been together now for three years.  Some things that I thought we’d have figured out by now are still up in the air (religion).  Other things were much easier than expected (visiting India and meeting his extended family).  Also, we are still in the same city I’ve been trying to move away from for nearly 3 years-very frustrating.

We’ve had our victories, like him finally receiving his permanent green card last month.  Don’t underestimate the stress of waiting for that to arrive and the stress of putting together all that paperwork.  Satya is much more methodical than me and we had many arguments about what to include (I wanted to include just the bare minimum).  The final weight of the package with its table of contents, color coded Post-It bookmarks, etc. was 4 pounds!!  We were lucky-we were able to complete all the paperwork ourselves without a lawyer.  Still, it was not an easy process.  We are breathing a sigh of relief now until the final batch of papers-for citizenship next year.

Another victory….Successfully hosting his parents for the past 3 summers for 3 months each time. Most of the credit goes to his parents for being so kind and so tolerant of us.  This summer we were both working and somewhat stressed out so we couldn’t spend as much time with them as we’d have liked, but we still had a good time together.  We’d all take walks together, play board games, watch movies, and go to the temple together sometimes.  It is nice to know that they love and support us and that we all feel comfortable together.

Some things are still works in progress.

Religion….We agreed that we’d both keep our religions and raise our future kids to respect both.  In practice though, we lean more towards Hindu/Lingayat more than to Catholic.  Mostly this is due to the attitudes we encounter at church such as priests in their homilies mocking religions like Hinduism for “worshipping rivers and rocks”.  I still feel like I don’t have a firm grasp of what Hinduism is exactly, but am slowly learning from experience-going with his family to the temple, celebrating some festivals, listening to beautiful songs with his mother like “Kali Maheshwari” and “Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma” etc.  It is hard to balance the two when Catholicism seems to say, “It is all or nothing,” and the Hinduism seems to say, “Come as you are…eventually we’ll all end up in the same place.”

Language.  My Kannada skills are laughable.  Maybe someday I’ll learn more.  We will be going to India again within the year so we’ll see. I just haven’t made it a priority.  Satya still intends to speak to our future kids in Kannada, so we’ll see how that goes.  I think if our kids were to have a fighting chance at understanding and speaking Kannada, we’d have to live in Karnataka for a while.  Or maybe encourage his parents to only speak in Kannada to them.  We’ll see……

Balancing our families.  Tricky.  This past January we went to India to see his extended family-aunts, uncles, cousins.  Indian hospitality can’t be beat.  This past July we went to Iowa to see my extended family-not so welcoming or warm and friendly.  I put part of this on Midwestern Scandinavian reticence-maybe if they after meeting Satya a few more times they’ll be more welcoming.

It is also hard to balance limited vacation time between the two families.  I wish I could see my parents for three months out of the year, but I can understand the reasons for the disparity.  My parents live close to two of my sisters.  Satya doesn’t have any siblings living near his parents and his siblings are unwilling to host his parents for more than a week.

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On a completely different note, I have a book to recommend Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull.  Very entertaining and well-written.  It is about Sarah’s adaptation to Paris and to her Paris love.  She is from Australia.  I think most people in intercultural relationships will find parts of the book that relate to them.

Cyber Grandpas: Staying in Touch Across the Miles

My niece’s grandpas are among her biggest fans.  I didn’t realize how much until they both sent me an invitation to join Facebook.  Satya’s dad sent me an invitation to join Facebook last week and yesterday it was my sister-in-law’s dad who sent out the invitation.  I thought it was pretty funny that my father in law in India is now urging me to join Facebook.  Very weird….

 

Skype was a whole new experience for me last summer.  Last summer Satya’s mom dressed me in an extra saree so I could be presented via Skype to Satya’s uncle (his father’s brother) in Scotland.  Satya’s uncle was visiting his son in Scotland to see a new grandson.  When Satya’s parents returned to India, Satya and I continued using Skype to talk with his parents.  I even bought a computer camera/microphone for my parents for Christmas so I that I could Skype with them.  My family is slower to catch on to the wonders of Skype….perhaps it is the lack of babies?

Hosting Indian Friends and Family

After hosting Satya’s parents, one of Satya’s college buddies and wife, and his sister I am slowly starting to understand that hospitality expectations are different.  IndianTies had a great post about this in May.  (If only I’d read her post before his sister came!)  I’d like to add a few things that I’ve learned.

Entertaining at Home is Key

For family, especially, they’d rather eat in your home and be entertained at home than at a fancy restaurant.  Family cares about knowing the “real you”.  IndianTies mentions using your best stuff and serving drinks on trays (things Satya conveniently forgot to tell me about).  Is this really necessary?  Perhaps at first.  People who make the effort to come and visit you want to spend time with you, at your house. 

Be Careful About What People Really Mean

For this, it is best to rely on your spouse.  If you really want to do something for somebody, make sure you keep offering 3 or 4 times.  If they deny it more than that, for the most part let it go.  Minnesota has its own version of this (usually called “Minnesota nice”), but the Indian version goes a step further. 

 

People Who Stay in Your House Expect to Help Out

Do not be surprised if all of a sudden you have more help with        chopping veggies or with washing dishes.  In Minnesota it is more common for the host and hostess to do all the work.  I think this makes sense though because in general, Indian guests will stay for longer periods of time than U.S. guests.  GoriGirl wrote a lot about this in one of her posts.

 

One traditional belief that was new to me from my sister-in-law’s visit is that after a beloved guest leaves, you are not supposed to take a shower or clean up.  For us, Satya’s sister left in the afternoon and that meant that he did not want me to take a shower that night.   At first this seemed weird to me because Satya is nothing if not clean.  He later explained that it is the reverse of funerals.  When somebody dies and you attend the funeral, when you return home you take a shower and immediately clean all the clothes you were wearing.  Logically, this is for hygienic reasons but also perhaps for some spiritual closure?  Or to put some distance between you and the dead?  When a guest leaves you are not supposed to take a shower immediately because somehow that would break a bond and/or mean you do not wish your guest to return.  Biblically, I guess it is akin to “shaking the dust off your sandals”.

Good Luck for Babies

Satya’s sister is with us this week.  So far, having her over has been a lot of fun (perhaps too much fun as we were up until the early morning a few times).  She finally saw her niece for the the first time yesterday. 

She shared some ways that babies traditionally are protected from evil in India.  One way is for the parents to put a small mark on the baby’s face.  This can be done with eyeliner or something similar.  To me, this sounds like what I’ve heard about some Muslim art and carpets–people are afraid of something being perfect and offending God so they create a small imperfection to keep humility.  The difference I guess is that here you’d be protecting the baby from demons and not from God thinking you have too much hubris.  Any thoughts?

The second way is to put a small bracelet of black beads on the baby’s wrist.  I will have to ask about the importance of the color black.  Why not blue?  Or red?  Colors are important in bracelets…green bangles=wedding, for example.  (It is also interesting to me that a wife’s mangalsutra also has black beads).

My sister in law also mentioned ear piercing.  So far, the baby’s ears remain unpierced.  My sister in law thinks it is more practical to get it done early, rather than have it be a traumatic experience when my niece is a teenager.  Myself, my parents had me wait until I was 13.  At 13 I could decide for myself.  No matter how much I begged, they wouldn’t move that date (not for 12, not for 12.5).  I remember feeling thrilled when I got my ears pierced, not traumatized.

I doubt our niece will actually wear any of these things, though.  Satya’s brother (the father) is not religious or traditional at all.  My other sister in law, (the mother )is Protestant and not Indian.  It will be interesting to see what kinds of decisions they make about raising their inter racial daughter.

For now, my niece is doing well, is meticulously cared for, and is tremendously loved so we are all grateful.

An April Update

We moved into a new apartment last week.  We love that it is so spacious and has lots of windows and light, but it has been extremely stressful so far.  Nothing was cleaned!  Slowly, Satya and I are trying to make it livable, but it is taking lots of time.

-We’ve been eagerly looking at pictures of our new niece.  It will be fun to see how she grows and changes.  We bought her some small gifts-a stuffed lamb, a rattle for her arm since she loves to move her arms a lot, and an onesie with a cute little hat and booties, and of course, books.  Apparently, the traditional Lingayat baby gift is a silver cup, but we are holding off on that gift for a while.

-I found a collection of folktales called, “Old Deccan Days, or Old Hindoo Fairy Legends” by Mary Frere.  Mary Frere lived in India in the 1800s and recorded some of the stories told to her by her ayah, Anna Liberata de Souza.  Anna de Souza was a Christian, but her grandparents converted from Lingayatism.  Also, some of the areas mentioned in the book are the same areas where Satya has family.  Satya recognized some of the stories and names, although he says Mary Frere didn’t record some things correctly.  One of the stories, “the Punchkin” seems to have been very famous.  I’m looking forward to reading more when I have more time.

-We were watching one of our favorite tv shows, “The Soup”, recently and were surprised to see Anil Kapoor, Bollywood star, do a skit with the host.  Anil Kapoor will be appearing on episodes of “24” as a Middle Eastern leader.

-Last night we were watching some episodes of “Yeh jo hai Zindagi”.  It is a very funny, relaxing show from the ’80s.  We watched an episode called “The Antique Gift”.  It is fun to see some cultural differences.  One I noticed in that episode is that the couple visited their friend, the colonel.  The next time, they brought with them the wife’s brother and mentioned to the colonel, “We wanted him to see your house.” And then they wandered freely through his house!  I don’t think that would happen often in the U.S.!

I’m an Aunt!

Late Wednesday evening, my niece was born.  She is the daughter of Satya’s brother and his wife.  Satya’s brother’s wife is also white-she is half French and half German.  Luckily, everything went smoothly without too many complications.  The mother started having contractions midnight Wednesday, went to the hospital around noon, had an epidural in the afternoon, and the baby was finally born around 10 pm. 

The baby is over 6 lbs and nearly 21 inches long.  She has lots of very dark, curly hair.  Satya is convinced the baby will look like his brother and like his mom-eyes, nose, shape of face.  I’m not sure yet.   I think the baby will have his brother’s eyes.  My sister in law is convinced the baby has Satya’s brother’s hands.  Satya thinks that the baby has his sister in law’s jaw line.  We will see. 

We were fortunate enough to see the proud parents and baby an hour after the birth.  The mother was pretty much wiped out exhausted sitting up in bed.  The father was walking around holding his new daughter proudly staring at her and showing her off.  The mother’s parents were there too.  The room did have a sacred feel to it somehow.  I feel lucky to have been with them for a few minutes. 

For Satya, he is extremely proud and happy that he is now an uncle.  He very much wants to see the baby again.  

It is interesting because both they and we are intercultural couples and we both have very different ways of dealing with those issues.  Everybody is different and not just culture, but personality plays a lot into it.  The new parents did take a lot of care to choose a name for the baby that works for both cultures.   The baby is named after a Hindu saint and name somewhat common in the U.S. as well.

Ideally, for the labor I’d want my mom with me as she has gone through it 4 times (3 times completely naturally) and maybe Satya to be there (I worry about him being grossed out though).  I know now he definitely does not want to cut the umbilical cord.  He definitely wants his parents to be close by-in the waiting room and with us soon after the birth.  I feel ok about that because his parents are not pushy and I know they would want to be there to share the moment with us.  I want the baby to be baptized and he wants the baby to have a naming ceremony and the ceremony where the baby receives its own Linga.  We do not know what ceremonies his brother’s baby will receive. 

 

We shall see…………

Celebrating Shivaratri

Today, Monday is Shivaratri. Satya and I went to the temple Saturday to commemorate the festival and it was very crowded! I’d never seen it so crowded before. On the way back and forth I peppered Satya with questions about the festival. Here is what I discovered:

Why:

He said that Shivaratri commemorates a man named Kanappa (literally Mr. Eyes). Kanappa was hunting one night and sitting in a tree. On the ground below unbeknownst to him was a linga, Shiva’s sacred symbol. All night Kanappa was dropping leaves on the ground and many fell on the linga. Shiva was so happy about this that he appeared before Kanappa. Kanappa shrugged off the meeting initially and just continued on with his life. As he told the story to others, they told him, “You met Shiva! You are so lucky!”. Kanappa then wanted to see Shiva again so he performed many devotions to Shiva and even decided to sacrifice his eyes to Shiva if only he could see Shiva again. He poked out one eye and was preparing to poke out the next when Shiva appeared again to him. Shiva told him not to poke out his eye and even restored the other eye to Kanappa. Thereafter, Kanappa became a loyal follower of Shiva.

Satya says that this story demonstrates how easily pleased Shiva is and how generous he is. Satya and his family emphasize that Shiva is a simple, generous god. Before I met Satya all I knew was that Shiva was the destroyer-that was it, only that one dimensional view. Satya also says that Shiva even has worshippers among the demons, something I can’t quite understand yet. From my observations so far, Eastern thinking does seem to hold more complexity/shades of grey than Western.

At the temple:

We arrived 10 minutes before the temple was supposed to close for the night, but everything was still happening. In one area, the priests had placed a linga on the back of the Nandi and were leading it around. The priests were also doing the usual ceremony with the fire, blessing hat, and blessed liquid (forget what the liquid is). I still have to improve my sipping abilities-I can’t drink the liquid from my hand gracefully yet as it still goes onto the floor and on my wrist and chin. Little girls wore their most colorful outfits as did some of the women. Satya was a little confused with one group because they were chanting “Narayana Narayana” near Shiva. This confused him because that is one of the names of Vishnu, not Shiva. I guess we will have to ask his parents about that one. Satya also made sure to ring the bell near Shiva area. This was a little difficult because there were so many people there and a lot of people wanted to do the same. A lot of parents would also hold their toddlers in their arms so that the toddlers could ring the bell too. I tried to stay close to Satya, but there were so many people that sometimes we got separated as we made our circuit to the altars of various deities. This time, I did not get the peaceful, holy feeling at the temple but I think that is because we rushed to get there, had to deal with the crowds, and after all that only stayed for 20 minutes.

Last year we went to a small, North Indian temple for this festival. It was a lot different there. There, people poured milk over the linga and then in the main room people were chanting. Satya had no idea what they were chanting, but Saturday at the South Indian one he didn’t know either exactly all that was happening. Last year on Shivaratri was the first time I’d ever been to a Hindu temple and the first time we’d gone together.

Celebrating at home:

Satya called his parents and sister and told them we were going to the temple for the festival. His sister mentioned he was supposed to fast for the day. He sort of followed this because after our usual breakfast of oatmeal we didn’t eat a full meal until the evening. We also made sure we took showers right before we left because being clean is so important for Hindu celebrations. Satya mentioned wanting to bathe the idols we have in the house, but we didn’t get to that this time. In India, his parents had some family members over at their house. All in all, Shivaratri seems to be a smaller, quieter festival compared to some of the other festivals although Wikipedia mentions people staying awake all night in prayer, listening to musicians and watching dancers.

Conclusion:

There is a lot about Hinduism/Lingayatism I do not understand yet. I still feel awkward going to the temple, but that is ok. There is a lot that Satya doesn’t know as well. We do what we can. We both think it is important to worship together and to support each other’s festivals and traditions.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day snuck up on me this year.  I don’t think Satya and I have anything huge planned for tonight.  In a few weeks it will be our first wedding anniversary so we more looking forward to that date.

When I was growing up, Valentine’s Day was celebrated with my mom’s family who lived less than a mile away.  We would go to my grandparent’s house for a big formal meal-nice china, real silverware, a glass or two of wine for the adults, 7 UP and a cherry for the kids, candles, and a beautiful flower centerpiece.   After the meal, we would open our Valentine’s.  This always had a certain hierarchy to it.  My grandfather would go to the mall to get Fanny Farmer candy for everyone.  They would come in red heart shaped cardboard boxes and inside have an assortment of candy.  My grandmother would get the biggest box of candy.  Then, my parents and my aunt would get medium sized boxes.  All of us kids would get the smallest size.  The four of us kids would also get Valentine’s cards from my grandparents, my parents, and my aunt. 

For us, Valentine’s Day was about gathering with the people we loved most and enjoying a nice meal and chocolates.

Scandinavian Humor

Today, my uncle from Iowa sent me an e-mail with a Norwegian joke in it.  If there is one thing that my Swedish-American uncles love, it is jokes about Norwegians.  Why?  I don’t know-proximity I guess.  Swedes make fun of Norwegians; Minnesotans make fun of Iowans or Wisconsinites.  The joke below pokes fun of the Norwegian accent, but the Swedish accent is nearly identical to the Norwegian accent. 

 

Below, is the joke.  Do not read if you have delicate sensibilities or do not like earthy humor.  Hope you enjoy it!

 

A Norwegian fella wants a job, but the foreman won’t hire him until he passes a little math test.  
Here is your first question, the foreman said.  ‘Without using numbers, represent the number 9.’  
‘Without numbers?’  The Norwegian says, ‘Dat’s easy.’ and proceeds to draw three trees.  

‘What’s this?’ the boss asks.
‘Vot! you got no brain?  Tree and tree and tree make nine,’ says the Norwegian.  
‘Fair enough,’ says the boss.  ‘Here’s your second question.  Use the same rules, but this time the number is 99.’  
The Norwegian stares into space for a while, then picks up the picture that he has just drawn and makes a smudge on each tree. ‘Dar ya go.’  

The boss scratches his head and says, ‘How on earth do you get that to represent 99?’  

‘Each of da trees is dirty now.  So, it’s dirty tree, and dirty tree, and dirty tree.  Dat is 99.’

The boss is getting worried that he’s going to actually have to hire this Norwegian, so he says, ‘All right, l ast question.
Same rules again, but represent the number 100.’  

The Norwegian fella stares into space some more, then he picks up the picture again and makes a little markat the base of each tree and says, ‘Dar ya go.  Von hundred.’  
The boss looks at the attempt.  ‘You must be nuts if you think that represents a hundred!’  

The Norwegian leans forward and points to the marks at the base of each tree and says, ‘A little dog come along and pooped by each tree.   So now you got dirty tree and a turd, dirty tree and a turd, and dirty tree and a turd, vich makes von hundred.’

‘So, ven do I start?

 

A joke that my grandmother wrote down in her booklet of favorite poems is about another Norwegian.  She used to listen to the radio and copy down her favorites in a small notebook.  This one is very common and people throughout the Midwest have recited this one for generations.  Some people even turned it into a song!

 

My name is Yon Yonson
I come from Visconsin
I work in the lumber mills dere;
Ven I valk down de street,

all de people I meet,
say, “Hello, vat’s your name?”

(repeat ad nauseam)

 

My dad and my uncles can do those jokes in wonderful fake Swedish accents.  They grew up around people whose first language was Swedish-my dad’s dad for example lived in an isolated Swedish-American farming community.  He did not learn English until he went to school and he and his brothers and sisters retained a slight Swedish accent throughout their lives.  Unfortunately, my siblings and I can’t replicate very authentic Swedish accents. 

 

Then, of course are the old Sven and Ole (and sometimes Lena too) jokes.  There are some jokes that say that Sven and Ole were old batchelor farmers that lived together.  That is another standby of Midwestern culture-the old bachelor farmer.  Unlike India where nearly everyone gets paired off (in Satya’s family there was one aunt that never married, but she was over 6 feet tall so perhaps that is why and another who never married because she was blind), there have always a substantial minority of Swedes and Norwegians that never married.  My grandmother had three bachelor uncles that lived together.  Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion website has a whole bunch of jokes submitted by listeners.

Finally, I will end with my grandfather’s Swedish tongue-twister.  He used to amaze all of us with this feat.  (The “sj” sound is unique to the Swedish language and one that trips up nearly all non-native speakers).  Sadly, no one else in my family can now recite it.I myself can’t recall the exact one, but it did involve that sound and seasick sailors.  Here is one version I found: sjuttiosju sjösjuka sjömän sköttes av sju sköna sjuksköterskor, which means 77 seasick sailors were nursed by seven fair nurses.

I’m not sure how much longer these jokes will last.  I think the only ones to tell my future hypothetical kids Sven and Ole jokes will be my dad and his brothers. 

 What are some of your favorite jokes?

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