Posts Tagged ‘culture’

communication issues within the family

June 13, 2012

Hmm, I seem to be posting now more than ever and I am so busy. But, I think it helps to post when I am thinking about things. then, I go back to packing.

this post has nothing to do with packing, however. It has to do with language and family.
I have a family reunion on Saturday. I’m bringing vegetarian baked beans and samosas (if I can get to the store in time). DH figured that we should not have to bring anything. after all, we have a little baby, we are coming from far away and… … yes, the most common excuse, “We are blind.” My mother told him that if he / we did not bring food for the pitch in, she would make sure that he would not get any of her strawberry banana dessert (which he loves enough to ask her to make him a bowl to take home). My SIL will also be down that day. She is coming on Friday and will stay until Tuesday. She, her driver friend and her little baby Ayaan will come with us to the event.
My mother rarely “makes a request,” she just “tells people what to do.” And, so, she told me (on several occasions) to tell DH and Sil that she did not want them to speak Urdu during the reunion. Often when she calls, DH is on the phone with SIL and she can hear him in the background. He always speaks to her in Urdu, even though both of them are very proficient in English. I have to admit that it bothers me, as well. when they are talking on the phone, I am not as annoyed, but when she comes to our house and they both talk in Urdu — Or Punjabi (which is why it would be pointless for me to learn Urdu, if my only aim was to understand what they were saying) it is annoying. I find it rude. It says to me:
We are “choosing” to leave you out of our conversation. This dialog is only between us two special people and we have a wonderful special bond that you can’t and won’t share with us, no matter how much you try. and, I have had more than one person ask DH when he and his sister are out: “are you husband and wife?” That is, they think that DH and his sister are married — not DH and me. /This special communication doesn’t help any. although my whole family knows that DH and I are married, it just proves how exclusive it makes DH and his sister look. They do have a very very very (can’t say “very” enough times) close relationship. It is somewhere between father/daughter and twin. “Twin” because they want to do everything together and have parallel lives. “Father/daughter” because many times, he will act like her father — taking responsibility for her and her decisions… … and before the feminists get all up in arms, know that it is “her choice.” Some women do feel better having a male figure be responsible for their well being and decisions. I can’t explain it.
OK, am I being a bit dramatic? Probably.But, I do think that it is rude when you are suppose to be socializing with others to exclude them from your conversation by “choosing” to speak in a language that they don’t understand. I keep emphasizing the word “choose,” because, it would be entirely different “if” they didn’t know English. But, they do.
and, if I am honest, some of these language Issues have stopped me from learning the language that I was so intrigued by from the start. I had good intensions to learn Urdu. I wanted to talk to my ILS and knew that they were not very proficient in English. I wanted to speak it to Azaan so that he would be bilingual. I had someone teaching me and we were making great progress. but:
DH would not talk with me on a daily regular basis so that I could get better. the rub is that: He’ll talk with his sister for at least two hours a day — mostly in Urdu. But, he can’t spend ten minutes helping me get better. I am not saying that he doesn’t want me to learn the language. I am saying that he doesn’t want to put any effort forth in helping me learn it, but he is perfectly fine sharing that lingual bond with his sister. Language is important enough for him to want to speak it on a daily basis — just not with a novice like me.
I could go on and on about my own feelings; but I am wondering (from you readers);
Is my family being too closminded? Are DH and my sil being rude? I’d love to ehar your opinions.

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My first Ramadan

October 7, 2010

One of my firsts!
September 3, 2010
I have not written in my blog for a while, but I wanted to write about Imran’s visit and the start of Ramadan.
People in MC relationships (Muslim/Christian) [No Christian offense because I put Muslim first, it is not a comment about dominant faith, etc] – [people are so sensitive].
Approach Ramadan differently.
My goal was to respect the fast and not eat because Imran was not eating.
But….
I wondered if I was kind of “thumbing my nose), because I was participating in a fast that was not mine to participate in.
Yet, I did not want to tempt Imran.
So, I ate/eat discretely.
I got up early to prepare a breakfast. I made some pretty flavorful food, but I knew that it was not authentic Pakistani food. When I did buy parathas, I seemed to burn them. My cooking&baking skills are disappearing and who knows why.
Imran came on August 8th and had a job interview on the 13th of August. He actually had one on the 10th of August for a Customer Service position and the one on the 13th was for a script writer/ assistive technology teaching position.
We were hoping for the latter interview to yield a job, but with today’s economy, we would take any job offered.
But, back to Ramadan:
So, I was thrilled that we were invited to one of his friends’ house to break the fast. This was on Saturday, the 14th, so we had already spent three days of Ramadan.
He had forgotten to mention (I think that “avoided the issue” might better describe it, but I am not quibbling on this point) that I have a guide dog. Fallbrook, my guide dog, can not stay at home when no one is there to watch him. It truly is like having a small child. But, we were invited to a traditional Pakistani home and the parents and even Imran’s friend was quite afraid of the dog. I strongly suggested that Imran go without me. I did not want to make anyone uncomfortable, but there was no one to watch Fallbrook. As reluctant as Imran was to bring up the situation, he was even more determined that I accompany him. We decided that I would take the dog: (the family said that it would be ok, as long as we kept him outside). And, I prepared for it. It was a bit hot, but I brought extra water. But, when we got there, it was suggested that we keep the dog inside, but in the entryway: where there was no carpet. It worked out rather well.
The family consisted of a mother and father,(who were visiting) their children, A., B., and C., (A and B are females) and C is a male and married to D. C & D also have a two year old son. D., C.’s wife, is an American. A will be getting married soon and moving out. B is blind and we talked lots about her GRE, Braille skills, etc. She has taught in Pakistan and we talked about some of the differences and resources that she could find here.
I expected to have a large Pakistani dinner. What I had was vegetable rice, biryani, chicken in a spicey sauce and some pita bread that served as Naan. Oh, and D and I ate a bit of fruit before the fast. She said that she was not fasting either. At first, I thought that she may not be Muslim, but, upon later reflection, I think that she is Muslim, just was not fasting that day.
It was wonderful to talk about cultural differences, compare Urdu notes and just enjoy the evening. Imran and I have not had much response in regards to finding people to take him to the mosque, etc. He had one Indian friend, but he went back to India. The last couple of calls to various mosques did not result in any contacts being made and no Mosque attendance.
Imran bragged about my urdu. I wish that he had not because I have not used it in a while and frankly, it is not that good at all! But, he cajoled me into singing one of our favorites, “Tayri Yaad” by Adnan Sami. Of course, he would sing it with me. The problem was that I know the song much better than he does. So, soon enough, his masculine voice ceased to resonate and, of course, I was on my own for a bar or two. They were impressed, I was embarrassed. .

The other intercultural couple sang Pakistan’s national Anthem… … put us to shame. I don’t even know it and could not pick it out.
Does anyone have a link?
No pakoras, no samosas, but the vegetable rice and spicy chicken was quite tasty! The biryani was a bit too spicy for me.
But, we thoroughly enjoyed the meal and the company!
I demonstrated my “I-Bill,” Thanks to Imran, I have a way to recognize currency.
It happened in Dallas. Someone thought that they gave me a $10, but it was really a $1. Now, I am not jumping to conclusions and assuming that there was any malicious intent. In the past, we would have to ask a sighted person the denomination of our currency and then fold it accordingly, so that we would not have to continue to ask all of the time. But, now, there is a small device that will read and speak the denomination. It is quite small. The end of the bill is slid into the device and it will announce the amount of currency. So, Imran bought me an I-bill, after my unfortunate miss hap in Dallas. And, I got to show it off! (smile)

We also visited one of our favorite restaurants “Magoo’s California Pizza,” which is Halal and owned by a Pakistani family.
We broke the fast with dates and a kind of sweet rosewater: … … Rahoofsa????
He had a place to pray and all was good.
We had a good time and went out by ourselves.
There is something “free” about not having to rely on someone else’s time frame.
But, we really did have to rely on the timeframe of public transportation, so we were not as “free” as I pretend.
(smile)
Yet, Ramadan celebrations were great: despite the fact that I could not provide him a “close to Pakistani” experience.

I realized two important things from this wonderful evening with the family.
I tend to give up too easily. Imran always looks for the compromise, he makes every attempt to make things work. For me: A “no” is a “no.” I take things for face value and try to work within that mind frame. Imran is always looking for the compromise. … even with people he barely knows. Many times, people are not as rigid as I might think that they are. And…. Each family has their own way of blending cultures. Some accept extended family into their homes and some do not. Some cook lots of Pakistani food and some do not. Some American counterparts learn Urdu and some do not. Some Pakistanis wear their traditional clothes and some do not. Some take frequent trips to Pakistan and some do not. It is whatever makes the couple and extended family feel comfortable. Certainly, I would not want Imran to lose his culture and/or minimize his customs. But, the specific blend is up to the individual couple. I think that I had been oversensitive to the fact that people might accuse him of “losing his culture,” or “assimilating.” Does a relationship with an American already mean that one is “assimilating into the American culture?” So, I have been trying hard to help him preserve his culture.
I am learning to relax a bit. Just as some enjoy a very strong cup of coffee and others enjoy a bit of coffee with their sugar and cream—
As some enjoy very spicy meals while others have a pallet for the more bland selections –
The blend is up to the family.
I can’t tell you that you are not a “real coffee drinker” just because you like lots less coffee in your cup than I do.
If each party makes every attempt to incorporate different blends, then one partner won’t feel as if their specific culture and traditions are being overlooked. It is important that people do keep certain treasures from their own culture. But, each individual person gets to decide “what” those treasures are and how to incorporate them into their new blended life.
I am not advocating choosing a dominant culture and forgetting another’s culture.
But, I don’t have the right to criticize someone else’s particular blend. If both participants are happy, then, it works for them.
It might not be agreeable to me, but I don’t have to live there and/or with such decisions.

In any case, the “friend finding” is slow. But, we are enjoying our ramadan.
And, I, as a Christian am praying more because I pray when he goes to pray.
I can already hear the opposition ringing in my ear about the differences in prayer, worship and so forth.
But, all I can say is that:
you make your compromises and I will make mine. Our Ramadan was good for a first year and I hope that it will get better and better as the years go by.
I thought that Imran would be disappointed that he did not have large Pakistani celebrations. But, for now, he is ok with it.
He is an eternal optimist and I am learning to appreciate this quality more and more.
(smile)

Oh, and he did get the Assistive Technology job.
It took lots of time to figure out the specifics.
It had to do with immigration, employment, CPT, form i94 (I think that was the number: I am already mixed up about the specific forms — there are so many), fulltime work, etc.
Whenever immigration laws rear their ugly head, some people are quite knowledgeable and others think that they are, but are not.
But, in the end, he works full time at
Bosma Enterprizes.
He teaches blind people how to use the computer and he is also working to make more programs accessible so that more blind people can join the work force.
He likes his work and his colleagues.
He started work on the 1st or 2nd of September.

peeling off the label

April 28, 2010

Anyone would tell you that I dislike labels for a plethora of reasons. I feel that they are constrictive, misleading and one way that we as a society limit and impersonalize people. Furthermore, rarely, can we escape the stigma of a bad one, yet we can easily be excluded from a supposedly positive label. While “blind,” might tell you that I am unable to see, it does not necessarily mean that I count my steps, am a good musician, feel faces of others to understand what they look like, am mentally incapable of understanding complex thought and/or wear sunglasses to hide my eyes. In fact, “Blind,” (unless one uses the adjective [totally]) does not mean that one has “no sight.” It means that one has less sight than the normal and probably due to this limitation has to make some modification in the way that they view the world. I know blind people who are able to drive in certain circumstances. So, for this reason, and many others, I find myself rejecting labels and the people that feel it necessary to use them.

Yet, I have a need to find a lable to describe my specific brand of christianity. I find myself searching for a label that will fit: not because I want a box to fit into, but because I want to find likeminded people to fit into the box with me. Sometimes, not having a specific label, means not having somewhere to belong. It means, not being able to proudly proclaim something and having others affirm you in your stance. Yes, the thing about labels is that many have been put into the category that you are placed into. It is easy to suggest that I create my own space and my own definition of what I am and what I believe. Yes, that is forward thinking and a good suggestion, as far as it goes. But, within that creation and definition, one stands alone and is many times misunderstood. What that suggestion is really saying is “Do your own thing and don’t be afraid to stand alone until someone else finds themselves in a similar situation and joins you — in which case, you will be creating your own label for you and others to fit into and inversely reject.” People don’t like a fluid concept of belonging. They feel much more comfortable understanding “who” belongs and “who does not. And, there are certain criteria for one to “belong” anywhere. I must be “blind,” to be integrated into the blind community. I must adhere to certain idiologies, if I am going to claim to support a specific political party. So, where does this new brand of faith leave me?

I have searched for a church from the time that I arrived in Indianapolis. Actually, the last thing that I did on my computer before I packed it up was to search for churches. One of the first things that I did when I arrived in this city was to start calling churches. Because of my interfaith connections, I had lots of questions to ask them about interfaith issues, as well as issues pertaining to disability, transportation, beliefs and so on. I left many messages. No church seemed to have a secretary and the ones that did, took a message and promised to give me a return call. The calls never came. An amazing thing is that Imran came down to see me one week later and found a Muslim taxi driver to drive him to my house for a small visit. He, with one call, found a Muslim man to help him, yet, my calling all week yielded nothing.

What is that saying?

I must admit to being a bit fearful of churches. Most are fundamentalist and know nothing about Islam and would certainly condemn me for dating a Muslim. It does not matter that there is other points of sin within the church that they do not deal with. And, who really cares, accept for the point that any mention of “Islam,” or “Muslim,” yields such a strong reaction that it is overkill. But, honestly, there is just too much for most people to accept. First, I am blind. Imran is blind. He is a Muslim. I have friends of many different cultures and am open to learning new languages, cultural customs, etc. I believe in the sanctity of life. I adhere to a more “socialist” brand of Christianity than most Americans are comfortable with. I need transportation to participate in worship and church functions. Oh, I am unemployed, so am not of the socioeconomic background that would allow me to lavish gifts of gratitude on those who assist me. That is more than enough for me not to fit into their religious community. So, I look online. And, I find myself trying to craft a new label for myself: one that adequately explains my spiritual beliefs and one that I can comfortably live by.

Check out my written articles and comment at:
http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/487125/jan_wright.html
“Bonds of the Heart should never be broken!”
“Dil kay rishton kay bandhan kabhi naheen tootnay chahiay hain!” — Urdu translation

Going Green

February 21, 2010

Green is used in terms of someone who is quite young and inexperienced.
Green is used for money and for environmentally safe products.
Only us in the intercultural and/or immigration arena knows (probably at first glance) that this is about a “green card).”

I can’t stand these “green card” comments. Let’s talk about it for a moment.
Yes, America does have many opportunities and yes, many want to be here in America.
My first thought was to research and find blogs from others who married a man who just wanted a green card. I hoped to find some trend, some type of commonality in them. And, of course, declare myself exempt from this status based on the lack of that very commonality in our own relationship.
Well, first, even though I am 40 and probably should have an established career, I don’t. I have very little money. I make below the poverty line and therefore, can’t even be a sponsor for a guy who might want such an opportunity. And, I admit that, as of now, I am receiving some assistance from our Government to help me pay for the rent of my residence. Since immigrants and green card holders are unable to take advantage of any “means tested” programs (That is, any program where income, or lack there of, deems you eligible) I would be even more poor if we married without either of us working. I believe that the federal guidelines say that a sponsor must make above 18k and 4k for each additional independent that they support. They must also show their last three years of tax returns.
Sorry, I just don’t qualify.. … economic downturn, blindness, little experience, overpopulated social Science field… etc.
To find out more about green card scams and such, here is a good overview with references:
http://www.cis.org/marriagefraud/
I am a bit unclear about its authenticity. There are a couple of grammatical mistakes. I don’t agree with all of the proposed suggestions stated in the conclusion of the article.
Yet, it was quite an informative read.

For the sake of this article, I am not talking about:
mail order brides (actually, it is not illegal to arrange and pay for a marriage partner: it becomes illegal when one person does it for the purpose of coming to America and then abandons their marriage partner when they get the green card. Thus, their intentions are not genuine) [those women who may have married to come to America, yet stay in their relationship for whatever reason are not counted],
marriages that take place on a travel illusion(exotic places usually have a romantic feel and stir up lots of feelings in the travelers, thus, should not be good occasions to make life-altering decisions) or
internet dating where one person is out of the country.

There are actually two types of green card fraud. And, for the sake of this lengthy post, I will only discuss the type in which one partner (the American — or I suppose, it could be British also) could be deceived.
Now, let’s get to a few questions that you might want to ask the man or woman of your dreams before deciding to marry. These questions will also help you know more about him or her and give you insight into their thoughts, feelings and motives.

*find out about their childhood. Listen to their stories of their family, school life, culture, place of growing up and other relevant events that have thus far happened to them. Even the most boring life has felt disappointments, joys, anxieties and a strange relative or amazing event or two. Find out what values that their family passed down to them.
Is there any interesting story about his/her family or his/her birth?
What kind of house did he/she live in?
Who were the neighbors?
What are your sweetheart’s favorite and worst memories?
What is his/her favorite food that his/her mother use to make?
When (and for what) did he/she get disciplined?
What kind of child was he/she: (happy, sad, moody, adventurous, rebellious, inquizative, etc)?
What was your sweetheart’s largest disappointment?
When did he/she make his/her parents proud?
How many siblings and what are their roles in the family?
What was the one thing that his/her mother spoke most often about?
What significant events happened at school?
Who were his/her friends? What were the different characteristics of his/her friends? [Who had the wealthy family? Who was always anxious? Who was always the rebel? Who moved away?] Did they get into mishaps?
Did your love get his/her heart broken before? What were the details?
What did he/she do to test the waters of independence?

*careers/goals/achievements:
What kind of jobs did your sweetheart do?
What kind of goals does he/she have?
What is his/her dreams?
What were his/her family’s goals/dreams for him/her?
Has he/she had any previous issues with money?

*practical life:
Live near your darling. See if his/her words match his/her actions.
What does he/she do to relax?
Does he/she talk to you about his/her feelings, emotions, desires, etc?
What does he/she do when he/she is angry?
How does he/she express his/her excitement?
What annoys him/her?
What amazes him/her?
What are his/her hobbies? Try doing them with him/her– or at the least, watching him/her enjoy them.
What are his/her favorite places to visit(coffee house, which friend’s house, relative, place of worship, certain vendors, etc)?

I have talked about values, faith and money in previous posts, as well as marriage expectations and cultural communication.
These are all things that one should understand before they marry someone.

Let’s talk about time!
When dealing with someone who is on a visa, time is a part of the picture. Yet, a relationship takes “time” to develop. So, it is quite common for two people to meet and by the time they have developed a significant relationship, one’s visa has almost expired. Certainly, it could be that the immigrant (especially if they are on an f-1 student visa or opt [optional practical training] visa) will be coming upon some life changes and decisions. Naturally, this could make one insecure of their future. Americans experience this and they have the luxury of relying on family nationally. This must magnify with an international student who is (appropriately so) examining and adjusting their life and career goals. Afterall, their American counterparts are also deepening relationships and getting married. Just because time is a factor doe snot mean that your sweetheart is wanting to marry you for the green card.
You might have met, fallen in love and then realized that time is of the essence. Your beloved’s intentions may not have been (and/or are not) to stay in America. Yet, their desire to do so deepens with your relationship. Many who are not in such relationships will say: “Let him/her work out the visa issues and then marry.”
But, what if those issues mean that he/she goes back to their country of origin? Are you ok with having a long distance relationship until you can file a fiancee visa and hope that he/she can come back into the country? What if your wedding date is set with the hopes that everything will work out. Then, three months before the wedding, he/she must return to their country of origin? What would friends/family say to you if you went to your fiancee’s country of origin to get married?
The truth is that people are afraid of getting scammed.
There is a real fear that foreigners want to usurp our opportunities and will use their politeness and charm (toward the american woman) or shyness and subservient nature(toward the American man) to obtain those opportunities. Americans are afraid of being conned by “those people” and frankly, foreigners have that stereotype stamped on their passport.. …. …. especially immigrants of Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, pacific islands and those of Spanish speaking countries.
All of this makes for a very complex web of situations and emotions.
Unless one has been in such situations, they should not speculate on what they would do.
It is not “black and white” as most people think.
Here might be questions to ask yourself:
1. is your partner with you so that he/she can get their green card; Or, are they getting their green card so that they can be with you?
2. If time was not a factor, would you be discussing marriage?
3. How well do you know your partner: This includes his/her goals, family, character and past? (But, this should be asked of all couples, not just international ones).
4. What does your partner think of America? Have you had discussions about the pros and cons of America and their country of origin?
5. If your partner had to return to their country of origin for a visit, would they be proud to introduce you as their spouse?

If your partner is doing something underhanded, such as deceiving you for a green card, he/she would not want to be found out and he/she might want to hide it from certain people who know him/her best. Also, talking about a visit to his/her home country might bring out more details about their life before “you” and reveal some interesting facts. Ultimately, we have to take responsibility for the decisions that we make.
Worse case scenario:
Imran is marrying me to stay here in America.
Well, I have been deceived before and while my heart will ache. I will move on.
That sounds cold.
I am just saying: scammers come from all countries and nationalities. If there are signs that I failed to see because my emotions had blinded me from seeing the truth(sorry for the puns), then, I must take my part of the responsibility and try to rebuild myself to move on.
Yes, harder done than said.
But, We Americans are not perpetual victims. Many times we have been the deceivers. So, we should not assume that every foreigner is trying to userp our opportunities and take what is ours.
That is a myopic way of looking at things.
If our relationship does not work out, it won’t be because I think that he has scammed me into marrying him.
I won’t be the helpless victim of:
a greedy crafty unscrupulous immigrant
or a mad man Muslim with caveman idiologies.
It is more likely that I will be the victim of xenophobic stereotypes that seem to live longer than the oak tree growing in my backyard.