Monday, November 4, 2013

Show Yourself

In the Milpitas library, I meet Jennifer every Thursday and Friday and we go through our English lessons. I have been teaching her for more than a year now as part of the library's volunteer tutor program. This time, we've picked up a book on inter-cultural communication and the chapter talks about the importance of self-disclosure when you talk to a person of a different culture.That strikes me as important. Here, in the Bay area, cultures collide and sometimes interact in wonderful ways. Talking directly about what you think and revealing who you are becomes important because people can have preconceived notions based on your ethnic identity. 

I get to practice this when I meet someone at a photography class I am taking. I tell her that I have had an arranged marriage. I ask her what she thinks an arranged marriage means. I clarify that my arranged marriage in not the same as a "forced" arranged marriage. That I could have said Yes or No to marrying my now husband. That it was just like a date at first, only arranged by my family. This self-revelation causes her to answer likewise. She tells me about an Indian friend who grew up here in the U.S, who had a "real" arranged marriage with a man who is ten years older than her. She tells me about her friend's husband - how he is very controlling - as well as the fact that her friend works and maintains a separate bank account and tries to live her life as well as she can. She also talks about her own Mexican heritage and the way men treat women in their culture. At the end of the conversation, I feel positive about the fact that I helped her see who I am, even if just a little bit. Talking with her also shows me our similarities, and that makes me feel less alone. 

Loneliness is something that creeps in assiduously every now and then. I've had an attack of it recently because I've missed a cousin's wedding that happened in India and have been imagining all the future events I will potentially miss. In transition, I am finding that it's important to focus on the right things - connections you can make in the here and now, things that you can do to stay connected with family back at home, and also forming a deeper connection with yourself. Without these anchors, it's easy to feel disconnected and lose your footing.          


  1. Replies
    1. In this case, just explaining the context you are coming from. Arranged marriage is not very well understood here, and is sometimes confused with a forced marriage. So, explaining something you know could be misunderstood and which you are comfortable sharing - that's what I mean here.