The Question of Royalty

Part of living in a commonwealth country means we all go a little crazy when anything Royal happens. Well, most of us. I’ve been the both critical American arguing over a pint for “home rule”, and the secretly excited girl watching the Royal Wedding at 3 a.m. Overall, I find the role of the monarchy perplexing. Especially it’s role in Canadian society.

Indulging in a little Royal Wedding Skepticism

Upon reading the BBC’s article reporting on the Jubilee Events, I expressed my cynicism to Varun. If it hadn’t been before 8 a.m. (ie before he’s biologically capable of speaking in paragraphs), I’m sure he would have rebuked me properly. In fact, he mentioned something about service and dignity, commonwealth countries and rebellious Americans. Or maybe just a singular rebellious American.

And then, this rebellious American’s sister emailed me this lovely post about Queen Elizabeth II. It made me stop and consider how significant the Queen’s life has been, and how she really has weathered many storms and changes. With dignity. Which is a lot more than…well, pretty much everyone I can think of.

I admit, I’m still not sold on the idea. But Sarah, the author of the post, is right, “Throughout her reign, she has navigated the breakneck speed of progress and change in almost every area of our society, from culture to religion to technology to politics, with calm courage and dignity…Her status as sovereign has not exempted her from the deep sorrows that come upon humans, such as death, loss, grief, despair, even wayward children. She has made room in her life for deep romance and faithful love. She is sharply intelligent, wise, generous, dutiful, and insightful, reputedly in her personal life as well as in her national and international duty.”

So, let’s raise a cuppa to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

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A Tale of Two Drink Orders

Tall, soy, extra hot, earl grey tea latte with 1/2 the syrup. This is my Starbucks drink of choice. When I was at my parents house earlier this month, my sister and I did a coffee run on the way home from the hospital. Our orders were complicated, personalized and long-winded. My poor 19 year old brother Luke was melting from embarrassment as we rattled off drink orders longer than a haiku.

We start ’em young. My niece enjoying Starbucks. (Don’t worry, it’s just chocolate milk)

In contrast, when we stop for chai in India or are given it in someone’s home, it’s usually a simple process. No one asks if we want it, it’s simply provided, and sometimes sugar is provided for us to put in to our liking. No questions about size, milk fat, foam, shots of espresso. Everyone has chai. Everyone has the same type.

The tired looks are because it’s early morning, pre-chai consumption…

In my observations and in my reading about Indian culture, I’ve learned that in India (and many Eastern cultures), the emphasis is on the communal. Rather than our Western emphasis on individual differences and uniqueness, Indian culture tends to emphasize the group as a whole.

In truth, these emphases are deeply ingrained. Although I know this intellectually, when I entered Starbucks last week with my in-laws, I just assumed a Western stance and asked them a series of questions about their impending coffees. The resulting confusion reminded me that while we are similar in many ways, our cultural assumptions are an integral lens through which we see the world.

This is part of the fun and the complexity of marrying out; discovering that our gut reactions and instincts are sometimes quite different. The Eastern value on the group challenges me to reconsider the significance I place on the individual.  Where I see trees, Varun sees forests. Where I see seven individuals with similar height and fuzzy hair, Varun sees my family. Sometimes this is disorienting. Sometimes this is frustrating. Lots of the time, it’s enriching. These days, I happily accept mugs of chai whenever Varun makes it; in turn, he has developed a preference for his own sentence-long Starbucks drink.

Leslie Newbigin, in his discussion of the difficulty of assessing one’s own culture, quotes this Chinese proverb,

“If you want a definition of water, don’t ask a fish.”

Re-Runs

These days, life is full of family gatherings and life moments—graduations, banquets, the death of my Grandma, 2 birthdays and Varun’s parents visiting. I have so many thoughts about my intercultural upbringing, the Italian passion for food which borders on pathological, and the beauty and fragility of life.

Unfortunately, processing the meaning of life, mourning and engaging in marathon eating sessions has left me little time to blog. So, I dug up an old post to share. Over Eager is straight out of the archives and sheds a bit of light on my first interaction with Varun’s parents.

Happy Reading!

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