Wednesday, March 23, 2011

thoughts on being a cultural patchwork of a family...

My sister is in town right now, bringing with her a taste of South Asia. I get into my car and the radio is set to Radio Fun Asia, and I hear commercials about deportation and immigration, shipping packages to India, and the latest scores from the cricket world cup. On Sunday we went out to our favorite biriyani restaurant and had naan and chicken boti and biriyani and daal. I found her awake this morning, following the upset of the West Indies by Pakistan by streaming the cricket world cup live on the internet. Urdu phrases sneak into the conversation, like little nods followed with, "jie ha" (or however you say it).

I love it.

It has me thinking about this patchwork puzzle of a family that I'm in. My sister brings the winds of South Asian culture. The two that have spent a few years over there are permanently changed and formed by their years there, and so the culture, in some small way, goes with them. I know this because I am the same way with Indonesia. I still eat with a fork and spoon, I still make rice multiple times a week, Indonesian phrases are worked into my daily life, and I sing Indonesian lullabyes to my baby. How strange is it that we are siblings and yet we bring two different cultures into our family? And then there's my dad, grown up in a stereotypical American family and nurtured by pop culture media. Because of him we sing old Aunt Jemima syrup jingles and are obsessed with Bill Cosby. My mom recently told us how much she loves the classic McDonalds shamrock shakes. And now my brother and sister bring in a bit of the hippie out-doorsyness of Portland, and us Chicago-ites bring a great love for the city culture.
It is a strange thing to be a family of many cultures in ONE immediate family. At first it can seem sad - that my sisters have a whole world in South Asia that is an ingrained part of their lives that the rest of us siblings have only seen on one vacation. And yeah, I sometimes wish we had all experienced everything together.

On the other hand, I just love our crazy variety of experiences and cultures. I love that it makes us unique, that it's given us a taste of so many places and cultures. I love the strange things about us, the snippets of Indonesian and Urdu and Spanish....

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