Love and Lost in Translation

Ever since my first kiss at the age of fourteen, there has been a noticeable trend in the boys I have harassed. To say that they were all Asian would be to be forgetting Rick, my boyfriend of three weeks in Year 10 who was actually Canadian, Adam, who was half, David who was a quarter, Roger who was old-school Hong Kong British and of course, current Boyfriend Jered who is totally Canadian (thank god, says my slightly (and by slightly I mean occasionally and surprisingly) racist 88 year old grandmother who has never made it a secret that she’d like the shade of her great-grandchildren’s skin to be on the white side. – I’m not sure that my Dad has told her she has two homosexual grandsons and that Jer is Canadian AND Jewish, because really…what is she going to do with that information?)

“When I was your age, the Black people had to sit at the back of the Bus!” – My Grandmother, 2005.

Isn’t it surprising that racism and intolerance like that exists outside of people her generation? Although it is not totally forgivable in my  Grandmother (who, it has been pointed out to me, became very wealthy through her business dealings with the Japanese when my Grandfather owned a sporting goods store), she is an old lady who’s field of understanding and acceptance to new ideas has shrunk to the size of those god-awful ‘Current Affairs’ type programs that air in a specific time-slot to terrify little old men and women who go to bed at 6pm.

The idea that one might move to Asia with ones girlfriend (and subsequently wife), was, I’m sure, shocking to my Nana and Dah at the time that my parents did it (in the eighties). To have a new born there, let alone 3 and raise them all there seemed out-of-this-world, I am sure. Until a few years ago when one of my first cousins moved to the UK and my Dad’s cousin and his family moved to Singapore, my five person family unit was really the only one on my dads side that didn’t live in the Western Australian City of Perth.

But my rant today is not about my Grandmother, or the City of Perth (you’re alright Perth…look, you gave us the Wiggles!) but is instead about loving someone from another culture or country and the challenges that one may face.

It’s no great stretch to live in Canada as an Australian. SURE I feel like the popular kid at school because of everyone LOVES my accent (even though mines not so strong – must fake it to win friends) and yeah it IS pretty weird that I live on the opposite side of the world to that cute little island country who’s passport I posses, but really, there are lots of similarities between Aussies and Canucks and that is why they get along so well, and also why 99.5% of the population of Whistler is Aussie. We like you – you like us. It’s win-win.

So it’s weird when people think it’s weird that I live here. One of the first assumptions people make is that I moved here because of a boyfriend. When they find out about Jered, they nod their heads and go “ooooohhhhhh okay.” Like that’s the only reason for globalization and travel…to move your entire life from one side of the world to the next… for love. Hey! I’m not knocking it. One of my best friends is moving here in 7 days from the UK and one of the big factors is the love of her life that she has been long distance dating for two years. No big deal!

Just not my deal.

Don’t get me wrong, having a cool, hilarious boyfriend is a big plus on the Toronto experience. I won’t make your eyes turn to pus and melt by outlining exactly HOW cool and sweet and hilarious and adorable my boyf is, because, that’s just annoying when people do that, and that’s not why you came here. You came here for angry sweaty ranting, and that is what you shall have.

There have certainly been some strange moments between us as a couple. Probably the most surface issue is getting used to each others language and word usage.
J: Garbage
Me: Rubbish
J: Sweater
Me: Jumper
J: Ketchup
Me: Tomato Sauce (which always leads to the debate, “then what do you call Tomato sauce – like for pasta…Me: um…Pasta sauce?)

On these occasions I am left thinking of the scene in ‘Love Actually’ where dorky ‘Colin Frissel’ goes to Wisconsin and meets babes, and they all sit around laughing at each others pronunciation “Table!…oh its the same…”

But there is more to it for P+J than mere lol’s at language. J is Jewish, (as are most of my friends from my summer camp job) and as a result, I have been exposed to, and included in, lots of Jewish customs. I just had my 2nd Rosh Hashanah experience (which by the way – I still had to google to figure out how to spell).

I was TERRIFIED when Jered invited me this time last year. Okay, it was partly the idea that I would ruin the entire religious event by doing something embarrassing like…I don’t know…eating pork? (turns out J is more culturally than religiously Jewish and is actually an atheist and he loves bacon and all that jazz- phewph) and partly because I’d just started dating the guy and was suddenly going to meet his ENTIRE family (cousins, aunts, grandma et al). I spent quite some time researching online about apples and honey and stuff. I bought his Grandma some weird apple tea thing, and I think they thought it was really cute that I was trying.

The most frustrating thing for me over the last year was always feeling like a Class A moron when I didn’t know things that everyone around me just assumed I’d know. I had almost no religion in my life prior to being included in Jewish stuff, (although I did attend a Church of England Private School for four years when we lived in Sydney and had been to church on Easter) I had never been to a funeral before and never celebrated any holidays except for Easter (Chocolate eggs and the Easter Bunny!) Halloween (LOLLIES!) Christmas (PRESENTS AND SANTA!!) and New Years Eve (Booze and fireworks!)

So I had a lot of eye-opening learning experiences, like going to a Sedar (also had to google spelling) at passover and being presented with a plate of herbs and a bit of bone. (Jer..Jer.. do…we eat that stuff?) Or wishing everyone a Merry Christmas once before they all went on vacation…duuuuuurrrrp.

It hasn’t been a struggle, that’s not what I am getting at, but with a relationship where cultural exchange is involved, there is always going to be periods of adjustment, times where patience will be required, times where sensitivity must be employed. There are times where things are so different, you are coming from such different backgrounds of understanding, that the only thing you can do is laugh hysterically and move forward. And then you’ll find all the common ground you share and it will be a wonderment, that two people can grow up in such vastly different settings, on different parts of the planet, and still enjoy the same things.

End Rant



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4 thoughts on “Love and Lost in Translation

  1. Hi sweetie. nana does know that she has one gay grandson, though not two. I think she probably doesnt remember which anyway. Incidentally, she turns 90 on October 7th. I dont remember you having a boyfriend “Rick”. Must have blinked.
    I think it unfair to describe nana a fullt racist. She does harbour painful memories of the Japanese who in the war killed her first two fiancees in a very uncivilised tho lets not dwell on the horrors of our ancestors. Nana’s views are based on her generation’s experiences of “mixed” marriages. Stories of one of the happy couple had to convert before the others parents would let them marry. And of one parent secretly confirming the children into their religion without the others knowledge. I dont think she has anything against Jewish people – one of her fiancees might have been jewish in fact. My view, like yours is to treat religion as irrelevant, and avoid religious fanatics.
    I would like you to remember your nana, and especially dah, as being ahead of their times. In the sixties (try to imagine that – I was only a small boy thats how long ago it is) dad started importing goods directly from Japan, Taiwan and Pakistan. They travelled to there in 1966 or 67. Dad maintained a friendship with Joe Yamamoto,a japanese from Broome, whom he met possibly at school (ie. before WWII) and he was the trade link.
    Dad thought war was stupid, and hated the dogmatic command style of the army. yet he quietly did his duty, luckily getting into the artillary stationed at Swanbourne and Rottnest, so avoided any fighting. Instead he put his beliefs into action, ignoring racial and ethnic prejudices, again without trumpeting them. Dad’s first wife was a catholic (horrors!). can you imagine his pain when the catholic policy at St John of God hospital was to choose to save the child over the life of the mother when the birth became difficult?
    So you should recognise that the liberal beliefs you now have, have roots going back generations. They kept the truth silent and to themselves. maybe you are the one to activate and change that with your gifts.
    Love Daddy

    • Dad! Thanks for shedding some more light on Nana and Dah. I hope my blog didn’t come across as too Negative towards Nana. It is a jokey tone I employed. Is she 90 this year!? Wow! I got my wires crossed! That’s insane. Feel as though I should be coming back for this and feel like a terrible granddaughter for not knowing! I realize that to have had such a liberal and cool father like you, it must have begun somewhere – Nana and Dah. I love Nana from afar and although have never lived with her or really gotten to know her, I hope she knows that I love her and hope she loves me too. It is sad to learn that Dah’s first wife died under those circumstances. I always knew that Godfreys mother died in childbirth, I just didn’t realize that a choice like that had been made. But the universe unfolds as it should huh? And we wouldn’t be here otherwise. Nana had a Jewish Fiance?! WEIRD! But cool!

      Love my family so much Papa – always make that quite clear in all my blogs – and if it’s not clear enough I shall definitely have to remedy that!

      • No offence taken. I just wanted you to know more about them. In fact I thought more about it too.
        On nanas side, the Brinkmans, there is an interesting pacifist side too. Mums grandfather, your great grandfather, Martin Brinkmann came out to Australia in the 1860’s. Do you remember seeing a parchment that I framed which is his arrival papers? It says he came from Oldenburg, Germany up near Hamburg. Unfortunately there are at least two. When I studied German at school I wrote to the mayors to get information. But sadly they informed me many documents were lost during the bombing in the war. Nevertheless we have this old treasure.
        I suspect he came out for the goldrush, although his document says gardener I think. For some reason I believe he was a pharmacist. Ill have to reread it.
        Family lore is that they were nobility, Barons. Family lore has it that just before the WWI, he (or his son who was named Martin George Brinkman) were asked to return as he was now the oldest heir (due to some deaths obviously)and next in line. However, by this stage they were Australians, and although heirs to a large fortune and industrial company that amongst other things, made guns,, they declined. They were pacifists.
        When I was in Germany, I did notice a big brand called Brinkman who made whitegoods. So it adds up. Maybe they still made guns and artillery.
        So he gave up a fortune, but presumably was still the Baron. sadly he had only three daughters, Leslie, Jean and Mavis. I can only be passed to a son. Had Nana been a boy, as it were, ian would have been the Baron (not me 😦
        Martin died and was buried in the family plot at Guildford. Martin george, my grandad is buried there too along with some other relatives/ sisters / aunts. I remember my Grandad, Martin G as I was about 6 when he died. He lived in the sleepout of our house in Salvado Road, Floreat. he rolled his own cigarettes and coughed a lot. he died of emphasemia around 1962 or 63. Nana wishes to be cremated but I woulsd like to bury her ashes there and have the gravestone refurbished.
        Love dad

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