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

Paris

p.s

follow me on twitter @ohparis

 

 

 

A sad snowy day

At 23, I’ve lived a pretty varied and well-rounded life.
So it’s interesting that the experience of living in Canada has exposed me to a lot of ‘first-offs’.
First snow, first skate on a lake, first Christmas away from home, and today, a sad first:

first funeral.

Tragically, two friends of mine from camp lost their mother yesterday.

Though it is of course an awful situation, it was amazing to me to see the way the community responded and with such rapidity. The majority of my friends in Toronto are Jewish, and so the service today was different from those that I have seen depicted in movies (the root of my funeral knowledge).

At the service, a huge group of people turned out to pay their respects, so many in fact that people had to stand at the back of the room. Every one signed a book when they entered, and the majority of men donned Kippah’s. The service included prayers in Hebrew, and my two friends and their older brother spoke about their mother, who sounds like she was a pretty awesome Mum and member of the community. The prayers were repeated in English, and though not a religious person myself, the sentiments carried through the service affected me deeply. The Rabbi spoke about leaving the service and remembering to take each day as a blessing, trying to let the service change you a little bit to be a bit more thoughtful to those around you.

This is something that I will try to carry away.

We travelled in a procession (police escort) twenty minutes from the funeral home to the cemetery. It was a beautiful day full of sunshine and crisp winter air, with fresh white snow on the ground. At the gravesite, the Rabbi explained that the final kindness you can pay someone who has passed away is to shovel dirt onto the coffin, first three times with the back of the shovel, to signify that this is not a pleasant task, and then from there with the front side of the shovel. It was a very big group surrounding the plot, and so many people were there to shovel that they did the entire thing (apparently sometimes they use a machine to push the dirt in to bury the coffin completely.)

In Jewish culture, after someone dies, they hold a ‘Shiva‘ at a relatives house. Unfortunately I have been to a Shiva before, recently, when another friends Grandfather passed away. At a Shiva, as far as I’m aware, there are times when you can visit the family and pay your respects. There are refreshments and nibbles. Mirrors are covered as a grieving family is not meant to look in a mirror.

And so after the cemetery we grabbed some lunch, and then went to the Shiva. We had not had a chance to speak to our friends at the service or at the burial, obviously. But a Shiva is like a Wake, I guess, and it was nice to be able to share a drink and a hug with my friends in this devastating time. It was a moment to just be around, talk about stuff. To try to make them smile and tell them that you are around, and available.

It was my first funeral, and first Jewish funeral, and the whole thing just struck me as being about love and community and celebrating someone’s life, while also mourning their death.

Life is a series of events from start to finish, Births, Birthdays, Graduations, Weddings, Funerals.

Today will remind me to love each moment, to be grateful for the good, the bad, the difficult, the easy, the dull and the bright because all these things make up a full life, and a full, healthy and happy life is all you can hope for in the end.

P

The Hole-eee-day Season

Ah Christmas! My favourite time of year. I am so into the holiday season that I have gone and neglected my (current) only creative outlet for ten whole days. Bad Me. I’ll punish myself by drinking the rest of this carton of Eggnog and eating that wheel of Camembert. I hope I’ve learned my lesson!

But seriously, there is something joyous about the gluttony of the season. The pretty lights. The present’s. The Christmas Tree. And of course the Carols. This year I had Michael Buble’s Christmas Special on repeat – which I thought was appropriate, his being Canadian and all, and this being my first Canadian Christmas.

I love the holiday so much that I ended up spending a fair chunk of change on the experience this year. It was my first 25th of December away from “Home” and so I don’t know if I was trying to recapture the childhood spirit of the season that my parents instilled in me, or if the Christmassy stuff was for my Christmas guests, mostly Jewish. I definitely wanted the boyfriend to get a sense of Christmas as it felt to me as a kid, lots of sparkly baubles about, Candy Canes, Ginger bread house (which he punched later in the evening as a way to break it for the guests…bloody knuckles aside it WAS pretty hilarious) and just a general Merry feeling. I think I pulled it off sufficiently well.

I was never really raised with religion in my home. I attended a Church of England school in Sydney (so I do know a number of the religious christmas songs + Christian prayers) for a few years, but the International schools which were responsible for the majority of my education were non-demoninal. So it is interesting to be amongst the Toronto Jewish Community (a vast presence here in my world), who have been nothing but accepting and welcoming. I have (sadly) been to a Shiva to pay my respects to a close friends late Grandfather, I have been to Rosh Hashana dinner, Hannakah dinners and Shabbat’s. So it was great to finally have a traditional thing from my childhood that I could share with my new friends.

We were definitely lacking in some of the finer Australian Christmas traditions (BBQ seafood lunch in the hot sunshine) or even more American style, Hong Kong Expat Christmas lunch, (Turkey or Ham with roast potatoes and pumpkin) and instead we kind of made an amalgamation (due to my hesitation to be in the kitchen all day). We had pigs in blankets (Z is from England and apparently that is what they eat there, mini-sausages wrapped in bacon – although ours were wrapped in pastry) Chicken with tomato spicy sauce, Roasted Asparagus with cheese and Roasted Potatoes with kosher salt and other secret ingredients. Boyf did all the cooking while I did the hosting/drink filling and despite the very random food and conversation, Santa did visit, and we did have a Merry time.

I hope next year, If I’m here next year, that it snows, and we do a proper Ham or Turkey.

But we’ll see! Maybe if I’m a very, very good girl and not quite so naughty….