I got to go back to the US for a week or so for my sister’s wedding, which was pretty incredible. They decided to go all-out Nepali for it, which made it even more fun with the pageantry involved.
Thing is, with Nepali ceremonies, all the actions you perform in the ceremony carry the consequence of having actually done what the ceremony says. So, for instance, there’s a part where the bride and groom put garlands around each other to choose the one they want to marry. If my sister suddenly decided to go rogue and throw it around a random parking attendant, I could’ve gotten free parking for life in the greater Boston area. Way to ruin that.
It was still really fun going through all the ceremonies and learning what all of it signified, though. It’s weird because it all seemed so natural to the members of my family that grew up in Nepal. Towards the end of the ceremony, there was a tug-of-war between the bride’s side and the groom’s side. My relatives all went “oh goody, the tug-of-war!” because they’d done it before. It took some of us by surprise though. At the end of it, the priest asked “Who won?” We responded “the groom’s side.” “Oh good,” he said. “That means he can marry you.”
I think he was joking, but it’s not really clear when you’re not familiar with the ceremony. If it went the other way, is it like accidentally saying “Why not?” instead of “I do” (not super consequential) or is it like filling out the marriage certificate in crayon with fake names (slightly more consequential)?
I’d been thinking a lot about how traditions define a culture when I got back over here, especially since it’s highschool graduation time out here now. They get all their students super drunk, load them up unharnessed onto the back of a truck that drives all over town, give them sailor hats and let them loose on the city for a week. It’s funny because several people I’ve met here saw one of those trucks go by and said “Oh, it’s that time of year again.” It’s just weird how blasé people were about it. “Yep. It’s drunk sailor kids in trucks season. Just between the time the fireflies return and the first snow.”
Thing is, if I grew up here, that would be totally normal too. As would all the ceremonies in the Nepali wedding if I grew up there.
So the other day was the 4th of July and I started thinking about that a little bit. We went to the beach and had a few beers, had a little barbecue, played some games and roasted marshmallows. American children who’ve grown up here would assume this is the general thing one does on the 4th. And it is. But then if they ever went to the US they’d probably be taken aback by the whole fireworks aspect of it and the scale of celebrations that couldn’t be delivered out here.
“Why are they shooting off fireworks?” “To tell the British monarchy to suck it!” “…what?!” “Isn’t it awesome?”
I think it’s kind of cool seeing these aspects of culture, really seeing the random things people take for granted and basking in the strangeness for a while. I like it because it highlights how arbitrary and random some of my own thoughts, beliefs, and habits are.
I had a choice a little while ago as to whether or not I wanted to keep trying to immigrate, or just call it a day and head home. These kinds of little insights totally make it worthwhile to stick it out, so I’ve decided to do what I can to stay. I’ve been doing more immigration research and am ready to fight for my independence, win the tug of war, and um…release my inner drunk child.