This year I have really learned to appreciate different cultures. This occurred to me as we drove home from dinner with my brother's girlfriend's Greek family. The meeting of the families is the prelude to him "putting a ring on it".
I've always had a curiosity about where other people come from - both their family origins and their opinions. This has increased this year. Perhaps the PhD study has really taught me to not assume anything and ask "why" and "how" without judgement. Perhaps its that thing about getting older; it is not that you know more, but that you appreciate what you don't know.
So with a belly full of Greek food lovingly cooked up by the Greek mother in law, and a head full of red wine, I started thinking. I have travelled extensively, but the memories I cherish are those where I have had a meaningful personal exchange with somebody of a different culture.
Sri Lanka - Meeting a Muslim family, being presented with beautifully wrapped gifts of tea. Seeing a traditional Dance.
Turkey - great family-style hospitality in the hotel, with the staff teaching me Turkish words. Getting scrubbed by a big strong Turkish lady in an Hammam. Hearing the strains of the call to Prayer from the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.
Singapore - meeting up with my "Singapore family" - the mother and sister of a dear friend of mine. We are the "Ang Mo" family. Ang mo literally translates to "redhead" and is the colloquial term for whitey! I now send text messages to my expat Singaporean friend in "Singlish".
I treasure having friends and adopted family who hail from overseas. It was such an honour to be invited to a friend's Sikh wedding, in a Gurdwara. The reception was held in the Grand Hyatt, but there was Indian music playing on the dance floor. The Bride's mum sang her daughter a traditional Punjabi song, which moved everybody to tears.
We had a dinner with my fella's PhD student's family, from Thailand. They were so proud of their daughter for getting a PhD, so proud of their cuisine, and so grateful to my fella for supervising. They bought wine and cake for the occasion, and took hundreds of "family photos" with us. They insisted we visit them in Bangkok.
Last night, our family finally formally "met" with K's family. This, as I mentioned, is a traditional prelude to betrothal. It was warm and exuberant and we had a wonderful time. My knowledge of 5 words of Greek made them improbably impressed.
So this might all sound a bit twee.
It just makes me really sad when I see, increasingly, xenophobic views being legitimised. The filth that spews from people's mouths (or facebook accounts) in the wake of what we saw in Sydney. It makes me think that people like that really have no experience with people of other culture. I have had a lot of experience with people for my years, both in a private and professional capacity. I can say that the vast majority of my exchanges have been positive. Not all of them have been pleasant, but these less pleasant episodes are instructive.
Off to enzed tomorrow, to see the Fella's family and then do some outdoorsy stuff.
I braved the sales yesterday - I was quite restrained. Got me a new pair of running kicks at 30% off. Also scored a necklace I had my eye on for less than half the original price.
I hope you have all had a great festive period. Hope your NYE is fun.
Have you bought anything in the Sales?
What are you up to on NYE?