Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Nomadic Makeover

He's a changed man...or should I say, he's an ever-changing man. 

I listened to Karma have a brief conversation in English on the phone tonight and it was a complete 180 from when he arrived 2 months ago. He made no mistakes, he listened, he answered, he joked, he asked questions...who IS this guy? 

It's THIS guy!!
This is Karma showing off his new clothes in a photo shoot whilst pretending to play American music....I wish you could've heard the actual singing. Priceless.

"This guy" (the new American, "young dude," Karma) is embracing life in the US on a whole new level. Not on the grossest level of throwing away all of his customs, spiritual beliefs and ideals, but on the level of integration and finding his place in this new and strange world that we call "home." 

What spawned such a sudden shift in energies? I blame it on the meat...which I blame on my father. Karma had his first taste of American flesh and now consumes it regularly. This was a hard thing for me to let go of, initially, but I've moved past it. At least he's not begging to eat at McDonald's or shop at Walmart. We cook in a lot and aren't cooking meat in the house, so he won't be headed for a heart attack this week, nor will I mourn daily. We've had some really grounded conversations about this, so I'm off of my high horse (for the most part).

Karma is totally into the Christmas spirit, mostly by shopping and mostly by shopping for himself! Ha! We spent last Saturday and Sunday out in the malls and even went to the holiday land of Macy's (downtown SF). I was initially dreading the parking, crowds, etc...but it was actually a great experience. He's taken an interest in fashion (not super seriously) and I'm intrigued to see where this will lead. 

He also gets really excited about sales! I explained that the AFTER Christmas sales are even better, but he showed serious concern that we might not have time to go shopping RIGHT after Christmas. I tried to tell him that these sales last for a while, but he didn't totally believe me. I hope we make it to a sale! If we don't, surely he'll say that I'm a bad "boss," which is what he refers to me as when I'm making the plans. He says my mom's a "better boss" than I am....I guess I still have a lot to learn. =)

We're heading back to Virginia on Monday night. We were talking about flying today and he said that as a young child in Tibet he would run into the house anytime he heard a plane, it was such a loud noise that it scared him. He also said he used to think about all the people who were flying around the world, since he'd never been on a plane prior to coming here, and where they were going, what they were doing, if they were happy or sad... Then he said, "Now I'm flying a lot. My life, I don't understand!" (as in, "how the hell did I get here!) We had a good laugh. 

Something shifted in me about a week ago and I feel totally comfortable and at ease with our relationship. Not to say that I was in total post-wedding panic, but whatever was residually there has since passed. I find myself thinking about how grateful I am to be married to this wonderful person. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Where to start??

Two weddings, one reception, crossed the country, back to work/school....it looks simple in writing!

Let me just say thank you to everyone. I can't say it enough these days and I'm hoping it won't lose its meaning. We have had an overwhelming amount of love, support, congratulatory words, gifts and the list goes on...

It has been, overall, an amazing experience and I think what has struck me the most is how grounded I've felt through it. I've only had momentary bouts of panic, spawned from something I've said, then Karma's reacted to. I seriously need to muzzle myself sometimes. Why do I act out of passion and not wisdom? (yes, I'm human).

Karma and I had a real heart to heart last night, one week after saying our vows at the spiritual ceremony in Virginia. I realized how much deeper our relationship can grow if I can (shut my mouth and) just open my heart. It's like this shield of ice I have built around it is starting to show signs of melting. I think being apart for so long really had it's toll on me, subconsciously, and I built ways of protecting myself from loneliness and the anguish of being far away from the man I love. In theory (or in my idealised mind), these doors would have just flown open upon the moment of reuniting with him...but that hasn't been the case, as you may have read in my earlier blog posts.

It feels kind of crazy to be writing about this instead of giving the nitty-gritty details of my wedding, but this blog has become an avenue for me to really be honest with myself and the people in my life and I appreciate it.

The truth is, I love Karma and I want to spend my life with him (good thing, since we're married!). It's not always going to be easy and that's okay. I'm truly realizing how sensitive he is to what I say and how I say it. He commented last night that he's always been able to let things roll off of him when people have said bad things to him (or about him), but it feels different coming from me. I told him that it's because he's in love with me and wasn't with them. We all go crazy in love. We had a good laugh.

So now for what you really want to hear about. The wedding!

Our ceremony in Virginia was really magical. There was a very small group of family & friends (about 15 people) and Anam Thubten Rinpoche, my meditation and Tibetan language teacher, flew out from Berkeley to officiate it. There was a mix of English and Tibetan throughout the ceremony, but Rinpoche explained everything so beautifully as he went along. Karma and I both cried when we said our vows, he said his in Tibetan and we passed out the English translation for people to read. It was beautiful. Karma likes to write poetry in Tibetan, so he's a wonderful writer. He's been published in Tibetan magazines for his Dharma writings before, too.

He has been telling all of his Tibetan friends (in India) on the phone that we had to kiss in front of the whole room of people. They all ask him if he was embarrassed and think it's the funniest thing in the world. The kiss he planted on me didn't seem too shy!!

The legal marriage ceremony in Oakland was simple and in a beautiful space. My mom was the official witness and a few friends came, too. There was a little panic at first because when the minister asked Karma if he wanted to marry me (before we even begun), Karma looked at me and asked, "What did he say?" The guy was talking too fast and Karma was nervous....so we ended up calling in a Chinese translator. Karma got pretty upset about that and said, "I'm Tibetan!" I haven't seen him react this way very often...needless to say we got married and all was well!

The reception was on Saturday and I'm SO glad my mom came back with us. She had insisted that I get a big tent, rent table clothes and hire a few acquaintances to work for the day--she's seriously a pro. Karma and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves with about 80 of our friends and ended the night with some epic karaoke (and an overload of amazing cupcakes).

I'm really in awe of my parents throughout this whole process. I thought it was crazy to take home a man they'd never met, who barely shares their language and doesn't share their culture, only to marry him 5 days later. Not only did they embrace him, but they made him feel as part of the family. We're going back in exactly two weeks for Christmas and I'm really happy! I feel really close with them and am so incredibly grateful.

P.S. Karma saw my hairdryer the other day and asked, "What is that?" I mean, how could I not love this man? AND he just tried to convince me that he went downstairs in his underwear (our roommates are watching a movie)...he thought it was hilarious. I love that he laughs the loudest at his own jokes because I do the same for mine.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pre-nuptial strip malls, big boots and liberty for all.

We made it to ye ole Virginny, landed Tuesday and have been strip mall shopping our way through Thanksgiving. Karma is a "good sport," as my mom likes to say, and has pushed carts, carried bags and not once complained since arriving. Miracle man? I think so.

He was particularly shocked to see Tibetan things for sale at World Market, although I'm sure it would make more sense to him if he actually knew the name of the store.... He got his first pair of shoes from DSW (shoe heaven from child labor?) and I can't get the man out of his sweatpants and slippers (he referred to them as his "best friends" last night). It's a little cold here, so who could blame the guy?

Today he met my Granny N. (dad's mother) for the first time. She's the one who co-sponsored him with me to come over here, and he said he felt "sad, but not in a bad way." I think he just didn't have the right word in English to describe his experience. He got teary eyed when they met and, later, kept referring to how it's his karma to be here (perhaps some may say "his fate")... I was continually amazed at how outgoing he was, talking to almost everyone today and really engaging them.

A lot of firsts this week. He'd never seen a four post bed before and asked if I would swing on them when I practice my "kung fu." He also learned how to use a whip cream can, which he'd never seen before. While doing a job for my mom this evening, he saw a kitty litter box for the first time and when we went to my grandparent's house and saw all my grandfather's cars (i.e. "projects") in the driveway, he asked, "How many people live here?"
For those of you that know my grandpa (one might say he's a "hoarder" of sorts), this could be particularly funny.

My mom asked him to say "grace" today before we ate and what he really wanted people to hear is that we should look beyond our religious differences and into our own hearts--he and I both got teary-eyed during that. He was thanking everyone for helping him come here, for being there today and for his first Thanksgiving meal (and, hopefully, not his last). He ate more today than I've seen him eat since he arrived, so I know he approved!

My parents have been so amazingly supportive, especially this week. They're really trying to connect with Karma and, I think, they're impressed with his efforts and enjoy his company. My dad gave the most touching speech before we ate, "welcoming" him into the family. I cried (duh). This whole experience has only brought me closer to him. As our wedding day draws nearer, I'm getting more and more excited. I'm not nervous.

While we're here, Karma REALLY wants to have our photo taken in front of the White House, which is something I don't think I've ever done. He even picked out an outfit for me while we were packing to come and said "You have to wear this when we have our photo taken in front of the White House. You'll look like a real American girl." For the record, a "real American girl" would apparently wear knee-high boots. He's in love with women's boots, which I just think is hilarious and adorable. Needless to say, I packed the boots and will wear the outfit in our White House photo, so stay tuned.

Tomorrow my cousins from LA are flying in for the wedding. They're the closest family I have to siblings (my only first cousins) and they have a 6 month old daughter, whom I've never met, but am an "auntie" to. My bet is that Karma will steal the child, or at least horde all the lap time he can get with her...the man loves kids. He also speaks to them in a mix of English and Tibetan and then looks surprised when they don't understand. Ha!

This adventure in familyville continues to unfold....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Diary of a Cavewoman

My name is Caroline and I'm an addict.

Well, this is true in many senses and, for those of you who've known me for a long time, know that I've been in recovery for almost 4 years (on the 27th of this month).

That said, I may no longer be addicted to alcohol or whatever sounded fun for a night, but I am certainly addicted to my emotions and to my self. This is what the Buddha described as the human condition....but before I start launching into some philosophical, self-analyzation, I'd better just cut to the chase. I can be such a bitch.

I'm bringing this point up in this particular instance because my dear, sweet, gentle fiance (very very soon-to-be-husband) doesn't know how to react when I'm speaking from a place of pure emotion (i.e. zero awareness) and when he doesn't react "the right way" (Don't be fooled! There IS no right way when I'm in that zone...it's a trap, Karma, run for your life!!!), well, that's when the fire-breathing, incoherent reasoning starts....and then snappy words, fueled by the adrenaline of anger and then, *AH* it happens...the high.

But we all know what happens when we have a high of some sort (have you ever eaten a doughnut?)...yep, we come doooooooown. And that's when the self-hatred and judgment of character come in...and before you know it you're recycling insults you've been using against yourself since you were 13.

How in the world did this whole rant begin, you ask? Hummus. Yes, you heard me right, the mashed up, chickpeas and tahini that taste delightfully salty.

Karma forgot to put his hummus from lunch in the refrigerator when he got home from school and it sat, unrefrigerated all day. And this, my friends, was when I proceeded to use my best cavewoman abilities to react.

Me: "You've ruined the hummus."
Karma: Silence with a very curious look on his face.
Me: "You're wasting my money. This hummus is ruined."
Karma: More curiosity and silence.
Me: "Whatever, it's no big deal." (meanwhile my body language is signaling that it's the biggest deal)

Karma leaves the room and doesn't return.

15 minutes later I go find him silently sitting in the other room studying English. Leave well enough alone you say? Clearly that's the best plan of action...but not if you're a cavewoman.

Me: "Are you mad at me?"
Karma: Silence and motioning me to sit.
Me: "Why didn't you tell me you were mad?"
Karma: Bewildered and silent.
Me (starting to get angry again): "We're both adults here--tell me when you're angry!" Then storming off.

*Sigh* This is very humbling to write out. It sounds absolutely ridiculous.

All will be well in the Rinchen-Netschert household, but when will I learn to think before acting like a cavewoman? And who will teach Karma to stand up to me when I'm having these "episodes?" Perhaps silence is the best answer.

Other than this evenings outburst, things have been truly amazing. The wedding is all planned. The reception is all planned. We're both excited to go to Virginia for Thanksgiving. We're leaving on Monday (11/22) are returning Thursday (12/2) with my mom in tow. I also created a wedding website, if you're at all interested.

Karma's been studying like crazy and his English is vastly improving. I'm so impressed. He isn't as shocked by American culture as much as when he first landed, well, besides the cross-dressed servers at the funky diner we went to last night. He couldn't keep his eyes off the guy in fishnet stockings with a blonde bob wig on (who looked very much so like a man in a dress). He wasn't judging him, he was just sooo intrigued.

He wrote a letter for his friend to give to his main teacher at the monastery where he was living in India (who was, and still is, traveling when Karma left in October). He told him that he's living in America and is no longer a monk and asked him if he thinks he should teach the Buddhadharma (or what he thinks he should do). He's very eager to get an answer, although he says he's not nervous. I'm curious to see what he suggests as well.

I intend on being less cavewomanly and being nice to the nicest guy I know!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Dance for Any Day of the Week

Well......that's it people....I'm marry a crazy man.........CRAZY AWESOME, that is!

I swear, I have never laughed so much and so hard in my life. He is such a goofball and, as most of you know, that's my M.O.

Before I share these little nuggets of golden hilarity, I want to pick up where I left off in my last post regarding The Wedding. I think it deserves to be capitalized, considering all the attention it's getting these days.

Things are pretty much set for the small gathering in Virginia on the 29th. My mom and I have been enjoying the planning process and I seriously haven't felt stressed about it. The reception has morphed into a 100+ people party at my house in Berkeley, which I'm surprisingly not freaked out about either. I'm excited! My mom's flying out with us for the reception, which I'm extra excited about! It's going to be an insane week. We fly back on a Thursday night and the reception is a day and a half later on that Saturday.
But my roommate's have a professional karaoke machine, I've ordered vegan cupcakes...so what could possibly go wrong?  (seriously praying for no rain!)

Karma has NO idea what kind of planning I'm doing for both these events, although he knows that my mom emails me at least once a day regarding food, which he thinks is hilarious. The world he comes from doesn't spend so much time obsessing over food. He thinks I spend almost every moment thinking about...he's pretty much right.

We got him a suit and some shiny, new (vegan) shoes, which he pranced around our bedroom in saying (in Tibetan), "Wow, now I'm a young dude." LOL.

Our rings are sized and ready for action. I'm going to have my grandfather's wedding ring (father's side), since I'm the last Netschert in that line (I'm keeping my name). Karma is getting my great-grandmother's ring (mother's, mother's side). They're both simple gold bands, mine has my grandparent's initials and wedding date engraved inside.

One of the most arduous tasks for me was registering. It reminded me of a study conducted by psychologist Barry Schwartz (The Paradox of Choice) that I learned about from my boss, Christine Carter. Anyways, without getting into the details of it, he gave out samples of jam at the supermarket and in one study gave people a huge array of choices and in the other study he only gave them a few. Guess who was happier with their jam when they got home? Yep, you guessed it, the people who had fewer choices.

Seriously, it took me weeks to figure out what KNIVES to register for. That was my biggest dilemma! Every night when I'd settle down and hop online, I'd think, "I'm just going to DO IT (register)," but then when I typed in "knives" to Amazon, William Sonoma, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Sur La Table...well, it was meltdown a la mode with a side of tight-chest and a headache on top.
When Karma saw me surfing the web with all these windows open with pictures of knives....he said, "Between your kung fu classes (aka kickboxing at the Y) and all these knives...should I be scared??"

I finally just went for it and stopped obsessing. I seriously feel FREE and have a lot more time on my hands for more important things, like surfing Facebook and shopping for eco-friendly thank you notes.

Overall, I am doing an inner happy dance (it's the robot) just thinking about all this! I can honestly say that I am SO glad I'm marrying Karma. He's just superterrifichappyhour awesome (anyone catch the Seinfeld reference?). I hope each of you can celebrate with us! AND we're going to Texas next spring to see all my dear ones there!

Okay, now to get down to business.

Karma's Goings Ons
Karma has crossed the one month line and is still in love with life in America in the Bay area (yippee!) We drove to Mt. Diablo last Saturday (about 30 min from my house) and he took about a million and one photos. He said it looked just like Tibet. (This is great to know if anyone wants to visit Tibet on a low budget. I can gather some Tibetan friends to sherpa and pretend they don't understand English, just to get the full effect...hehe)

Here are some photos he took from our journey (he's pretty good!):

This one he said looks a lot like Tibet. They have the same golden grass.

I love the shadows of the clouds.

Karma seriously needs some shades! He kept squinting when he faced the camera, so he finally had to pose like that. 

A Dance for Any Day of the Week
Karma has a hypothesis based on his experience in America thus far. It's that we have a dance for every activity. Why is that you ask? Well, he's got some good proof to back it.

1. My friend Chelsea's birthday party-- A LOT  of dancing was done there. This has been deemed, "Party dancing."
2. His English teacher in the afternoon does an excited/shuffle/butt shaking dance. This has been deemed, "School/Class dancing."
3. We went to a kirtan (Indian singing/praying concert) with Jai Uttal. In India people usually meditate through this singing practice, but because we live in Berkeley there were people dancing. This has been deemed, "Meditation dancing." (For the record he was making fun of the hippies like nobody's business...I was so proud.)
4. There is a young guy who works for Little Caesar's Pizza and holds their sign on the corner of San Pablo and University while he dances (he's a GREAT pop and locker, btw). This has been deemed, "Street dancing." 

So, there you have it folks, Karma's largest impression has been how often he sees people dance here. I didn't even mention that I routinely dance, both in the privacy of our home and in public, such as grocery stores and parking lots....he's no longer phased by it. =)

Last night we were driving and he reached over and turned up the radio. What was playing? Oh, none other than a little ditty by Far East Movement called, "Like a G6." You know, that song playing constantly on the Top 40 stations that makes you want to hurl yourself in front of the next oncoming truck? Yep, that one. I tried not to laugh, but he already knew my opinion on the song from a previous conversation when I was feeling a little judgmental (aka crazy and PMS and went on a 10 minute rant about how much I dislike that song and how it only promotes drinking and driving and getting wasted...). Anyways, I asked him, 
"Do you like that song?" It was too late, I was already laughing. He was too. He answered, 
"Yes. I like it A LOT!" He then went on to say (in Tibetan), 
"I think this song has wonderful words, beautiful words, sacred words, perfect words...." I played along for a minute, but we both totally lost it laughing. Just another example of him being goofy. 

Last Thoughts
Okay, this post is seriously long. I'm sorry, I wish I could write less and write more often, but this seems to be my style (for now).

Anyways, Karma was just on the phone with his mother in Tibet and apparently she's doing better (she was in the hospital, but she's out and feels good), BUT his father is really sick. He looks worried, which takes a lot for him to be, so please pray for his father. 

I also just suggested to him that he should wash his face (we have differing opinions on hygiene) and he did kung fu to a pillow (whilst laughing) to show his disdain for this idea...although he went ahead and did it. My stomach aches from laughing...yet again....

Sunday, October 31, 2010

English School, Halloween, shower surprise and My China-esque rump

It’s hard to find a starting point when so many little things have happened in the last week.

I’d thought things were slowing down and, although I felt that they were in some ways, the train has left the station and it’s next stop, Weddingville. But, before I launch into that town of chaoitic thoughts & emotions, I want to update you on Karma’s integration process.

Most importantly, Karma started English classes at Berkeley Adult School last week. It's about a 10 minute walk from our house and he is so obviously jazzed about it. He's told me about almost every student in his class and I know the play-by-play of how each day has gone so far. He's also given me the lowdown on his teachers. He LOVES them. One of them lives about a block from our house and she hosted a Halloween party at her house on Friday for the students. He carved his first pumpkin, but was not so impressed by that and said his wrist hurt from digging out the seeds.

His first day of class he was shocked to see Thai Buddhist monks sitting among a group that included Muslim women with headscarves. The diversity was strange to him at first. The Thai monks have befriended him since he's Buddhist and now he wants to go see the Thai Buddhist temple here in Berkeley. I still haven't been there, so we'll check out soon. I've heard they serve great lunch on Sundays and he wants to meditate. Haha! That pretty much sums up our relationship...He's thinking about meditation and I'm thinking about food; he likes to study and I'm ready to watch a movie; I want to put on the electric heater, he's putting on a jacket instead. On the contrary I'm off to the gym and he's ready for a nap...so it seems as though we can take lessons in discipline from each other. I love that balance. Sometimes he'll start to annoy me (shh...don't tell anyone I'm not perfect) and he always says something that makes me laugh, which gives me just the tiniest space in my mind to let go of whatever was bothering me.

We also debate continually about who is taller....so next time you see us together go ahead and say that I am, okay? ;)

There have also been a lot of "firsts” in the last week. 
Karma learned how to:
  • Use a sponge mop (that you pull the handle to squeeze the water out of)
  • Use the dishwasher (first time he's ever seen one, too).
  • Use the clothes washer
  • Use my Smartphone (it took him about 5 tries to dial the number)
  • Turn on the stove light (the button's on the microwave)- I was only giving him directions in English, but he got it!
  • Work the food processor (magical food mushing machine that it is!)
These are the "important" things I'm teaching him about American culture....(Can you tell we cleaned house?)

I love our banter. For example, he dragged me to the full length mirror in our bedroom last Sunday when he caught his first glance of my leopard print slippers....he said the combination of those and my velour jammie pants make me look like a granny. He went on to humorously lead me around by the arm like I was 29 going on 95. He is such a ham--I love it!

Apparently I’ve been creeping over onto his side of the bed at night. Really what can you expect when two tall people are sharing a double bed, especially after I’ve had this thing to myself for the last year and a half. Seriously, I was spread-eaglin’, ya’ll. Anyways, he told me that I’m “like China” because I’m nice before we go to bed, then I take over the bed during my sleep. Now every time I get into bed after he does, he says, “China’s arrived.”

Highlight story of the week:
Friday we went to a potluck at our friends Kate & Sean’s apartment. Kate was picking up Karma at 4 so they could grocery shop and he could make a big pot of Tibetan “then-tuk” noodle soup. I was planning to come over after work.

Karma got home about 3:55 and figured he had about 5 minutes to take a quick shower before Kate got there. He jumped in the shower and failed to notice that there were no towels in the bathroom (I’d thrown them in the wash before heading to work). Needless to say, when he got out there was no hope in sight....until he spotted the box of kleenex. Two of those is all it took to realize that they’re not designed to absorb more than one’s nose can put out, so he went to Plan B, otherwise known as his jacket. Yep, my poor honey had to towel off with his clothing.  I forgot to mention it was cold and rainy--when we long for that warm, cozy towel the most. He couldn’t stop laughing when he told me this story.

The then-tuk (noodle soup) was a major hit and we had a great time. He’s totally comfortable with Kate & Sean and had met some of our other friends who were at the gathering as well. He’s becoming progressively outgoing, which I just love.

Another highlight from Friday (how could it get any better than a 2-ply towel off, you ask?)--lesbians. So, there was a couple there who were being openly affectionate with each other, although within the normal bounds of PDA that I would define as appropriate...anyways, getting to the point, he had no clue. When we were driving home I mentioned something about them, only because I had a strong feeling he hadn’t caught on to what their relationship was. My hunch was correct. He paused with the most curious look on his face and  said, “well, I saw them kissing, but I thought that was just an American custom.” I would argue that it IS an American custom...but only if you’re a lesbian, bi-sexual or 19, drunk and ready to kiss anyone...I digress.
Today we suit shopped for him, which started out just fine, but by the time we had to decide on a tie I was ready to hurl myself off the nearest cliff. Between his indifference and the overwhelming amount of choices, well I had a little (okay, it was bigger than little) meltdown. Lucky for him (and the salesmen) it was postponed until we'd purchased said goods and were in the car. These moments of eruption and vulnerability are embarrassing upon reflection and simply gross feeling as they're unfolding. He's pretty much the nicest person on this planet and I'm like a cavewoman sometimes. Karma= calm, kind, collected...Caroline (sometimes...okay, many times...)= infantile, volcanic insanity of neurosis. Awesome as he is, he always listens, even if I'm trying to provoke him in my clouded states of judgement. He NEVER takes the bait...which makes me more riled up in the moment, probably because I feel like an ass and he's being how I WANT to be. He's never mad at me and we talk things out and then laugh and then he makes fun of me about it later. Totally fair, I agree.
Okay, this has become an epic-long post and I didn't even dive into the ocean that is Weddingville. That will simply have to wait until next time. =)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Groove is in the heart...

When Karma stepped off the plane at SFO 2 weeks ago, he thought he would see a sea of "yellow-haired" people (as the Tibetan refer to us toe heads). He's just blown away by how many dark haired people live in California, especially Asians. Really, he's baffled. He said at dinner tonight that California is going to become "Asia/California." Of course this is reflective of the small area he's seen and the fact that we live with a Thai girl, Joy, and her friends come over. We had a birthday dinner for Joy's sister this week and there were 9 Thai women, 1 Thai man, Joe (my Caucasian landlord/roommate), Karma and me. Karma was so tickled that Joe and I were outnumbered in "our" country. 

Which brings me to a more serious subject: How do I teach a person about this country with all it's stereotypes, prejudices, generalization, etc...without teaching him to believe all of them? 
They are there and he will not understand our culture entirely without knowing about them--it's also extremely awkward to explain. Actually, it's an amazing practice for me because I have to listen to myself say things out loud that I normally wouldn't. I've actually stopped myself a few times. It's amazing how deep judgements and stereotypes are engrained in my habitual tendencies. 

Another thing I think about is being eco-conscious. Here's a man that has lived without many modern "conveniences" that we westerners are now beginning to shun for "not being green." Do I show him these things and then say, "Hey, look how easy and convenient this is, but you shouldn't use it because it's ruining the Earth..." Or do I simply show him how I try to do things and leave him in the dark about them? Up until now I've been trying to take the middle way on this and, actually, he's very conscious about not wasting water, food, energy, etc... 

He started school yesterday. He's the only Tibetan amongst about 15 people, mostly Chinese, but various other countries, too. He said that one of the Chinese girls had never heard of Tibet. That's just so incredibly sad to me. He said another Chinese girl was asking him questions about Buddhism, but she clearly didn't know much about it at all. This week, in the Tibetan news, a huge protest has been mounting inside Tibet. It started with high schoolers, but now includes college students and as of today, the group has about 4,000+ people. I think it will continue to grow (and that the Chinese gov't will eventually intervene). They aren't asking for a free government for Tibet, they are asking for the right to study the Tibetan language. 

Speaking of studying, Karma is such a dedicated student! He's been studying anything he can get his hands on, magazines, newspapers, dictionaries, my Tibetan-English textbook. He also LOVES homework. Sounds like the ideal student, eh? He was appalled that his classmates were eating and whispering during his class yesterday. That's a huge no-no in Tibetan learning environments (as well as most Asian countries as far as I know). 

We're starting to get in a groove and he's becoming SO much more comfortable. His goofiness is increasing by the day, which only makes me love him that much more. LOL. We've seriously laughed every day until I've almost been in tears. That pretty much seals the deal. That and the fact that he'll give me back rubs and he thinks I'm a good singer...well, the list goes on....

Highlights of the week:

  • He's never heard of the Beatles. His saving grace is that he love Michael Jackson.
  • After observing how the young African-American guys in our neighborhood wear their pants sagged really low, he's come to the conclusion that they're not mentally ill and that it's just fashion (we have a lot of homeless people in our area, so there is a distinction that must be made). He told me this with the utmost sincerity and I couldn't help but laugh. 
  • He pretends to do kung fu...sometimes in his undies (please don't tell him I told you--he'd die!)
  • He's starting to warm up to the idea of singing karaoke and actually danced in front of my friend Jenny...the shyness if lifting...
  • He's psyched to help me clean the house tomorrow (okay, that's boring, but it makes ME happy)
Tomorrow he's going to hang out with one of my best buddies, Sean, just the two of them. I'm hosting my ladies-only sangha, so I have to kick him out. He kept sarcastically saying, "I'm going to do something very special tomorrow" because he has NO clue what they are doing.

Sunday is another friend's birthday party. This will be the 4rd birthday party he'll have been to in 2 weeks. We have an ongoing joke about it. He keeps asking me, "Whose birthday is next?" Then he'll say, "If no one has a birthday next weekend, I'll pretend it's mine." I mean, who doesn't love a good party?

Monday, October 18, 2010

"And love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves..."

My boss, Christine Carter, has been reading this book called Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard which says we all have "bright spots" in our daily lives, things that make us happy, and we should be aware of them and then clone them. 

This weekend has had a lot of "bright spots." We got some furniture from Christine and started setting up our meditation room. Then, we got dressed up(ish) and headed into the city for dinner in the Mission district (a hipster hot spot). Karma was so tickled to see himself in the mirror before we left, he said (out loud in Tibetan, but I'm translating), "Young guy, Karma Rinchen, congratulations!" LOL. He was also super excited to see me dressed up in a skirt w/ ballet flats & jewelry (wearing make-up, nonetheless!). 

We walked into our friend Chelsea's birthday (dance) party to a dark room w/ flashing lights and blaring music and he didn't miss a beat. He started hugging all my friends that he'd met on Monday night at my meditation group, he was speaking English and joking around and soaking it all in. I didn't feel like I had to babysit him--he seemed so comfortable. I hit up the dance floor and had a great time. Everyone wanted him to dance, but he said he'd have to "study" it before actually giving it a shot. He also observed that the way we were dancing "would be easy to get drunk and do." I told him that many Americans (among others) do just that. Later in the evening they played game where people had to choose back-up dancers and then dance to a randomly chosen song. He ended up swaying around to a little ditty called "Like a Virgin," a song & album created by Madonna that topped the charts in 1985 and sold more than 21 million copies worldwide (according to Wikipedia).  This recently ex-monk danced like a virgin, well because he actually IS a dancing virgin....This was the first party he'd ever been to like this. We were recapping his experience for a friend today and he said, "I was SO happy and people were drinking beer!!!! (what a fun and shocking thing to see people do at a party! ;))

We rode BART (subway) for his first time on the way home from the party. He's been on the metro in New Delhi, which is brand new so it's much cleaner. It was my first time riding the BART with a boy and it was a wonderful experience being able to put my head on his shoulder and relax on the ride home. 

We woke up to a rainy Sunday and decided to go shopping at "the mall." I saw in the paper that JCPenny's was having a sale, so I took him to the less fancy mall (Walmart is one of the department stores). He's got to see ALL sides of America. I'd love to take him shopping at the fancy mall, but my budget doesn't really support that (yet?). Anyways, he had a blast and we got him some fun, new clothes. We'd also gone to the discount shoe store yesterday and got him some new shoes, including a pair of snazzy, white, slip-on Dravens w/ black soles (my post-punk rock self couldn't help it and he LOVES them...). He was in dire need of new shoes--he came with only one pair. We did, for the record, go to Walmart, which I'd swore I'd never take him to. I was looking for "The Club" to buy for my car, but they didn't have it. I'm happy he got to experience shopping there without purchasing anything. I explained to him why I'm not wild about it (destroying local business and exploiting 3rd world labor...not that JCPenny is that much better...) and he gets it. Actually, he's been eating mostly vegan (minus a few dairy & egg items) with me since his been here and has loved everything he's had. 

He is easy to shop with, goes along with the flashy stuff I pick out for him (but still let's me know if it's too over the top) and never complains. Actually, he never complains or whines. It's really incredible. 

Here are some photos from our post-shopping, dress-up photo shoot:

We met up with our friend, Sean, and went to see the movie It's Kind of a Funny Story. I thought it would be difficult for him to understand, but as soon as the movie was over he was saying, "Great movie! What a great movie!" I liked it, too, and when I asked him why he thought so, he said, "because it was similar to real life." I forgot how sensationalized and unrealistic Bollywood movies are (which is what he's mainly seen and mainly why I love them), this was artsy and had some elements of fantasy, but was very down to earth.

Tonight's "first" was roll-up deodorant where the "roll up" part is flush with the stick itself and you have to turn the entire bottom of the stick. Who knew that it rolled up? He thought it was broken because he couldn't figure it out. He was so excited to learn how it worked!

This weekend has completely rejuvenated me. I feel so excited to have Karma here, to see this world through fresh eyes and share my life with him.  I am grateful for these "bright spots." 
I'll leave you with this blurry, yet amazing, photo that captures the essence of his infectious laugh. 

(Btw, the title of this blog is from the song Under Pressure, featured in the movie we saw tonight). "Why can't we give love one more chance...." =)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Week One: First Shock, Then Awe

It's amazing how much can change in a short time. I think this can apply to all emotions, but in this case I'd say it's a good thing. It's, at least, making me feel good, happy, joyful, content, etc...

At some point in my post-arrival, neurotic-ridden, emotional state there was a shift. It was an organic shift, it just simply happened. The knot in my stomach and grip in my chest has significantly loosened over the last 36 hours and tonight I found myself laughing so hard my stomach ached (in that hurt-so-good way).

I must say, I am in total awe of the amount of support I've received from people this week. Friends and family really came out of the woodwork to reach out and just let me know that they're there. Really, if you're feeling down--go public! It's a great way to know who's paying attention. LOL. But seriously, thank you to everyone who emailed, called, etc...it's given me the emotional support I need to see things more clearly.

Karma is falling in love with America. Really, he just LOVES it here. I gave him some maps today and he found his way to the Berkeley Marina Pier, took photos, walked at least 5 miles and made it home without a hitch. We went to dinner with Kate & Sean (or "CakeSean"as he calls them, which is great because Sean has the biggest sweet tooth) and he seemed so at ease. He knows that they're close friends of mine and he was just going for it with his English. He was making jokes, telling stories, explaining some of the things hanging in the Nepali restaurant we were in and talking about Dharma. It was a great evening. When we got in the car he said he couldn't wait to speak more English so he could really get into deeper conversations with them. My heart was dancing.

We have spent a lot of time laughing these past couple of days and it's melting the walls around my heart in so many ways. A couple of good fart jokes always do the trick!

Here are some highlights:

  • I was griping about the difficulty of folding a fitted sheet and he said, "it's because it's shaped like a ladies 'shower hat.'" 
  • Couples should not sleep with their butts together because if their farts converge the world will quickly disintegrate
  • America's diverse restaurant selection is like "the UN of food, with representatives from all countries." 
  • I go to an aerobic kickboxing class that he's deemed "kung fu" and has made several comments about hiding behind me in times of danger
Karma also told his mother and aunt about us and they responded very positively! He said he was so happy he wanted to dance, but even after I pleaded with him, he wouldn't actually do it. They wanted to know all about me and my family. I was meditating when he talked to them, so when I walked in the room he said, "my girlfriend just finished meditating," which probably sounded good on my "resume."

I am grateful to feel so connected, loved and happy. I am also grateful to have experienced the less-than-warm and fuzzy emotions this week. I really appreciate having to look at this whole situation from many perspectives and not be in a blissed-out state that could wear off later and leave me feeling shocked post-marriage. I'd rather sit, watch, investigate, etc...now, rather than look back and think, "how the hell did I end up here."

Holding a flashlight through this experience and coming from a place of curiosity and compassion feels in line with how I aim to live each moment. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Days 5 & 6: No More Jedi Mind Tricks

What would a good love story be without a little turbulence? I'll admit, this is the most challenging thing I've ever done...and I've been praying for it!

Let me just say that Karma is simply amazing. He's accommodating and kind and gentle and eager to learn and really putting forth effort to practice English and study on his own until he starts school. I, on the other hand, am an American girl-turned emotional mess-turned bulldozer of feelings other than my own.  Hello neurosis, so glad you came to join the party. We certainly couldn't have survived without you!

Yesterday was simply beautiful. We saw HH Dalai Lama in San Jose, which is about an hour south of here. We went early for the Tibetan-only audience and as we were walking in, a Tibetan guy yelled, "Karinchen!" Karma's head whipped around and there were 2 old friends of his from India, both happy to see him and VERY surprised to see me...and him in normal clothes, not red robes, nonetheless. We stayed for the afternoon public session as well and drove back up the Berkeley as the sun was setting. We pulled into the Berkeley Marina to watch it go down behind the mountains of Marin by the Golden Gate bridge...it was really amazing. My heart, however, felt like it was expanding and contracting all at once and sinking into my stomach.

I've had a hard time identifying how I've been feeling. I likened it to a snow globe--shaken, not stirred--and I can't clearly identify the root of each emotion in order to see the cause behind them. This has caused panic at some points, crying, nausea, fear, anxiety, guilt, aversion, disgust, resentment, pity...but has swung into the other direction with love, softness, ease, gratitude, excitement...well, you get the picture. I'm volatile. AND I'm responsible for another person in a way I've never been, so I can't to my usual, "this is hard, I'm going to quit now" thing. Patience must be the net that carries this situation....and compassion for both him and myself. One of my friends left the most tender-hearted message for me tonight reminding me to surrender to the situation. I've been praying for the numbness, shock and wall of ice my heart has put up to protect itself, to melt and open and accept and just simply love. That's what we naturally want to do...simply love....but then these clouds of neurosis come in for an afternoon thunderstorm and it's gonna be a rumbler, with a phone call home to mom. Did you know that mom's know everything?  I'm in awe of that really.

Today my body felt shaken and I really cried for the first time since he arrived...something overdue for an overly sensitive girl like me. I cried for the interruption that this has caused in my life (hello--I invited it and pined for it to happen), for my perceived "loss of independence,"for the responsibility of showing a person how to live in the US and completely supporting them, for not wanting to disappoint anyone who has a vested interest in the success of this relationship (esp. Karma), for the known, for the unknown, for the pit in my stomach, for this feeling of discomfort in my gut and heart.....and it poured out. and out. and out. and out. And I felt like I was falling, sinking, opening, connecting, disconnecting... I also started reaching out.  This proved to be invaluable because as I reached out, so many people accepted my venting with love, compassion, support, gentleness.  I feel so immensely grateful.

I really feel like this is such an imperative part of this process. Breaking down the walls around my heart.

Tonight when I got home from work I asked Karma if he wanted to go to a friend's house for a potluck dinner. He said yes (I asked him 3 times to make sure he wasn't just being polite). Best decision of today. We both had a great time! Thank you Paul for a wonderful evening! Karma look noticeably comfortable, spoke the most English that I've heard him speak since he arrived, he practiced some Chinese that he knows, he even insisted that we go to Chelsea's birthday party this coming Saturday (which I've been wanting to go to, but wasn't going to push for it). We laughed a lot and I feel really happy to have shared this night with him and with my friends. I feel grateful that he's sleeping in my (our) bed as I type this. I feel grateful that he's here and that all this hard work with his visa, with our waiting for years to be together here, with all the mental anguish that I'm putting myself through is happening just as it is because it is part of this journey, this unfolding, unknown, beautiful mystery.

I am also grateful for his humor. It's one of the things I love most about him. Today I told him that I don't want to be his boss, that once he is more familiar with the culture here I'd like for him to be more "in charge." Weird as that sounds it's like we're in a role-reversal from when I was in India and I think that's contributing to how I feel. He said that if he's the boss now, we're really in trouble because he'll only make mistakes. We laughed a lot over that. We also went to a big grocery store for the first time and he was in awe of how clean it was and how organized. I asked him if he had any preference for cereal and he said it's hard to tell since they're all packaged up and you can't try before you buy (except in the glorious bulk aisle!). He really appreciates how clean and orderly it is here compared to India. The roads are, especially. He took photos in rush hour traffic to email to his friends and he'd like to take some at the grocery store, too. He thinks my energy-saving washer sounds like a plane that's about to take off (the spin cycle really does) and that my Sonicare toothbrush sounds similarly. He also imagined that Bono from U2 was a fat man with a guitar (judging by his voice), but I sent the record straight on that. I explained that I'd love for him to wipe the sink dry after he's done washing his face in the bathroom, that it's a habit I learned from my mom and that when we go stay with her she'll think he's wonderful if he does that...he now gives himself verbal compliments as he's wiping it off like, "wow, I'm a really good guy." It's pretty hilarious. There have also been mosquitos in our bedroom at night, VERY uncommon for the Bay area (it's been unusually hot), but he swears that they came over from India in his suitcase.

He also decided (which I was wanting to do anyways) to make our new second room into a meditation room and he's going to put it all together while I'm at work tomorrow. We're getting more furniture later this week (from my amazing boss, Christine Carter) and it will be great to have the extra space.

Right now, in this moment, I feel happy, grateful, hopeful and supported in so many ways.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 4: A Case of the Mondaze

Even in the midst of my routine, it seems so far away from what I'm used to.

I woke up this morning and went for a run, alone. I don't do it often here, I've become a gym rat, but it just felt appropriate given the amount of time I had before work and I wanted to be outside, moving, in solitude. It felt great.

Karma is so amazing, so accommodating and so easy going.  I, on the other hand, am not.  At least, I feel like I'm not on the inside. We had a wonderful evening yesterday and I felt really happy to have him here, but then I woke up to Monday morning and felt like, "what do I do with this person?"  Okay that sounds weird.  It was more like, "I have to go to work and he has nothing to do but watch me."  I decided to flee and work from my boss's house while she's out for the day.  He's going to explore the neighborhood and rest.  He's still recovering from jet lag and the whole shock of being here. 

The shock of him being here is so heavy. I really knew in my heart of hearts that this would happen, but experience is much more "real." Although, it really is about perception and adaption. I love him, I know I do, but I am seeing so clearly how attached I was to being alone and to not thinking about another person's wants, needs, etc... Really, my life is so blessed and I want to share that.  My mind, however, has these ideas of how things "should be" and my lack of patience (I haven't actually lost my patience with him) is embarrassing.  Seriously, it's Day 4 and I'm over-analyzing things immensely (and publicly?).  *Sigh*

I think this process is about letting go of this clenched grip I have on my "independence" and morphing it into a healthy independence within a loving relationship. Karma is certainly open to that and I think once he has more English skills and a community of friends I'll stop putting all this stress on myself to make things more comfortable for him and for me. Actually, I think I'll stop right now.  Stop. Right. Now.

Anam Thubten Rinpoche, my meditation teacher and Tibetan language teacher, talks about pausing throughout the day.  Just to pause.  Just to sit with the moment that is there, "good" or "bad." These moments may have different feelings we label them with, but essentially they are just moments we experience in this body while it's breathing.  

I know it's all good, no matter what happens.  Really. The sun is shining, the dog is snoring, my lungs are working, a fly is buzzing. It really is that simple.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Arrival

This is a long one....

Day 1: Friday 10/8
I was running late (as usual) and made the drive from Berkeley to SFO allowing no time for traffic (thankfully there was none). I was assuming that if Karma's plane was scheduled to land at 11:15 a.m. that he would be in customs for some time after that.  Wrong.  He was waiting for me when I got to the International Arrivals area!  Luckily he hadn't been waiting long.

When there is this much build up to a situation, a moment, especially, the mind starts to create amazing stories of how things will unfold.  I've seen way too many movies and, although our story sounds like it could be the script to one, this is not a movie, this is life.

To be honest, it was an anti-climactic reunion.  There were no tears, no public make out sessions....it was the same as when I got off the plane in India in June after 14 months of not meeting, it was understated and a little nervous.  I felt relieved that he had made it through security without a hitch and we made our way up to my car in the parking garage.  He had ridden in elevators in India, so that wasn't new to him.  He was tickled to see my Mini Cooper and also to see me drive.

In the car ride back to Berkeley he kept saying how much the Bay area looks like Tibet and he's continued to make similar comments.  The weather couldn't have been any more perfect, but he felt cold compared to being in India.

Once we got back to my place he met my roommates, both the American & Thai couple and the Tibetan woman (the man was out), then he showered (while I posted photos on Facebook).  We went to get lunch after that.  His first "American" meal was at a Tex-Mex restaurant that's between my house and Target (where we were heading).  He loved chips & guacamole.  *Whew* Now I know I can marry him.  :)  I love me some guac & chips (esp. after living in Austin)!

Target was surprisingly calm, so we walked around and got him a few clothing items.  He'd arrived with one pair of socks, so that had to change! I bought him a few t-shirts and a hoodie, it's chilly here at night.  He had been on an escalator, but never seen an escalator for a shopping cart (it's a huge, 2-level Target).

We came back home, took a nap, then went to have dinner with some friends at a local pizza place.  This place is great because they serve both regular pizza and vegan--everyone's happy!  The group was about 10 people and Karma was quiet because of his lack of English, but he loved the pizza (it was gourmet, California-style, so he'll have to try good old-fashioned pizza someday).

We crashed early after all the excitement and food.  I have to say, sharing my bed is a nice feeling.  I've enjoyed being alone, but it's cold here at night and having the person you love to snuggle with is a really great feeling.

Day 2: Saturday 10/9
I have a habit of doing too much.  This was one of those days.  I woke up early and went to Zumba at 8, then my Tibetan language class at 10, then headed home to get ready for a beach trip to Santa Cruz (about 1 1/2 hours from Berkeley). Karma is such a great sport.  He slept in, fended for himself for breakfast (Joe & Joy helped him with his Cheerios, bananas & milk).  Actually, he said that he'd suggested they boil the milk and that Joe laughed. :)  Cold food isn't very common in Asia.

We picked up a sangha member named JB and Anam Thubten Rinpoche and headed south to Santa Cruz for a beach party (with walking meditation and then a bonfire).  It was a beautiful evening.  It also became blatantly clear to me that Karma's English and his shyness are becoming a source of my anxiety.  Keep in mind that it was his FIRST full day in the U.S. and I'm already drawing a picture in my mind of how things "are."  I seriously need to take a step back and give this man some time to adjust (and myself, for that matter).  I digress.

Day 3: Sunday 10/10
I was supposed to spend most of the day at the meditation center, but I woke up and knew that I had to stay home.  I was running around all day Saturday and have a ton of work for Monday, so I decided to take a day off.  Best choice I made all day! 

My Tibetan roommates moved out today and one of their friends was helping them who is also Tibetan.  Karma went to introduce himself and it turns out he knows the guy from India!  They were both so happy. This makes me very happy, too. I think they'll spend a lot of time together.  

He also showed me an article he has published in the most recent Tibetan Times (online publication). I didn't know that he was so public with his writing.  He does love to write poetry--I wonder if that will carry over into his English studies....

I took him to the Berkeley Marina where there is a point with a path you can walk around and the weather was so amazing.  He totally fell in love.  We'll definitely be walking down there more often.  It's really close to my house.  We sat on a bench and looked at the sailboats and the Blue Angels whooshing around doing tricks (it's Fleet Week in SF) and the cloudless sky.  It was a beautiful moment.

Karma was saying how he thinks India has a lot of freedom, but doesn't use it well and that America has a lot of freedom and creates a lot of rules (he thinks that's a good thing).

We headed back to Target to buy him a warm jacket and on our way Karma commented about how easy the roads are to drive on here and we laughed about the fact that there are no cows in the road here (I know there are in some parts of the U.S.).

We went grocery shopping at a small, local natural grocers that I love. He was laughing that he had no preference about which cereal he wanted because he's never tried any of them.  He's an easy man to please when it comes to food, so he opted to eat whatever I'm eating.

We rented a movie and plan on lounging around tonight.  I think it's going to take awhile before we're both settled, but we're really excited that he's here!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


In approximately 17 hours and 43 minutes my fiance, Lama Karma Rinchen, should be taking his first steps on U.S. soil, granted they will be inside the many walls of San Francisco International Airport. I will be waiting (patiently?) on the other side of the wall and, depending on how long the line through immigration is, will see him shortly after.  

It will have been 96 days since we saw each other last.  Before those 5 weeks together in India, it had been 14 months since we had said goodbye at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. (For the back story on how we met, visit my personal blog, Wake Up.) Needless to say, it seems like eons since we met, but it will be 2 years in November.  Life certainly has changed since we met at that dusty tea stall on Sahastradhara Road. 

I spoke with him while he was waiting at the gate.  He wasn't nervous--he was beyond excited. He had no problems getting through Indian customs (we weren't expecting any, but one never knows).  

Here are some "firsts" for Karma from today:
  • Being inside of an airport
  • Flying in an airplane
  • Being in a western country (his connection is in Seoul, Korea)

Now I wait.