A Nepali Wedding of Our Own

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The front of our Nepali marriage certificate

Tri and I have been married for nearly 5 years! Which is pretty darn unbelievable to me. So much has happened in the last five years. I graduated from college, we lived in Nepal for 9 months, we moved to Boston, I got my masters degree, Tri worked at two different companies, I started my first job as a speech therapist, and we bought a place of our own here in Boston.

When Tri and I first we got married in 2011, we had a super small ceremony in my parent’s living room. All of that was in the wake of Mamu’s death, so although were delighted to be getting married, we were overwhelmed with grief. Then, when we moved to Kathmandu, we had to register our marriage there. I sort of consider that an extension of our marriage process because we got a Nepali marriage certificate at that time. Since our wedding in 2011, both of our families have been bugging us to have another wedding and/or a wedding reception. For a while, I thought that we wouldn’t do it. We’re both pretty shy people and neither of us enjoy being in the limelight. However, over the years, as we’ve had time to live together as a married couple, we’ve warmed to the idea of a big wedding celebration.

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Tri and I went down to my parents’ house this past week to help get ready for our July wedding. One this we started working on was the mandap, the structure under which the Hindu ceremony will take place.

This summer, we will be tying the knot once more. We’re planning on having a Nepali Hindu ceremony – first thing we did last summer (when we decided that we wanted to have a Hindu ceremony) was get in touch with a great Nepali priest who will conduct the ceremony in both Nepali and English. Although the ceremony will be long (around 1 and a 1/2 hours. eek!) and many a Sanskrit prayer will be said, we’re hoping that everyone, both Nepali and American alike, can feel involved.

After the ceremony is over, we’ll have a big ol’ wedding reception. All of this will take place in my parents’ backyard in order to save on costs and capitalize on the (hopefully) beautiful East Coast summer weather. Tri’s family is coming over from Nepal, and we have family and friends coming from all over the US to celebrate with us. Although Tri and I were initially very hesitant to go through with a big wedding, now that our plans are coming together, we’re both really excited to be celebrating our marriage once again 🙂

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Genghis Khan, Prithvi Narayan Shah, and Changing Last Names

As a kid, I didn’t like my last name very much, but over the years, it’s grown on me. So I never thought I’d change it after I got married. Last summer I was pretty solid in my decision and didn’t do anything about it after we tied the knot.

When I got to Nepal, though, I realized how useful it was to have a Nepali last name, so I started using Tri’s last name when I introduced myself or had to fill out forms. Sometimes people wouldn’t realize that I was a foreigner when I used his last name, which was a plus. I remember one time when the nurse at a doctor’s office told me to write Tri’s last name on a form (instead of my own) so that I could be billed as a Nepali instead of a foreigner. The price difference was huge.

My first name is not Zoe (which is actually my middle name) although I’ve always been called Zoe by friends and family. My legal first name is much easier to pronounce in Nepali, and is even used in Nepal as a name. So if I really wanted my name to sound Nepali, I’d write my first name and Tri’s last name together.

I loved it. It felt like I had multiple identities and I could switch back and forth between my Nepali alias and my American one. In the US, however, things are more cut and dried and there are people keeping track of these things. Legally I still haven’t adopted Tri’s last name. It wasn’t easy for me to make it official while I was in Nepal, but now that we’re back, I need to get the ball rolling. Honestly, I’ve been kind of lazy about getting a new license and changing my social security card. I guess there’s been a lot going on, but I’m hesitant about it too. It feels final. In Nepal, I could pretty much use whatever name I wanted to, but here I’ve got to choose and stick to one.

When I feel uncertain about something or am trying to make a decision, looking back at what people used to do always helps me feel better. By no means am I a history buff (it was my least favorite subject in school), but sometimes figuring out how others have done it helps me understand how to move forward.

Tri has been reading a lot about Genghis Khan lately. He keeps stopping me every once in a while to read me an interesting fact or tidbit about the esteemed conqueror. We started talking about Genghis Khan’s name and what it meant. Apparently khan is a title used in Mongolian to mean “leader.” According to the books that Tri has been reading, the title spread to South Asia and was taken up by people there. Khan is now a pretty common last name found in Pakistan and India.

Prithvi Narayan Shah, the ruler who unified Nepal

While we were talking about name changes, Tri reminded me of the Shah rulers in Nepal. Prithvi Narayan Shah, the most famous Shah, conquered and unified a lot of what is present-day Nepal. He suggested that their last name may also have been an adopted one. It’s a name of Persian origin meaning “king.” I don’t mean to go barreling into the history of names in South Asia, but it’s comforting to remember that people change their names for a lot of reasons and that it’s not that uncommon.

But I don’t need to go all the way to South Asia to remind myself of that. A lot of women in my family changed their names after marriage. Other ancestors did as well when they came to the US. My father’s father’s parents came to the US from the Ukraine in the early 20th century and changed their name on the way in.  Another ancestor was born in Norway but didn’t end up in a great family situation. He was brought over to the US and adopted by a German man. My ancestor changed his name to his adopted father’s, which remains my mother’s maiden name today. Somehow, hearing about others’ name changes makes me feel okay about changing my own more permanently.

I feel strongly about my last name. It’s not the prettiest or daintiest of names, but it’s mine. Changing it around or adding onto it is okay, though. I want to take Tri’s name because it connects us and reflects my connection to his family, but I’ll keep my own too because it connects me to my maiti (parental home) and my past.

The next step is getting my butt in gear to make it official 🙂

“The Way You Look Tonight”

Today is our 1 year anniversary! I can’t believe it’s been a year already.

One year ago in June…Tri’s mom had recently passed away, and we were all deep in grief. After she died, Tri immediately left for Nepal to participate in the mourning process but was back by June with a plan to return to Nepal.

I had just graduated from college and was so happy to have Tri back with me in the US. We were both getting ready to leave for Nepal, but we had to get married before we left. (this post explains what happened that spring and why we married young).

We looked into getting married at the Philadelphia courthouse, but there was something about it that didn’t work. I think it was that we had to book a date in advance, and we didn’t have time for that. We asked around, trying to find someone who would marry us. One of my mom’s friend emailed a pastor she knows to see if the pastor would do it, but she said that she rarely officiates weddings and when she does, she requires a two month counseling period. We definitely didn’t have time for that. At that point, Tri and I were getting worried. We just wanted to get married! Finally, somebody remembered that mayors can officiate weddings. One of my parents’ friends is the mayor of the small town that they live in, and when my dad called him up, he agreed on the spot. We set a date for two days later, June 21. We didn’t realize until our wedding day that it was the summer solstice; maybe it was meant to happen on that day, an auspicious one in my book 🙂

The day we got married I returned home to my parents’ house from our apartment and tried to help my mom get things ready.

A few hours before the ceremony, I picked out an outfit. My mom got some flower arrangements from the local flower shop. And Tri showed up from work in the late afternoon.

Before everything started, a few close family and friends came over to be with us and we set up a skype call with my older brother so that he could watch the ceremony from Boston.

Tri and I stood up with the officiant, our family friend. The minute I got up there, I started to get nervous. It’s funny because we’d been together for over three years at that point and had been certain since almost the beginning that we wanted to get married, but somehow, I was still shaking at the alter. I wasn’t nervous about getting married to Tri, but I recognized it as one of those moments I’ll remember for the rest of my life. The significance of that made me jittery.

Our officiant asked the important questions, we said yes, and I felt a great sense of relief.

After the ceremony, we called Tri’s dad in Nepal. It was a sad phone call; we told him we were married, and we all cried a bit. It was difficult not to have either of Tri’s parents there with us.

Then we all sat down to a big dinner and homemade cake. Despite the grief that Tri and I felt, it was still a beautiful day and a time of celebration.

We haven’t given up on having a bigger wedding, though, and right now we’re looking at dates in Spring of 2014. I know it seems far away, but I really want to get it right this time. I want to take time to plan it out and make it possible to have a big celebration with our friends and family.

I have worried about whether or not we did things right, especially because we breached tradition in both cultures. Even before the wedding, we didn’t really “get engaged.” Tri never got down on one knee or gave me an engagement ring. We just kind of decided together that we wanted to get married. And then the whole thing with having multiple weddings…Is it strange to get legally married first and have our wedding later? Which date will we celebrate our anniversary on?

But I’ve come to peace with the fact that we haven’t done it the traditional way. Talking to others who haven’t followed tradition has also illuminated the fact that it’s okay. People do things differently and it all works out. The most important thing is that Tri and I get to be together and that we’re happy. After a year of marriage, I can definitely say that we are.

Not to be too cheesy, but in honor of our anniversary, here’s one of my favorite romantic songs (I’ve been singing it to Tri all night)…

Why We Married Young and Thoughts on Married Life

Tri completely changed the direction of my life. If I hadn’t had met him, I would likely never come to Nepal and never have learned to speak Nepali. I would never have realized my interested in Linguistics, probably would not have majored in that subject, and would never have thought about getting a masters in what I’m hoping to go to grad school for. My own habits and manerisms have been deeply affected by my husband and the time I’ve spent abroad. Without having met him I think I would be a very different person with a very different life. And this same goes for him. I know that I’ve changed the way he thinks and experiences things, his view and opinions, and goals. I don’t credit or blame him for every success and failure I’ve had, and I certainly am my own person, but he was one of the major catalysts that set my life going in the direction it has.

I met Tri when I was 18, pretty young to meet your future spouse (although not out of the question), and we got married when I was 21, soon after college graduation last spring. The last year of our lives has been a whirlwind of activity and emotion, filled with a lot of sadness but excitement too. What happened during this time that led us to marry at a young age was a set of events that we could never have predicted.

Everything started in the early spring of 2011. Tri and I had been dating for about 3 years at that point. Right from the beginning of our relationship, we knew that we were in it for the long haul. Everything just felt right with him and always has. I know that sounds horribly cliche, but it’s true. We had always talked about getting hitched sometime after my college graduation (he graduated two years before me), so last spring, we started talking to both of our parents about the possibility of getting engaged over the summer. We didn’t want to get married yet…we didn’t feel like there was any reason to, but we thought it would be nice to take the next step in our relationship.

Both of our parents were very happy with this idea and supported our plan to have an engagement ceremony in Nepal. We all thought that an engagement in Nepal and then a wedding in the US a few years later sounded good. But then Nepali culture and the rules that go along with it kicked into high gear. In the process of planning for our wedding, Tri’s mom consulted an astrologer. He felt like it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to just have an engagement ceremony, that we needed to get married as well. In Nepal, people don’t often have long engagements. Usually they have a khura chine ceremony and then a wedding a few weeks (or sometimes days) later, so the astrologer felt it would be culturally inapropriate for us to have just an engagement ceremony.

Tri’s mom started talking to us about the possibility of upgrading our engagement to a wedding. I think we were both a little bit in shock at this idea. Of course we had thought about marriage and wanted to be married someday, but it was strange to think it would be happening so soon. But after talking about it, the idea started warming up to us, and we agreed.

That set the wedding planning in motion. Tri’s parents were choosing a location, compiling a guest list with hundreds of people, and doing lots of shopping. I was excited to be getting married but a little bit freaked out too. I was trying to finish up my last semester of college and frantically look for some kind of employment. Doing that on top of preparing to be married in a foreign country was a bit overwhelming.

And then everything came to a horrible halt. Tri’s mom died suddenly in April, 2011. I don’t feel like going into the details of what happened because it’s still very painful to dwell on, but maybe later, when we’ve come to terms with her death a little better, I can write more about going through those initial days and weeks of grief.

Everything was put on hold, the wedding, Tri’s job, our lives. Tri left for Nepal within 12 hours of getting the horrible phone call, and I felt stranded and alone. Getting through those last few weeks of my last semester of college was hell. But I do have to say, my friends and family were incredibly supportive and helpful. You know who you are! And I love you guys.

About a month later, after the funeral and initial grieving period in Nepal were over, Tri came back to the US with a plan for us to return to Nepal to live with his brother and dad. I was incredibly supportive of his decision.

But in order for me to stay in Nepal for an extended period of time, I had to be married to Tri. As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, Nepali Hindus believe that having any kind of celebration, doing puja, or going to weddings, etc. is not allowed the year after a family member dies, so us getting married was a bit of a problem. That’s why we decided to have the simplest wedding we could manage, nothing religious and without any bells and whistles. We had the mayor of our small town marry us at my folks’ house. Because it was such a small ceremony, we didn’t get an opportunity to celebrate with most of our family and friends, but we’re not going to leave them out. Tri and I are planning a wedding ceremony that will hopefully happen in about a year and a half…a topic for future posts.

Anyway, some Nepali people were very against our marriage at the time because of breaking the one year rule, but we had no choice. We both felt that Tri needed to go back to Nepal, and there was no way that Tri and I were going to be separated.

In the craziness of those few months and the aftermath of that period that included moving to a new country, lots of culture shock, and language learning, I haven’t really had the time and energy to process and understand the fact that I’m married and what that means for my life and relationship.

It’s only now that I’m really starting to think about how my life has changed after marriage. Being in Nepal has definitely had a huge affect on those changes.

In Tri’s parents’ generation, marrying young, even for educated women living in urban areas, was normal. Tri’s mom was 19 when she married his dad. Even now, women in rural areas marry young, sometimes as teenagers. But it is a bit unusual these days for a woman who comes from an urban, middle class family to be married at age 21. Because I’m mostly around people from urban, middle class families, I sometimes get surprised looks when I tell them I’m married.

I think part of it is that some Nepalis have certain stereotypes about Western women, about them having many different partners and marrying very late, so I don’t fit into their stereotype. But it’s also that there has been a push in Nepal from NGO’s, social service organizations, and other influences for women to marry later.

When I was in Dhampush, I made friends with another one of the girls on the trip who is about 27 and was married last year. We stayed in a lodge, and one day we started talking to the owner about her daughters. Like me, they married in their very early 20’s. My friend started scolding the lodge owner (in a friendly way), telling her that she should have made them wait, finish school, and then marry. But then my friend looked at me and remembered that I was 21 when I married too! We both laughed.

Besides getting some funny looks and reactions from Nepalis about being married young, I’ve also received greater acceptance.

Before getting married, I had some people tell me that life after marriage didn’t change their relationship with their signficant other one bit, and I’ve had others say it changed everything. I’ve found that the way that Tri and I treat each other hasn’t changed, but the way that others treat us has. This is particularly true in Nepal. Our relationship wasn’t really valid in the eyes of many Nepalis before we were married, and although Tri’s parents accepted our relationship, they were hesitant to tell others that Tri had a girlfriend. When I was in Nepal for study abroad, I stayed with Tri’s parents and brother for a week here and there, and they only revealed to their closest family and friends that I was Tri’s girlfriend. Being married has made our relationship in Nepal valid in the eyes of others, which is honestly a relief. Some say that that validation from others shouldn’t matter, and our love for eachother is definitely more important than what others think, but having that societal acceptance does make things easier.

I’ve also found that women treat me differently. For some reason, I think being married has made other people, especially women, see me as more of an adult. They talk to me about more adults things and divulge secrets with me that I probably wouldn’t have been privy to before. Part of this may be the fact that I’m older. But I think it’s got something to do with being married.

Since we were only in the US for about a month after being married, I don’t know if others there will treat us differently as married people. I think that they probably will but maybe not to the same extent that people do in Nepal. I guess I’ll find out in a year or so 🙂

The Story of an Arranged Engagement

One of my friend’s younger brothers is looking for a wife, and over the last few weeks, I’ve been following his story as it unfolds.

First of all, I want to get it out there that I have no beef with arranged marriages that involve two informed and consenting adults. When I first heard the term, probably sometime in middle school, I was certainly shocked. It went against my American sensibilities that dictated that two people should fall in love before deciding to spend their lives together. It felt strange to me that someone would agree to marry another person without first getting to know them thoroughly. However, after reading more about it and broadening my understanding of the cultures that still rely on arranged marriages, I came to understand it was just another of way of doing things, and like other types of marriages, arranged ones sometimes work out and sometimes don’t. Although I had no problem with arranged marriages before moving to Nepal, I didn’t really understand the actual logistics of arranging a marriage. The logistics are obviously different in different places, but in Nepal, as I’m learning, it’s very much of a word-of-mouth kind of process.

My friend told me a few weeks ago that her brother wanted to get married. When she mentioned this to me, he had just arrived for a three-week visit to Nepal from the US, where he lives. The day after he arrived, she told us that he wanted to find a bride, get engaged, and then have a wedding within three weeks. Engagements and marriages often happen on short notice in Nepal. You might meet up with an acquaintance, after not seeing her for a month or two, and she’ll announce that she’s getting married in a week! Marriage dates are often chosen by a jyotice, astrologer. If you go to see him about finding an appropriate date, he might decide that you should marry in a few months time or, after reading your birth charts, he may also decide that you should do it immediately. The other thing is that getting engaged and getting married often happen within the span of about a week, so for my friend’s brother to be engaged and then married very soon after the engagement is not so unusual.

What surprised me was that he wanted to do everything within three weeks. Usually, at least in my experience, the bride and groom will have known each other for a while before getting engaged. Sometimes they will have been together for many years, as is more common among younger, urban Nepalis who have boyfriends and girlfriends. But even if an arranged marriage is taking place, families will meet their potential son or daughter-in-law at least a few months before the wedding takes place. Hearing that my friend’s brother was hoping to find a bride, get engaged, and be married all in the space of three weeks was quite a surprise. Imagine going from being single, without a boyfriend or girlfriend, to being married within three weeks! Although, because he lives in the US and only rarely gets to come to Nepal, I understand why he wants to rush things.

The process started with my friend and her family branching out, talking to all of their family, friends, acquaintances, close and distant to find out if they knew of a girl who was looking to get married. Because all of this was happening on short notice, my friend and her family really had to bust their butts to find a girl, and it hasn’t been easy. My friend was saying that finding a girl who has a similar educational background and who is not already in a relationship is very difficult. She said that she’s been hearing about a number of potential brides, but then she’ll find out that they already have boyfriends. As “love marriages” become more common, I imagine setting up an arranged marriage is becoming harder and harder.

There are professional matchmakers in Nepal that provide customers with a set of potential spouses for a fee. But from what I’ve seen, people more commonly find spouses for their children through personal connections. The person who identifies the spouse for a family’s son or daugther would be considered the matchmaker, and it can be risky business. If one of the young people back out or the marriage goes south, the matchmaker may end up taking the blame for the failed marriage. I’ve heard some Nepalis say they won’t get involved in matchmaking expressly for that reason.

Another part of having an arranged marriage in Nepal is finding someone of the right caste. Many Nepali families, especially ones in urban areas, are more open to intercaste marriages these days. I don’t think many would go as far to say that they’re okay with their son or daughter marrying a foreigner (luckily I found a Nepali family out there that is 🙂 ), but intercaste marriages are becoming not only more common but much more socially acceptable as well. My friend told me that if her brother had had a girlfriend from another caste, her family would have been fine with it. But because it’s an arranged marriage, they want to find someone within their own caste/ethnic group. Because my friend is Newar, she and her family have been looking for a Newar girl.

While arranging the marriage of someone, finding the right fit can take a few tries. In years past, I think parents would more often make the decision about their child’s spouse for them, but these days, grown children are often given the opportunity to meet their potential spouse, talk on the phone, and maybe go one a few chaperoned dates. While the decision is still very much a familial one, children now have a say.

This period of negotiation also happened with my friend’s brother. A few years back, he started the process of looking for a wife. Pictures and descriptions of girls who were also looking to get married were sent to their house. He then chose a few girls he wanted to meet. But after meeting the girls, something or the other just didn’t feel right, so no engagements moved forward at that time.

But when I saw my friend on Tuesday, she said that they had found a girl they really like. Everything seemed to be going well. They were planning to be engaged on Thursday, and if my friend’s family had its way, they would be married before her brother left this weekend. However, I saw my friend today, and something was wrong. Apparently the bride and groom called the engagement off. I don’t know what happened; even my friend isn’t sure. But I can say that no matter whether it’s an arranged marriage or not, finding a someone you can spend the rest of your life with takes time! And probably shouldn’t be rushed in three weeks.

The Married Look

As a woman in Nepal who is married to a Nepali, I’ve been expected to dress, groom, and generally beautify myself in the way that other women do. I cared about the way I looked back in the US, but I never had any overt pressure that was telling me how much makeup and jewelry I should wear, how I should style my hair, etc. In Nepal, however, women, in particular married women, are expected to look a certain way. This pressure is really a mixed bag. I love that the people who are pressuring consider me a part of their culture and therefore expect me to follow the cultural norms here. On the other hand, I simply can’t do all of the things they want me to. I’m still negotiating this pressure and trying to figure out how many of these rules I want to adopt and call my own and how many I want to forget about.

Some of the things that women do to keep themselves looking a certain way can be incredibly painful, and I am always amazed at Nepali women’s high tolerance for pain. One of these things is eyebrow threading. I used to pluck my eyebrows back in the states, but after a bit of pushing from some people here, I started threading. Omg it it can be painful, but I like the result, so I put up with it. The reason why it’s so painful is because the threader plucks out about ten hairs at once. Many of the women I know who do it act like it’s a cup of tea. Maybe they’re just used to the pain? The picture on the left is of me during one of my first eyebrow threadings. I kind of look like I’m in surgery!

Another painful body modification is nose piercing. I’ve been bugged again and again to pierce my nose, partly because of its religious significance. Some Bauns and Chhetris here believe that if a married woman is performing puja and she doesn’t have her nosed pierced, the puja won’t be heard by god. The jury is still out on whether or not this is going to happen for me. Tri and I haven’t had our Nepali wedding yet, so I might do it before that event. However, I also have major post-nasal drip/allergies at some points during the year, so a piercing could cause some issues. Luckily, I won’t be alone if I decide not to pierce my nose. It’s not as common among young women here as it used to be. I have a Newar friend who married a Chhetri man. Newar women don’t traditionally get their nose-pierced but often do if they marry a man from the Baun or Chhetri castes. Despite pressure from her in-laws, my friend has refused to pierce her nose, in part because her non-pierced nose is part of her Newar identity.

Other rules concerning beauty and marriage aren’t necessarily painful, but they are very strict. For starters, I’m expected to keep my hair long. A few months ago, I went to get my hair cut. Before I stepped out of the house, I told Bua where we were going, and he said, “Just don’t cut it short, okay?”  I have a history of occasionally chopping my hair off. I do it when I want to promote change in my life or signify the start of a new chapter, but it’s a big no-no for women here. In fact, long, straight hair is often a source of envy.

Both women are wearing pote

Married women here also wear pote and churaa. Pote is a long string (or multiple strings) of beads that signifies you are married. Americanepali has a post describing it here. Churaa are glass, sometimes gold, bracelets that women of all ages wear. However, married women are expected to wear at least one thicker one on each wrist. I’ve had people tell me time and time again that I need to start wearing pote and churaa. I don’t mind the pote, and it’s the most common way to signify being married in Nepal, so like my wedding ring, I’ve started to wear it everyday.

The top two bracelets on her hand are churaa

Churaa, however, I save for special occasions only because I’m a bit of a clumsy person. Last week I tried wearing churaa on both hands all day, but I kept banging them around and ended up cutting myself, so for me, this is also a painful practice!

Gajal (Kajal in Hindi)

Then there’s the makeup. I don’t wear makeup every day, but many women here do. Before going out, women apply lipstick, blush, sometimes foundation and always kajal (eyeliner). Many people have pushed me to wear gajal everyday, saying that it brightens my eyes. There’s also a tradition here of putting this type of eyeliner on babies and children because it’s supposed to protect from glare and be good for the eyes. I like gajal, but it sucks when you have something stuck in your eye, start rubbing it, and you end up smearing the gajal all over the place (yes, I have this done this multiple times). I’m still trying to figure out if I want to wear this everyday.

Will I keep up some of these practices when I’m back in the US? Maybe. I think I’ll stick to wearing pote. I have always wanted Tri to wear a wedding ring, something that’s part of my culture, so I guess it’s only fair for me to wear this type of necklace. It’s also not difficult or taxing. Pote can be gorgeous and fun to wear too. If I do end up getting my nose pierced here, I’ll probably keep the piercing in. If I’m going to go through that much pain to start with, I’m not going to want to give it up.

In intercultural, interreligious, etc marriages and relationships, there’s always a pull and tug between two (sometimes more) entities, not necessarily between the people in the relationship but sometimes the forces outside of it. Tri doesn’t care one way or the other if I wear kajal or get my nose pierced, and I feel so lucky for that! Instead, it’s his family or friends or the aunties down the street who push me to do these things. I know that some of the people who read this blog have lived abroad, come from multiple cultures, or have been in intercultural, inter-religious relationships. I’m interested to hear how you have negotiated these multicultural influences. What aspects of the cultures you’ve come in contact with have you decided to adopt as your own and what have you decided to ignore?

I also want to mention that women value different aspects of body modification and appearance in different parts of Nepal. Some Sherpa women cap their teeth in gold, some women in the Tarai wear tattoos on their arms and faces, and some Gurung and Tamang women pierce their noses in two spots, on the side and in the middle. These forms of body modification sometimes have a religious or spiritual significance and sometimes they don’t. I’ve only been expected to follow rules that pertain to Bauns and Chhetris because I married a man from one of these castes.