In this photo, the lady in white shorts holding up 4 fingers is Joyce, a teaching assistant at our school who is telling us that her sister has four daughters. For Deepavali 2013 (Nov. 2) Joyce invited a number of teaching staff that she works with, over to her house. Joyce and her mother and sister and nieces cooked a huge feast with at least a dozen separate dishes of unique Indian food.
It was a funny example of cultural interface: Joyce invited us all with the instructions that “lunch will be ready at 2:00 pm.” So we organized ourselves and drove in separate vehicles over to her house to arrive at 2:00 pm. Well, the apparent tradition is that people visit throughout the day and eat and chat and go, I understand, from friend’s house to friend’s house. So Joyce was not expecting us ALL to arrive at the same time; she thought that we would trickle in throughout the afternoon as a sequence of guests! Pictured above was about half of the cohort; there was a family of 5, 2 single women, our family of 3, a family of 4 and another family with 2. At least 16 people! Poor Joyce was scrambling to find chairs and so we ended up eating in sit-down meal fashion. Eating at a table was also an adaptation for Westerners; I think the tradition is to take a plate and sit in the living room enjoying the company of friends.
It was a great example of the generosity of a local friend on a seasonal holiday and an example of the need to be flexible when living in another country – for both national hosts and foreign guests!