Commonwealth English: Baffling Americans Near and Far


It seems that wherever English is spoken, it takes on the flavour of the land. In India, I find myself marvelling at the twists and starts of a language so familiar and yet so foreign. Apparently, I’m not the only one to notice this. #IndianEnglish was trending recently on Twitter, and as I scrolled through, I was reminded of crispy pakoras, lazily spinning fans and doting Aunties.

Here are a few of my favourites:

exam Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 4.54.19 PM

I also love, “please do the needful” and “my head is paining”. I’ll admit: some of these have creeped into my vocabulary….

Varun and I have fun mocking noticing these differences whenever they crop up, and the word ‘chit‘ is no exception. Once, while doling out slips of paper for a raucous round of Mafia, Varun said, “Keep your chits and I’ll collect them later.” Many questions ensued. Like the mature adult that I am, every time he says that I giggle a bit.

Until my jog this morning.

Overheated and questioning my sanity for running in this heat, I stared confusedly at this sign:


‘Chits’?! Who knew? Either this is Canadian English that somehow I missed, or Indian English is beginning to take hold. I’m kind of hoping it’s the latter, because I would love it if we would all start saying, “I am leaving now only” and other awesome Indianisms.

Oh Canada

While every tourist equates Canada with “Eh”, some Canadianisms are a bit more elusive. I’ve lived here for 8 years and just this year I learned three new Canadianisms.

Duotang. Remember those folders that have the three hole punch clips? They were essentially a mix between a binder and a folder. Canadians, it turns out, know that they’re called duotangs. I spent 20-some years of my life avoiding referring to them for lack of an appropriate vocabulary.

In hospital. I’m not sure why, but somehow having a Queen means dropping the ‘the’. My friends in Canada and on the other side of the pond find this ‘the’ quite unnecessary: “She’s been in hospital for three weeks.” How, you may ask, did it take me nearly a decade to notice this? I’m not sure. Perhaps because whenever we’re talking about the hospital I’m more interested in who’s there and why than whether there’s a dropped ‘the’.

Writing exams. I feel so scholarly with this one. In Canada, we don’t take exams, we write them. My brother pointed out that I’m not the professor and am therefore not creating the exam, but I like to think my knowledge is so profound that when I do an exam, it is the writing of it.

Whether you’re in Canada, India or somewhere in between, I’m curious to hear what -isms are unique, baffling or beloved in your locale. Do share! And don’t forget, tomorrow and Friday are the ‘happy birthdays’ of two of my favourite countries!


Categories: communication, confusion, india, language | 15 Comments

Adoption Update: Orphanage in Jaipur!

We’ve been assigned to an orphanage in Jaipur, Rajasthan that is willing to accept our file! They’ve informed us that it will likely be 6 months or so until we receive a referral for a child. But! This is great news! Since December 2012 we’ve been assigned two orphanages, and both informed us they would not be able to match us with a child. The RIPA in Jaipur is the first willing to place us on their waiting list!

Assigned a R.I.P.A (Registered Indian Placement Agency)!!! Jaipur

Assigned a R.I.P.A (Registered Indian Placement Agency)!!! Jaipur

Of course, as with all things adoption-related, there’s a strong element of ‘we hope’. Nothing seems to be certain until it actually happens, but that’s the nature of adoption: entering into the unknown with equal parts fear and trembling, faith and prayer, and, of course, a sense of humour.


Rajasthan Adoption

If you’re like me, Rajasthan requires a bit of googling. Which is ironic, considering it’s the top tourist destination in India (who knew?). No idea how I missed that. Unfortunately, the interweb is somewhat silent on the topic of Rajasthan adoption. We’re curious to get in contact with other families who have adopted from Jaipur; if you know of anyone, please let us know!


It turns out, Rajasthan is also home to 2 tiger preserves. And the home state of my future brother-in-law (more on that in a future post. Spoiler: we’re headed to an Indian wedding in October!). I’m really hoping that when we go to meet our child, and in the years to follow, we’ll get to explore the cuisine, sites and culture of this fascinating state.

"Folk Musicians of Rajasthan", Wikipedia.

“Folk Musicians of Rajasthan”, Wikipedia.



"Best of Rajasthan"

“Best of Rajasthan”

Well, now that we all have a super-touristy conception of Rajasthan, I think my work here is done. I can’t wait until I can share a bit more than stock photos from tourism sites, but for now we’ll just keep learning about Rajasthan and praying for our little one.

adopting from India.jpg

As June marks our 2 year anniversary of beginning the adoption journey, we can’t help but reflect on the many ways we’ve been supported. Thank you for praying, wondering, hoping, giving and encouraging us over these past 2 years! Hopefully in the upcoming months we’ll have wonderful news about the little girl or boy who will join our family!


Categories: adoption, family, india, kids | 5 Comments

Conference Survival Guide for Cowardly Extroverts

Alright friends, it’s confession time.

I’m the worst extrovert ever: I fear small talk and meeting new people.

But seriously.

I’m heading to the Write! Canada conference and I’ll be honest, I have no small amount of anxiety about being in a room full of business card wielding strangers.

Thankfully, my family loves to dole out advice. Hoping to find some tidbits about how to be professional (or at least how to feign professionalism), I sent out a distress call. I think the responses speak for themselves…

From my Dad:

  • Norman Vincent Peale always said to ask about the other person and they will fill in the space. Almost everyone likes to be asked questions about themselves.
  • Stalk the attendees. Ahead of time, Google-LinkedIn everyone on the agenda and make a note 1 or 2 things you’d ask each them about.
  • Wear your name tag upside down. People who otherwise wouldn’t care will stand in front of you trying to read it. Introduce yourself, oblivious to the tag. If they ask, tell them you’re not good at working crowds and you’ve adapted this as a coping mechanism.

From my Mom:

Just remember all the things you learned to value as a child, look people in the eyes, be real, and listen.

From my older brother, the Lawyer:

  • Follow-up: 90% of the people who “get your contact info” will never follow through with you. The onus is on YOU to initiate contact. Do so early and do so in detail…Write to new contacts within 24 hours. Not 48. Remind them who you are and your common point of connection. Most importantly, give them a reason to listen to you by ADDING VALUE to their lives. Make them aware of a news article, recent report, new book , non-profit or lesser-known government office that is totally down their alley…
  • Bonus points for adding every business card to your gmail Contacts database and in the notes section, writing a memo to yourself about how you met the person, why they’re significant, what THEY are interested in and what your last contact with them consisted of…
Snack break. My survival tip is don't go anywhere without ample snacks. Especially a conference.

My conference survival tip is bring snacks. Hunger control or friend-making technique? Sit next to me and find out…

From my older sister, The Teacher, the Homemaker and the Serial Networker:

  • You don’t want to bog one person down with your life story…Make it like a scavenger hunt–see how many people you can talk to and make connections with. You will be a breath of fresh air if you’re talking about the weather and the food and the drinks instead of just droning on about your degrees and your books and your credentials.
  • Disclaimer–CAFFEINE cannot be underrated in this endeavour…Caffeine could give you that extra push to start conversations you might not normally start, smile a little brighter when you’re not feeling brave and make the moves you normally would hesitate to make (like talking about meatballs while you’re standing next to someone in the buffet line).

From my younger brother, The Future Diplomat:

  • Amelia, like you, I am an abysmal networker. My biggest fear is being in a room where I don’t know a single person. Usually, despite my courage to muster up the efforts to do otherwise, I sit by myself and pretend to look busy until some event forces me to speak to other people.
  • Getting introduced is half the battle. The more important part, in my mind, is forming a meaningful connection with the person you are talking to. In my limited experience, I’ve found that the way to do this is by not following the script. As you know most conversations go like this:

-My name is ____. What’s your name?

-(Mirror answer)

-I work as a _____. Where do you work?

-(Mirror answer)

-Where did you study for college?

-(Mirror answer)

-I’m from ____. Where are you from?

-(Mirror answer).

-Oh Montreal? I lived there once. Great city. Really great…. um… scene. Yeah. The scene there is great.

-Yeah. I lived there, and I umm.. loved the scene. The things in that city were really great. You know, I would love to go back there and experience all the great things. Yeah, you just can’t get those kinds of great things here.

-Yeah. What a great city. Great scene. Great.


…And then the conversation breathes the last breaths of its wispy, pitiful life, and then expires.

Especially when everyone is working in the same field and has had similar backgrounds/life experiences, people are tired of this conversation. Maybe it’s different here in the Middle East where every aid worker’s life story reads like a Mad Lib (insert East Coast liberal arts college here, insert impoverished Asian country here, insert UN acronym here), people sometimes show physical annoyance when you go through this script with them….

Now I’m not the most brilliant conversationist, but I’ve discovered a way to break up this monotony…Usually, I take the first or second thing they say and take the conversation in that direction. I try to go deeper into another topic, so we can have a more interesting conversation that won’t be like the ones they’ve had before. I’ll ask them more about where they’re from, or ask them more details about their job (preferably ones that show that I know more about their line of work than they give me credit for).

From my youngest brother, The Photographer/Videographer:

  • Do your research. Find out their history, and some recent projects they’ve done that you’re interested in. Come up with a question/issue that “only they can help you with/answer” and go from there. It’ll give you something to talk about, but far more importantly, it will stroke their ego and make them feel important. When it comes to professionals, what more can you ask for, right??
  • Basics: Constant eye contact and say the person’s name to them. Yes, it’s something that Sarah does when she’s really angry at you (“Luke CHRISTOPHER Rafferty!!!!!”), but saying someone’s first name really stands out to them. It is, to them, the most beautiful word in their native language. It’ll make them feel important, and in the long run – remember you.
  •  Business cards/follow up emails. That’s pretty self explanatory.

And finally, another one from Mom:

Just be yourself.  Maybe read Pride and Prejudice (or another Jane Austin) beforehand.


Thanks, Mom. I’m not exactly sure what Mr. Darcy has to do with conference-ing, perhaps I should give P&P another read.

At any rate, here’s hoping the upside down name tag trick works!


Categories: communication, customs, family, hilarious | 8 Comments


So I described myself today as someone who “blogs regularly” at ESL Marriage. Yeah…so about that. It’s high time for a post.

Unfortunately, this post doesn’t contain a funny Varunism. Not because he hasn’t said anything hilarious recently. He has. I just can’t remember anything and it’s 11 p.m.

So why have I been so remiss in blogging? I once heard Jim Gaffigan describe the arrival of his 4th baby in this way, “Imagine you’re drowning, and someone hands you a baby”. Well, there’s no baby here to speak of, but I feel a bit like our buddy Jim these days. Life was chaotic with school and work, but when internship moved in, I had to start making some cuts.

Homemade bread was the first project to go. When I was home for Christmas my Dad got me addicted to this no-knead, crusty artisan bread. And he even bought me the necessary cast-iron pot. But apparently, ain’t nobody got time for that.


Next up was Most Things Cleaning-Related. Let me illustrate. At 1 a.m. this morning Varun and I woke up to the sound of crashing in the kitchen. The culprit was a pile of tupperware and silverware, on top of a pile of stuff, on top of an unused appliance, that were all supposed to be put away ‘later’.

Gone are the days of lazily perusing feedly or finding I’d seen every meme on ifunny. I’m about a month behind on email. And so, as you can imagine, this blog has sort of been placed on the back burner (which is now a shelf for un-put away kitchen items). But since I love blogging and I have heard the desperate plea of the masses, I’m going to try and post a bit more frequently.

Here’s a bit of what’s been keeping me busy the past few months….


Schoolwork. One.last.course.

My brother’s wedding!

sarah n john



Lots of commuting.


And of course, lots of consuming delicious Indian food. I need to learn how to make this yummy brown drink, which I think is called Imli…?


Well friends, that’s all for now!

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Somewhat Related Links for an End-of-Winter-Day

Yesterday I pushed the apartment door open to see our living room flooded with warm, glowing sunshine. I glanced at my watch: 6 p.m.! Finally, the days are getting longer and the sun is feeling a little bit brighter.


No filter here, folks!

Here’s a collection of links that are only mildly related–actually, I think all that they have in common is that I picked them:

Recommended by my cousin, an adoption book for children,: Hand Picked. If you’ve read this, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you’re looking for the inside scoop on why a family would choose to foster, The Heartbreak of Foster Care is the blog post for you.

Crazy Story!

This 4 year old is unbelievably creative and way more fashionable than I am!

Head bobs are a source of confusion to non-South Asians, and this video attempts to clarify.…get ready for some ridiculousness.

To be honest, I find my gut-reaction to her body size disturbing. When I saw this sample doll, I thought, “That doll looks fat”. While I only had a few Barbie’s as a child, clearly her shape is the norm in my head. Why are Barbie’s body proportions normal to me?


But really, why are we ok with this?

One of the things I’m looking forward to after graduating is having more brain-space to read. This blog and list has inspired me to read through the world!

This list about South Asian weddings made me giggle. In my limited experience, some of these ring true! What do you think?

Fudgy, peanut butter, chocolate-chip brownies. ‘Nuff said.


Playing with baby K at a friend’s baby shower

Happy Friday, friends!

Categories: adoption, dessert, family | 1 Comment