My Trip to South Carolina

I spent the past week at one of my favorite places, a small beach in South Carolina called Garden City. It’s a place where my father’s family used to gather every summer to share a house and enjoy the water. The tradition fell off in recent years and it became clear to me that it was up to me to revive it.

I have always loved the family beach trip. I swim long hours just jumping in the waves of the ocean! I spend time with my younger cousins, sharing stories and playing card games. I bask in the glow of love from my aunts and uncles. This year I decided to introduce Brad to Garden City.

Unfortunately, we were only able to get two of my cousins to join us. But we made a stop along the way in North Carolina to introduce him to my aunts and uncles there. We had a great time and Brad is on board to make this trip an annual tradition once again. Hopefully as we gain steam, we can get more people to come along! (Some weren’t able to come simply because we are also asking them to come to a wedding a short two months from now!)

There’s a lot I love about the Carolinas and a not small part of me longs to move to N.C. and live close to my beloved aunts. More of my cousins are returning to the area and settling in for work and it would be so nice to be near them and raise my future children near them. I always feel good when I’m visiting there. I guess when the stress of real life caught up it wouldn’t be quite so awesome! :)

The only thing that stops me is that it’s in the Bible Belt, a region of the U.S. known for being blatantly, loudly Christian. And I can’t take it. There are Christian billboards everywhere you look, Christian dating sites advertising on TV, and mostly Christian radio stations. The thing that gets me the most is the pervasive underlying attitude that everyone is Christian. It seems like there are only two options for a lot of the people I meet in the South: Christian or devil worshiper.

My entire Southern family has been so welcoming and accepting of me and my Hindu beliefs. I wish I saw more of that!

I don’t always wear my bindi when I’m down there. I didn’t for most of this trip. But I do tend to like to wear it when I’m in the South. Maybe just to be contrary, but I like to think I do it because it’s useful and helpful for people to see that someone of another religion does not have to be frightening or even different. I’m playing in the ocean, reading on the sand, and eating ice cream at the Yum Yum Shop just like they are!

Whether they realize that the mark on my face indicates a religion is another question all together.


About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Agni Ashwin

    Parts of North Carolina are quite progressive (Asheville, Durham-Chapel Hill area, etc.).

  • Kat

    there are Hindu temples in Raliegh if this helps out any ^_^ [i looked a few up i think one even has a Holi even, and not far from that are 2-3 Buddhist ones as well near NC state or off of hillsboro street

  • Andrea

    The only thing I have been to in Raleigh is a Hindu wedding, actually :D

    It may help you to realize that the overt religiosity of the South is very much a cultural thing. Would you be just as upset if you were in Dubai and heard calls to prayer or had to refrain from eating in public while your friends were fasting for Ramadan? Or if you went to India where everything is named something religious – Sri Sai Ram Transport, Shree Krishna Designs, etc. ? Religion is in your face in so many places in the world. Just see it as a peculiarity of the place you are visiting; do not let it affect your emotions. There’s really no reason to. Most people will not confront you about these things and if they do, you can politely tell them you do not want to talk about it. (Luckily, it is also Southern custom to not discuss politics or religion with acquaintances, although that custom has been fading, particularly on the politics side, in past years!)

    I lived in Texas for many years and I miss it very much. The overt religious atmosphere does not bother me; it is just how Texas is. I am not expected to share in it and there is always a place for you somewhere if you look.

  • Ambaa

    It’s good to hear that you all have had good experiences in NC! Probably, as per usual, this is an issue that’s all in my head.

    I’m terrible at the not discussing religion thing. Even when I don’t mean for it to, the subject almost always comes up. It just interests me so much! (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it).

    I guess my big fear is if I live in NC and raise my kids there, they will have more pressure on them to be Christian. I shouldn’t fear that as much as I do :( There are much worse things that could happen.

    • Andrea

      Indeed there are. My parents tolerated my oft-mentioned ‘teenage rebellion’ of going to church with friends because it meant I wasn’t off getting drunk somewhere or doing things that would get me thrown in jail. :)