Sometimes Nepalis ask me if it’s true that kids in the US are forced to leave home at age 18. “Well, they’re not always forced to”, I say, “but many kids do leave home then.” However, I then mention that this trend is changing. With the recent recession and the difficulty of finding work as a young person, many people from my generation are moving back in with their parents. This always makes whoever is asking feel a bit better about the US because many Nepalis believe that it is right for children to live with their parents. What I don’t mention is that these home bound young people often still crave independence, privacy, and eventually freedom.
I crave these things too, but I’ve willingly given them up to be here. My beliefs about independence and privacy have also changed significantly since meeting Tri and moving to Nepal. In Nepal, the group or the family often comes before the individual, and living in culture that upholds this value has made me into a less selfish, more thoughtful person. However, I am still searching for a little more independence and privacy in my life. I’m struggling to find that balance between American and Nepali culture that will make me, Tri, our family, and the people around us feel happy and comfortable.
Although we have a car, I’ll admit that I have only driven it once, and that was in the driveway. So I don’t have a way to get around on my own. I know; I know. If want more independence, I should learn to drive. But I’m honestly afraid of the crazy Kathmandu streets, the speeding motorcycles and sometimes careless pedestrians. Although I know I could learn how to drive stick shift if I put some time into it, it would be very hard for me to deal with getting into an accident. What if I was alone when it happened? What if someone started screaming at me in Nepali? I don’t think I could handle that. I could use the bus, but we live far outside of the city, so it would take me a long time to get anywhere. I also have asthma, and my lungs just can’t handle the fumes that pour in through open bus windows.
Besides not being able to get around, I’m also unable to make many of the decisions about my social life and schedule. It’s not that I’m literally unable but that these decisions often made for me by Tri’s family. If they decide we’re going out to a friend’s house to eat, then I have to go too, no excuses. In truth, I love going, meeting people, and spending time with family and friends, but sometimes, after a long day of work I just need to head home and relax.
People are highly connected in Nepal, and consequently I end up spending more time with others than I did in the US. What’s great about it is I never feel lonely. Rates of depression and suicide are much lower in Nepal than in the US because people don’t spend much time alone. Because I’m around so many people all the time, I’m also learning to be a more outgoing person. I’ve always struggled to reach out to others because of my shy nature. It’s not that I don’t want to but more that I’m afraid. In Nepal, however, I have to be more outgoing and friendly because I’m meeting new people all the time. I wouldn’t survive without social skills.
Despite the fact that I enjoy being around people, I miss my privacy. Tri and I live with his family, and it’s difficult to find time for ourselves, especially with some of the crazy stuff going on in our lives. Tri is working at a start up software firm, so he’s putting in extra hours at night and over the weekends. I just started a new job with more responsibilities and outside of work, I’m writing for a magazine, trying to study for the GRE’s, and interviewing prospective students applying to my alma mater. Don’t get me wrong. We love what we’re doing and love being busy, but it’s very hard to find privacy in our hectic lives. Our families are also both going through some difficult times right now, and all of this leaves little time for just us to be together.
Last weekend, I told Tri’s uncle and aunt (Mama and Maijiu) how we’re having trouble finding time for just us. Maijiu (and my mom as well) suggested that we set aside some time each week to go out together, maybe to a restaurant after work. Planning a weekly date, rather than doing something spontaneous is new to me and somehow makes me feel like an old married lady, but I guess that’s what people in the real world do when they want to go out.
Last Saturday, Tri and I had to head over to Bhatbateni (the major department store chain in Kathmandu). We only needed three things: a microwaveable glass bowl, some nuts, and a packet of drain cleaner (very mundane household items), but we ended up taking an hour and a half to collect them. We were cruising the isles slowly, just relishing the time alone together…maybe we’ll make this into a weekly thing. Turning our trip to the grocery store into a date also kind of made me feel like an old married lady, but honestly, I’m not complaining. I’ll take what I can get.