What to Do?

“What to do?” is Mamu’s unofficial catchphrase. I think it’s really cute. She uses it as a catch all statement, an exasperation, a declaration, and a filler. “Sigh, what to do?”

My favorite “What to do?” was from their 2008 visit. We took Mamu to one of the local temples (not where we got married, but a South Indian temple east of us), and she was bringing me around to the different altars telling me the names of each god. We got to one god and Mamu didn’t recognize the name so she asked one of the pandits who the god was. He said, “Shiva’s third son.”

“But Shiva have two son.” She said.

“No, Shiva has three sons.” The pandit insisted.

“No, two only.” She insisted back. The pandit shrugged his shoulders and walked away. She turned to me and said, “In Kathmandu Shiva have two son. In America Shiva have three son. What to do?”

Anyway… “What to do?” seems to be the question P and I have on our minds as of late. Now that the wedding is over, the extra relatives are gone, and wedding related tasks are finished, we don’t know “what to do?” with his parents. I’m worried that they are bored out of their minds.

P has been largely working from home, but hasn’t been getting a lot of research done, so he will have to start going back to his office soon. I leave for work every morning at 7:45 and don’t come back until 4:30. We have computers and internet, so P generally tries to find Nepali and Hindi serials online for his parents to watch, but we don’t have a proper tv for them to flip through the channels, and Mamu doesn’t understand enough English to follow American serials very closely (too much English tends to make her fall asleep).

Mamu spends some time each day cooking, and P’s parents have gladly volunteered for the job of taking our dog out for walks around the park in the morning and afternoon, but most of the day they are at home, and especially in the recent heat wave, I think they spend much of the day sleeping.

“P, what can we do with them? Do they have any hobbies? Can we get them active in a local community group? Should we teach them to use the bus system so they can go around the city? I feel bad that there is so little for them to preoccupy their time during the day. What do they generally do at home?”

“At home the day is usually spent just making it through the day—doing stuff that requires electricity during the brief time it is available, stocking up on water during the brief time that it is available, taking care of my grandfather, cleaning, washing clothes by hand, cooking, it all takes extra time, and then the day is over. Otherwise they socialize with neighbors, drink tea on the roof. That’s about it.”

During two of the heat wave days this week P dropped them off at a local mall so they could enjoy air conditioning and poke around stores while he was at work, but there are only so many days one can do this before even shopping becomes boring.

We try to take them out of town on the weekends– day trips or overnight trips to visit new places or people, but that is only two days out of seven.

About a month ago Gori Wife Life had a post asking for suggestions on how to keep her father-in-law busy during his recent visit. She had the idea of getting him involved in the activities surrounding a local mosque. That sounded like a great idea, but unfortunately the local temples are at least a 20 minute drive east or west and not easy for them to get to, plus I’m not sure how much community activity currently surrounds either.

But I’m happy to solicit for suggestions. Any help for “What to do?”

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9 responses to “What to Do?

  1. We have a few things we do when my in-laws are here. There is a local senior center where they seniors meet and have activities such as card games etc. which my father-in-law likes so he goes there. They even have classes such as painting, yoga etc. which though they didn’t do the last time I think we might try signing them up for on their next visit. We also had a TV and subscribed to a bunch of Hindi channels which my MIL enjoys and watches a lot of. I don’t know how much Hindi your in-laws speak but I’ve noticed that it seemed widely spoken in Kathmandu so maybe they’d like that? We also got magazines for my mil from the local Indian grocery store that she reads back home. I don’t know if your in-laws are like that but I noticed that my in-laws were hesitant to do things that they thought cost too much etc. even if they were things they would enjoy so it sometimes took some persuading.

  2. Hmmm. A tells me (read: rants to me) that Indians don’t read, so I’m guessing good books are out. Do your in-laws like anything like knitting, woodworking, painting etc? You could set them up with projects like bookshelves — not too hard, but time consuming.

    Is P worried? Personally, the idea of visiting somewhere for multiple months gives me the heebie-jeebies, because I know that I canNOT just chill in someone else’s home for that long! As a teen, my visits to even my own brother, SIL, and niece/nephew (who are some of my favorite people in the world) shrunk from 3 weeks, to 2 weeks, to 1.5 weeks, and then a week. We tend to do less than a week visiting our own parents, if we can pick our schedules. I just get bored and depressed, even if I enjoy the company, because I feel useless and out of routine and like I’m floating away into nothingness (darn Protestant work ethic guilting me). I need to have things to do to remind who I am and that I’m important.

    But it’s also our culture — how many people do you know (not retired — heck, even retired, with “nothing” holding them back!) who go and visit relatives or friends for months on end? Or even more than a week or two? We like to be busy, to have our own thing, to be masters of our routine (and thus our fate, right?). Quite honestly, I don’t get why anyone would WANT to go for that long of visits! I mean, I get it rationally, but I have difficulty actually putting myself in those shoes and “getting” the perspective.

    So before you drive yourself nuts thinking about how stir-crazy YOU would be in this situation…take a few moments with P to go back over how much entertainment his parents actually want/need, and then go from there (it could be exactly how you’re picturing it, but I find that with A’s family, it’s always best to check before I work myself into a tizzy). Also remember, these are P’s parents, and he knows what’s available to them — make sure you’re letting him do at least 51% of the fretting!

    If you do find any great activities (and/or get insight into their “visiting” mentality), share share share!

    • I think you hit the nail a bit on the head. Because I feel like *I* would have to be engaged in activity (and my mom, for that matter, would also have to be engaged in activity), makes me think they have to be engaged in activity as well. I forget that P’s parents are a bit older than my parents, so whereas my mom might want to run all over the place and it kills her to sit in one place too long, P’s mom might not mind taking a nap in the afternoon, and watching a few Hindi serial. Whereas my mom would be insulted to be expected to cook, P’s mom enjoys it and it gives her something to do. I’m sure more activity wouldn’t be a bad thing, but they probably don’t have to be so over programmed (such an American thing to do!) because they are used to a slower lifestyle in Nepal.

      A is also right… at least P’s parents are not big readers. It was very easy to bond with my friend N’s mom when she stayed with us for a month because she spent the time reading through my bookshelf and we would compare notes on books we both enjoyed. On one of the really hot days this week we took P’s parents to the local Barnes and Nobles so we could sit in the cafe and have some tea, cool off in the air conditioning, and browse through magazines and books. P and I were happy to do this, but after a few minutes, P’s parents grew a bit bored (or *I* felt they were bored, since they sat there and kind of stared at us). Eventually P’s dad found an atlas to look through, and I found some vegetarian cooking magazines for his mom to look at the pictures of, but it didn’t feel overly relaxing (except for the cool air conditioned temperature).

      Another one of the heat wave days I suggested we take P’s parents to a movie theater that’s 20 mins down the road and shows Bollywood films. I thought a) we could get out of the heat, b) the film is in Hindi so they would understand and c) it has subtitles so I would ALSO understand. I thought it was a brilliant time pass idea. P said it would probably be a waste of money because shortly after the movie starts his parents will probably fall asleep (this happened with a 3D IMAX we took them to in 2008).

      Instead we hung out in P’s office (where there was air conditioning) with our dog, eating ice cream and watching Hindi serials on P’s work computer. I started asking for details about their favorite serial plot lines so I could better follow when we watch more in the future.

      So I probably just have to take my “university administrator–program coordinator” hat off when I get home and worry less about planning activities, and focus more on spending quality time with them– telling stories, being helpful, and being together as a family.

      • I told A all about this discussion last night. He got a good laugh out of it and agreed with everything. :)
        A’s family loves to play cards. They’ve also found a love for karaoke, and my MIL’s one request for our “game night” before the wedding was Bingo, because she thought the older people would really enjoy it. Or perhaps you could also do your own small projects and invite them to help or sit with you while you do it? That way at least you wouldn’t just be staring at each other across a table all night!

        • Our friends R and S hosted a city-wide Nepali Tihar program at an Indian restaurant in Connecticut last year. Besides eating, drinking and socializing they included “speeches” (they wanted me to get up and give a speech about my blog, lol), “open mic/singing.” and a rousing game of “Bingo.”

          It was kind of funny to play bingo with Nepalis from across the city, and funny that they thought, “hey, let’s play bingo for our festival gathering.” But it worked, we all had a fun time!

  3. Hmm… some really good thoughts here. My future in-laws are arriving tomorrow!! Granted we have his sister here and his other sister and her family coming for a few weeks, but after the wedding ‘what to do’ :) His parents will be here till November and we have all the great festivals in October and they have school aged grandchildren to spend time etc…. However, they will be stay with us and I am worried about it. Glad to hear others ideas and suggestions. I have been told his parents are not big on socializing but I have to see this first before I will believe it. This is the first time I have seen them since my tense time in Nepal so I feel overwhelmed.

    It’s nice to read about how you handle various aspects of your American life with your husband’s family.

    • americanepali

      Hi Jenny,

      Congrats and good luck!

      I think having his sister nearby will be a nice help. My friend R’s inlaws usually come to stay for 4-6 months at a time, and although they live with her (since her husband is “the eldest son”) his older sister (and her son, their first grandchild) and R’s younger brother-in-law are all close by. It seems to really help her to have multiple family members around who can plan activities, host dinners, take them shopping, take them on trips, and having a grandkid to watch really helps to keep them preoccupied. Granted– it also means that their house is generally “family gathering central” but at least there are more family members to help out.

      Your wedding and the October festivals should also help pass the time quickly :)

      P’s mom is pretty shy. She is okay with family and friends that she knows, but with other people, especially non-Nepali speakers she doesn’t know well, visiting with them for too long seems to really tire her out. I can sympathize. When I’m in Nepal being brought to different households, smiling and nodding a lot when I don’t understand the conversation, and trying to be attentive and polite through long stretches when I don’t know what is happening makes *me* tired too. She is a good sport, and likes getting out from time to time to do things, but doesn’t need to socialize with someone else for two or three whole days, or even one whole day. A few hours over lunch seems to work nicely.

      For instance, we took them on a day trip to Cape Cod to visit some American friends of ours who were packing up and leaving the area. We planned a lunch at our friends’ house, and a walk along the local beach, and about an hour long drive around some local coastal highlights. The lunch provided an activity so even if we were speaking in English there was something to do, and the walk and drive gave them some local flavor without being too conversation dependent.

      We don’t map every visit out like that, but especially for a set of American friends that P’s parents didn’t really know, the amount of time seemed to work nicely.

      Please keep us updated on how everything is going!

  4. lol- can’t get over the what to do expression. mamu is too cute.

  5. Nepali parents like to to sit home, visit friends, have tea/lunch with friends and family, or help out their children no matter how old. They like the close bonding. However they are not good with strange people or stange things/food etc. And a lot of them cannot hide their dissatisfaction on their face, which americans are good (or experts at) Let them help you with your works at least some little things, just sit down and talk when you have time, find other people who share their language, stay connected, all they like to do is share the same roof or kichen, not anything else. I think your in laws are the same. Make them feel like family members not guests whatever that may mean.

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