After four long days of orientation in Dhulikhel, everyone in the group was ready to settle in with their homestay families in Kathmandu. Shortly after my initial arrival to the city I (along with the thirteen other students on the program) was transported to the village which was just about an hour away. Finally it was Saturday, and before I knew it I was sitting at the program center, anxiously awaiting for my name to be called to signal that my aamaa – mother – was there to pick me up and take me to my new home.
The first couple of hours were a bit awkward, I’ll admit. Although I found communication was quite easy as the majority of my family speaks perfect English, I had no idea what to even talk about. Sitting on the couch with a smile on my face, I realized embracing silence was a skill I was going to have to learn while living with a group of people whom I had never met.
My family is not so traditional – our house features a Western toilet, my older sister eats with a spoon, and my brother (who I unfortunately won’t have the chance to meet) attends school at the University of Hawaii. Despite these cues to a modernized Nepali home, there are a few cultural attributes reminding me of where I am.
In Nepal they have a saying, “guest is God;” and after spending five days in my homestay I can attest to the relevance. Immediately after walking into the door, I was assured I could come to my family with anything. “If you have any problems or difficulties, let me know, and I will make them better,” my aamaa told me with a smile on her face and a serious tone. Throughout the day, I am constantly being asked if I’m alright, or as it’s more often put – “what do you need?” It’s clear that each and every family member, from my mother to my grandfather to a visiting uncle, genuinely desires for me to feel welcome in their home.
After traveling half-way around the world, immersing myself into a completely different culture and moving in with a bunch of strangers, I don’t think I could have asked for a better situation.