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Photo by Catherine Von Holt, Nepal Semester.

Relationships Beyond the Language Barrier

My first night in Chokati was by far the furthest from my comfort zone I’ve felt since arriving in Nepal.

I thought I would enjoy being separate from the group for the first time since we got here, but as I arrived at my homestay family’s house I found myself longing to be back with everyone, as we had been thus far.

This was mostly because I quickly realized that I had vastly underestimated just how much of a barrier my incredibly minimal Nepali (and my family’s non-existant English) would be. Within about 20 minutes I had expressed my gratitude for food and a place to sleep, and explained that my name was Henry and I was from America.

Having thus reached the limit of my language skills, I could only answer any further questions with smiles, shrugs, and direct repetition of any words I recognized.

That night and much of the next day was mostly spent dreading the next two weeks of awkward silences, questions I couldn’t answer let alone understand, and generally leeching off this kind-hearted family; eating their food and occupying one of their beds without any other form of substantive interaction.

But I’ve slowly been moving beyond what I originally presumed to be the extent of my possible interaction with them, and abandoning many preconceptions about what is necessary to build relationships with people.

Over the past 4 days there has still been plenty of confusion, frustration and loneliness, but along with these feelings, I’ve felt just as much surprise and hope for the rest of my time here, stemming from the gestures, actions, and understanding smiles which serve as proof that what I can do with and learn from people doesn’t have to be so drastically stunted by language (or rather a lack thereof). I’m looking forward to learning more about and from my new family, with or without actual words.