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Photo by Kendall Marianacci, Nepal Semester.

Communities That are Cooler than My Own!

I’ve very much enjoyed my time at the Ashram so far. The kids here love to run free and remind me of the children in Chokati quite a bit. They grow up in this closed community of about 150 people, with structured schedules if they aren’t in the school here. The community has clearly created their own family, which is easily felt through the comfort and relaxed way of life that is felt simply by walking around. During a Nepali dance class the group took yesterday, many of the children gathered in the dance space, sitting, waiting for us to arrive so they could watch us attempt their country’s folk dance, as well as show us their own dance that they’d been working on.
After two hours of embarrassment on our part, some of the kids stayed behind and practiced their English on us-which was unsurprisingly better than our Nepali skills. It is certainly not the first time I’ve felt these feelings and displays of immediate and unquestionable community, since arriving in Nepal.
Sitting in the kitchen of my Chokati homestay family, smoke rising straight into our eyes and nostrils, random people were constantly passing through during meal times. Some people I’d seen or met before, while others were complete strangers to my eyes. In any case, my homestay mother, sitting with the fire topped by a pot filled with potatoes and cauliflower in front of her always welcomed the person, “basnus” she would say. The person would take a sitting mat in response, and thus the spewing of Nepali words would form a worth-while conversation. The first few times this happened, I assumed that the guest was a family member I’d not yet met, but each meal it became clearer to me that anyone was welcome in this home. Sometimes little children who lived in houses across from ours would come for a bowl of milk, or some fresh cooked goat hear. Even though I could rarely understand the conversations being had in this kitchen, I felt the comfort that each guest brought with them when they sat down. The room would fill with an effortless sense of belonging, and I was in awe.
When the group would come back together in the afternoons, many others would come with stories about how random people kept joining their host families for dinner. Slowly, I began to understand how the village of Chokati functioned, and how, most likely, much of rural Nepal functions in communities. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you mean to someone, because you are automatically part of a family. I also started to think about how someone’s life must be affected by this type of community. I come from one of the largest cities in the world, where much of the city’s population lives in apartment buildings. In these apartment buildings, there is usually a doorman who interrogates guests about who they are going to see, and must verify that it is okay for the person to come in. If there is not a doorman, their is a buzzer, in order for the guest to request entry into another’s home. These systems have been put in place for the safety of the city, however, are subtly daunting steps everyone must take in order to enter another person’s house. What if the guest just took the elevator up, opened the door, and went to the kitchen during a meal time-without warning? The owner of the house would surely be confused, and may even consider it rude.
It’s strange to consider the idea that my home might have a much more peaceful and accepting community, with the adjustment of these systems. No doubt, the idea of these systems come from who we are as people, especially in a big city in America; but personally I don’t believe I have ever comfortable with the idea of just showing up at anyone’s house in my community for lunch or dinner. I wish that I felt the security in myself and my community to do this, however I know how unrealistic of an expectation it is. One’s community must start with the idea that everything is shared, and that if one is struggling and another person is not, they are to be aided out of their struggle by any means possible. If this idea is not instilled, it is impossible to feel a sense of belonging and trust for the rest of the world.