I used to think home was a place: Menlo Park, California, United States of America. It was very easy that way. I knew where I belonged, and I took comfort in returning whenever I left. I was a little peg that fit snuggly in the hole of pop music blasting through car speakers, a line out the door of Cafe Borrone every Sunday morning, and a clean, suburban life.
Recently, I have been seriously troubled by the imminent reality of returning “home” on December 7th. I spent a lot of time sitting with that discomfort and trying to pinpoint the root before realizing that home for me was no longer black and white. Home is no longer as simple as a set of geographic coordinates. It seems that home to me is no longer a location, as opposed to a comfort of the soul.
This morning I woke up and sat with my bahini by the bush of orange marigolds next to our water tap. The sun was rising over the Himalaya, and in the morning glow of the mountains I hugged her and buried my face in her hair. I realized that I really loved her, as I do for the rest of my Balamchaur homestay family. I feel like I truly am their daughter; I feel like I am home. Our littlest goat came over and pressed his tiny horns into my calf, and as my didi washed dishes next to me I felt a ridiculously wild sense of happiness. This, I thought, is what home is. It isn’t an address. It isn’t touching down in a certain city or driving down familiar streets. Home is what I have found here in Nepal, in a hot cup of chiyaa sipped slowly out of a tin cup, or in the plate of daal bhat that my didi hands me nightly. Home is also what what I will re-envelop myself in upon returning to the US, in the smiles of my American family and the endless dinner table laughs to come.
I remember driving past the American embassy for the first time in Kathmandu. At the time I felt unstable in Nepal and was longing for the familiar comforts of “home” back in the US. Upon seeing the embassy a fiery ache ripped through me. I longed to run into the embassy and hear perfect English and feel so, so American. Now, sitting in a plastic chair under the watchful majesty of the Himalaya, it is no longer America that I crave. It is simple moments like watching the sun rise this morning with my bahini. It has been both terrifying and beautiful to watch aspects of what used to be home dissolve, while discovering deep pockets of the same peace halfway across the world. How truly exceptional it is to know that if I can find home all over the globe, I will never truly have to leave.