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Photo by Kendall Marianacci, Nepal Semester.

Where No Dragon Has Gone Before

We are told that today is Day 15 of our course, which is kind of hard to believe. In some ways we feel as though we’ve been together for months and months, but at the same time it feels like we’ve only just arrived in Nepal. Time is strange like that, especially here in the village.

We are fortunate to be spending our rural homestay in Koshi Tappu, a village in the Terai, which is a region in the south of Nepal. We are the first Dragons group to be visiting this area. I must admit that, before the trip, many of us were guilty of falling for the stereotype that Nepal is entirely remote, snowy mountain villages in the Himalayas. Nothing like the warm plains surrounding us now. I am grateful for the opportunity to experience many facets of Nepal’s incredibly diverse landscapes, climates, and cultures.

In the morning I wake up to the sounds of birds chirping and our homestay aamaa (mother) milking the cow. On some days our group meets up at 8 for Nepali language class, or otherwise at 11 for programming, which could be anything from a discussion on wildlife conservation to a visit to a Hindu temple or a bird-and-buffalo-watching expedition. The afternoons, evenings, and Saturdays are ours to spend with each other and with our homestay families, perhaps helping to work in the fields, exploring the bazaar, or playing with newborn goats.

This village is unlike any place I’ve ever been to before. All families here are farmers, and most own some combination of cows, buffalos, chickens, and goats. It is common to see them grazing in the fields or roaming the streets. We have become experts in using squat toilets, doing our laundry by hand at the water pump outside, and showering in the same spot. Many families are related and most know each other, so different people are always coming in and out of the house. The people here are extremely friendly and will often welcome you into their home for a warm cup of milk chiya.

As I said earlier, time seems to work differently here. We watch it pass by but nothing seems too urgent. There’s never any rush to be anywhere or get anything done quickly. Children on their way to school often stop for several minutes to chat with us at our house. Although I don’t have much to entertain myself with, I’m rarely bored. On the first morning I got up before 6 and just stared out into the fields for a few hours. Often in the afternoons I amuse myself by watching our baby goats explore and play. The big challenge, on the other hand, is staying up at night. When it gets dark there’s not much to do, and we don’t want to go to sleep too early for fear of waking up early and not being able to fall asleep again. So sometimes Cate and I play cards, or we read, but one night we sat and talked with our homestay brother, who we hadn’t gotten to know very well yet. We talked about school and interests, music, and movies, and found that we have many things in common.

That, I think, is one of my favorite things about this village homestay: getting to know the villagers. Communication is sometimes difficult though. Our Nepali skills are slowly developing, and Cate and my homestay parents don’t speak much English. Our brother does, however, and sometimes he is asked to step in as interpreter. I imagine that’s annoying for him but it’s nice that he can talk to us. On the other hand we enjoy practicing our Nepali phrases and our parents love to teach us the words for different fruits and vegetables. Some of the other villagers do speak some English, and it’s always fun to talk to them. I realized once that this village with its small houses and outdoor water pumps serving as showers and animals everywhere might once have been what came to mind when I imagined poverty, but nothing about this place or the people here feels impoverished. It’s simply a different lifestyle than I’m used to, and I am grateful for the chance to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for simple village life.