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Photo by Kendall Marianacci, Nepal Semester.

Shifting: Home.

Our time in Patan has flown by. Almost one month ago we arrived here, energized and a bit weary from constant movement and travel. Students settled into their home-stays immediately, and found the transition to being alone, to being a part of a family, to forming a routine both surprisingly easy and oddly hard. New expectations from new parents, unmarked roads and alleyways to navigate, different sounds to keep us awake at night, the change of scenery also meant for a change in presence and mindset.

Most groups who come to Patan stay for two to three weeks, enough time to bond with families, practice Nepali, and get to know this ancient-turning-modern city. We had the good fortune of being here for almost a whole month. That length of stay provided the chance for further in depth exploration, the chance to get bored, be annoyed, experience utmost joy. Our home-stay families remarked that in this period of time they felt more connected to the students than they have in previous courses. There was greater chance for cultural exchange, more opportunities to wash laundry together, to visit extended family, to celebrate births and honor deaths.

At our home-stay party our students took a moment to share their gratitude and thanks with their families. The weather was not on our side, but the energy and compassion was. It was amazing to witness the ways in which our students had grown within this space, and the genuine appreciation they felt for the strangers turned family.

We are leaving Patan today and that is surfacing mixed emotions for us all. To families at home, in less than two weeks your children arrive back with full hearts and full bags and lots of new bracelets and thick beards. They are so excited to see you. But this morning they are hugging behind the fill-in families who have been caring for them as they have been sick and taking them to events and to the tailors. They have learned the nuances of family, the space they have within themselves to let others in; to care and be cared for. It’s a special thing, to have created a home in a place that was once unfamiliar and new, and now to be leaving with the awareness that we carry these experiences, and these people, with us, especially when returning back to where we left from.