The anticipation of waiting for so long was making me nervous. The families were told to get to the program house by 4 pm but naturally, they would come a little later. To address some of our concerns we were having a Q&A session were we could air our grievances to Parker and Sharon who were there to assuage our concerns. I told myself that I had no concerns and that whatever differences I would experience I would tackle head on and it would be no problem, but in the back of my mind, the worries were mounting as the minutes went by. I was especially concerned with my ability to communicate as my ability to speak Nepali was far from impressive. Despite Parker and Sharon’s intentions, I think they were making us all a little more anxious as they were sharing stories of previous individuals problems with homestay families, which were both funny, concerning and comforting all at the same time.
One by one the families started streaming in and we all sat in an awkward circle with a defined demarcation between students and host families. I looked at all of the faces of my perspective family members and tried to imagine my experience with each one. Sharon and Amarat introduced the families and briefed them on the general expectations of hosting. They also went on to explain that our group was a little different than past Dragons groups as we are college-level students with more of an academic commitment.
After this, the names were read out to match student and family. I was sitting next to Sharon so I could see the paper she was reading off of and I noticed that Blake and I were assigned to the same family, this seemed curious but I did not say anything. I was called before Blake so I thought I had finally met my family but alas, Sharon noticed we were doubled up and I was quickly reassigned to a different family. This is when I met my family, it consisted of my baa (father) Rajesh, my aamma (mother) Bindu, my bhai (younger brother) Prasiddha, and my dai (older brother) Razzib. My father works at a metalworking shop called On Metal Arts & Crafts, they make huge bronze sculptures usually for Buddhist spiritual purposes. They have built multiple sculptures over 100ft including a particular famous sculpture in Bhutan. My aamma is an all-around super-woman she works with goats and also sells textiles. On top of this, she has the energy to cook for two ravenous sons (plus me) and clean up after them too… Razzib is 22 and he is a computer science major at a local university. Prasiddha is 18 and hoping to go to school in the US.
When I first was thinking of living with a host family I was expecting a very different kind of family dynamic but what I got was a more traditional family than my actual family back home. Throughout the entirety of my stay, I felt like I was just sleeping over at one of my “bros” houses back home. Prasiddha and Razzib are awesome kids and it was great to become friends with them, we watched Netflix, talked about soccer and weight lifting, and just hung out it was great! I felt so welcome into the family, one weekend I was invited to a family gathering. With a bunch of extended family members coming along we all packed into a bus and went to Bagmati to have a family day outside of the dust of the valley. We sang and danced and played musical chairs, I felt like a part of the family as everyone included me in the conversation and seemed like they liked having me there. I also learned a new card game that’s a very simple version of poker and I made 300 rupees when the day was done.
I think all of us had expectations and some fears going into our homestay family period but what I found was something so similar to life back home. Of course, there were some differences highlighted by the language barrier and some cultural differences by the family dynamics between parents and children and between brothers were all too familiar. I think it highlighted the “human experience” which sounds cliché but I think rings true, around the world families and individuals are all experiencing the same problems and challenges and so many of us seem to focus on the differences.