I started out my homestay by being greeted by an old lady who spoke no English. I would later know her as angay, which is the Dzongkhan word for grandma. Now that the week is complete, I can confidently say that in my opinion, I had by far the best homestay.
The first reason for this was that I didn’t have any younger siblings. I was initially disappointed about this but am now eternally grateful. This is simply because kids can be annoying, and having them follow you around for an entire week can be frustrating. So I avoided this downside of having little siblings who lived with me while still getting to have nieces and nephews who lived on the same property as me and would hang out with me from time to time. My favorite story about my nephew is a weird one. Some context is that throughout the week, my nephew and several other kids in the village would like to hold my hand and rub it on their face because of how soft it was (which they weren’t used to because it was a farming village and their hands were calloused). So one day, my nephew told the other kids that I didn’t want them to walk me to my house, which was his attempt to not have competition to hold my hand. There are more stories like this involving kids who would push others away from me and run at each other from behind so that they could have one of my hands all to themselves.
Another reason my homestay was the best was that I had angay, with whom I formed a close bond despite the fact that the only English she knew was “sit down” (which she used so that I wouldn’t help her to make meals). This was best exemplified one day when I was at my house with some friends drinking tea. Angay came into the room with a little girl from the village who spoke pretty good English and translated that I needed to eat lunch out that day because angay was going to the cows. I then had her tell angay that she was the best homestay grandma and a few other things that I can’t quite remember. Angay’s eyes started to water and she gave me a hug while having the translator tell me that I was the best grandson too. This is just one reason for how great angay was. Some more reasons are how she made the best milk tea I’ve had the whole trip and she would fill my water bottle with it every morning before I left so that I would have some for the day, she wasn’t strict and let me go to my friend’s houses whenever I wanted to, she made awesome food and even taught me how to fold momos so that they looked like proper momos, she would always let me play with her cat (ghi lli in Dzongkhan), she helped make hot water for me so that I could shower every couple of days, she would let me sleep and wouldn’t wake me up extremely early like other families did, and she always had snacks and candy that she would give to me whenever I came home. And these are just the most memorable of reasons for why I had the best homestay, there are countless others that I could write about for pages and pages. Also, on the final day when we threw a party for the homestay families, most adults couldn’t come because they were at the monastery, but angay left for the monastery early so that she could make it back for the party (which ended up being a dance battle between the girls and the boys who lived in the village). At this party, I gave angay a note that I had asked someone to write down for me in Dzongkhan that said the following:
Thank you so much for letting me stay with you. You have been the best homestay. Everyone always wants to come over because I tell them how great you are and how you make the best milk tea. Then they say they want you as their homestay. Also, your food is awesome and I especially loved your momos and bato (a stew that contains beef and fried dough – photo attached). You are so sweet and made this week great.
Jack (Jigme) Greene
On the morning when I left, angay and I said our goodbyes and took two photos (attached). She then made her way down the road to her house and I waved tama che gae (goodbye) as she vanished around the curve in the road.