(Carolina) My first homestay mother was called Zhouma. When she first welcomed us into her home she seemed beautiful in a quiet, unobtrusive type of way. It wasn’t until the next morning, when she dragged us out of bed to milk the yaks that I realized how wrong I had been about her. I watched this delicate looking lady overpower yak calves twice her weight, throw stones at intruding dogs, and punch a fully grown yak in the butt when it was annoying her. By the end of the homestay she had forced everybody in my group to cultivate a healthy respect (and fear) of her. She was crazy strong but you would never have known that at first glance. She taught me to pitfalls of making assumptions and underestimating people, because this delicate lady was one of the most powerful people I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting.
(Faith) In the first homestay, we were greeted by the friendliest woman with a sweet crooked smile. She lived alone since her father passed away last year, and still managed to do everything flawlessly for herself and her seventeen year old daughter. Every morning, she milked and herded the yaks, made cheese, dried yak poop for manure, and made us a delicious breakfast. She figured out that I couldn’t eat the food with gluten and proceeded to give me heaping bowls of green zucchini, yak meat and rice. She would smile us as we ate and bring us our favorite yak yogurt after every single meal no matter how full we said we were. More than anything, we had the most fun laughing with our host mom. She would constantly speak to us in Tibetan and we would speak English, but you would never know that there was a language barrier from the amount of fun that we had. At night, as we attempted to speak Tibetan and our host mom was laughing hysterically, I reflected on the simplicity of her hospitality and sweetness. It was such a highlight to spend days with just our homestay mom by the warmth of the stove on the kang in a valley surrounded by beautiful mountains.
(Isa) I was nervous and excited to meet my host mother from the first homestay. I admit that at the beginning I felt like an invader who arrived from the unknown and took place in their lovely home. After the homestay was up I realized I was wrong, these 3 foreign people that were totally strangers at the beginning, were now a sweet family to me. I spent most of the time with the mother, and with the passing of days I was impressed by how much energy she had. She had to wake up everyday, probably to a temperature of 3C, with a smile on her face to make breakfast for you from the yaks that she just milked an hour ago.
(All 3 of us) Seeing that smile in the morning, made me feel like a needed to get more of those precious smiles, so I helped with the needs of the house. I spent a lot of time with the mother doing work I would never think someone could actually do alone. I was so impressed to see how the mother had built her home from the hard work she does everyday, and this just shows me how powerful and strong women can be, all these things made more conscious about setting goals and purposes for my life. I can say that the mother from my homestay taught me that if your want to get something you have to wake up early. For breakfast you have to milk the yaks, you need to do it by yourself and you need to make it happen. This sounds silly, but if you think about this image you can relate these lessons with your real life and you can start setting goals you can achieve and start to fight for them everyday.
In the most recent homestay, the three of us were placed together (let the shenanigans begin). Our sweet host mom welcomed us into her home which appeared to circulate the whole community. The mother and grandmother provided not only for their own three boys, but also seemingly hosted the whole neighborhood at some point for a meal or night of sleep. From the first late night that we arrived, we were welcomed with steaming rice bowls filled with potatoes, green zucchini and meat. At mealtime, our family watched us intently to make sure that we got enough food. Yesterday, we went on a long hike up the mountain across from our village. Our host mom and grandma packed us an entire industrial bucket full of rice and veggies, acted out that we needed walking sticks, and zipped our chopsticks into our bag. Our host mom also delicately braided each of our hair as she does her own. Not only were the women of our host family extremely caring and hospitable, but also astonishingly strong. In the mornings, we would spend hours picking beans, processing wheat, hauling bins of crops and plowing the soil. Our homestay mom and grandma would have the four of us hoist an entire machine on one of their backs and then carry the wheat processor down a tiny single wood ladder. It was absolutely insane to see how hard these ladies worked and how much they were always serving their family, the community and us as guests. It got us thinking a lot about our own moms!
(Faith) Mom, thank you so much for how much you sacrifice for our family. I admire your strength, resilience, hospitality and care. You are my role model and I miss seeing you in action every day! You have impacted me more than you know and have shown me what a confident, empowered and determined woman looks like.
(Isa) Ma no sabes la falta que me haces ahora mas que nunca. Después de haber tenido la oportunidad de estar en este hogar y ver a esta mama darlo todo por sus hijos, me hizo reflexionar acerca de todo el sacrificio y el amor con el que haces las cosas. Me siento muy feliz de tener como mama y espero poder seguir aprendiendo de ti todos los días, y te pueda seguir viendo como una luchadora que ha conseguido cumplir todas las metas que se propone. Te amo
(Carolina) Hi Mom! I can’t thank you enough for shaping me into the person I am today. You’re smart, charming, compassionate, kind, and the strongest woman I know. I hope to one day live up to the example you set for me. Since you don’t have a mom around to tell you this, I guess I have to: I am so proud of who you are and I love you so much!