Entering a rural village with limited knowledge of the language or culture is a terrifying feat. While my first 24 hours—spent hiding out in my room, silently staring out into the field of marigolds, and failing to maintain any conversation that exceeded the complexity of ‘namaste’ and ‘dhanyabaad’—convinced me that I’d struggle to integrate, the latter few days have proved otherwise.
As I returned from my first language lesson, I recall eagerly clutching my notebook to ensure that ‘ma tapaailaai sahayog garna sakcchu?’ (may I help you?) was articulated correctly. But before I could formulate any words, my aamaa gestured, “come,” making me realise that my lingering presence is all it takes to communicate my desire to assist.
Communication is not solely verbal, and its different forms have been manifested through the acts of cooking roti besides my homestay mom, dancing alongside strangers under the common goal of celebrating Tihar, waking up at 5:30 am to pick up friends on our morning walk, and seeing my twin bhaais standing outside my door, awaiting our next round of football.
Living in separate homes with different families has also reshaped my perception of what a community looks like. Because in the nine days that we’ve been here, I’ve already spent more time with my neighbors than I have over the span of 18 years back home. Here at Koshi, doors don’t exist—allowing friends, family, and even strangers to enter and exit as they please. At some households, even showers don’t exist—meaning you may wave to your friends as they clean themselves by the water pump in their bright blue boxers. Sometimes, this means people may start dancing on your porch, even when you’re trying to sleep, but it also means that people are closer and more connected.