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The Tiger's Nest in Bhutan. Photo by Chelsea Ferrel.

Panauti

When we were introduced to our host families in Panauti, I felt like my first encounter with my homestay didn’t particularly align with my expectations. While most of my peers were warmly greeted with a hug and smile by their homestay moms, my first encounter with my homestay dad and sister was in no short of awkwardness as we walked from the Dragon’s program house back to their home near the farmlands toward the outskirts of Panauti.

Overtime I watched a simple farm house and the land around it transform into something much more. On Saturday morning (family day in Nepal) my siblings and I explored the old town where we marveled at its traditional architecture, rung bells outside the Hindu shrines, and bounced around foot bridges where kids horsed around playing Chinese garter. For lunch, my siblings brought me to their cousins home across the field where we sat on the rooftop surrounded by different families as we ate heaping plates of daalbat and Kheer. Music played as children ran around and we received our tikkas, chocolates, and cash! In the afternoon I helped my homestay cousin heard goats and feed cattle and despite my utter uselessness, we snacked on freshly picked oranges from the garden. I never realized how liberating it is to live what we mistake as “the simple life” is actually much more.

One of the most unexpected things that I was deeply moved by was how far my homestay dad would go to make me feel a part of his family. Since my host mom worked in the local Red Cross office in the afternoons, my homestay dad did a lot of the chores and cooking at home. Growing up, I never had a dad so it was an utterly remarkable experience being accepted and brought into a family the way I was.

I was sad to leave Nepal the other day, but no matter how far I go, I can assure you it won’t be the last time I ever step foot in Panauti.