Traveling is not everyone’s cup of tea. Travelers often end up in tourist or sophisticated areas of the city. This makes them miss out the real taste of the true life of the visited country. I believe the best way to understand a foreign culture is to bump right into it.
I was fortunate enough to be involved with community Homestay projects. I was able to observe and experience the local culture by actually spending time with the local families. It is good in so many ways considering the fact that it helps in bridging the cultural gap. Besides cultural exchanges, the project also supports creation of jobs, reduces by the rural exodus and simultaneously raises the living standards of local people.
I have had two homestay experiences on my overall trip to Nepal. Both were very different, the only similarity was the intense experience of Nepali culture and commendable hospitality. Through this blog, I want to share about my homestay experience in Panauti.
Arrival in Panauti
I was filled with anticipation and excitement. Without losing a second, I made my way to my host family. My mind was bombarded with questions. What am I to expect in my new house for a couple of days? How do people live here? Especially post the earthquake? How am I supposed to communicate with them? What if I can’t communicate at all due to language differences? What stories take place behind the walls, live what ideas and dreams there. Soon I would learn it.
There I was, standing in the dark hallway of my host family. I had to bend slightly, as the ceilings are very low, suddenly I am torn by two old hands down. The grandmother of the family welcomed me enthusiastically and so warmly by giving me a warm hug. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality. Then, I was taken to my large, clean room by two young daughters (21 and 17). Both of them spoke good english. The mother, who was single after the demise of their father, brought us tea and biscuits. I was happy to be able to be contribute to their income through this project.
The girls were extremely curious to get to know me better. They wanted to know about my hometown, what I do for living, why I am still single, etc. Then they took to me to a wonderful vintage point on the hill from where I could enjoy the best sunset view. They are usually not allowed to stay out late. But, today was an exception. They showed me many temples and also the location by the river where dead bodies were cremated.
The girls shared their earthquake experience with me. For them, it was like a wild rollercoaster ride. People have their own way of dealing with situations. Despite of understanding the seriousness of the situation, they dealt with it calmly and smartly. The upper floor of their house was affected by the earthquake and they had to vacate it for quite a while. They assured me that a structural engineer had checked the structure of their house.
We assembled in the cozy kitchen in the 4th floor after returning to the house. The house is indeed narrow, it has 5 floors which are all used by the small family. The mother served us dinner. The food was finger licking good. I even got a chance to assist her while cooking. She even addressed me as her 3rd daughter while we were having Chatamaris. I felt so grateful and lucky to be able to learn about the insights of how Nepali actually are.
Now, it was time for the nightly ritual of the family which was watching Bollywood movies in mother’s bed. I assumed that it is going to be the quiet time of the night now. But to my surprise, the interaction got even more interesting at night. They were showing me their facebook photos, new Heena designs and we were having a good laugh over German and Nepalese vocabularies. The girls wanted me to wear sari- a moment they had been waiting for the entire day. The mother dressed me properly in a beautiful sari and I felt very happy to be able to finally try out a traditional robe.
I had a wonderful experience in community homestay in Panauti. I will definitely cherish it throughout my life.