Blog by Sarah Reeves, UW Bothell Community Psychology & Environmental Studies Major, Study Abroad — Nepal
Written February 18, 2013
For the past two weeks I have been given the unique opportunity to live and be a part of a Tibetan family. This experience has been stressful, awkward, fun, and rewarding all at once. My eyes have been opened to a new lifestyle that I have been given the chance to live.
I was first introduced to my Amala (this is Tibetan for mother) when she came to pick me up from my program house. She is a very sweet and small, when she picked me up she insisted on carrying my backpack and several other bags only leaving me with one piece of luggage to carry. I was lucky because my Amala was friends with another women who was picking up one of my fellow classmates Danielle, so we were able to walk to our houses as a group. My home stay house is about ten minutes from my program house, which is where I have to go every day for my classes. It was a nice relief to know that I would have a walking buddy every morning. As we walked home there was a lot of silence; my Amala speaks very little English so we weren’t able to talk very much. In a way this was nice because it allowed me to take in my surroundings.
Once we reached the house that I would be calling home for the next month I was introduced to my Pala (Tibetan for father). He was very excited and happy to meet me which was nice. He also speaks very little English so this made me a little worried considering that at this point I knew very little Tibetan. My Amala and Pala showed me my new room which was fully furnished with a bed, table, small couch like something you would see in a play house, and a garbage can. It wasn’t a lot but it was certainly more than I was expecting.
My new parents watched me as I unpacked a few things, they then began to speak to each other and of course I did not understand a word they were saying. They then ushered me into the kitchen where I was served tea and a snack, once I began to sip on my tea my Amala retrieved an envelope which contained several pictures of me which I had sent to them before the program began. They were very excited to share my pictures with me which made me feel extremely special. After we had gone through all the pictures I had sent them I then retrieved my own envelope which contained new pictures that I printed and brought with me. This made them very happy, we exchanged several laughs with each other while I was trying to explain the pictures to them.
At this point I was extremely nervous by the fact that neither of my home stay parents spoke any English. I began to think about the rest of my stay and how I was going to manage communicating with them. After freaking out for about ten minutes a young girl entered the kitchen and took a seat across the table from me. I then learned that she was fourteen, her name was Dechin and she was going to be the little sister that I never had, and best of all she spoke very good English! After talking with Dechin for a little while I learned that there was another little girl name Tenchin who was also going to be my new little sister. This was very exciting for me, not only was I going to be able to communicate with my home stay family but I was also going to be given the chance to experience younger siblings.
The first night in my new home went smoothly I was even able to get in a full nights sleep. The next day Dechin and I went out exploring which was a lot of fun, she introduced to me to street food for the first time and I can honestly say that I enjoyed it. She also introduced me to chewing gum with a liquid center that was very delicious.
Day two of my home stay experience was also eventful. On the second day I taught my two little sisters how to play the card game phase ten. They brought the cards to me asking if I knew how to play the game because they didn’t. While teaching them I learned that the cards had been a gift and were given to them about three years prior. For some reason I thought this was funny and of course when I started laughing they did the same. After playing cards for a couple of hours we became a little bored so Dechin went out to get new street food for me to try, she returned with mixture that consisted of spicy potatoes and this rice shaped food that tasted like corn nuts. I didn’t like this street food as much as I had liked the food from the previous day, I only ended up eating about half of my snack.
It was this same night that I decided that I never wanted to eat the street food Dechin brought me ever again. I came to this decision as I was on my hands and knees hurling into a Nepali toilet, which are nothing like toilets in America. (If you are curious about how they are different Google it…) It was only my second day with my new family and I was already sick and spending all my time in the bathroom. I was only sick for about twenty four hours but it felt like forever. I wasn’t even able to keep water in my system it all came out just as fast as it went in.
Living with this new family as been an amazing experience and I am enjoying every minute of it. I only have a couple more weeks with my home stay family but I know that we are going to stay in touch for many years to come.