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Reflecting on community

Since coming to Nepal, I’ve been thinking a lot about what community means and the different forms it takes. Before boarding the plane to Kathmandu I started to consider all the new ideas I would become exposed to and just how drastically my daily life would change over the course of this semester. Of course I expected these experiences to take on many different molds, but I did not anticipate that an idea that had become so concrete in my mind would become so heavily impacted.

When we first arrived in Koshi, the location of our rural home stay, I noticed how my Aamaa – homestay mother – would greet everyone she walked by and was invited by several of her neighbours to join them for tea the next day. She would wave and nod to people sitting by their porches and even stopped to chat to a few of them along the way. When we arrived at her home, her next door neighbour came to greet me and welcome me to the village, telling me I was always welcome at her place for tea and biscuits. After a few moments passed she went to get her homestay daughter, Gracie, and the four of us all sat at the porch communicating with hand gestures and the very minimal Nepali we had scraped along our travels. Gracie and I showed photos of our home and our Aamaas pulled out photos of their weddings and festivals they had grown up with. Having the chance to share such a moment with these three women without having a common verbal language is something I know I’ll cherish for years to come; The barriers of language became insignificant.

The next morning the four of us went on our first of many morning walks. As we walked by the seemingly never-ending rice fields, we bumped into one of our neighbours three-year-old daughters who was playing with plastic cars on the street by her house. My Aamaa reached to hold her hand and she joined us for the rest of our walk. Once we returned home my Aamaa made noodles for all of us and steaming mugs of milk tea. The three-year-old danced and giggled as she spilled the noodles all over her front. What struck me about this moment was that my Aamaa had not informed anyone that she was bringing the little girl to her home, we simply just brought her with us. In the days to come I would discover that this was a perfectly normal practice, everyone would seamlessly travel between each others homes as if they were their own. The term “it takes a village to raise a child” actually applied. The idea of actually knowing your neighbours was novel to me, one which I thought could not apply to our modern world. Having grown up in a city my whole life, my neighbours have changed repeatedly. Aside from the occasional mix-up in wrong deliveries where one of us would have to visit each other to pick up our boxes, our interactions have been limited to a series of soft smiles and nods. I can’t express how much I have valued the chance to experience living life in such a tight-knit community and hope I can take the values my Aamaa and her neighbours taught me back home. I hope in the future I’ll actually know my neighbours and be able to share cups of tea with them as I did in Koshi.