Very few experiences allow one to be fully immersed in the local culture and learn the ins and outs of life in a foreign country like staying in a home-stay. Living with the KC family has allowed me to experience Nepal and Nepali culture in the most unique and meaningful way. In this post, I introduce the readers to my home-stay family and our life under the same roof.
I’ve lived with the KCs for about three months now, and although I started out as a paying guest, I definitely feel like a member of the family now. There are six members in the KC family: Uncle, Aunty, P (my home-stay brother), Ish (the domestic worker), and Whiskey and Brandy (the family pets).*
Uncle, who is tall and resembles a very popular Indian movie actor, has a bittersweet love affair with sweets given that he is a diabetic. Most afternoons, he can be found cleaning his car in the front yard, a job he takes very seriously and does meticulously, claiming that it’s Aunty who does not like travelling in an unclean vehicle. He is the unofficial doctor/pharmacist of the family, making sure we all have the medication necessary to stay in proper health. His other love? Turning on the fuel-powered heater when it’s cold, and letting us all get warmed up in front of it. Uncle and I communicate in Hindi, though he also acts as a translator when someone speaks only in Nepali. Uncle enjoys watching the evening news, and has taught me a great deal about the political climate in Nepal.
Aunty, who is relatively much shorter than her husband, loves dressing up and can be found smiling all day. She has taken on the job of making sure that I eat properly, and is always filling my hands with food such as biscuits, chocolates, or dates. Apart from enjoying local language television, Aunty likes watering all her plants in the yard and entertaining the multitudes of guests who frequent the house on a daily basis. She communicates with me in Nepali, and I respond in Hindi, which she understands but cannot speak. Aunty loves talking about her family, and has taught me much about Nepali customs and traditions. She especially loves hearing about the similarities between Nepali and Indian cultural practices.
P, my ‘brother’, is the oldest son of the family, and speaks a bit more English than the others in the house. Like his mother, he’s always smiling. He loves clothes, shoes, and perfumes and is always planning on buying something new. He rides his bike wearing his green helmet, and is ever-ready to go to Thamel, his absolute favourite hang-out in the city. He buys me my favourite candy and is always ready to help with whatever I need.
Ish, the one who does all the housework, is a recently-turned 22 year old. She wakes up at 7:30 am and goes to bed around 10:30 pm. Ish has two favourite past-times: painting her nails (left hand only, please!) and watching a Hindi television drama at 9:00 pm every day. The family dogs, Whiskey and Brandy, are her special charges, and she takes care of them like they are her babies, often hand-feeding Whiskey when he’s unwilling to eat. She has taken to calling me ‘Mushi’, a name she also fondly calls Brandy, whom she thinks I resemble in behaviour. She proudly proclaims to all in the neigbourhood that I’m her sister from Canada, just visiting for a few months. On rainy days, when the road is unbelievably slippery, she walks me to the main road where I catch my Tempo to work, and diligently offers to come pick me up in the evening if the road conditions do not improve. She tends to speak to me in half Nepali-half Hindi. It’s all thanks to Aunty and Ish that I now understand most Nepali conversations happening around me (although responding in Nepali is still challenging). Her delicious food and her rapidly-improving Hindi are definitely going to be missed a great deal!
Whiskey, the male German Shepard, and the king of the house, acts more like a lion than a dog, walking gracefully and yawning lazily. He can usually be found lazing around outside the door or soaking the warmth wherever the sun shines in the afternoon. Whiskey came to the KC household when he was barely a month old and became Ish’s baby soon after. He follows her every command, and will sit by the main door guarding the house every time she goes out. His one arch enemy? The neighbour’s dog, at whom he barks incessantly whenever he moves close to the KC house fence. Whiskey, like me, eats very little, though he has a special place in his heart for bread. He has a favourite sitting spot in the living room which he hates seeing anyone else occupying. There are stories of him pushing out anyone who tries to sit there. Ish calls him my brother, particularly because we both tend to fall sick at the same time and give her a hard time when it comes to eating.
Brandy, the other German Shepard, behaves more like a human than a dog. She is willing to eat pretty much anything, and will lap up her food in 3 seconds flat. She follows Ish around all day, the sound of her padded feet often heard outside my window. She waits for me at the mesh gate every morning, sniffing at me when I show up after I wake up. Skinny, like me, she loves having conversations by making little whiny noises. Brandy follows me to the main gate every morning as I leave for work, and promptly turns around to go to Ish when I ask her if she will accompany me to work.
All members of the KC household have accepted me as one of their own, although in their own unique way. Uncle plays old Hindi songs that we both share a love for. Aunty always makes sure I’m fed. P never fails to make me laugh. Ish is always making new recipes to satiate my quirky cravings. And Whiskey and Brandy sniff my shoes and clothes, and greet me every morning. One thing is for certain: I will definitely miss all these things and more when I return to Vancouver.
Do we really intend to say what we say with the *mainstream* words we use?
This month I interview Rafeek Ravuther, producer of Pravasalokam, an Indian television program on missing migrants in the Gulf.