Fresh tales from my short term exchange, by Meng
Let me tell you a little about my host family life in Pokhara.
I lived in the Wangdu household with my host parents and 2 host sisters. My roommate Danushka and I shared a room at the back of the house near the kitchen and back door. The house was shaped in a long rectangle and surprisingly, included most of the comforts of home with one obvious omission: the bathroom. More on this later….
Every bedroom door in the house had a place for a lock. This is because it is impractical to keep the front doors locked however this meant that strangers could easily wander into the house.
Every time I went to work I locked my valuables in my suitcase and then locked the door of our bedroom. The backyard had a gate which also must be latched shut at all times. This was because of the numerous animals that wandered in and out of the village. Goats, cows and dogs roamed freely. The goats were a pair that had been bought and saved by the village from sacrifice. They are very timid and shy but extremely naughty as they love to eat laundry!
The only major difference in homestay versus living in a hotel is the bathroom. We had an squat toilet outhouse locked by a small key wedged near the back door. This was extremely difficult to use when it was 3 am, you needed to go and it was 5 degrees outside. Also you needed to bring your own toilet paper, hand sanitiser and lamp on each trip, making every toilet trip a minor logistical exercise.
We like most of the village had no shower. The bathing area was simply a shed with a drain in the floor and buckets of cold water.
There was no water on tap. It had to be bought and shipped in. Thus, water conservation was a major issue. I even surprised myself when I realised I could wash my hair with less than 2 buckets of cold water.
It’s amazing what is possible when you simply don’t have the resources and must have a paradigm shift in your attitude to the most basic of tasks.
Every morning we left for work around 7:30am with greetings of ‘Tashi Delek’ to the elderly neighbours sitting outside chanting. We walked past children in blue uniforms going to school and monks going about their daily lives from the monastery right across the field. We also walked past traders and hawkers with carts of mandarins, bananas, sweets, cotton candy, samosas and sweets.
Sometimes the village dogs would walk with us. One dog in particular whom we dubbed ‘The Lucky Impersonator’ (he looked like Lucky, another village dog) loved all the Aussies and would regularly cuddle up against us when we used the wi-fi from one of the village houses. Later in the morning various villagers would begin setting up shop in the village market, from where bussed in tourists would purchase their homemade wares such as necklaces, bracelets and prayer beads.
Myself and my host mother at the Tibetan wedding
Some of us even had the privilege of attending a Tibetan wedding during our homestay.
The wedding reception occurred in a temporary pavilion set up outside the house of the bride. We were not part of the actual ‘ceremony’. All the guests simply visited the bride, groom and close family in their home. The bridal party wore traditional dress and reclined on couches while guests gave offerings of scarves and presents such as blankets and electronics.
Afterwards we feasted in the pavilion on mutton and vegetable curry, tomato pickles, Ti-Mok (Tibetan break), fruit and soft drinks.
There is such a sense of community in the Tashi Ling Refugee settlement. Neighbours know one another well, children get together and play soccer every day, families work at the village marketplace and there are plenty of greetings when you walk through the village. Village life is also extremely varied and fun, once I even had to win a tug of war with a cow who tried to eat a plastic bag from the rubbish!
Stay tuned for more fun and adventures from Tibet…