Community Interaction

Location: Budol, Banepa

Today we had our first official task of going into the local community¬† and to engage in “small talk”. I have already had some personal interactions¬† but they have mostly been brief, mainly in English, and with the local merchants and hospitality staff. Thus, this experience will undoubtedly be more real and authentic as most of the people here speak little or no English at all.

It’s been 3 and a half weeks (not really) and our gurus (teachers) think we are ready. With any willing community member, we are asked to converse with them about our names, our homes, family, what we do for work, what we like and don’t like (relating to food, music, etc.) and if applicable; how many animals do you have, what time do you get home from work, and basically anything else that comes to mind (or whatever we can remember to say/ask in Nepali).

For about an hour, we all went out into the village looking for inviting (and patient) community members to interact with us. It was the mid-afternoon and most of the community members that we saw were  working or hastily traveling to their destination. We saw women and men bailing hay, building or fixing household items, washing or mending clothes, tending to their cows, goats, or sheep, and children playing around the neighbourhood. Luckily, most of them were very eager to stop whatever they were doing to chat with us.

Ma Nepali bashaa sikdaichhu. Ma tapaailaai prashna sodhchhu? Thik chha?

– I am learning the Nepali language. (Can) I ask you questions? It (is) okay?

Breaking the conversational ice was difficult at first because of course we were all nervous. We (mostly me) even became tougue-tied with some of the easiest phrases that we already know. However, as conversations went on (and as our confidence grew) we actually got the hang of it and enjoyed the experience.

Rather than seeing unfamiliar faces when ever we walked by, we now know at least their names and what they do. Some of them have even asked us to come back for tea the next day or to sit with them during their work breaks. As simple and as easy as these humanistic gestures are, the initial language barrier made it feel like an impossible task.

One more photo!

Chatting with children and young school kids is always an enjoyable experience. Perhaps it is because it feels very familiar and easy to do since “kids are simply kids” and act the same way no matter where you are in the world. Their energy and curiousity are limitless and they love having their photos taken. One 7 year old girl even showed me how to spell her name in English in my notebook.

Reality

As I got to know more people, I often get reminded about the differences in our standards of living. It appears that basic living and sanitary conditions are met but it still feels like they are struggling. Sometimes during our conversations, they come right out of the blue and ask for money, which often throws me off and somber’s the mood. As well, you can’t really ask about what their favourite type of food is or favourite colour of socks when they don’t have any.

Nonetheless, conversations often end with a cheerful goodbye and hopeful gestures that our paths will cross again sometime soon. Most of the time, we part ways because I eventually reach my conversation limit (ie. I run out of things to say and ask in Nepali).

From my perspective, it is truly sad to see and learn about their living realities – but from their perspective, I can imagine they are as happy as they can be with what they got.

Thoughts?