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A Tribute to Homestay Mothers

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Dragons HQ

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers and mother figures out there. Today, we pay a special tribute to our homestay mothers for the warmth and inspiration that they bring to our community. We are thinking of and sending extra love to our homestay families during this time as many communities are being hit hard by COVID-19 especially those who look forward to hosting students through programs such as ours. The Dragons Community Relief Fund is doing amazing work to provide resources to our global community. Learn more about how they are showing up for Dragons global community. 

In the spirit of celebration, here are three student Yaks paying tribute to their homestay mothers:

Bhutan Summer 2019 Homestay

My Homestay by Jack Greene, Bhutan.

“I started out my homestay by being greeted by an old lady who spoke no English. I would later know her as angay, which is the Dzongkhan word for grandma. Now that the week is complete, I can confidently say that in my opinion, I had by far the best homestay.

The first reason for this was that I didn’t have any younger siblings. I was initially disappointed about this but am now eternally grateful. This is simply because kids can be annoying, and having them follow you around for an entire week can be frustrating. So I avoided this downside of having little siblings who lived with me while still getting to have nieces and nephews who lived on the same property as me and would hang out with me from time to time. My favorite story about my nephew is a weird one. Some context is that throughout the week, my nephew and several other kids in the village would like to hold my hand and rub it on their face because of how soft it was (which they weren’t used to because it was a farming village and their hands were calloused). So one day, my nephew told the other kids that I didn’t want them to walk me to my house, which was his attempt to not have competition to hold my hand. There are more stories like this involving kids who would push others away from me and run at each other from behind so that they could have one of my hands all to themselves.

Homestay food Bhutan summer abroad

Another reason my homestay was the best was that I had angay, with whom I formed a close bond despite the fact that the only English she knew was “sit down” (which she used so that I wouldn’t help her to make meals). This was best exemplified one day when I was at my house with some friends drinking tea. Angay came into the room with a little girl from the village who spoke pretty good English and translated that I needed to eat lunch out that day because angay was going to the cows. I then had her tell angay that she was the best homestay grandma and a few other things that I can’t quite remember. Angay’s eyes started to water and she gave me a hug while having the translator tell me that I was the best grandson too. This is just one reason for how great angay was.

Some more reasons are how she made the best milk tea I’ve had the whole trip and she would fill my water bottle with it every morning before I left so that I would have some for the day, she wasn’t strict and let me go to my friend’s houses whenever I wanted to, she made awesome food and even taught me how to fold momos so that they looked like proper momos, she would always let me play with her cat (ghi lli in Dzongkhan), she helped make hot water for me so that I could shower every couple of days, she would let me sleep and wouldn’t wake me up extremely early like other families did, and she always had snacks and candy that she would give to me whenever I came home. And these are just the most memorable of reasons for why I had the best homestay, there are countless others that I could write about for pages and pages. Also, on the final day when we threw a party for the homestay families, most adults couldn’t come because they were at the monastery, but angay left for the monastery early so that she could make it back for the party (which ended up being a dance battle between the girls and the boys who lived in the village). At this party, I gave angay a note that I had asked someone to write down for me in Dzongkhan that said the following:

Homestay letter Bhutan Summer Abroad

Dear angay,

Thank you so much for letting me stay with you. You have been the best homestay. Everyone always wants to come over because I tell them how great you are and how you make the best milk tea. Then they say they want you as their homestay. Also, your food is awesome and I especially loved your momos and bato (a stew that contains beef and fried dough – photo attached). You are so sweet and made this week great.

Best, Jack (Jigme) Greene

On the morning when I left, angay and I said our goodbyes and took two photos (attached). She then made her way down the road to her house and I waved tama che gae (goodbye) as she vanished around the curve in the road.”

Mothers of China by Carolina, Faith, and Isa. China South of the Clouds.

“(Carolina) My first homestay mother was called Zhouma.  When she first welcomed us into her home she seemed beautiful in a quiet, unobtrusive type of way.  It wasn’t until the next morning, when she dragged us out of bed to milk the yaks that I realized how wrong I had been about her.  I watched this delicate looking lady overpower yak calves twice her weight, throw stones at intruding dogs, and punch a fully grown yak in the butt when it was annoying her.  By the end of the homestay she had forced everybody in my group to cultivate a healthy respect (and fear) of her.  She was crazy strong but you would never have known that at first glance.  She taught me to pitfalls of making assumptions and underestimating people, because this delicate lady was one of the most powerful people I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting.

(Faith) In the first homestay, we were greeted by the friendliest woman with a sweet crooked smile. She lived alone since her father passed away last year, and still managed to do everything flawlessly for herself and her seventeen year old daughter. Every morning, she milked and herded the yaks, made cheese, dried yak poop for manure, and made us a delicious breakfast. She figured out that I couldn’t eat the food with gluten and proceeded to give me heaping bowls of green zucchini, yak meat and rice. She would smile us as we ate and bring us our favorite yak yogurt after every single meal no matter how full we said we were. More than anything, we had the most fun laughing with our host mom. She would constantly speak to us in Tibetan and we would speak English, but you would never know that there was a language barrier from the amount of fun that we had. At night, as we attempted to speak Tibetan and our host mom was laughing hysterically, I reflected on the simplicity of her hospitality and sweetness. It was such a highlight to spend days with just our homestay mom by the warmth of the stove on the kang in a valley surrounded by beautiful mountains.

(Isa) I was nervous and excited to meet my host mother from the first homestay. I admit that at the beginning I felt like an invader who arrived from the unknown and took place in their lovely home. After the homestay was up I realized I was wrong, these 3 foreign people that were totally strangers at the beginning, were now a sweet family to me. I spent most of the time with the mother, and with the passing of days I was impressed by how much energy she had.  She had to wake up everyday, probably to a temperature of 3C, with a smile on her face to make breakfast for you from the yaks that she just milked an hour ago.

(All 3 of us) Seeing that smile in the morning, made me feel like a needed to get more of those precious smiles, so I helped with the needs of the house. I spent a lot of time with the mother doing work I would never think someone could actually do alone. I was so impressed to see how the mother had built her home from the hard work she does everyday, and this just shows me how powerful and strong women can be, all these things made more conscious about setting goals and purposes for my life.

I can say that the mother from my homestay taught me that if your want to get something you have to wake up early.  For breakfast you have to milk the yaks, you need to do it by yourself and you need to make it happen. This sounds silly, but if you think about this image you can relate these lessons with your real life and you can start setting goals you can achieve and start to fight for them everyday.

In the most recent homestay, the three of us were placed together (let the shenanigans begin). Our sweet host mom welcomed us into her home which appeared to circulate the whole community. The mother and grandmother provided not only for their own three boys, but also seemingly hosted the whole neighborhood at some point for a meal or night of sleep. From the first late night that we arrived, we were welcomed with steaming rice bowls filled with potatoes, green zucchini and meat. At mealtime, our family watched us intently to make sure that we got enough food. Yesterday, we went on a long hike up the mountain across from our village. Our host mom and grandma packed us an entire industrial bucket full of rice and veggies, acted out that we needed walking sticks, and zipped our chopsticks into our bag. Our host mom also delicately braided each of our hair as she does her own. Not only were the women of our host family extremely caring and hospitable, but also astonishingly strong. In the mornings, we would spend hours picking beans, processing wheat, hauling bins of crops and plowing the soil. Our homestay mom and grandma would have the four of us hoist an entire machine on one of their backs and then carry the wheat processor down a tiny single wood ladder. It was absolutely insane to see how hard these ladies worked and how much they were always serving their family, the community and us as guests. It got us thinking a lot about our own moms!

(Faith) Mom, thank you so much for how much you sacrifice for our family. I admire your strength, resilience, hospitality and care. You are my role model and I miss seeing you in action every day! You have impacted me more than you know and have shown me what a confident, empowered and determined woman looks like.

(Isa) Ma no sabes la falta que me haces ahora mas que nunca. Después de haber tenido la oportunidad de estar en este hogar y ver a esta mama darlo todo por sus hijos, me hizo reflexionar acerca de todo el sacrificio y el amor con el que haces las cosas. Me siento muy feliz de tener como mama y espero poder seguir aprendiendo de ti todos los días, y te pueda seguir viendo como una luchadora que ha conseguido cumplir todas las metas que se propone. Te amo

(Carolina) Hi Mom!  I can’t thank you enough for shaping me into the person I am today.  You’re smart, charming, compassionate, kind, and the strongest woman I know.  I hope to one day live up to the example you set for me.  Since you don’t have a mom around to tell you this, I guess I have to: I am so proud of who you are and I love you so much!”

Two Mothers a World Apart by Macy Ryan, Nepal.

Nepal Homestay Summer Abroad

“I miss my mom. I miss how she would give me sweaty hugs after she returned from a hike. Or how she has this one red, fleece sweater that is probably older than me but she still wears it all the time. She is confused by my childish love for sloppy joes but will still make them for me. I miss seeing her hard at work everyday, something that has always inspired me. One thing I’ve miss the most is the little moments we share together, like sharing a Chocolove bar with her while we sit on the couch after dinner.

Here, I have a replacement mom. My Chokati mother is equally as amazing and hardworking as my biological mother. Over the past week I’ve noticed some comforting resemblances between the two. Last night, I gave my homestay mother the gifts I brought from home for her: Chocolove bars. She opened the Toffee & Almonds one (my mothers favorite) and insisted we share it. Sitting by the open fire in the kitchen of our small mud and stone house, we shared the chocolate bar. I savored every last crumb.

My homestay mother and I can barely communicate with each other, but this was a bonding moment. The gift of chocolate bringing a mother and daughter closer together. My homestay mother, from the moment I arrived in Chokati, took me in as her own. She has taught me how to work in the fields, cook daal bhaat, and do all the household chores. Just as my own mother would, she hands me a bucket of dishes to do after every meal. Or, when I’m feeling sick, she’ll make me some tea and let me lay in bed.

I wasn’t sure what to expect about the rural homestay; I was a bit nervous about the whole thing. One of the last things I expected was to get so close to my family within the ten short days. But now I’ve seen the sense of community in the whole of Chokati. It doesn’t matter if you’re blood-related to someone, you’re always a brother or sister or mother or father. We’ve been welcomed here with open arms and taken in as one of the family. And although I miss my family tremendously, I’ve been shown that no matter where I am, I can find comfort in a community of people acting as a supportive family.”



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