Today (written on 9/22/2011) I visited my family after a long day of classes. I had left my last class feeling very angry, irritated, and plain old tired. Three hours later after visiting with my family, it is amazing how clear-headed and refreshed I feel.
While I met 3/4 of the family last Friday, today was the first time I met the eldest sister. From the start, it was clear that this she is the glue and the heart of this family. She has a constantly smiling face and upbeat, 100mph voice, no matter what the subject of conversation. With the best grasp of English in the family, this sister is not only an uplifting presence but she is clearly also the family’s ambassador to their new lives in America. She openly explained to my partner and me her family’s story– of how her family had moved from Bhutan to Nepal many generations ago, how her grandparents and parents had grown up in Bhutan, how the Bhutanese government changed their views of people of Nepalese heritage when she was born, how her family was forced to return to Nepal, and how her family lived in a refugee camp for 18 years. She used the word “difficult” to describe her story. I could only imagine how difficult it must have been and how any vocabulary, no matter how advanced, would most likely be lacking to describe such a journey. Yet, as she told this story, she never stopped smiling and she said that whenever she thinks her parents appear to be thinking of “difficult things,” she dances and sings to make them laugh. Her indomitable, optimistic spirit is amazing and, I think, a huge reason why I returned from my visit so happy.
In addition to hearing the family’s story and meeting the eldest sister, today was the first time I was able to help the younger sister with her homework (Pythagorean theorem), the first time I prayed with the family at their altar, and the first day I shared a meal with the family. I am very excited for many more “firsts” with the family- including taking them to the library or finding them a Buddhist temple. I am looking forward to building a close relationship with this beautiful family. I got on the El after my visit, smelling like aloo and daal- full in the physical sense but also full in the way that comes from having connected with other human beings.