Building Blocks

“What are you doing in Besisahar?” The shopkeeper asked in Nepali.

It had already been a week in the small capital of Lamjung and there was plenty of curiosity around why this foreigner family kept walking around the town and not headed toward the snow-capped Himalayas looming above. I explained that we were living in Kathmandu but wanted to practice speaking Nepali in more of a village setting where people knew less English and we didn’t have other foreigners to surround ourselves with.

“Also, the people here are so friendly!” I added.

“People around here are always ready to talk, but in the city, everyone is too busy. I understand” The shopkeeper remarked.

I bought the yogurt and mangos and stepped out, making my way up the stony steps to the house we were “sitting.” The Hall family were on home assignment and kindly offered their place full of toys and many western accommodations.

The house also came with a surprisingly incredible language teacher in the form of a house-helper that the Halls had recently hired. She was always willing to talk and even narrated what she was doing when we failed to find conversation. Abby especially grew quite fond of her presence and guidance.

How did I spend my time learning language?

I built a bathroom.

Okay, I mainly took the opportunity to talk to the builders and lend a hand here and there, learning about their lives and drastically improving my masonry vocabulary.

Once we finished, I asked who would have the honors of being the first to use the bathroom. After a few good laughs, someone suggested that we add a ribbon cutting ceremony that had everyone in stitches as we acted it out.

Joking around in Nepali brought on a whole new level of enjoyment and ease in the language that I hadn’t experienced before.

Being so close to the mountains, I also woke up early a few mornings each week, laced up my running shoes and took on the hilly terrain. Besisahar rests along the side of a river valley with large hills carving ridge lines to meet the Marshyangdi River below. The north side of town serves as a hub for trekkers who are beginning the famous Annapurna Circuit. Running was taxing as I seemed to only be heading up or down, but with clean air and crisp mountain views, it certainly beat Kathmandu running.

In some ways, practicing language was as taxing as running since my brain needed to be firing on all cylinders to piece together what others were saying, while simultaneously stitching together a coherent response. Mistakes were frequent and I was thankful for the grace I received.

I couldn’t believe just how relaxed these Nepalis continued to be in conversation despite my inability to use the right tense or word. Letting their grace sink in was the most profitable tool I received from our two weeks. Eventually, we had to say goodbye and head back to the busy people in Kathmandu. We are looking into ways we can be connected to both places more often as we find what works best for teacher training and family.

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