On Sunday we did a homestay! We paired up and drove to various houses near campus, in Chamkhar and the surrounding villages. I was paired with my friend Brad, but we ended up joining another group of two because our host sisters were best friends, so we all hung out together.
It was a fantastic day, and so great to see Chamkhar from the point of view of young people who actually live there. One of the girls’ families owns a restaurant on the main street, so that’s where we spent most of the day. We ate breakfast with them, which was fried eggs, toast, and milk tea, and then spent time getting to know each other and playing cards because one of us chillups had brought a deck of cards as a gift for them. We taught them several card games, and they taught us some games that they play with their friends.
Both girls were both pretty shy and didn’t know what we wanted to do, so we told them we wanted to do whatever they would normally do on a Sunday. They took us on a walk to the nearby (tiny) Bumthang airport, along a pretty road by the Chamkhar Chhu. As we were walking back, a car whizzed by us and we waved to three of our friends who were doing a homestay together, getting a tour of the area from their host brother.
We wanted to help cook lunch, but unfortunately they only let us peel the potatoes, and then we watched a pretty crazy Bhutanese soap opera that we didn’t understand a word of. Lunch was delicious – kewa datshi (potato, chillies, and cheese), red rice, a carrot and cabbage dish, and buckwheat pancakes. Buckwheat is the staple crop of Bumthang because it grows at high altitudes, and it has high nutritional content. I think buckwheat is delicious, but definitely an acquired taste. Some of the things people make out of buckwheat are noodles, pancakes, muffins, and cookies. Yum!
After lunch we met up with a large group of our host sisters’ friends, who all go to Jakar High School. We walked to the basketball court at the elementary school, which has a beautiful campus surrounded by the mountains. We played basketball with about ten young Bhutanese kids, some of their little siblings, and about eight of us chillups. It was great to hang out with a big group of friends and meet other people. Another group of chillups and their host siblings had made momos, which we all love, so we had a picnic as well.
It was a fantastic experience, and I now feel more integrated with the community. I will definitely visit my host sisters again!