It’s important to take into consideration that neither of us had ever done a homestay before this experience, so the thought of living in a foreign family’s home was both intimidating and enticing. We had no idea what to expect besides the fact that we would be staying with two brothers, a mom, a dad, and a grandmother.
On Friday evening, we were picked up by our homestay “brother” (the youngest of two). We immediately hit it off with him and spoke about everything including travel, music, and school. He is currently in his final year of law school but is only a few years older than us. We learned that he did not have to attend an undergraduate university; he enrolled into law school directly after completing high school. We were surprised by this educational track because in America students must attend undergrad before going to law school, medical school, etc.
When we ate dinner that night, we noticed that our mother waited until everyone had been served a full, delicious plate of food and had eaten most of it before she even served herself. She never even let us lift a finger when it came to helping prepare dinner or clearing the dishes. She always put others before herself, reaffirming the kind and caring nature of the family hosting us.
Later in the weekend, we discussed the family’s religion, Sikhism, with both brothers. They explained the five articles of faith involved in their religion: Kesh (uncut hair), Kanga (comb), Kara (Bracelet), Kirpan (sword) and Kachera (a special type of underpants). They told us that the Indian Constitution legalizes the carrying of swords by Sikhs, which was interesting to us because India otherwise has strict gun laws. Our brothers also told us that the father goes to the temple every day, whereas they only go about twice a month. This fact seemed consistent with what all of us have noted during our service experience: various traditions are both preserved and changed from younger to older generations. In addition, at night before and after dinner, we sometimes watched a live video of ceremonies at the temple. Learning about their religion helped us gain a greater understanding of another culture and how religion plays such a large role in their everyday lives.
Overall, our homestay provided us with a brief but fantastic opportunity to begin to immerse ourselves in Indian culture. While at times there was a language barrier, we did had not have an issue communicating what was needed. In fact, we watched Indian Idol one night and, while we couldn’t understand most of what was said, we could easily pick up on the emotions of the crowd and performers. The interesting and informative conversations, amazing food, and fun times with our sweet family made this homestay one we will never forget.