We have been embraced by Champa’s family since the moment we arrived in Ilam, her home town in Nepal. In fact, the welcome began even sooner, at the airport south of here, where Champa’s brother, Raju, was waiting to greet us with ceremonial katas, or prayer shawls. That’s him in the blue shirt along with Khagendra, Champa’s cousin and neighbor, who took the same flight. We then traveled by jeep from the airport to Ilam.
Let me introduce you to some of the family. Here’s Champa eating lunch with Raju and his wife, Sanjaya, who has been cooking great meals and generally spoiling us without pause. (My former colleagues in Duke’s Office of News and Communications may recognize the blue ONC “Rapid Response” water bottle, which has joined us on the trip.) You can see in the next photo some of the many delicacies that have awaited us in Sanjaya’s kitchen.
Just down the street are several other relatives. Champa is sitting here between Bal Kumari (in the purple) and Chandra Kumari (on the right), two of her cousins. Chandra Kumari was a student in one of my English classes when I taught in the Peace Corps here. To the left is Bindu, who traveled with us here along with her husband, Shankar. We stayed with the two of them in Kathmandu.
It’s been great fun to watch Champa walk down a path or through the marketplace, and see people suddenly recognize her. They call out with delight to welcome her home and ask how she’s doing. Needless to say, they also look at me with interest. (You can almost see them thinking: So that must be her American husband.) When I join the conversation in Nepali, they inevitably break into big smiles.
We’ll stay in Ilam until Friday, when we’ll travel to Samalbung, a village located on Nepal’s eastern border with India. We’ll meet up there with Shankar, Bindu and other members of the family, spending a few days before returning to Kathmandu.
Let the reunions continue!