“Where do you like it better? Here or back home?” is the most common question I get once I start talking about being from Nepal. Most of the times I answer with a simple, “They are both very special for different reasons.” I then get a nod and we start talking about something else. After having gone home with a friend from a different country than my own, I think I am better able to answer that question.
Going home with Tatiana gave me a chance to look at life in Nepal with a different set of lenses. I had always been one of them (us) and never really cared about who was watching me, what was going on in the country or what kind of places I was going to. This time around, my experience was really different since I had the responsibility and pleasure of showing Tat my country (mostly, the city I live in) while making sure she was safe and was having a good time. I wanted her to see the places I would have gone to had she not been there with me.
However, that got complicated since we were in Nepal when the constitutional assembly was in the process of finalizing the new constitution of Nepal after the people ended the monarchy a couple years back. I was never interested in politics but this time, I was forced to stay updated on the happenings since our travel plans depended on what days were not booked for strikes all over the country by different parties and groups to have their demands incorporated in the new constitution. In that process, I found out how complicated the situation in Nepal had gotten and how a lot of the politicians were petitioning to divide the beautiful country into several small states based on the major cultural and ethnic groups living in that area, either historically or as of today.
I was really upset to learn about what was going on in the country, but at the same time it gave me immense pleasure to show Tat the historical sites and landscapes and call that place “home.” I took pride in everything that the country was made of. I did not hesitate to show her the overcrowded buses or the kids dressed up in torn clothes who were playing in the street with smiles on their faces. What I was not happy about was the fact that the youth were taking it into their hands to help the country stay united by means of rallies, social service, etc., and I was not doing the same with them. Realizing that I am one of them and I care but was not there to help was very difficult to rationalize. Yes, I am in the US to get a good education but is that what my country needs from me? I don’t expect to answer that question in this post or anytime soon, but the fact that I am thinking about it makes me happy.
If I were to contrast my life here with my life back home, I would say that my personal life is much better in the US but my social (beyond immediate friend and family circles) life would probably be better in Nepal since it needs me more than I need it. Hopefully, I will soon be able to answer the second most common question as of now, “Are you gonna stay here or go home after graduation?”