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Day 122: Getting in Touch with Locals (How I Roll, Part 3)

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Day 122:  Peeking Around Corners

Day 122: Peeking Around Corners

How do I get in touch with locals and the culture? Glad you asked! This is the third post in a series on getting in touch with locals during travels. Check back for more, or subscribe via email to never miss a beat.

I have my ways of getting touch with local culture. In the past two editions of this series, I’ve talked about foreign language study abroad and teaching English as methods of connecting with locals; my third edition is going to cover something that goes along with the first: a homestay.

Living in someone else’s house is never easy (at least for me) — something I am yet again discovering at this very moment. I find myself peeking around corners and double checking that I’m not doing something that might be out of the ordinary for the household, and it adds a bit of stress. In other words, you never really feel like you can relax.

But, living with a family in a foreign country is the best way to see how this part of the world lives, how they speak, where everyone sits within the family and my favorite — what they eat. I have done two homestays during my travels: one for only a week in Xela, Guatemala, and one for 7 weeks in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The latter I had intended to spend more time at but eventually decided that I just couldn’t handle not having my own comfortable space any longer.

During both of these times, I learned a lot… but during the homestay in Bishkek I learned a LOT. I learned I had a love for MSG flavored soup, fresh lagman and black tea. I learned my host sister had an unhealthy obsession with licking things (including my arm). I learned that the concept of passing germs when someone is sick was not common knowledge. I learned that the Ninja Turtles were just as popular when dubbed over in Russian.

I saw what life was like for military wives in Kyrgyzstan, and I further saw how passionate my host father was about anti-terrorism. I saw how intrigued this part of the world was with the American culture and the English language.

I hung around as they sang karaoke for hours on end in the house, and I definitely had a few vodka shots in the process.

I find the idea of a homestay a very difficult task to get through, but in the end, I’m happy I do. Even if I only last a week, it’s still an insight I’ll remember forever. Do you have a homestay experience of your own to share?

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6 Responses to Day 122: Getting in Touch with Locals (How I Roll, Part 3)

  1. Laryssa May 4, 2011 at 1:05 am #

    I did a homestay in Matamata, NZ for about a week, as a WWOOF exchange. The most uncomfortable time for me is mornings; I hate to mix in with other people’s routine and get in the way. That, or I’m just cranky because I haven’t had my coffee. 😉

    I had just come off a month of couchsurfing for two or three nights here and there at random places, so staying in a stable home with a family, having regular dinners, etc was a welcome change.

  2. BLuegreen Kirk May 4, 2011 at 1:30 am #

    How I Roll reminds me of my friend at work she is always saying it. I cant believe someone was trying to lick your arms….lol thats too funny. I completely understand the feeling of never knowing if what you are doing is acceptable or out of order compared to what other believe.

  3. Rebecca May 4, 2011 at 4:21 am #

    Great little post as I am currently debating a homestay in Peru. It’s only for one night, but since I am a solo female traveller, I am a bit cautious. But on the flip side, why should that stop me?! I don’t know…

  4. bethany May 6, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Great post Brooke. I am def. intrigued by homestays as well. I think it’s pretty amazing that you’ve done it twice. I keep chickening out when I think about it.

  5. Ariana July 31, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    I stayed with a family for two weeks when I volunteered in Costa Rica. The mother, Marlen, was the most hospitable woman and generous cook. She made her pay by hosting volunteers and her young daughter helped translate when needed.

    Every morning Marlen would have breakfast made – a typical egg, pinto gallo, bread, fruit, and coffee combo that I came to love in my short, short time. She would send us off each day with a packed lunch, usually some sort of rice and beans with meat — steak or even fried hot dogs! Dinner was always cooking by the time we got home and the portions were LARGE.

    When we signed up to volunteer we were told that we could have our laundry cleaned by our host families for a small fee, but Marlen would sneak into our rooms and do our laundry for us when we were away, no charge. She made our beds and straightened our things. I always felt so guilty because she spoiled us so much!

    I could not have asked for a better placement, but even so the awkward events that occur from living in someone else’s house were present, naturally. Bathroom situations seem to be the most uncomfortable. One bathroom for 7 people was a little tight, but it was do-able. In the end I think that a successful homestay can just come down to luck! Mine did, but I’m sure that in my future travels I may not be so lucky. Either way, it is an opportunity to study human nature – how people function,communicate, and LIVE.

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