Dorothy can suck it, there are many places like home.
A friend of mine asked me this past weekend if it was awkward to live with a host family in Indonesia. Do I feel like a guest? Am I comfortable?
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon here in Indonesia, I sat on a chair in my family’s living room, with my legs curled up under me, reading a book. I had a mug of coffee cooling on the table in front of me. My Ibu (host-mom) was spread out, asleep on the couch with her shirt up to reveal her belly. My host-brother sat on the floor with his son in his lap as they both played Grand Theft Auto on their new Play Station 2.
I hadn’t worn make-up since school Saturday, my hair was in a messy high bun, and I wore leggings and an oversized t-shirt. I realized that no, it is not awkward living with a host family. It is beautiful. It is wonderful. It is home.
They make me cranky, I make them cranky, we argue over the bathroom, my Ibu says I don’t eat enough, they move my laundry when it’s hanging out to dry, they hold my hand when we go to the market, they introduce me to people as their daughter or sister, they laugh when I’m doing yoga, they teach me new words in Sundanese, they great me when I come home after a long day at school.
Being a Peace Corps volunteer in such a remote village is hard. Going home to an empty apartment or house would make it infinitely harder. On days I’m feeling down and lonely, I have a family to lean on; without them, the isolation would be suffocating.
The host family I lived with during the three months of Pre-Service Training in Kediri was just as supportive, fun, and wonderful. When I left them, we all cried together and I thought that the next family I got couldn’t possibly be as wonderful. I thought, my luck was wasted on a perfect family for a short amount of time, and I would probably get a group of goblins for the full two years.
This family didn’t have to open their home to me—it’s already a full house and two years is a long commitment to make to allow a stranger to live with you. I am (by Indonesian standards) monstrously tall, I like to eat raw vegetables instead of fried foods every meal, I get cranky when I’m tired/hungry/sad/bored/frustrated, I forget words in Sundanese almost as soon as I learn them, and I don’t pay them nearly enough. And yet, for reasons I will never know, they seem to love me. They have welcomed me as part of their family, as if I have always been here.
So no, I do not feel like a guest living with this family. That went out the window when my host nephews (5 and 7-years-old) started running through the house naked. I feel completely at home laughing and talking with my family. I don’t always know what’s going on, but I do know that they’re my people. I love them and I am forever grateful to them.