Inside, in a dim, two-bedroom apartment smelling strongly of spiced chai and dried vegetables, lives a family of six. Two cannot speak English. Only one earns money, shouldering the burdens of the rest.
They sit in a circle made of chairs and a well-worn couch in the living room, conversing in both English and Nepali while leafing through a photo album that tells the story of their life as refugees.
Welcome to the Rijal household.
Originally Lhotsampas from Bhutan, the Rijals were forced to migrate to a refugee camp in Nepal in 1992 as a result of the Bhutanese Citizenship Act, which redefined what it meant to be Bhutanese and took away the Rijals' citizenship. The parents, along with their small son, moved to Beldangi-2 to live in a small bamboo shack.
They raised four children in the refugee camp. Family ties bound them together in the midst of their hardships.
Because they were not Nepali citizens, camp officials refused to allow them to leave the camp or work for a wage.
They grew their own food and made a humble living for themselves.
In September 2008, Associate Pastor Doug Swank of Glendale's Faith Bible Church (FBC) decided the church should get involved with the refugee resettlement program run by Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, which had taken notice of the Rijals. "Some people in America, they are kind. We can get help from them."
Tim Thal, a member of a "LIFE group" at FBC, felt compelled to help with the program. He volunteered his group as co-sponsors in the refugee family's resettlement.
The LIFE group met the Rijals at the airport when they arrived. They brought them to their new apartment at 35th and Dunlap Avenues in Phoenix. The government had provided the apartment, but the group furnished it and stocked it with food.
"We had to show them how to use everything," recalled Julie McBride, a member of the LIFE group.
The group spent the first six months actively helping the Rijals become acclimated to their new surroundings during a period Thal calls the "settlement time." They visited them, drove them around town and provided for their basic needs.
Now, two years later, the Rijals find themselves in limbo between the old life and the new. The initial culture shock has worn off, but they remain refugees – exiles from the other side of the world.
Working in America
Twenty-year-old Yadu is the oldest of the four Rijal children. He cleans rental cars at Sky Harbor International Airport five days a week to provide for his family.
"The Asian people have no technology for farming like here," Yadu said of the cultural differences his family faces. "My dad and other people, they worked in the farming. Here, they have no work."
Yadu's father, Pitri, who is hard of hearing and speaks no English, has had no luck in finding a job.
Januka, Yadu's mother, is almost entirely deaf, and she also speaks only Nepali. Her role in the family is to take care of the household and prepare the meals.
As a result, the family's financial burden falls entirely on Yadu, who is not attending college. His brothers and sister are enrolled in the local high school and middle school.
"They get to go to school, but I have to work all the time," he said.
Eastern and Western cultures collide
Yadu's siblings are 17-year-old Chandra, 14-year-old Tanka and 12-year-old Yamuna. They have become more Americanized than Yadu and their parents. Chandra is away on vacation with a friend, playing soccer. Tanka and Yamuna spend their time taking English classes at school, watching cartoons on TV and chatting with their friends on Facebook.
Even so, the family is one of mixed, transitioning cultures. Their 40-inch television is propped up beneath pictures of Hindu gods. Yadu's Android smartphone lies on the coffee table alongside a photo album of the Rijals' life in Nepal. The family's new computer sits next to the tiny kitchen, where Januka prepares traditional Nepali food for each meal.
The children usually only eat at home, with the exception of school lunches during the week.
"We've never been to a restaurant, except McDonald's," said Tanka.
"It was spicy!" Yamuna exclaimed, her eyes widening as she remembered.
The Rijals do not eat beef at home, in accordance with Hindu custom. Instead, Thal said, they eat chicken or fish, usually bought from an oriental market such as Lee Lee. "One time, I went to their apartment and saw Pitri kneeling on the kitchen floor cutting up goat meat," Thal recalled. "It was an interesting thing to walk in on."
In yet another display of cross-culture, however, all the family members have taken a liking to pizza – except Yamuna, who said her favorite American food is chicken.
Two years into the Rijals' new life in the United States, the Faith Bible Church LIFE group has become less involved as the family grows more independent.
"Obviously they can pretty well provide for themselves now," said Thal, who still visits the Rijals from time to time.
Yadu said his family has come a long way since they stepped off the plane two years ago.
"When we came here, we were totally lost," he said. "We were waiting to have the other people who speak the same language as us.
"But some people in America, they are helpful, they are kind. We can get help from them."
As the family embraces the culture of the country they take refuge in, they can still hold onto the traditions of their homeland. Hindu festivals, close family and traditional food keep their native ties strong.
"There are festivals here just like there," Yadu said. "It is the same. The culture which we celebrate in Nepal, we can celebrate here."