6

The Cold In Nepal

(Disclaimer: I wrote this post 2 weeks ago, and then forgot about it. But it’s still relevant…kind of.)

Before we left for Nepal, many people in Sweden would ask us ‘So how is the weather in Nepal?’. On a side note: I have no memory of getting this question that often when I would be in the Netherlands before going somewhere far. Why, Sweden? What’s so interesting about the weather?

Anyhow, usually the conversation would go something like this:

Us: Pretty cold, now that it’s winter!
Them (picturing Sweden in wintertime): Oh, really? Does it snow?
Us: No, it actually doesn’t go below zero where we live.
Them: So what is the average temperature?
Us: Well…in day time it can be up to 20 degrees, in the sun. (we see an eyebrow go up slightly)
Us, quickly: But it gets colder in the evening! And, and, there is no heating! No really…we SUFFER!
We can just see how they quietly judge us….how dare you say it’s cold in Nepal! Sweden in winter, now THAT’S cold!

And while we understand that cold is relative, and that snow and ice would be much worse than what we have to endure, I would like to do an effort to make you, dear reader, understand what it’s like to experience a Nepali winter. Because temperatures don’t say THAT much without central heating.
If you do like to know better what the temperatures are, I got this forecast for Pokhara. Check out those minimum temperatures! It’s ALMOST freezing, at least!

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First of all, the houses are made of concrete, often with marble floors. Doesn’t quite give that cozy atmosphere you’re looking for when you can see your own breath coming out in clouds.
Then the windows are single glass, with wooden frames that never fit well. To illustrate this: with all doors and windows closed, we can still see the curtains move back and forth in the draft…
While the sun in the day time is lovely, the moment you step into the concrete house you can feel the cold come up from the floors. It doesn’t hold heat at all. Even when you put a gas heater in the room, you only get warm sitting right in front of it. Because the lack of insulation, all the heat then goes straight through the windows (and the 5cm gap under the front door doesn’t help much either, I suppose).

Cloudy days are the worst. There is nowhere to heat up, so you just wrap yourself in a fleece blanket, while dreaming of the beaches in Thailand.

This is what I wear on a regular winter day (besides underwear, obviously):

– long johns (or just some good old plain leggings from H&M)
– pants
– 2 pairs of thin socks
– 1 pair of thick woolen socks (if I’m indoors)
– tank top
– t shirt
– long sleeve (or 2)
– fleece vest

Sometimes indoors I will add one of Jacobs hoodies, or a down vest, and I always walk around on slippers, so my feet stay warmer.
On the motorbike I will wear a soft shell (wind stopper or something) jacket instead of the fleece, although when driving at night I need both.
When walking or cycling I will take of the fleece, but only if I’m moving/in the sun.

But before you start sending us electrical blankets, hot water bottles and down pants: it’s really not that bad, as the temperatures will rise again in February, and then boom, summer comes: 7 months of 30 plus degrees and humidity. We love the marble floors, then. And would be miserable if the houses were actually insulated.

So really. We’ll be fine ;)

3

Fans, Batteries and Filters – Life In Nepal

We’ve eaten momo’s, we’ve driven the motorbike, we’ve had dal bhat with fried fish at the landlord’s house.
We’re back in Nepal.

And now that we are here, I’ve realized that I’ve never shown some of the smaller, practical details of living here. Because while I’m sure most of you understand that life here is different than in, say, the Netherlands, it might be interesting to know what kinds of things we use in our daily lives here. Some are to make life better, others are to avoid diseases, and then there’s the toiletpaper bin, just because we can’t flush it down here.

As you may know, there is never 24/7 power in Nepal. We have ‘loadshedding’, which means the power is out for several hours a day. More in the winter than in the summer. Right now we don’t have power for 8 hours a day. So first I will introduce this extremely ugly thing to you, because it has made our lives better in summer AND in winter. The fan-with-battery-and-light!!

 

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Oh, the glory. Despite its ugliness, I could kiss it. It charges when there is power and then, when the power goes out in the hot summer, and the fan stops working and the sweat starts dripping, this fan STILL works and makes everything better. And, as you may have noticed, it also has a light (the weird arm on the side – it can fold in and out and you can even twist it). It has made cooking when there is no power and no light (and the back up system down) so much easier.

Then there’s the water filter.

 

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If you think now: why don’t you drink tap water? Then please, I beg you, do not come to Nepal until you have read up on giardia and amoebas.

When there is power, this thing filters all the crap out of our water so that we stay healthy.
PS – note the safe outlet it is plugged into.

All those power outages can give problems for electrical appliances, and we needed to protect our fridge. We got this:

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Don’t ask me how it works or what it does, but our fridge works fine and I’m happy.

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Here you see the thing that rules them all: THE INVERTER. I first bought one after I received a generous gift from people in the Netherlands. Because of it, we can have lights on at night when the power is out. No more working with candle light, no more shining my cellphone light to find the bathroom.
Right now they have replaced the battery which was very dead after 3 years of using it, and we upgraded so we even have light in the bedroom and dining room. The glory!

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Who enjoys a cold shower? Not me! This thing is connected to a gas cylinder (with the blue hose) and heats the water. I also use it for when we wash our clothes (by hand) so it gets cleaner + my hands don’t fall off after an hour in freezing cold water.
Those gas cylinders (also one for cooking) are stored outside, locked into a serious cage, to make sure no one steals them.

Back to those diseases: there is many ways to get the dreaded explosives, and while often we don’t even know where it came from, there is another way to prevent this:

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Anything that is not peeled or cooked should be soaked in water with a few drops of the brown stuff and then it’s ok to eat. It’s like magic. Because now we can eat strawberries.

And last but not least: here’s the tp bin. Blurry but you get the point.
That’s just life, in Nepal.

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9

How To…Kill A Buffalo In Nepal

(Warning: picture with blood below in this post.)

1. Get a buffalo.

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2. Hammer an iron rod into the ground.

3. Attach buffalo and buffalo’s front leg to rod with a rope.

4. Get previously used (ginormous) hammer and hit the buffalo right on top of his head so it dies.

5. Hit a few more times to make sure it’s really dead.

6. Cut the throat and catch the blood.

7. Skin it, cut it, share the meat amongst the neighbors.

 

buffalo

 

[Some background information: right now it’s Dashain, Nepal’s biggest Hindu festival. Animals are being slaughtered for the purpose of sacrifice as well as feasts.]

1

‘Today Is A ‘Whole Snickers’ Kind Of Day’

Wat doe je als pasgetrouwd stel zijnde, die in de eerste 2 maanden van hun huwelijk vrijwel alleen maar heeft gereisd en als gevolg daarvan hooguit zo’n 1,5 week thuis heeft doorgebracht…?

Juist. Je gaat er eens lekker tussenuit. Een weekje de Himalaya bergen in, met koude (of geen) douches, chloortabletten om drinkwater te fabriceren en dikke ratten die ‘s nachts over de plafondplaten rennen.

Maar het is niet alleen maar afzien tijdens zo’n tocht – er valt ook heel wat te leren. Zoals wat, vraagt u zich misschien af. Of niet. Maar ik ga het u toch vertellen, want zo ben ik.

* Bohnanza. Want nadat Jacob mij zijn strategieen had uitgelegd, wist ik hem keer op keer genadeloos te verslaan. (N.B. Veel dank aan de gulle gever. Geweldig trouwcadeau.)
* In sommige gevallen betekent ‘Swiss toast’ eigenlijk rösti, maar het is niet persé rösti.
* Ook als je samen reist in Nepal wordt er niet altijd vanuit gegaan dat je getrouwd bent (met dank aan de hippies?!). Maar samen reizen als je niet getrouwd bent is niet gepast. Wat te doen? Les geleerd: het antwoord op de vraag ‘Uit welk land kom je?’ (hoort thuis in de top 3 meest gestelde vragen) werd ‘Holland, en mijn man komt uit Zweden.’
* Denk je als getrouwde vrouw eindelijk af te zijn van veel te persoonlijke vragen van taxichauffeurs en obers (ben je getrouwd? niet? waarom niet, je bent al bijna te oud. wil je een Nepali trouwen? m.a.w. met mij/mijn neef/de buurman? (want Nepali spreek je toch al, dus zijn alle obstakels uit de weg geruimd (?!) )) dan ben je mooi in de aap gelogeerd. Want: oh, getrouwd? Hebben jullie kinderen dan?
Ik dacht met ‘we zijn pas 2 maanden getrouwd’ er vanaf te zijn. Maar dat antwoord was niet afdoende voor het vrouwtje in één van de dorpjes. Ze richtte zich rechtstreeks tot Jacob: ‘Bachhaa banaaune sakincha??’ (kun je kinderen maken??)

We gingen uiteraard niet om Bohnanza te spelen en rösti te eten – het was een werkbezoek, zogezegd. En over dat werk kan ik zeggen dat het bijzonder geslaagd was.

En verder: ook enerverend was de terugreis. De bus die wij hadden gekozen als vervoermiddel de bergen uit bleek niet opgewassen te zijn tegen een modderige helling. De chauffeur deed wat hij kon om de bus gecontroleerd terug naar beneden te laten rollen, een Nepali passagier klom over de tassen en krukjes die het gangpad blokkeerden en riep ‘Fast! Get out!’, een Israeli passagier die als laatste aan boord was geklommen en daarom het gangpad als zitplaats had gekregen vond dat teveel van het goede en liet hem luid en duidelijk weten dat zij niet gepusht wilde worden.
Wij wisten genoeg – als de Nepalis de bus uitwillen, fast, dan moet je de bus uit. Meteen. Wij sprongen fluks naar buiten en keken in de regen toe hoe de chauffeur de bus tegen een bergwandje aan parkeerde, onderaan de helling. Beter tegen de bergwand dan van de weg af, zo vonden wij.

We hadden genoeg gezien en besloten dat we er nog wel wat kilometertjes te voet aan vast konden plakken. Het volgende dorp was 3 kwartier verder, en daar vonden wij een ratloze doch eenvoudige kamer. De volgende dag was het 4 uur wandelen naar Beni, waar we een taxi naar Pokhara regelden.

Amen.

(Ik wist niet hoe ik een einde moest breien aan deze blog, dus vroeg ik raad aan Jacob. En dit was zijn antwoord.)

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dit is een brug

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zo ziet Parijs er dus uit

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mijn man, de fotograaf

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3

Recharged

Work, Skype, moving, packing, cleaning, traveling, planning, wedding-ing, and what not had left us looking sort of like this:

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We needed to recharge, and quick.
So we went to Thailand.

Turns out, all you need to recharge is this:

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Upon arrival in Nepal we could use all that new energy right away to get visa extensions, a clean house and back in the work routines, so today, instead of many words, I have some pictures to share with you.
But remind me to tell you soon about that time that Jacob tried to fit plastic shelves under the kitchen counter. I married a genius.

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This is what we left behind in Vetlanda: lots of snow.

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These are our flip flops, on the beach. Because it looks cool.

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This was after many hours of travel. We could still smile, at least.

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Jacob got an awesome hat. We got me a hat too, but because this is my blog I decide what photos are put on here.

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We went squid fishing. This is the first squid I have ever caught, and that face means ‘Look-at-that-I-caught-a-squid-please-let-it-not-spray-ink-in-my-face-take-that-picture-quick-do-it-now’

0

Did Someone Ask For A Cultural Experience?

Well friends…I sure got a cultural experience last week. And not just one. Several. The bus ride there was not even that bad. Of course it took longer than expected, but that’s expected…wait. That doesn’t make sense. But in Nepal it does.

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After many hours of travel, hence the crazy eyes. Remember: we got up at 1am, left at 2:30 am, and listened to loud Nepal music for most of the trip.

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Here you can see our comfortable seats. My seat was relatively in the front, and I had a tiny view of the road ahead which probably prevented me from motion sickness. Not everyone was that lucky, but that’s why every bus has a stack of plastic bags. And that’s why you can see long distance buses decorated with vomit lines outside the windows.

We arrived late, and there was only a few beds left. This one was for me:

my bed

Doesn’t look too bad, right?
See that door on the left? There is another one, and behind them are bathrooms. And when there is not enough water to flush, those tend to get a bit…smelly.
And did you think this bed was just for me? Oh no. I shared it with a friend. They told us someone else had to sleep there too, but even I have limits and said I’d rather sleep on the floor than in that bed with 3 people, because then I would have at least have a chance of getting some sleep.

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This is our room. I think there was a total of 12 beds, which means 24-28 girls, including 2 small children. Praise God for ear plugs! :)

The conference was great. Thanks to ear plugs, and many prayers, I slept really well at night. We had great teachings, and in the afternoons we got a few hours off, so we could sit in the sun and hang out with friends.

Despite the request to ‘only wash underwear’ (who doesn’t bring enough clean underwear anyway?) we ran out of water the first day. And the second. I didn’t get my shower, but I did get to wash my hair on day 2, which was awesome.
At 6 am I woke up and heard the tap outside running. Old instincts kicked in and in 2 minutes I had jumped out of bed, put on some clothes and grabbed a bucket from the bathroom. I filled it halfway up and managed to wash my hair in that. Soon after I got my share, the water ran out again.

Then we started the trip back. We left at 5:30 am and hoped to be back in Pokhara around 6pm. We were wrong.

After about 5 hours, we saw this:

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This is a long line of vehicles that are not moving. As soon as we got of the bus to check out what happened, we heard that there was a protest because someone had been killed in an accident. From someone else we heard it was because someone had been kidnapped.
Anyhow, when people feel they don’t get support from the government for their problems, or compensation for the loss of a relative, they block the streets for a while, which affects hundreds, maybe thousands of people, especially if it’s on a main road like the one we were traveling on.

Right before we joined the line, a bus from the same company on their way to Dharan had told our driver that he had taken a short cut through the forest, to avoid the bandha. Clearly he had succeeded, and so our driver decided to go for it.

We took a turn and drove on a dusty narrow road in the jungle. I remember thinking ‘If I had organized this bandha, I would check these roads.’
We had to take a sharp turn which took some time with the long bus, and right as we were ready to take it, I saw a motor bike coming at us from the left. There was 2 guys on the back, carrying big sticks. This is not good, I thought. And it wasn’t.
Without wasting anytime discussing the issue, they smashed the front windows and then some on the side, too.

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This is what it looked like afterwards. There was people sitting right behind the wind shields, and next to the side windows too, but no one got hurt. While they were smashing the windows we all got out of the bus, not sure what else they would do, as sometimes they set vehicles on fire.

They were kind enough to tell us what was going on: the driver of a bus that had killed someone in an accident had been kidnapped, and they suspected the government to be involved in that. And they were very mad that we, a bus full of people from Pokhara, on our way home, dared to not be obedient and wait for hours until their demands were met by the government.

We joined the line again, which is a bit embarrassing, to come out of the jungle again with no windows…
About 2 hours later the police had come and had ended the bandha. We drove to the next town, where they solved the no-window problem:

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That’s right. Plastic and tape. But not on the driver’s side, because he still had to be able to see the road.

 

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This is Ram. He wanted me to take his picture at his seat without a window.

The rest of the trip back was quite miserable. It was cold, freezing cold, and it took us another 12 hours because we got stuck in a traffic jam. I was home at 12:30 am, which made it a trip of 19 hours.

Hurray for Nepal!

1

Off To Dharan

It has been a while since I’ve been on a trip within Nepal that was not to buy groceries, or the tourist bus to Kathmandu. It’s not that I stay home on purpose, but to be honest, it doesn’t really bother me to not go.

I like to see new places, sure. But when seeing those new places means I get to sit on a broken bus seat for many hours, while listening to loud Nepali music and eating greasy noodles for lunch, suddenly my own little town of Pokhara is so appealing to me. Another cappuccino at Lakeside, sure!

But next week there is a staff meeting for everyone working in my group from Nepal, Bhutan and North East India, so only if I had had 3 kids or was violently ill, I would have had reason to stay home.

Instead, I get to get on a bus at 3am (!!) tomorrow morning, and then get off at 4pm, if we’re lucky. That means: if we don’t get a flat tire, come across an accident, get into an accident, or are stopped by a demonstration. So really, yes, 4pm is totally doable.
Then, in Dharan, I will most likely stay in a room with 20 Nepali girls, on a thin mattress on the concrete floor (it gets cold at night!!).
I am not expecting to be lucky enough to be able to take a shower.
We will eat rice and lentils everyday, and probably a hard boiled egg and some beaten rice and spicy chick peas for breakfast. We will listen to sermons every day and talk about our vision and goals.
For most of the people that are attending, it will be like a family reunion since many of them are from the bible belt of Nepal and all their family lines can be traced back to one Grandpa and Grandma that were among the first believers here. Fun, except when you are not from their ethnic group.

But – I am excited. Ok, not about the 13 hour bus trip over Nepali style roads (more hole than road), but about the fun we will have during that time. It actually already feels a bit like a school trip because my good friend and I have promised to sit next to each other.
I’m excited to spend a lot of time with my Nepali friends I usually see only a few times a week; excited to be in a new place; excited to remember I live in Nepal…

Sometimes I get a bit too comfortable in my life with backup battery, electric heater, cappuccinos and spaghetti, and there’s nothing like a trip to Dharan to change that.