I thought it would be interesting to give everyone a survey of what an average is like for me in Nepal. I’m talking about your run-of-the-mill weekday here, not some weekend adventure visiting sites or doing adventure sports or something. I’m interested to see people’s reactions of what expectations it met, and ones that it did not.
My day roughly begins at 5:30am. At this time, I awake to the sounds of soft singing, almost a kind of humming outside my door. It’s the grandparents of my host family and they are performing their rituals to the Hindu shrine located outside my door. As I slowly drift off to sleep, I am suddenly woken ajar by a bell, a crucial part of the ritual. At that point, I’m done trying to fall back asleep and it’s around 6am. This is when I need to wake up anyway for work, so it’s not a huge loss anyway. I stumble sleepily to the large house where my host family resides. My room is located separate from the house, which I generally prefer except when it comes to the bathroom. I wash up my face and pack up my things for work.
Whether you’re worshiping or just starting your day, waking up at 5am is a pretty common affair in Nepal. People’s day simply run on a different timetable, almost like they are still linked to a rural lifestyle. Early to bed, early to rise as they say. At 10pm the streets are virtually empty, which is eerie considering there are no street lights in Nepal. This is true even on a week night, though some places in the tourist area of Thamel rage on to the morning hours like any good party. Regardless, the average Nepali is keen on getting his or her day starting early.
At about 6:30am, I hop on my scooter and head towards town. As I drive through the bucolic, verdant countryside, families and friends are out for the morning walks. Some have starting to toil on their farms. School children and buses are on their way to begin learning for the day. I weave in and out, avoiding other motorcyclists, pedestrians, potholes, mounds of rocks, buses, motorbikes, stray dogs, and other random objects that I pass. Even in the countryside, driving takes a lot of concentration and patient. When I get a clear straight-away, I rev my engine up so I can feel the cool air flow across the whole body. It’s exhilarating and free. Driving a car won’t ever feel the same again after this….
I make it to the main road, where I avoid traffic police by finding alternative driving paths to avoid getting waved over. The risk of this isn’t very high, but without a real driving permit I feel especially vulnerable. Typically, foreigners caught without a permit pay a fee of about 1000 rupees, which is close to $11 or $12. All my friends assure me that tourists are almost never pulled over. I would prefer just to avoid the scenario all together. After a brief stint on the main road, I hop on another back road, where I have to weave around narrow streets with walls. I make sure to honk at every turn; you never know what asshole cruising around the corner won’t mind laying you out with his motorbike. Again, I’d rather not take any chances.
At work, I ease into my desk and begin my day. The house servant offers me coffee, which I always accept. It’s not like coffee I’m accustomed to in the US – it’s very weak and sugary. I’ve come to enjoy it though, and I always accept. I begin my work by making phone calls to potential volunteers in the US. It’s relatively easy work, they present me their questions and concerns, and I try to answer them as best as I can. After an hour of this, I take my scooty back to the volunteer hostel and eat my breakfast. There I get to chat with volunteers from our program from all over the world; typically American, Canada, Europe and Australia, but occasionally other countries as well. This part of the day I really enjoy. After breakfast, I head back to the office, sometimes many calls or sometimes other projects.
At 12pm is lunchtime, and I head back to the office again. I eat a meal of Dal Bhat, the traditional Nepalese cuisine. Dal Bhat is basically a combination of rice and lentils, with other vegetables spliced in that vary from day to day. Rarely chicken is added. Though the ingredients change, the core recipe never strays too far. I eat this for lunch every single weekday. It’s very high in carbs, though the lentils give it some protein. Many of the Nepali’s are rail thin, but still have little fatty bellies. These we call the Dal Bhat bellies… made straight from carbs!
I leave work around 3:30pm, and choose between a few activities. Sometimes I meet up with volunteers and hang out in the afternoon .Yesterday I went to the Nepali gym, which I just become a member of this week. It’s been a good experience, one that helps me feel more balanced again. I’m quite a spectacle there. Imagine all the uncomfortable staring and sizing up that goes on in a normal gym and multiple that by 5x. People are friendly, but they are all very curious in me. I find it mildly entertaining.
When I’m ready, I take my scooter back to the host family in Syuchutar. The afternoon traffic is far busier and you have to be extremely careful driving. Today I went back to my host family because I needed to do laundry. Almost all laundry is done by hand in Nepal. Surprisingly, it actually is faster to wash laundry by hand that using a machine. However, unlike a machine, you actually have to all the work yourself. Sometimes I find it very meditative. Today, it was just downright an inconvenience after a long day.
There’s not that much to do at the host family, but the upside is the clean air and peacefulness of the place, for the most part. The children are really the only chaos that goes on, with the screaming and playing disrupting the otherwise calmness of the land. They are pretty cute though, so it doesn’t bother me at all. When the power is on, I can use my computer to write or watch a selection of movies I’ve collected. I can also read as much as I’d like. I started trying to help one of the house servants English, and learning Nepali in return, so we’ll see if that becomes a regular activity. Otherwise, you can meditate, sit and look at the great view, or watch Bollywood TV in the living room. Of course I can’t understand it at all.
Dinner is served at my host family around 7pm. It is another healthy dose of Dal Bhat, though it is prepared a bit differently than at the hostel. That at least keeps me from getting too sick of it. I also buy my own snacks during the day, making sure life doesn’t get too mundane. The grand parents are served first, and then the rest of the family. After dinner, I am so exhausted and it’s only 8pm. I try to keep myself up just for the sake I don’t wake up at 4am the next day. Some nights I make it to 9:30, but some I start drifting at 8:30. Hell, I deserve it after a long day!
And that’s a typical weekday for me in Nepal. By Friday, I’m ready to go out, have a beer, and have a meal that in no way resembles Dal Bhat! The weekends are really what you live for in Nepal. Hopefully I can stay awake past 10pm….