I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted a blog, but a lot has happened in the past 3.5 weeks and I wasn’t quite sure where to begin.
Do I start with the fact that I got a bad case of fleas within days of moving into my new home (better than bed bugs, I guess?). Or the wildfire that was burning out of control right behind my house? What about the garden that I’ve been trying to build that’s a complete disaster? Or the weekend I traveled to Budar and reunited with the other Far West PCVs? I guess I could talk about the work I’ve been doing – integrating (slowly) into my community, identifying potential projects and meeting with the local mothers’ group, health post workers, school principal, ward chairperson, mayor and NGOs. Or maybe I should write about the countless hours I spend in my room questioning what the hell I’m doing here and if I can really survive 22 more months of this.
Truth is, since arriving at site, I have seen, experienced and heard of things that I don’t quite have the words to explain. Things that are going to take me awhile to process as I try to figure out what my role is here. And while I hope to write about many of these topics in later posts, I decided to stick with something simple and lighthearted for now.
So, with that being said, I’m going to give you a tour of my new house!
But before getting started, let’s start with some background information. I live in a small village in the Far Western region of Nepal, about an hour hike from the nearest town, Silgadhi, which is also the Doti district capital. I live with my aamaa (mother), buwaa (father – although he will be returning to India, where he works, soon), two bahinis (younger sisters – one is 18 and the other is about 5) and bhaai (younger brother – about 8 years old, I think). Our house is made of stone and mud and has four rooms, a kitchen and a cow shed. We also have several cows, goats (including some super cute baby goats!) and a dog, named Tommy. We don’t have running water, but we do have electricity that works maybe 50% of the time.
Okay, let’s get the tour started!
We’ll start outside the house. My room is the one on the left and the room on the right is the family room, where a majority of my family sleeps. We spend a lot of time outside here, cooking, cleaning, hanging out, having dance parties with the neighborhood kids, etc. You can see our small wood-burning cook stove in the bottom right corner where we cook most of our meals over the fire and Tommy (who gave me fleas) sleeping in the shade. You can also see some of the barrels on the left where we store our water that we collect from the tap down the dirt road.
Now we’ll move into the kitchen! The kitchen can be accessed through the family room or from a door on the side of the house. Although we do most of our cooking outside on the wood-burning cook stove, we also have a gas burning stove in the kitchen, which is really nice – especially on a rainy day! The kitchen is pretty large, but it has taken some getting used to. As you can see, we don’t have a table, or even any counters. Instead we chop vegetables, cook and eat while sitting on the dirt floor. Food gets left out a lot since there’s obviously no refrigerators here, so there are always lots of ants and flies. However, I’m getting used to them.
Now we’ll move into my bedroom! This is my oasis, the only place where I can be alone and do things that make me feel like me (like drinking lots of coffee, watching TV shows on my laptop, etc.). I’ve had some issues with privacy, which has been difficult, but I’m hoping the novelty of a foreign girl wears off eventually and people stop watching me through my window all the time.
But anyways, let’s take a closer look at my room.
I don’t actually do any work at this desk, mostly because I don’t have a chair. But I do have a nice motivational wall with a world map and letters from friends, family and my boyfriend. I’m hoping to fill this wall up with letters over the next two years, so if you want to write me, I’ll send you my address! I also made a “Motivational Calendar” with all my Peace Corps training events, vacation, and time away from site. You got to do what you got to do to stay motivated here.
My Bookshelf (feat. My Tea and Coffee Corner and Comfort Food Stash)
I absolutely love my bookshelf! I’m lucky that my stone/mud walls had some sticks built into them, which are perfect for hanging pieces of wood for shelves. I have a lot of books that I collected throughout Pre-Service Training (mostly Nepali textbooks, Peace Corps handbooks, agriculture resources, etc.) and it’s nice to have them all easily accessible when I need them.
You’ll also notice my very rapidly depleting stash of comfort food that I keep on the top shelf. I save this food for the really hard days, which, to be honest, is most days. Eating something familiar that’s not daal bhaat is so comforting and is often the mental/emotional boost I need to get through the tough times here. If you want to send me any food in a care package, I will love you forever!
The highlight of my bookshelf (and really my whole room) is my little tea and coffee corner. I bought an electric kettle at the Dipayal bazaar for about $12 and it’s amazing (when there’s electricity, of course). I also bought a small french press when I was in Kathmandu so I’m able to make real coffee, not just the instant stuff, which is nice. I know it’s a small thing, but being able to make my own tea and coffee has brought me so much happiness, given me a little bit more freedom (I’m still not allowed to cook for myself yet, which is frustrating) and helps me feel a bit more like myself in this very foreign place.
This is actually where I do all my work (brainstorming projects, community assessments, studying Nepali, etc.) and also where I spend way too much of my time in general, especially in the afternoons when it’s too hot to be outside. It’s not a very comfortable bed – just a piece of foam that’s supposed to be a mattress – and it’s also really short. I’m not a tall person, but my feet still hang off the end. You’ll also notice my childhood stuffed animal and my beautiful mosquito net which unfortunately isn’t perfect. I still find far too many spiders in my bed, usually right before I go to sleep, which is nice.
Okay, so I don’t have a closet. But this corner is closest thing I could get. It’s just a metal trunk and inside it I store my clothes (right now, only my summer clothes – my winter clothes are stored in my suitcase under my bed). I also store a lot of random stuff over here. My yoga mat, sleeping bag, Eno, etc. You can see the bucket that I do all my laundry in (by hand, of course) and my heavy duty water filter (provided by Peace Corps) that I am so thankful for every day because I do not have the immune system to be drinking the water straight from the tap here.
Bathroom and “Shower”
Okay, moving on! Next we will head to the bathroom, or charpi, which is right next to my room in a very small, dungeon-like cave. There is no light, lots of spiders and hardly enough room to even squat. That big blue barrel in the corner is full of water that we use for flushing and wiping. That’s right, there’s no toilet paper here so all wiping is done with your hand and a bit of water! You get used to it.
The bathroom situation isn’t great, but the shower situation may be even worse. I don’t get to bathe often due to water scarcity problems (I’ll save that for another post), but when I do get to bathe, it’s a bucket bath since we don’t have running water. I don’t mind bucket baths, actually. But what I do mind is the fact that I have to bathe where everyone can (and does) watch. Because I have to bathe in public, I obviously can’t fully undress. Instead, I wear what’s called a petticot, a long piece of fabric that covers me from my chest down to my calves. As you can imagine, it’s hard to clean everything while wearing this, but considering I attract a crowd when I bathe (I’m telling you, it’s like a community event – the foreign girl is bathing!), I don’t have a choice. Again, I’m hoping people get more used to me, because as of right now, bathing is incredibly uncomfortable.
Now, for the last stop on our tour, the balcony! Besides my room, of course, this is definitely my favorite part of the house. We have a steep stair case that leads to the second floor where we have two rooms (my older bahini’s room and a storage room) and the balcony that overlooks Silgadhi and the beautiful rolling hills. I like to take my yoga mat up here in the mornings to do some stretches and workouts before making my coffee. Then, I come back up and spend some time relaxing – listen to a BBC News podcast, catching up on social media, journaling and planning my day, all while sipping my coffee and snacking on some biscuits.
So there you have it! That completes the tour of my house here in Far Western Nepal! This house, my community and these beautiful rolling hills are starting to feel more and more like home every day and I’m excited to see the next 22 months of my life unfold here.
P.S. It took me like 6 hours to upload this 27 second video tour of my house because the wi-fi is so crappy. So enjoy.