True to form, a line from a song buries itself in my consciousness as I begin to think about events of the past week. Literally and metaphorically, the title of this piece, (from Oysterband’s song “Put Out The Lights”) seems very apt. The flecks of paint on my arms from decorating earlier in the week may be the physical manifestation of finally putting down some roots here in Banepa, but it is the daily routines that are already beginning to imprint their ‘messages’. These ‘messages’ aren’t particularly new, but in the context of running a flat here, they need to become firmly engrained, and undoubtedly require a different mindset to the one that I was applying just over three months ago when living back home in Portsmouth.
I’ve already mentioned in an earlier post that in Nepal drinking water is not readily available at the turn of a tap. I have a relatively regular cold water supply here to shower and wash clothes with, but availability is dependent upon power to pump it into the house from the garden outside, and its certainly not drinkable. Like many residents I now purchase 20 litre containers of drinking water sourced from the Himalayas. Its not particularly costly in financial terms, (170 Rupees or around £1.60), but it certainly becomes a precious commodity to be used wisely for cooking and drinking. And I can’t be the only person that sees the incongruity of a town the size of Banepa, with a population 16,000, (source: Lonely Planet guide to Nepal: 5th edition: September 2009) having to bring in what is effectively bottled water in to satisfy a basic need.
It goes without saying that hand washing clothes is the order of the day. (It has been since I arrived in Nepal). Already the mantra of ‘little and often’ is something I’m becoming particularly well versed in, since filling up the laundry basket and putting everything on a ‘fast wash’ is not an option! I’ll eventually get a gas bottle sorted out so that I can boil water on the stove to do a hot wash, (and cook at home), but in the meantime needs must!
Hopefully this doesn’t sound like a litany of complaint-it’s not meant to be. Rather its a reflection on what life is like here for the majority of people who live here. In truth, I live in relative comfort since VSO stipulate minimum standards of accommodation for volunteers. I have a sitting room, bedroom, kitchen and shower/WC. For the average Nepali, this is way too much for a single person. What it does illustrate is that many of the things that we take for granted back in the UK are not commonplace here…and if I had any last vestiges of complacency about the lifestyle that I’ve albeit temporarily left behind, then they’ve pretty much gone. As a somewhat oblique aside, I’ve decided on what I think is a relatively novel way of letting you see how work on my flat is progressing. Click here for a sneak preview!
Oh, and earlier in the week, Sakriya Plus Nepal and Navadeep Jyoti Kendra both learned that the funding for their schemes will not continue after the end of September… more of which later. Sounds like I’ll have some work on my hands….