Montag, 28. Februar 2011

Harsh living conditions – An Overview

In this blog entry I want to list 15 points, describing the usual living conditions in Nepal.
In our eyes you would describe the people of Nepal as tough! And they have to be to stick it out here. It is amazing in what conditions the children grow up - but still, they grow up. For a Western person often unthinkable, these are the things a Nepali has to face every day:
  1. No running water in most places. Unless you are in a hotel or a business office, chances are you have no running water. You get your water every morning either from your own well or from a public well.
  2. No toilets. As most of you know, all you get in the majority of places, even some restaurants, is a hole in the ground! All I want to say to this point: I wish I were a guy!
  3. No clean air. Since I arrived here on the 12th of February I feel constantly sick and about to vomit. I am not kidding; the air is so toxic just the thought of it makes my stomach sick. And actually seeing how the trash is burned at every street corner doesn’t make it much better.    
  4. No quiet place. There is no park, no green area, no public facility that you could visit to experience a little silence. EVERYTHING is crowded and hectic. This is tough for me, as I enjoy a little bit of solitude every now and then. And I also think it is a problem for Nepali people. Everyone is stressed and hectic, nobody smiles on the streets (at least not in Kathmandu). As a tourist it is worst. Constantly, you are bothered by: “Taxi?” “Rickshaw?” “Trekking?” “Drugs?” etc. And of course there are all those poor beggars, which you shouldn't pay attention to, but who often look at you so heart-warmingly.
  5. Power cuts. Electricity is in short supply here. Simple economic problem: more demand than supply. So the government decided to introduce power cuts. Right now the problem is especially severe which means the power is gone for 12 to 14 hours daily. This to me doesn’t seem too much of a problem, as I sleep 10 hours daily anyway. However, the schedule for the power cuts is so random that it makes no sense to me of whatsoever. For example: power will be on at night from 11 PM to 4 AM (when most people sleep). But it is not on from 6PM to 11AM (when most people are inside their homes and it is dark outside; you have to read in candle light). It is not on when you wake up around 5 AM so you have to dress with a flash light. And during the day it randomly comes on and off. I have tried to ask Kathmandu citizens for the purpose of the times, but all I heard as an explanation was: the government decides.
  6. No heat. With no electricity there is also no heat. Naively I was expecting more fires and chimneys in the homes, but there are none. Homes are very cold, and people sleep dressed and wear jackets inside.
  7. No insulation. Strengthening the problem is the lacking insulation in the homes. Often there are big gaps between the window frames and the walls and it becomes very cold at night. During our trekking experience we slept most nights in around 6° and woke up in around 3-4°. I am still thankful for the extra blankets we received. Everyone who knows me knows that I start freezing very fast. But it seems to be a problem for many Nepali as well. All children have colds here. Their noses are running and running and running. To worsen the situation: they all walk around barefoot or in sandals. The belief is that a hat is enough to secure a child from freezing.


    Now let’s get to the luxuries:
  8. No Internet. With no electricity there is also no Internet. Right now I am sitting in the Plan Nepal office in Kathmandu where I have some access every now and then, mostly through an Ethernet cable (how inconvenient).
  9.  Definitely no hot water and no clean water. Even the hotels that advertise with a “great hot shower” cannot offer more than maybe a slightly warmer water temperature. So toughen up and shower in ice cold water. The water also stinks and for tourists it is impossible to drink. You are better off sticking to tea, day in and day out. Conveniently, I like all kinds of tea! Unfortunately you can also not safely enjoy fruit like grapes or apples washed in that water.
  10.  No public transport. Well at least none that I could handle. I mastered the New York subway system in a blink, but I cannot dream of taking a public bus in Kathmandu. There are microbuses which are for up to twenty people (picture) and real buses that are up to no-limit. People sit on the roof or stand on a rail outside. There are no designated stops, you have to see the bus, wave, jump on, and yell out when you want to stop. I guess I could handle the crowdedness, but since I can’t speak Nepali just yet it is impossible for me to take such a bus without help.
  11.  No variety in food. Nepali people love traditions. And one tradition is rice. So they eat rice three times a day. Although there is plenty of cheap Indian and Chinese food available for variety, they stick to rice because it is tradition. Food is spicy, and always the same: the rice is mixed with a bean-soup, some spinach, cauliflower, and sometimes on special occasions: chicken. Nepali people drink one glass of hot water with the meal and they eat with their hands (often without washing them afterwards).
  12. No comfortable night sleep. You sleep on the floor, or if you are lucky on a wooden board. This I must say is not so much of a problem to me, because I like sleeping on hard grounds. The noise at night poses more of a problem. However, I will get used to that as well.
     (picture: a typical mattress)
  13. No laundry machines. Ever washed your clothes in a bowl and then hung it up on a line? It is definitely primeval, but kind of fun! (although I seem to be not so good at it) J
  14. No super markets. Okay this might seem like a joke to you but it is really inconvenient not to have a place to go to where you can get everything from toothpaste to cookies to shampoo. 
  15. No equality. As a light skinned person, you are a walking money machine. Taxis, lodges, restaurants, and shops will charge you double – automatically. A domestic flight is about 20$ for a Nepali. It is 90$ for a tourist. (Try this in Germany!) You have to pay entry fees to get into certain towns, and you have to pay expensive permits to hike in the mountains. Some of those fees are a good idea if the money will be reinvested. “If” however is the hopping point here.
Sounds like a tough life? It is. It really is, and I can only admire the people here. I am already looking forward to come home to my family’s castle. I am blessed and grateful for that. However, I must say that some of those points are easier to get used to than I thought. It is nice to read in candle light; washing clothes in a bucket is fun; when you are hungry you also enjoy rice three times a day; and it is kind of adventurous to manage your daily life according to the power-schedule.
Nevertheless, the lack of clean air, quietness, sanitation, and warm blankets in Kathmandu, persuaded me to find a place to stay outside of the city: the Karuna-Kinderhouse!
More about this life-saving place in my next blog! Stay tuned in!
Namaste, I miss home!
Annika

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