I wake up around 5:45 as the sun rises exceptionally early here in the summer – it is difficult to sleep much longer! My morning routine consists of making breakfast (for all of us) and lunch (for the kids) and herding the children through their morning routines! We have a TV but don’t use it, so light classical music courtesy of Pandora is switched on after waking up. Pandora has become a dear and treasured friend… It is always on (when the internet connection is working, which is about 90% of the day). Soothing classical music in the am transitions to upbeat tunes later in the day. Prakash bathes, chants morning prayers then cycles out to a bakery to pick up a fresh loaf of warm bread and a 1/2 liter packet of milk. He’ll have a quick breakfast, chat with the kids and then ride to work around 7:30. The kids wake up between 6 to 6:30 but drag their feet to complete their few morning tasks (change clothes, brush teeth, make bed, get backpack ready and eat breakfast). We walk to school at 7:55am and the school gates open at 8am; at this time the kids can play and run around with their friends until the bell rings at 8:15. This is an enjoyable 15 minutes :-). Kids are fresh and enjoy greeting their friends; many parents are mingling around; a few teachers are available to chat with and generally the morning weather is very pleasant. Drop-off at The British School is so different than any of the half-dozen other schools we’ve been to – the strong community and family feel is very prominent and sets a good tone to start the day. When the selected student of the day happily rings the giant cowbell, parents then distribute goodbye hugs and kisses and the kids are off for the day!
I have 6 hours until picking the kids up in the afternoon and it is amazing how those precious kid-free hours fly by so quickly! I spend much of this time running errands and maintaining the household:
* Laundry — After sorting, counting and tabulating quantities and prices, I drop off dirty laundry at a small business which is a 2 minute cycle ride away (yes, riding with bags of clothes can be tricky and wobbly!). It is a family-business with the son and father manning the shop and ironing all items. I don’t have the courage to ask where they hand wash the clothes (likely a not-hygienic-per-Western-standards water source) and just pick up the (relatively) clean clothes 2-3 days later. Another wobbly bicycle ride home!
* Groceries — Purchasing groceries is tedious for two main reasons – there is no minivan trunk to fill a week’s worth of food in and the refrigerator doesn’t operate 24-hours-a-day, so food doesn’t keep. I end up going to a grocery store, fruit seller or vegetable seller about once every two days, filling up my backpack and carrying 1-2 additional bags. We borrowed Caleb’s “minivan bike” for a few weeks and this eased the load on my back and almost tripled my carrying capacity. I’m looking forward to having our own within a month or so! Also, since we don’t have Sams Club and Costco down the road, toilet paper is purchased in packs of 6 rolls, not 56; lentils and grains are sold in bags of 1 kg, not 10; and dish soap comes in a 6 oz bottle, not 1 gallon. You get the drift – we buy things in MUCH smaller quantities thus needing to replenish more often. Also, food doesn’t stay fresh as long as in the USA. Milk will keep for 1-2 days; bread, fruits and vegetables for 2-3 days. Frequent grocery store visits just can’t be avoided.
* Cleaning — Nepal, and most other countries in Asia, have extremely low labor costs ($1 to $5 USD per day for low-skilled, working-with-your-hands jobs). Whether this is a blessing or curse, we are living in this society and are somewhat accepting the ways… Our apartment is serviced 6 days per week. The maid cleans the bathrooms, floors and kitchen, dusts everything, and changes the sheets and towels. Dust and pollution levels are high and windows are always open to allow indoor circulation (no air conditioner), so frequent cleaning is required. She doesn’t do dishes, so that, along with tidying up and cooking are my responsibilities. Needless to say, I’m enjoying the reduced burden of home-maintenance!
Laundry, groceries, cleaning and other home tasks (maintaining water levels in storage tanks, gardening, exterior home care) will look very different after we move to the house in July. After settling into a new routine, I’ll write about the daily practices of living in house and how that compares to apartment-living…
I spend the remaining, kid-free time on a variety of enrichment activities:
* Classes – attending Nepali language classes has been really enjoyable and a highlight of my routine! I feel the language is easy to pick up because the origin is Sanskrit as is my mother-tongue, Marathi. Many words are identical or similar to Marathi and the grammar and sentence structure is logical. I have two teachers, Raju and Deepa. I go to Raju’s house twice a week and he uses the class with me as an opportunity to train his wife, Prabina, to become a Nepali language teacher. The three of us focus on conversation and ensuring I use correct grammar. Deepa comes to our apartment once a week and her focus is more on vocabulary. Both are great teachers and I’m enjoying learning not only Nepali from them, but tidbits about Nepal’s culture too…
* CSGN – The Cultural Studies Group Nepal is an amazing group of motivated, curious expats who want to get to know the culture they live in. I attended the Thanka Art Studio visit and the day-hike from Dhulikhel to Panauti with this group. Most members are a bit older (my guess is an average age of 50). They meet 3 times per month (one hike, studio visit and lecture or presentation each per month). After a short break for the summer months, they’ll resume educational activities in September.
* Exercise – Tuesdays are biking days! I bring my bike with me to school and a group of 6-8 parents leave shortly after drop-off. We ride for 3-4 hours, stopping at the tops of steep hills and at some scenic viewpoints; after a few hours we break for Cokes and snacks then finish up the ride back to home. For me, the ride is an enjoyable but very grueling challenge… I come home, scour off the layers of sweat, dust and mud and then collapse for the bit of time before picking up the kids. I really look forward to Tuesdays :-). I’ve also attended a few yoga classes (NOT on Tuesday, no more time or energy left!). There is a lovely studio within a 5 minute cycle ride from our apartment. Only expats attend as the price is prohibitive for locals ($6 USD per class). Rotating expats teach the classes and the broad variety of styles is wonderful.
* Blog – Writing blog posts has also been really enjoyable… It forces me to reflect which generally leads to an optimistic perspective on this amazing family adventure. I have stockpiled several topics to blog about – my aim is still to post once a week…
On most days, I pick up the kids at 3:30pm. School ends at 2:30 and 4 of the 5 days of the week, the kids have extracurricular clubs (athletics and arts focused) for one hour. After a full day of learning, playing and enjoying, they are wiped out! We walk home, freshen up (in Nepal, as in India, it is customary to wash not only your hands and face after coming home, but your feet too! it is so dusty here, that washing your feet after coming home is a must), have a snack and relax a bit. Thankfully the kids have VERY LITTLE homework, so we usually head downstairs and play in the courtyard of our apartment – the 3 favorite activities include basketball, soccer and chalk drawings! We head back up around 5:30 for baths.
One or two afternoons per week, I caravan the kids on bicycle to classes and activities. Janani is continuing vocal lessons, Sajjan is learning tabla (Indian drums) and Sumanth has just started vocal lessons. Also, on Thursday afternoons, an adventure company opens their mini-rock-climbing gym to kids. We’ve only been once, but had a blast and hope to attend weekly.
Prakash rides home by 6:30 and we’ll have dinner together. The kids have SO much excitement to share about their day with Baba! Constant chitter-chatter and buzzing children entertain us while we eat. The kids head to their room around 7:30 to 8 and read for a bit before sleeping. Prakash often falls asleep quite early too; biking an hour and working for 10 is exhausting! I enjoy a bit more quiet time at the computer, on the phone and with a good book and call it a night…
All in all, my days are quite different here than in North Carolina! The main differences include:
* time – no job and no preschoolers home with me part-time, so overall more free time
* vehicle – no minivan, traveling only on bicycle, foot and taxis once in a while
* radius of activity – significantly smaller travel distances between home, school, shops and activities
* meals – rarely eat leftovers, cook often and in smaller quantities
What would you prefer — life in USA or life in Nepal?!? Please answer in the comment section!!
* guaranteed basics (electricity, water — overall supply, drinking water and hot water)
* amazing infrastructure and services (roads, internet, libraries, parks)
* conveniences (dishwasher, clothes washing machine and dryer, vacuums)
* access to low-cost labor (maid, gardener, babysitter, driver)
* convenient distances (work, school, shops, ALL activities within a 1 mile radius)