Load shedding. Say, whaaat?

Load shedding. Sounds like a big word. Like something from an engineering book you are unlikely to understand. But in simple laymen’s words it is: blackout. No electricity. Electricity company sheds the load off of the electricity grid. And how do they do that? It’s very simple – they shut off electricity to parts of the city. Such is life in Nepal. You know that talk about the right to basic infrastructure that’s often given in the West? Yeah, you can forget about that in Nepal. Here, the first thing you ought to do is buy some candles. Always, always have candles in the house. And matches. Or a lighter. Otherwise candles really don’t make any sense, now do they? Notice that candles will be your last resort when other lights fail to light-up your world. After that, stock up your house with a whole bunch of light-producing devices, either electrically charged or run by batteries. Always keep them charged. Keep your cellphone charged. Given it has a flash-light. If it doesn’t, buy a new cellphone that does. Your house should also have a big battery, popularly referred to as the inverter. This bad boy gets charged when there is electricity, and then happily provides you light when the electricity company decides to shed the load in your neighbourhood. Useful little things. Sometimes there is so much load shedding during the day that the inverter doesn’t get a chance to charge fully and dies on you just as you shampooed your hair and soaped your body. As you scramble for water and towel in the dark, think about installing solar panels on the roof, or a diesel generator. I’d never go for the generator as it is ruining the environment tremendously and adding to already unbelievable amount of pollution in Kathmandu. Be green, people.

Setting the mood in Nepali households since ... forever

Setting the mood in Nepali households since … forever

Maybe you’re wondering how I live my life without electricity. Or maybe you’re not wondering about it at all. I’ll tell you anyways.

First and foremost, I take many a romantic shower. Yes, I shower in the candlelight almost every night. And it would be romantic if it wasn’t a bit sad, actually. Also, not a good time to shave legs. I savour every minute at work. There is a generator that keeps the heat from the AC running, that charges my cellphone and powers the router for WiFi. Work seems like heaven. I read a lot. Also, I stare in the wall a lot. And play Candy Crush. There is nothing else to do when there is no light at home. At some point I give up and go to bed embarrassingly early, like 8:30 pm. I’ve learned to walk around the house in the dark. I feel like I am turning in a cat. You know, because they can see really well in the dark.

Sometimes I stay up really late just to plug in my laptop to charge when the electricity comes. When I say really late, I mean like 11pm. What? In Nepal, that’s really late. Sometimes I choose to live life without modern technologies. Until the weekend that is, when I am at home and can charge devices whenever the electricity comes. You see, this is the thing. Most of the time the electricity is gone in the morning, when you would reasonably want to wash your hair and dry it, or maybe make a toast. Then it comes back when you’re at work. Once you’re back from work the electricity is gone again. No reheating your dinner in the microwave, but hey, you get to be all romantic in the bathroom. So really, unless your office has a generator, you pretty much spend the whole day without electricity. As daunting as it may sound, it’s actually not that bad. One somehow gets used to it fairly quickly. Or maybe I’m just saying it to make myself feel better.

Things you probably shouldn’t do when in Nepal

1. Eat from a roadside stand

This is a big no-no for me. I understand there are adventurous people who like to try everything, but for me adventure doesn’t really entail getting violently sick while touring Swayambhunath temple and desperately looking for a bathroom while monkeys eye me suspiciously. No matter how inviting those snacks might look, I strongly suggest to pass it up. (tip: don’t try to pet the monkeys while at Swayambhunath – it probably won’t end well, for you)

2. Ride on top of the public bus

When I went to Pokhara I saw this tourist ride on top of the bus heading the same way. The road to Pokhara is a winding 200 km road where trucks stop for no one and nothing. Buses as well. They drive like crazy and not rarely does a bus fly across the cliff and into the river. Riding those buses is a lottery, and riding on the roof of those buses is a suicide, at least for a tourist. Poor girl I saw on top of that bus to Pokhara looked so pale, holding onto her dear life probably thinking “what the hell did I get myself into!?”. I bet she kissed the ground when she finally got off 4 hours later. You don’t wanna do that to yourself.

3. Try to blend in

Let’s face it, unless you’re Indian, you’re probably never ever going to be able to blend in. You can learn Nepali, wear a saree, hop on the bike sitting sideways (if you’re a girl) in your flip-flops in the middle of December, but if you’re white, all your efforts are in vain. You will always stick out like a sore thumb, shining bright in the Nepali sun. And everyone will stare at you. Openly. And you’ll feel awkward. Until you decide to wave to people staring at you. Then they’ll feel awkward. Not that I’ve done that or anything.

4. Get frustrated with traffic

There is just no point. Traffic in Nepal is crazy and don’t try to understand it, or even worse correct it. I honestly think Nepalis enjoy the chaos of traffic in Kathmandu (minus Mr.B. who hates it beyond reason). Most of the time traffic gets so congested and people get so frustrated that only an army guy can settle problems. I found traffic police to be totally useless there. The most annoying thing is how people form gazillion lanes making the traffic even more congested.

Yup, traffic in K-city

Yup, traffic in K-city

5. Assume you’ll be able to eat toast in the morning

One of the great perks of living in Nepal, is having to deal with load shedding. Oh, the infamous load shedding. Be prepared for lots of quiet time sitting in the dark hoping you get sleepy soon. If there’s electricity do everything you possibly can that requires electricity at that time and don’t leave anything for later because the chances of you not being able to have toast for breakfast are high. You better be a fan of cereal with cold milk.

6. Force Nepalis to show up on time

It’s simply not happening. They all operate on Nepali time which is about 45 minutes behind the real time. So don’t expect your friends in Nepal to be there at the exact scheduled time. Well, actually, they are showing up on time, it’s you who’s early. Don’t fret over it because you might as well lose your mind soon. Grab a book and read or just do some good old people watching. Wave to everyone who stares at you. Help the army guy sort out the traffic jam. Or not.