You might find it strange, but even in Kathmandu winter comes once a year. Amidst all the snow photos being posted on social media these day, I thought it’s only appropriate to talk about Nepali winter too. No snow here. But, wow, it’s cold. This winter has not been kind to Nepal. I know many of you’ll think I’m insane once I tell you that the average daily temperature is around 15C, but trust me – it’s cold.
So here’s the deal: there is no indoor heating in Nepali houses. On top of that, houses are made of concrete, without any insulation whatsoever. Night time temperatures can go down to 1C, so you do the math. In short, getting out of bed in the morning is a task. And a huge one. I have a permanent layer of thermals on me since early December. Mr.B commented that he has not seen my skin since October. Which is fair enough – I have not taken off clothes since then. Showering is the worst. The water never seems to be hot enough, and the bathroom is freezing. My showers often turn into a dance party as I try to keep my blood flowing whilst applying soap. To be quite honest though, my showers are not as often as I’d like them to be, and probably not as often as it would be appropriate. But it’s ok. Others don’t shower often either, and it makes for a good lunch time conversation – who showered when and when will be a good day again to take a bath. I wish, though, it was that easy. There’s always a twist to things in Nepal. Current load shedding (power reductions) comes up to 13 hours a day. For women in particular that is a very important piece of information as the hair dryer might not be available when you would like it to be. Most of the time the perfect time for a shower, and the ability to blow dry your hair do not align. You can see me very often standing in front of the load shedding schedule on our fridge, with a weather forecast on the phone in my hand, trying to figure out the perfect time in the week to wash my hair. Something as simple as that takes a lot of planning. I bet you’ll never take your shower for granted ever again.
In Nepal during winter things are a bit goofy. When you get outside you take off your jacket and warm yourself up in the sun. Then you pop on your jacket as you get ready to go back inside. Even in the office I sit in my jacket. In fact, I have multiple layers of clothing, and sometimes that’s still not enough to keep me warm. My usual work outfit consist of: a thermal layer, 2 long-sleeved shirts, a sweater, winter jacket and a scarf. Sometimes, when it is too cold to wash hair, I wear a hat. I also have two pants, and ugg boots on my legs. OK, they’re not really uggs, but ugg look-alikes. Best clothing investment I have ever made.
I’m sure that you’re familiar with the frozen finger syndrom if you work on the computer often. In winter time, your finger tips become very cold while typing. Now imagine sitting in a 10C room and typing. Pretty soon you feel that if you accidentally hit your hand on the table, it will shatter in million pieces. To prevent that, I wear gloves. I’ll let you in on a secret: typing with gloves is nearly impossible. Even when they are fingerless gloves (you know the ones where the tips of your fingers are exposed). I had to resort to using gloves only when I am scrolling and clicking on the mouse (as demonstrated in the photo), and taking off the gloves when typing. Usually I only take out my index finger out of the glove to be able to scroll. Looks pretty comical, and a little sad too. But you got to do what you got to do.
Tips for Nepali winter newbies:
- layer up – you need to be able to take off clothes when outside and put them back on when you head inside
- invest in thermals and good warm shoes
- do not feel embarrassed of skipping showers – the chances are you’ll still be the best-smelling person in the crowd
- hot water, hot water, hot water – it warms your body when you drink it, it warms your hands when you hold the mug
- do your research: find places that have AC heating and spend your days there
- do not miss shower opportunities on sunny days; you never when you’ll get that chance again