I am relaxing into my life in Nepal. I won’t lie, there are days here and there when I long to be back in my Connecticut apartment, drinking chamomile tea, eating soy ice cream, and curling up with Ken and my cats for an episode of Dexter. But I’ve developed a routine here now, and so the days are beginning to pass quickly.
My mornings involve waking up around 6 am to a cup of tea brought by Renuka. I then settle in for a skype conversation with ken and read through the numerous email sent from the U.S. overnight when it’s the American work day. Around 8:30 I walk about a mile to my yoga class. I was skeptical at first—I fell in love with the power yoga class at my gym in CT, and so when I walked into the little yoga room at the ayurvedic medical clinic near Bhat Bhateni, I did not have high expectations. But on the other hand, we learned yoga from these people, right?
The guy who runs the place, who they call the doctor, creeps me out a little—or maybe it’s his know-it-all demeanor that turned me off. As I got up from the chair in his office today he laughed and said, “You need yoga! Getting fat!” Before I could stop myself, I shot him the infamous what-the-fuck’s-your-problem “Michelle look.” But then I caught myself, chuckled, and mumbled, “Yes, I need yoga,” and hurried out of the room.
Luckily the “doctor” is not my instructor, but this tiny Nepali woman who is probably around my age. There were 3 middle-aged women and a younger man also there. We started the class with some deep breathing and some long “Oms”. More breathing techniques—through each nostril, through a curled tongue and out the nose, short breaths while flexing the ab muscles. We did a few stretches, then things really heated up. We did a number of sun salutations so fast I could hardly keep up. Then we did a number of core exercises that left my stomach muscles throbbing (including one where we were required to laugh out loud throughout the exercise). We wrapped up with leg exercises and bridges. I left the class exhausted and happy that I found a yoga class that will actually keep me in shape rather than simply help me to focus on my breathing. Focused breathing classes are nice at times, but I like to feel soreness in my muscles the next day.
Following my yoga class I hop in a cab to make it back home in time for my conversational Nepali class. My teacher, Susheila, and I sit for an hour in my “office” going over new vocab and expressions. I still haven’t figured out the sentence structure for Nepali, but I can carry on a conversation about my family members, the food I like, and the objects in my room. I must sound ridiculous though, because it takes me what seems like forever to put a sentence together. But for only a week of classes, I’ve picked up a lot.
Renuka (or Hasta when he’s not trekking) makes me lunch. Today it was momo—these delicious steamed dumplings (she makes them vegetarian, but they can be made with buffalo, chicken, or mutton) that you dip in a tomato masala that is usually a little spicy. Momos are like the Nepali fast food—you can find little momo stands all over the city—although because all of the vegetables inside are freshly chopped and the dumpling dough hand rolled, there’s nothing fast about the preparation. But they are definitely delicious.
If I do not have other meetings or interviews scheduled, I spend the afternoon reading and writing about Nepali women, transcribing interviews, or practicing my Nepali. Renuka usually sends Sanjeeta up with a cup of tea and coconut flavored biscuits in the middle of the afternoon. I take a shower around dusk, when the water is almost guaranteed to be hot. Yesterday the electricity went out in the middle, but luckily there was a little bit of daylight so I could still see what I was doing to some degree.
Renuka comes to sit in my room around 6pm to chat for 20 minutes or so about life, religion, happiness, love—whatever she has on her mind that day. She then goes back to cooking dinner so that it is ready between 7 and 8. Usually we have dhal bhaat—rice, lentil soup, and vegetables—but she’s made spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce and yak cheese for me a couple of nights because I told her that’s one dish I miss. When Hasta comes back they are going to attempt to make a tofu dish. The children and I (and Dinesh, when he’s here) eat together, and then Renuka eats after we are full—this is customary for a Nepali woman—to make sure her husband, children, and guests are well fed before she takes a bite for herself, even if she did all of the cooking. I usually sit with her for a while as she eats and practice my Nepali. The children run straight upstairs to go back to watching TV or chatting online. I then myself say goodnight, come upstairs to watch a movie or respond to emails, and then go to bed by 10pm.
I have to say, getting 8 hours of sleep every night, eating fresh vegetarian food, taking yoga, and doing work at a more leisurely place is good for me. I feel much more relaxed overall, even though I’m living in the midst of chaotic Kathmandu. Every day feels like a Saturday in my American life, which is nice. But I don’t suppose there’s anyway to maintain that pace when I get back to the U.S. It’s likely inevitable that my schedule will again become packed, my obligations too many, and my stress level high. But maybe by learning from this slower lifestyle I can control those things more when I return—say no to too many requests, make time for myself and time with others, enjoy things like a long walk or a hot meal—and perhaps most importantly, not feel guilty for not
running myself into the ground.
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