Arriving late, my thoughts were veering towards nice shower and nice comfy bed. As we are heading to the guesthouse and while the driver was trying small conversation, I am almost dozing off from tiredness. Until we reached the end of the main road from the airport, which took almost 20 minutes, to a dirt road, the worst I had in Kathmandu.
The guesthouse located in the Budhanilkantha municipality at the foothills of the Shivapuri water reserve and national park. Away from the pollution Kathmandu is known for and later I will know was 15 minutes to our office.
Replacing the one of the first batch of responder, I took over her room in the first house of 2 my organization rented for 15 expatriates. The house was a mess when I arrived – beds were on the floor in the living room and house furniture were literally in the middle of the foyer because it just arrived and are not yet fixed in the 7 rooms we have. Imagine how big the house is.
I took the room on the ground floor at the foot of the stairs leading to the 2 other floors of the house. It has a new bed, mattress and I managed to find new bedding, pillow and duvet. I was helped by one colleague (the logistics support) to settle in and was told simple instructions if and when there’s an earthquake – listen to the alarm and get out of the house, wait 15 minutes before returning inside – got it!
Can I go to sleep now?
Shower and sleep was uneventful, too tired to be bothered but was happy there was hot water.
The morning after this is what I saw …
It was a massive house, not what I was expecting in Nepal but the area where we live almost have the same structure around – it was the diplomatic compound after all!
But I only got to stay for few weeks at the ground floor and I was moved to the third floor known to us as the dorm because I only get to sleep in my room for the weekend and my g/f room was given to someone more permanent in Kathmandu … fair enough, but it means all the visitors in the mission will be my weekend roommate — bummer! Good thing it only happened twice and it was of course not too bad, so I took back the bummer comment.
The move to the top floor was a blessing actually – I always have the room (enough to fit 3 queen size beds) and a balcony and roof top deck to myself and I got stunning view of the city, the hills, sunset and sunrise and full moon (check out Fullmoon Over Shivapuri Hills) and I am not bothered with noise when I want to sleep in or just wanting to be left alone.
Living on the rough
As I moved out of Kathmandu to be stationed in my base, I knew already what to expect — I will live in a tent and it will not be comfortable. Little did I know that it was really going to be tough, but I also did realized that I was not in the position to complain because my staffs have been living there for 6 weeks already.
(Only those who experienced living in the tent for extended period of time have the right to complain — for the others shush!)
I arrived with the other project manager and the two of us will live in a tent … yey! Holiday camping is no comparison to my experience living in a small tent for 3 weeks — I had no choice to begin with, on where to put the tent (though I had a choice on what kind of tent to use but that’s another story altogether).
Staying in tent was fun when I was still climbing, much more when I experienced “glamping” in Uganda overlooking the Nile river. But when your tent is pitched on the grounds without grass but instead has little stones, waking moments was like being thrown in the washer, worst its like being walked on by someone in stilettos. Was tough! Throw in the space problem and the humidity because I arrived in Nepal in the middle of summer and Nuwakot was low enough to be blessed with nice cool breeze like in Kathmandu and other elevated districts (Ruswa I mean).
For 3 weeks I endured (again not complaining!), twice I had a chance to sleep on the massage bed when there were more people in the base than expected – which was a welcome relief from sleeping in small space and warm room.
For 3 weeks, I felt dirty before Friday, grumpy for lack of good sleep and tired for both lack of sleep (have to wake up when foot traffic starts coming in the compound) and lack of comfortable space to work (either under the tree because it’s too hot in the tent, in tea houses and after 5 on your lap). I always look forward to the weekends when I know I can have long hot showers, sleep in and eat good food – either I cook or from good restaurant.
House in the middle of the field
The logistics managed to find a house for me and my colleague to move and have a decent after 5 life in Bidur. They found a house under construction and to be ready before the big rainy season come – or so we thought.
While waiting, they rented the top floor of the only hotel deemed safe for NGO to use. We used the 4 rooms (3 bedrooms and 1 hall) as sleeping quarters in the night and the hall as office during the day. It was different from living in the tent — en suite toilet and bath (even if the water was brown), bed, pillow and duvet. Plus breakfast and beers available all the time (not that they are consumed at the same time ha ha).
The house we are waiting to be finished was found in the middle of the field – around it was the owners corn and rice field, but additional cash was so tempting they are willing to rent it out while they live in a tent next to it. Strange arrangement but we took it. The constructions took longer than it should be and my colleague only managed to stay for 2 weeks to enjoy the comfort of sleeping on a proper bed and showering anytime you like before he was replaced.
But our stay in the house in the middle of the field was short lived – we have to move out when it was discovered that rain water was coming in the kitchen (from the ceiling) and no water in the tap. Worst was when the mud was too much and the plants were growing, movement was becoming restricted.
Why not rent a whole building instead?
That’s what we did. We rented a whole building, refurbished hotel next to the military base along the only road to Bidur.
From the first office, we rented the 2nd office in the sister hotel but we included all the 13 rooms in it to house all of the Bidur staffs relocated from Kathmandu.
Not cheap but more practical.
So taking the furniture from the house in the middle of the field, I continue to enjoy my Kathmandu amenities in my new room — on the first floor, at the back of the building away from the road and looking out to the hills (and lots of birds), with en suite toilet and bath, hot water machine (which I didn’t get to use for fear of it blowing up – LPG powered geezer) and air-condition unit.
The same for everybody that needed to be accommodated by the organization plus the visitors. We started to have a good work-life balance while we slowly finishes up the emergency mission and preparing to hand over the remaining activities to the district hospitals and to the other partners.
Unfortunately towards the last month of the mission, the petrol problem plague the country, immediately after the new constitution was promulgate late September. I did not get to spend much time in Bidur and enjoy the district life — slow paced, work packed and nightly fun with my staffs, it was a heartfelt goodbye, I have to drag my feet to leave.
As I bade goodbye to Nepal, my last morning in Kathmandu stepping outside my balcony was to take my last look around and thank God that in spite of the earthquake, the beauty around remains beautiful to greet me “good morning” wherever I wake up from my restful night.