Taking most of everyday life in the western world for granted

Until you’ve experienced  3 weeks without the simple comforts that most of us take for granted,  we all have a tendency to live as if the way we live is the norm.  Yes, I believe past generations in our own country have lived without many of our modern comforts, but this is 2014 and to fully grasp that there are mass pockets in foreign civilizations that still live without most of what we have – or even a lot of what past generations in our own country had is a real eye opener. Here’s a glimpse of life in a rural and impoverished region of Nepal (November 2013):

Showering, washing dishes, making coffee, mixing cement are all drastically different on the other side of the world.


Our ‘sink’ in our hotel room. Stand and brush your teeth with bottled water and spit down into the drain



The shower drip



Our water flow in our ‘hotel’ room – COLD

Here was my shower experience for 14 days.  Literally at fast drip speed.  We were fortunate to even have a shower head in our 2 piece bathroom – and we were one of two rooms in our hotel with an actual toilet.  There was no sink – the drain in the floor was where we spit our toothpaste – the gheckos in the ceiling cracks must’ve been entertained by us squealing Westerners when the cold water dripped down our bodies or when we gagged when brushing our teeth!  (I still gag even at the mere thought of brushing my teeth)


A typical toilet – if you can find one. Great for quad muscles. Also, be sure to have your tickets handy (the code word for precious toilet paper!)



Chhukanya’s toilet build

No toilets – although it has recently become law in Nepal that each household should have a toilet, most rural households do not.  We met Chhukanya on our jobsite; mother of 4 and recently widowed.  Her 14yr old already started working (jeopardizing her full time school commitment) to help earn enough to sustain everyday life.  Chhukanya did not qualify for her widow’s pension because she did not have a toilet. In swift order, my GAB friends and I got permission from our volunteer leader to take on an extra-cirricular project – building this woman a toilet!  We dug the hole and helped form the rock foundation. On December 24th we received a picture and a memo stating that her toilet was complete, she now is in receipt of her first widow’s pension cheque and that simple toilet even made her eligible to receive her own citizenship papers! One toilet…..and how many toilets do most of us have in our home in the western world??!!

(Note: She makes the equivalent of $2.00CDN/day. The toilet cost $100CAD)


Communal dishwashing



A common roadside front room



Morning washing ritual



Bathing, dishwashing and laundry



Doing dishes at the roadside restaurant where we stopped for lunch

Most rural Nepali’s live out their day to day life’s activities in the “front room” aka their front yard. 






Our kitchen dishwasher at the ‘hotel’ in Lamahi



Pumping water to mix cement with

Many shower pump stations to bathe, wash dishes and wash clothes.  While in Nepal I learned how to prime a pump because running water flowing out of a pump is something that needs to be worked at. Some mornings at our ‘hotel’ there was not enough water to make morning coffee for 14 people.


Roadside restaurant dishes (next to toilet)

In the west we buy fancy dish detergent.  The Nepali ‘natural brand’ detergent consists of ash mixed with dirt – a little grit to create and abrasive element and crumpled twigs are scrunched together to be the scouring pad.  *Note: I have a full blog post dedicated to kitchens.


Souring dishes with ash dirt and crumpled twigs



Rice sacks used to transport cement in lieu of wheelbarrows



This is the way we hauled 40 tonne of boulders – the Nepali women outworked us 2:1

Wheel barrow – although there is evidence that the wheelbarrow has existed since 408 BC in ancient Greece, they are still not a common sighting or construction aid in modern day Nepal. 

We moved 40 tonne of boulders by hand – in the form of a human chain line.  In those lines we also moved water, sand, cement in large plastic bowls (a large mixing bowl size).  We had an ‘ingoing” and “outgoing” line. 


A chain on UNAKO’s jobsite (line on the left is ingoing, line on the right is the return line.

We shifted sides; and shifted right to left to ensure we didn’t overwork one side.  It was definitely an upper body and core workout!!


Passing cement along the chain with my childhood friend of over 35 years



Two chain lines; one hauling sand and water into cement mixer; one on the roof hailing cement for the roof pour


Known for her Martha Stewart pies, Teresa shifted gears in Nepal and passed this cement pie along the chain line leading to the footing.

Passing this cement pie along the chain line leading to the footing.