“Look, look! We’re getting eggs for breakfast!” I burst out in excitement at the sight of a man carrying egg cartons into the restaurant of the guesthouse where my friend and I were staying in Chitwan National Park, Nepal, two weeks ago.
She was just as excited about the prospect as I was. In the four weeks preceding the trip to Chitwan we had been having daal bhaat, rice, vegetables and lentils, for breakfast and dinner almost every day.
The Nepali dish is tasty and I had truthfully not become sick of it. But to eat something, anything else for a change called for a major celebration.
As I enjoyed every bite of my precious scrambled eggs, I reflected on how spoiled for choice we are in Iceland.
While we are often faced with the luxurious problem of deciding what to cook for dinner because we have so much to choose from, chucking away leftovers without a second thought, Nepalis appreciate every grain of rice they’re served.
And there are other things I had been taking for granted that I learned to be thankful for during my stay in Nepal.
In one of the poorest countries in the world, I lived under primitive conditions compared to what I’m used to back home.
Even so, my hosts were fairly well off.
They didn’t have running water, only a squat toilet in an outhouse and no stove (they cooked over open fire), but they did have sporadic electricity, a television and telephone, and sufficient food for themselves, their guests, buffaloes and goats.
They obviously valued what they had and, contrary to the three westerners staying in their home, didn’t seem to miss hot showers and flushing toilets.
These were luxuries I also had access to during my three days in Chitwan—which called for another celebration—only to be deprived of them again during the trek I embarked upon next.
It’s amazing how used one can get to wet wipes, dry shampoo and buckets in bathrooms to manually flush the toilet.
Add to that the sub-zero temperatures of Himalayan nights, making the bathroom floor like an ice rink, and having to crush the layer of ice in the bucket to flush the toilet in the mornings.
The very thought of removing three layers of woolen underwear to take a lukewarm bucket shower in an unheated room was enough to convince me that going without a shower for 12 days was perfectly fine.
I became so oblivious to my appearance and hygiene that I even forgot to brush my teeth a few times and stopped noticing how my hiking clothes were starting to stink—en route to the Everest Base Camp everyone stinks!
Meanwhile, my friend had returned to the orphanage where she volunteered in Pokhara. There, she enjoyed the luxury of solar panels, which enabled hot showers on most days.
However, after they were damaged by accident, coupled with no running water for a while, she was left in the same situation as me—although the rising temperatures actually made a cold shower seem tempting, she said.
When we met up in Kathmandu we were both thrilled that our basic guesthouse did indeed provide functional sinks, showers and toilets by western standards. We were asked to use water sparingly, though.
Regardless of one’s living conditions, saving water is something everyone should take to heart. Yet I must admit I was happy to indulge in a long hot bath, followed by a long hot shower, upon my return to Iceland this week.
Meanwhile my husband did his best to prepare the “everything” I had ordered for dinner on my first day back.
He did very well: first he brought me canapé with cheese and ham to munch on, then he served beef tenderloin with potatoes and béarnaise sauce, and I even got an almond-chocolate cake for dessert. Best meal ever.
I’m sure that I will fall into old habits and readjust to the comforts of my life quickly enough. But I do hope that my stay in Nepal will teach me to appreciate the little things in my life more, things that in many other countries are quite a big a deal, actually.
Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – [email protected]