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Washing at the Well

One of the things that I originally thought would be very hard to adjust to in Nepal is the lack of hot water. My family, like most people, doesn't have a water heater.

I don't like cold showers, but sometimes, a cold shower is better than no shower. For two months I struggled to get use to taking a cold shower in our bathroom, which is no mean feat. Besides the water being really, really cold, there often is no water at all because of a complicated series of valves and pumps. Since water leaks, people randomly turn off valves at different points in the system, or let the system go dry. Anyway, I was finally getting used to "enduring" the cold showers, telling myself that it would be good to toughen up a little.

Then one day I noticed someone taking a bath at the little well behind the apartment, where women do the laundry and the dishes. The next morning, when I couldn't get water to come through the pipes for love nor money, I decided to try the well. It was great!

The water in the well is warmer than the water in the pipes. Better, it is outside in a beautiful little spot under a mango tree, separated from the farmer's field behind the building by a shoulder high wall. When you take a bath there in the morning, you can see how the crops are doing, listen to the birds, and watch the sunlight growing in the East or shining on the clouds. As the warm water meets the cool air, steam rises from your body, giving you the impression that you are at a hot springs.

It is also a wonderfully social event. Many people in the building wash here in the morning, so you can always say hello, meet people, and try a little conversation with my non-existent Tibetan and their more-or-less English. One guy has his bed at the window not three feet from the well. One morning he opened his window and we had a nice little chat while I took my bath and he stayed in his nice, warm bed. "Is it cold out there this morning?" "No, not more than any other day, and look at the color in the clouds!" "Oh, yeah! Great! Where are you from?" and so on. We spoke quite a while about what brought us both here, him from Tibet, me from America, both here just for a while; passersby who actually met this morning rather than passing each other by.

Sometimes beauty finds one in the most unexpected places in the most unexpected ways.

Nepal text