The “bathroom”: Personal Hygiene in Nepal

Having lived in a variety of conditions in Nepal, I also got to know a great variety of “bathrooms”. The best bathroom was a marble bathroom with a proper bath tub and running hot water. What is not really a luxury even in an average Western household, was regarded as a luxury by me … I was just too aware of the many ways of somewhat less or even much less luxurious ways people in Nepal and especially women would wash their bodies.

Surprisingly I would say that the worst bathroom-situation were not even when I would have to wash myself out in the open. Covering myself with a Sari underskirt and reaching the more intimate areas to be cleaned while holding the underskirt up with my teeth. And just trying to ignore the male audience that would have gathered around at that time.

Or trying to wash yourself with a water pump, out in the open, next to my host families rice field: You pump and pump and pump and then get a running water stream for 3 seconds, to hold your head under the water or just squat with your whole body underneath it. And then you jump up and pump again and again again and then you quickly squat again. And so on.

And don’t get me started on the absolute horror of female menstruation in the village side, where you would basically carry your bloody sanitary napkins and tampons in some plastic bag around with you, until you manage to walk somewhere by yourself and then you can leave it at the roadside in the hopes that some animals will find it before other humans.

And of course there are the horrible, horrible toilets you encounter while taking a local bus for example. Apparently travelling over long distances makes it hard for Nepali to correctly aim for the whole in the ground. But better not get me started on toilets at all for today.

But – No! – the worst for me personally, was this dark bathroom that I was using in Mangalsen, Accham.

First of all there was no running water. And since I (the foreign intern) was not supposed to be carrying the water around (for whatever made-up reason), I would always have to remined the guy working for my office to carry some water from the nearby creek. And I just hated that procedure so much – having to depend on that guy for being able to wash myself, when my selfish male Nepali coworker had already used up all the water. Oftentimes I could not find the water-carry guy in the mornings, so I ended up not washing myself at all for days in a row sometimes – which truly was a horrible feeling, with all the sweating in the humid heat. The one time I walked to the creek myself and carried back 2 liters of water, it caused such an uproar and the guy was scolded so badly, that I did not dare do it again.

Still, more than the water shortage situation, what was really terrible about the bathroom though was, that every night about 100 leech-like black worms would crawl out of the drain and spread themselves on floor and walls. So that every single morning I would spend 20 minutes trying to clean the bathroom from the worms, before I actually got to clean myself. Oh gosh, I hated this so much! Yes, I did prefer the privacy of a room – especially in Mangalsen where people really had no concept of personal space and privacy towards me. But I was actually missing the “good” old times in Rampur (Chitwan) when I would wash myself in the luxury of the waterpump and happened to feel at least a little more cleaner after the ordeal.

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