A couple weeks ago I received an email from my team leader. She jovially introduced herself and offered to field any questions about packing, travel, and anything else that might help prepare us to provide medical care in Nepal. She reminded us of the suggested packing list provided on the Acupuncture Relief Project’s website. And added, “Bring easy care clothes like merino wool or synthetics rather than cotton as we have to hand wash in very cold water.”
For some reason, it took that offhand statement for the reality of doing laundry in the dead of winter to truly sink in. You see, we will be doing laundry in buckets of cold water on the roof of the clinic and then hanging our clothes in the balmy, January and February air to dry. Only certain fabrics will dry in such conditions.
I’m an avid backpacker and spent a semester traveling across the Western U.S. with a program called Semester in the West. I am no stranger to the idiom, “Cotton equals death.” But at least when you backpack, you know there is a hot shower and a warm house to come home to no matter how many days you are out in the back country. My colleagues, currently in Nepal, wrote excitedly that a hot shower can be found at certain hotels in Kathmandu. They sometimes make the trip on their days off just for that luxury, and, of course, the added benefit of viewing gorgeous temples.
Winter in Nepal is different than in the U.S. or an extended backpack. It means living in the elements. It means drying your clothes in the winter sun. It means rolling electricity throughout the country. For example, the clinic in Chapagaon currently gets three separate blocks of three hours of electricity a day, some of which occur during the wee hours of the morning. There are still quite a number of villages that do not have any electricity in the the country.
In light of this, I have spent the past few weeks gathering up wool long johns, socks, sweaters, and finding a few wool tees on outlet websites, around town, and as gifts from Santa. I plan to bring a stash of dried ginger tea to help warm myself from the inside out and some elderberry tea to use whenever I get exposed to patients with a cold or flu. As a side note: elderberry has been found to be a potent anti-viral and anti-bacterial.
I think I’ll wait to choose my hat until I get to Nepal. As you can see below, the colors and patterns are fabulous.