As most of you know, I left Canada unaware that I would be spending a winter in Nepal. I was planning to spend it in Bangladesh, where sandals and perhaps a sweater would suffice. In December, I was given about 3 weeks to prepare for the move, and here is what I wished I knew!
Dealing with the Cold
This is literally what I wear all day at work most days. We also drink copious amounts of tea, or sometimes just hot water.
If you ask Canadians, they think the temperatures here are no big deal – fall weather. If you ask the Nepalese they will say “Oh you’re from Canada – it’s very cold there.” What neither group considers is the infrastructure. In Canada it may drop down to -30/-40 degrees, but the average person will only spend an hour or two outside in this type of weather, then they will go inside and warm up. In Kathmandu, it’s only about 15 degree during the day and maybe 4 degrees at night. No big deal right? WRONG! Nepal has no central heating. Therefore you are always in a constant state of trying to keep warm. People wear their jackets in the office. Of course, you should bring your warm clothes from Canada: jeans and sweaters, socks and toques. However, you can buy all those things here*. But here’s what you shouldn’t leave home without!
*If you’re tall, bring all the long clothes you can from home. The average height for women here is about 5 feet, so it will be really difficult to get pants and sweaters that fit your long limbs. However, if you’re short like me, you can easily buy warm clothes here, especially pajama bottoms and fleece jackets.
- Jacket: Bring a winter jacket. You won’t need it much when you’re walking around, but you will need it in the office so that you can work all day without being under the blankets. Be prepared to wear it every day, this will be your style. You may be wearing 3 or 4 layers, but people will probably only ever see your jacket or top-layer sweater. Don’t bring a white (light coloured) jacket, it will get dirty very quickly!
- 2 pairs of long johns – You will wear long john’s, leggings, or tights under your pants every day. I know you think they won’t be comfortable or thin enough to fit under your skinny jeans, but you’re wrong. They’re essential. Since you’re wearing them everyday, you should have 2 pairs (because eventually you’ll get sweaty/smelly and want to wash one). Also, rotating between them helps you feel less disgusting (you can pretend you’re not wearing the same clothes EVERY day!).
- Insulated shoes/boots – You can buy shoes/boots here but the quality isn’t very high and they will break quickly. You also may not find the same selection of sizes, styles and colours as you would at home. I would recommend having a lighter pair for running/hiking/trekking (if you’re into that) and a warmer pair (lined) to keep you feet warm at work. I had to buy shoes here… they’re warm and cheap(ish) but they’re already breaking a bit and it’s only been a few weeks.
- Texting gloves – Honestly, everyone here is super jealous that I have these. Not only can you use them for texting on the way to work (obvi), but they are also thin enough to type on your computer during the day. Your hands are one of the first things to get cold, and the hardest things to keep warm without thin gloves when you’re trying to work at a computer.
Part of my technology/electronics collection. This is what the side of my bed looks like on an average night when the power comes back on.
If you’ve read my previous blog about load shedding, you’ll know that there is a serious shortage in power in Nepal. To make matters worse, there is also a fuel shortage, which means people who don’t have fuel need electricity to cook, boil water, etc. Anyway, with constant fluctuations in power, you always need to do your best to keep everything charged. Back-up batteries and external power supplies come in handy for this, and allow you to actually have light and get work done throughout the day. Some of these things can be bought here, but I find it’s better to bring it from home. That way you know it’s good quality, you know how to use it, and you won’t be scrambling for your first week when you’re at home, alone, in the dark.
- Flashlight and Head Lamp – If you have room, I would bring both. Flashlights are great when you’re walking down a bumpy street after dark with no lights on (there are rarely any street lights, even in Kathmandu). It gets dark around 6pm this time of year, so you may even need a light on your way home from work. A headlamp is great for hands-free uses (even though it looks pretty dorky, or like you’re about to explore a cave). For example, its great for cooking, carrying a lot of things up the stairs in a dark house (when your hands are full), or reading. Be sure to bring rechargeable batteries that fit both lights.
- LED Emergency light (Rechargeable) – The power will go out, and your back-up solar will fail. In the dark, you’re going to want some light in your room, kitchen, etc. Candles work but need to be replenished (and are obviously a fire hazard). This is why a bigger light is great. You can set it up in your room for reading or packing your bag, and carry it to the kitchen for cooking and eating. Be sure that it’s rechargeable so you don’t have to buy tons of batteries. Also, make sure to keep it in an easy to reach location, in case the power goes out suddenly. It’s no good to have a light if you need another light to find it in the dark!
- Backup batteries/power supply (I brought 2 extra camera batteries, a backup power supply for my computer, a backup power supply for small appliances, and an extra cell phone battery) – The power here is definitely not constant. Even if you have a back-up power supply for your house/office, it usually cannot do everything (most houses here have a back-up solar system; in our house it will run the WiFi, and a few lights – but is not enough power for heaters, charging computers, oven, etc.). The power can be out up to 14 hours a day, usually for between 4 to 8 hours at a time. Unless you have an amazing phone and computer, you will drain your battery, especially during the work day. Depending on the schedule of power at your office vs. home, on one day you could have power almost all day, and on another day the schedules may overlap in such a way that you don’t have power from 6 in the morning to about 10pm at night. Having extra batteries/power-supply devices is such a life-saver!
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. You still need clothes, entertainment, toiletries, etc. But if you’re headed to Nepal in winter, don’t leave home without these important items!