A short post on the differences between my office life in Seattle and Nepal because I haven't fully processed or figured out what I want to say about my homestay yet, so I'll talk about my office-stay.
Footwear, or lack thereof
Nepal is a shoes-off when indoors country, like much (all?) of Asia. Given all the unsavory things to be stepped on in the streets because of free roaming animals and lack of regular garbage pick up (and how muddy it is in monsoon season, and dusty it is when not monsoon-ing), this makes sense. This holds for the office and means we’re all barefoot, our shoes out front. I really enjoy being barefoot at work but did have a weird adjustment on my first day. As I walked into the conference room to meet the team I’ll be working with at the Research Center I was filled with that showed-up-to-school-naked-in-a-dream feeling as I crossed the threshold and realized I was barefoot. I had this panic that I had left my desk without putting my shoes back on (which sometimes happens at work in Seattle). Then I looked down and saw everyone was barefoot too, phew.
I've gone whole days without really wearing shoes. They did leave me some sandals to wear as house shoes in the guest house, but they hilariously too small. They are probably women's size 6 and I'm a 10.5. I feel like Cinderella's evil step sister when I wear them.
While my office does have a fan, I am hot all the time. Apparently computer work generates some heat? In Seattle, I’m generally cold in my office, occasionally just right. Wearing pants in this heat is tough too, but surely that won’t bother me as much once I adjust to the heat. Everyone says it will happen, but so far, no dice. I’m not holding out hope, I'm just waiting for the seasons to change. I am promised this will happen, though the 10-day forecast is grim. Inexplicably, many of my Nepali coworkers wear even heavier layers than I do, jeans and long sleeves! And while we're all roasting here, in the mountains nearby, it's already getting quite cold.
Tea and Snack breaks
Most days, a man comes by at 2 or so with tea for everyone from a tray. It’s lovely. But contributes to the “hot at work” problem. Sometimes I am brought a plate of food or soda too as an afternoon snack.
Holidays and the Women’s Holiday
I’ve mentioned in my festival season post about Teej, the women’s holiday. But that means there are two days where women have holidays from work that men don’t necessarily have. I’ve was the only female office worker those days in the office (because the guesthouse is next to the office and was going to be working either way, I figured I should walk the 30 paces from the guest house to the office). The cook (female) and woman who do the grounds-keeping still work because of the demands of their jobs as daily. Just like in the US, not everyone gets a holiday at holiday times. This felt especially poignant as the women’s holiday was also Labor Day in the US.
We also just had Constitution Day on the 19th, which is the first time this has been a holiday, since the constitution is new. And still hotly debated-- there was a major fuel crisis due to a petrol blockage facilitated by the Madheshis, a minority group in the Eastern Terai of Indian descent. The Madhesh and Terai indigenous groups, such at the Tharu, protest it because they are underrepresented in the constitution.
Gender Neutral Bathrooms
I think. I’m not always clear where I should go, but there is just one bathroom that I have found in the office, but a separate toilet building that I admittedly haven't used. But, to avoid confusion, I usually walk the 50 feet to the guesthouse and use the one in my room.
Office hours are 10-4 or 5 here, and Sunday is a workday. The 10 am start is brilliant. Although it is already popular, informally, at the UW Sociology Department.
Most people come by motorbike, so the parking for the 20 or so motorbikes fits neatly under a covered area at the edge of the property. You could only fit about 5 cars in this same space these 20 bikes take up.