Reflections on going away and coming home. Jo Carroll
I’m home from my travels. So surely I should be returning to the blank screen with renewed vigour, shouldn’t I?
Why doesn’t it work like that? I’ve a big project I want to get my teeth into. I should be refreshed by five weeks up mountains. I should be rising from my bed at sparrowfart and tapping away at the computer as the cocks crow.
Oh the best-laid plans. And I’ve been away often enough to know it never works like that. The reality of a long journey, heaps of washing, and an empty fridge means that ordinary self-care must come first.
Ah, self-care. I had plenty of time to reflect on that while I was away. I had an apartment in Pokhara, with a sunny balcony and view across rooftops to the hills and mountains. From there I could watch as the women of Nepal worked to meet the basic needs of their families.
Unpicked, that can be reduced to: keeping warm, keeping clean, and keeping well-fed. None of which is too difficult for those of us in the UK with enough money to pay our bills. But it can be brutally difficult for those not so privileged.
Many homes in Nepal have one cold tap on the roof. Women have to wash themselves (and these are modest women for whom baring their bodies is embarrassing), their clothes, and their children. I lost count of the time I watched a mother dunk a screaming child under freezing water, smother him or her with soap, and then back under the tap to rinse it all off. This is all the more challenging when the weather is cold - homes have no heating and I learned to wear a blanket. Local people, rightly, had no sympathy for my wimpy shivering. And then they need to cook - generally on a two-burner calor gas hob. As if that weren’t enough of a challenge, most have small gardens where the women grow vegetables; rice and lentils are bought in sacks from the market and need picking through for small stones before they are cooked.
So why, now I’m home and looking after myself is a doddle compared with that, is it so hard to settle down to write? My own theory, apart from the reality of jet lag and a cold I picked up on the plane, is that I need time to reflect on my own good fortune. I know that no Nepali woman will know if I take a day or a week to settle back into a routine at home.
But somehow I need time to remind myself not to take my privilege for granted.