It was pretty obvious early on that “we’re not in Kansas anymore”, although if you asked me what my opinion of Kansas is/was, it probably isn’t so far off. There are so many things we take for granted, especially in my neck of the woods on Long Island, and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on it.
- Paved roads: As I stated in my prior post, driving in Ladakh is not for the weak-stomached. The roads are barely visible, let alone paved. When there are paved roads, they are filled with potholes. Usually, paved roads means a sign of population in the area, which means people walking in the streets, vehicles passing each other even on a 1-lane road, and animals…everywhere! And by animals, I mean cows, donkeys, yaks, and dogs…tons of dogs. When dirt and paved roads aren’t available, I was privileged to be in vehicles driving through the desert without any roads, or better yet, on snowy, icy, dark, winding mountain roads, with no shoulder, 1 lane, and the possibility of slipping out and plummeting a few hundred feet to a painful death. Sorry, Mom. Look at the bright side, it’s some of the most beautiful sights anyone on this planet can ever hope to see!
- Clean Water: I left the USA with a handful of vaccinations and prescriptions, preparing me for the worst when it came to diseases, including Hepatitis A and Malaria. In order to drink water not out of a bottle, you need to boil it to be sure of no bacteria/viruses. In Leh, they have some springs, but most water comes from the top of the spring, where dogs will drink from. Needless to say, I prefer the boiled water.
- Hot Running Water: The definition of a hot shower throughout much of Ladakh is a bucket of warm water. I have been in India for almost a week now, and I’ve had the privilege of 1 warm bucket shower. I have yet to attempt a cold running water shower. Do I smell? Most likely.
- Electricity: SECMOL utilizes solar energy for much of the power at the campus, and this is better than most places, where power is only available for segments of the day. In a few hours I will be with a group of people watching the inauguration (I can’t wait!), and we need to bring in a generator in order to power the TV.
- Fueled Heat: This is even more rare, as I have yet to find a source of heat that comes from oil, gas, electric, coal, or hamsters running in a wheel. Heat comes from utilizing the sun properly, not necessarily harnessing solar electric, but just utilizing the closeness to the sun, and running fires in mini-stoves of wood & kerosene. Black lungs must be standard in this part of the world.
- Homes Built by trade: I had the distinct pleasure of staying with a family in Kargill (on the other side of Ladakh and then again with the family in Leh (including tonight). Including all of the elements identified in the other bullets, the homes are built with mud, clay, stone, raw wood, straw, bamboo, and other raw materials. There is no cancer-causing insulation, no indoor plumbing, minimal lighting, and no even floors, roofs (rooves?), or stairs. Doorways are small, and have large foot posts, apparently meant to keep out the zombies (seriously!). What the home lacks in modernity, it makes up for in coziness and hospitality, at least when it comes to the folks I stayed with.
- Toilets: Yeah, you guessed it…hole in the floor. In an outhouse. In the cold. Oh, and with no toilet paper. Yes, I came prepared, hopefully for the duration. Moisture control (to prevent stench) is done by shoveling dirt on top of the hole when you are done. There is no sign that employees must wash their hands after using the restroom. I have become addicted to my antibacterial wipes.