My dad recently visited. (That’s for another story. SO GREAT.)
His visit made me realize that I’ve not shared much of my daily routine. Haven't shared the little things: The smell of my alley. The vegetable lady (toothless, nose-ring), the fruit guy (smiley, calls me “didi” meaning “older sister”) and the corner shop lady who I buy walnuts and flour from (tight-lipped, wearer of tennis-ball-sized hoop earrings). How these days I prepare a hot water bottle before bed each night to keep my toes warm.
My routine will change soon. I might be moving in with a Nepali family, or at least share most dinners with them.
But here is my morning routine as it stands now.
It feels boring. But it’s real.
‘Eeeeeh-eeeeeh-eeeeeh!’ The high-pitched beep of my alarm jolts me awake. I groan.
I pull my earplugs out and sounds flood in – dogs barking, a gate creaking, women chattering, birds chirping, an airplane soaring, my refrigerator buzzing.
I have to pee, but I beeline for my kitchen instead. I boil water and take the bag of coffee grinds out of the fridge. They’re warm. So is the milk I reach for next. Just last week we had 12 hours of power outages per day; this week it’s up to 16.
I pour my coffee and bring the steaming cup back to my room. Between sips I shower (45 seconds max –the water is ice-cream-headache cold these days), get dressed (jeans, a sweater, a scarf) and shove a spiral notebook and pens into my dusty backpack.
The caffeine kicks in. I open itunes and press play. The acoustic version of “Dr. Jones” comes on. I sing along as I slide on my socks to the kitchen.
I pour the remaining hot water into a bowl and mix in oatmeal, dried apple, walnuts, honey. It tastes just as good as it did yesterday and the day before and the day before. My comfort food.
My morning sustenance. Walnuts, oats, dried applies, honey and COFFEE.I look at my watch. 8:50. Yikes, I’d better hurry. I shovel spoonfuls of gooey mush into my mouth, slide back across the floor, swallow, shovel more in. I put my laptop and a bag of walnuts in my backpack and zip it up.
I lead my bike outside, my eyes squinting as they adjust to the morning light. I take several deep breaths as I pass the begonias in my driveway. They are sweet, sharp. I wish I could bottle the scent.
I turn onto the road. It smells of exhaust and fermented trash but it hardly bothers me anymore. I ignore the piles of banana peels, diapers, chicken bones, unidentifiable brown clump that line the street.
I pass my tomatoes and eggs supplier, a small graying woman who sits behind a crooked wooden stall. Her toothless grin and leathery skin are beautiful in the morning sun, against her bright red scarf. I smile, bow my head and remind myself to ask her name next time I talk to her.
I gather speed – now I’m riding alongside the cars and the three wheeled tuk tuks. I zoom past the arched entrance of the British School, past the cement house that hosts the ‘secret Italian bakery’ and past the Hotel Greenwich Village, whose name I stopped laughing at long ago. I weave around potholes and cows and through packs of street dogs, who seem oblivious to the bustle around them. They are focused on breakfast. Heads down, they wiggle and push their noses through the trash in search of discarded momos, old rice, anything to fill their stomachs.
Landmarks on my ride to work: the British School, Secret Italian Bakery, Hotel Greenwich Village
I reach the office. Bumila, the guard, opens the gate.
Namaste, san chai cha? We each say to each other, exchanging smiles. She takes my bike.
My breath still rapid, I step quickly into the office. I glance at my watch: 9:06. Not bad.
My day begins.