Sunday, February 2, 2014

Stretching the Definition of the House

By Brittany Ricker

The way of living in other countries just amazes me. What is socially acceptable? Why is something that is completely wrong in the United States…a way of life in another country? It is crazy to think you can hop on a plane, travel for a little over 20 hours (if you’re lucky to pick a flight with a short layover…) and end up in a place like Bhaktapur, Nepal. The people in Bhaktapur actually use their roofs religiously on a day to day basis to do domestic activities along with interacting with their neighbors! From my experience in the United States, the only time it is socially acceptable to be “hanging out” up on the rooftop is when you are:

1.       Fixing the roof/building a house
2.       Hanging up decorations for the holidays: Christmas, Halloween, etc.
3.       Teenager trying to “escape” in the middle of the night…
4.       All you can drink rooftop experience watching the Chicago Cubs (They will win one day!!!)

On that same note, something that also sticks out about Bhaktapr, Nepal is that the houses line the narrow streets and shelter communal courtyards at the center of the blocks. Not only are the roofs and rooftop porches a part of their daily lives, but the streets have important functions. Aside from sleeping, the people of Nepal spend about 80 percent of their lives outdoors (I think it’s safe to say they don’t have PlayStation or Xbox…there is no time for Call of Duty). The streets take on many functions, symbolic and practical. In addition to major courts or plazas, each neighborhood has large amounts of public space where the people socialize, especially at the natural or artificial ponds, where clothes are washed and bathing occurs. If someone was bathing down at the pond, at least in my neighborhood, I’m pretty certain the cops would be called and some sort of public indecency ticket would be awarded to the lunatic. Besides bathing and washing clothes in the public, the people of Bhaktapur just sit outside their doorways at the edge of the street, spinning or weaving, chopping wood, or even making gravel by splitting rock! The streets are also for the goats and sheep. So imagining a neighborhood in the United States where people are preparing food, drying clothes on their roofs, making clothing, selling food on the streets, bathing in public and sheep/goats roaming around freely…. People here would have a heart attack!

Something else that would be amazing to see is the view from the rooftops in Bhaktapr. Being able to see the Himalayan Mountains while you’re preparing food or catching up with your neighbor would be amazing! 

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