Do you ever feel like you don’t fit in? Culturally? At work? With friends and family? How about in your house?
Most days I am struck, quite literally, by the fact that I don’t fit in our house in Nepal. Unlike my wife, who is referred to as a “Nepali sized foreigner” I happen to be oversized compared to Nepali people. By American standards I am only a little above average at 6’0” and 175 lbs, but here in Nepal, home of the World’s shortest man who measures only 21.5″, I am monster sized.
The builder of our house here must have had a superstitious belief in monsters, as he seemed to have set traps for monsters in the construction of the home itself. He made the ceilings so low, that if a monster were to stretch it’s arms, it would break a light bulb. He made the walls 3 foot thick, so that in spite of the appearance from the outside, the inner rooms would not be spacious enough for a monster to move around comfortably. But most of all, the builder aimed to bring about the suffering of a monster by the size of the doors.
It doesn’t seem a stretch of logic that doorways should allow someone to pass through without having to duck and twist. But, the monster-hating builder of our house decided that ducking and twisting would be a necessity and made the doorways extra short, especially narrow, and put a 4 inch threshold along the bottom. In addition to this, the hight, width and debt of the doorways isn’t consistent throughout the house, requiring different amounts of ducking and twisting. I’m guessing the builder wanted to outsmart a monster who may become habituated to the amount of ducking and twisting needed, so should the monster happened to be distracted, sleepy, backing through a door way, or carrying a small child, the varying contortions required may quite possibly result in a thump, some bleeding, and muffled curse words.
It has been explained that doorways were built small in old Nepali homes to save money on the expensive wood that was needed, but I find that hard to believe. How could a doorway inside the house, made of mostly empty space, requiring no building material, be more expensive that a 3 foot thick wall made of mud, brick, and wood? I find this explanation far fetched, and am convinced the motivation for the mouse-hole doorways was monster trapping.
When I realized the condition of the house, and that I was now a target, I considered the possibilities to protect myself. The most practical solution was to wear a bicycle helmet at all times. However, this had the distinct disadvantage of adding another 1.5 inches to the top of my head, and the amount of “interaction” with the door frame actually increased. While the helmet helped ward off head wounds, it did cause some serious strain on my neck, and thus was soon discarded. The next option was to just suck it up and be tougher. However this also proved to be difficult, and there was something especially dejecting about being brought to one’s knees by an entirely stationary object. The bleeding and sores were a constant reminder that “I didn’t belong.” The final and eventually adopted solution was to discover the maximum required contortion demanded by the smallest, most narrow doorway with the highest threshold, and to walk in this position at all times when indoors. The most narrow doorway is the one to our bathroom, which measures at a tiny 4’6” x 20”, with a 4″ step. My 5’0”, Nepali sized wife even has some difficulty with this one. It is in this position, that I make my victorious, head injury free way around this monster trap house. I have a feeling this will have serious orthopedic implications down the road, but in my opinion, fewer head wounds today justify the bad back I will have tomorrow.
Despite not being welcomed by the likely long deceased builder of our house, I am happy to say that the current residents of Nepal are not afraid of monster’s, or foreigners. They are friendly, gracious, and don’t build such unfriendly houses any more. They realize tall foreigners don’t fit through small doors and are more than happy to apply a stitch or two to a laceration whenever it is required.