While Nepal may be one of the poorest countries in the world and have all the infrastructure problems that go along with that, it is a decidedly easy and enjoyable place to visit. It has the chaos of India, the roads and the pollution are worse in places, but the people seem friendlier and Kathmandu is really the only place you can call a city anyhow.
In March I trekked to Annapurna base camp but this time I’ve been hanging in Kathmandu waiting for the Lam Rim Buddhism course at Kopan Monastery which starts in about a week.
I’ve managed to do some volunteering with a local community centre called Bright Future arranged by Isabel from Australia, talking to the children and seeing what they do. I also taught a couple of lessons at a local school which was cool, although I felt that I was in the deep end in front of 30 twelve to fourteen year olds with no teaching experience.
Anyway, it was fun but with all the festivals they have here the schools aren’t really sitting at the moment so I took the opportunity to go and visit some spots in the valley for a few days…
It’s interesting when you consider the lifestyles of the people here, so simple and with very little of what we consider essential back home. There are political views, of course, with the Maoist government not necessarily being hated but also judged on their actions. With encroachment from India in the south and China in the north, sometimes in the guise of “development” (where roads are being built to connect with China in rural areas potentially destroying fertile trekking ground for the Nepal tourism trade, the roads in Kathmandu are terrible and often feel like driving over boulders.)
To compare to the “austerity” in Britain, however, is a little tricky. I’ve made the joke that to escape Cameron’s measures at home I’m escaping to a monastery – maybe it will be less austere but that’s really a little flippant. I mean, having looked into the followers of the Occupy movement a little and being broadly supportive of their (slightly vague) aims it is interesting to see how in a country as poor as Nepal the global economy doesn’t really impact it all that much. They don’t really have natural resources, apart from the Himalaya, and that isn’t something you can export so they are reliant on the tourist trade and their own craftsmanship and farming to live. This is a simple life for sure but isn’t it what a lot of middle class people in England claim to be aiming for as well?
It’s that weird dichotomy you get in third world countries, the people here are looking to have more of the western consumer culture while in the west we shy away from it. Actually, I don’t think Nepal is too “spoiled” by that desire; it is an immensely spiritual country with incredible nature and temples everywhere. I mean, EVERYWHERE!
Anyway, I’m off to the monastery in less than a week now so we will see how that goes.. wish me luck now…