If there was one word to sum up my experience of Kathmandu and Nepal to this point, it would simply be; unexpected. This doesn’t just cover the fact that I am no longer with Internship Nepal and that I have found my own projects to work on. Kathmandu is definitely not the Kathmandu I expected from reading the Lonely Planet guidebook.
In preparing for my trip, I was expecting a culture that was completely different from my own. I packed long pants and extra toilet paper. I expected to see pollution everywhere and men and women keeping a safe distance from each other.
Instead, I was met with what at times feels like two cultures. While the traditional culture that I read about is present (and well accounted for due to an influx of rural residents to the city following uncertain conditions in the countryside due to Maoist activity), so is a growing “modern” culture that watches MTV India, Bollywood, wears miniskirts, buys the latest cell phones from Nokia, and displays affection in public.
The one thing that the Lonely Planet guidebook did prepare me for, but I have had a hard time dealing with anyways, has been the level of poverty. Even though I have been working with the JAFON center, it is still difficult to walk by a child on the street, too high to notice you after huffing on glue, or one who does notice you and begs for some form of money or food. There are more than a few organizations who deal with this problem and many others, though it is always a difficult task to try and change the current state of affairs.