Life in Nepal


The streets of Kathmandu are clogged with traffic and studded with ancient temples where every morning the local people serenely make offerings, ringing temple bells over the honking of horns and lighting incense amid diesel exhaust. Exquisite woodcarvings dating back centuries adorn buildings that are falling down. Buddhists and Hindus share the same shrines.

But hidden from view to many foreign visitors are the slum areas where people live in tents made of plastic and sticks and burlap sacks, nestled next to expensive houses. In full view are the beggars, many of them children, some forced to beg because of physical disabities (leprosy, polio, blindness), others forced to beg by their parents. It is this sharp and shocking contrast between great beauty and horrific poverty which most unsettles visitors to any third world city, and Kathmandu is no exception.

Working in Nepal

Statistics express some of the complexities of working in Nepal. Over 26 million people live in Nepal, and they consist of 92 castes, subcastes, ethnic, and subethnic groups, representing 40 languages. Although there has been a massive influx to Kathmandu and smaller "cities," the vast majority of Nepalese still eke out a living from subsistence farming in rural areas far from electricity, roads, or other social services.

Only 20 percent of the land is arable, the rest is too mountainous. Deforestation is rampant. As of 2006, there were a grand total of 371,800 main phone lines in the entire country, and just over 4,073 kilometers of paved roads.

Foreign Visitors

Foreign visitors come to Nepal to go trekking, and they return deeply moved by the poverty, strength, and indomitable spirit of the people they encountered on their treks. They are struck by the beauty of the children beneath their rags. They return home agreeing with the claim, "Visit Nepal and your life will be changed."