Looking at how involved the western population is and has been for the last two decades in the developing country that Nepal is, it is hard to believe that until 1951, no more than 250 westerners had stepped on the Nepali Grounds.
As Nepal and many other Asian countries are to us, westerners, source of exoticism, the difference that lies in our respective ways of life is already shown by the calendar year. As we were going through February and March 2005, the time of my travels, Nepalese were living in BS 2061. Officially using their calendar year, they also use the western era system, which starts to show that even preserving their own culture and traditions, our culture is having an impact on their lifestyle. Ironically living 57 years ahead of us, they are in fact going back in time to catch up on their slower social development.
Katmandu, capital of Nepal, is a nest of contrasts where the few aspects of richer lifestyle blend with the majority that the poor population is. In a country, considered as one of the poorest of the world, where only a minor part of the population is educated, it seems difficult to understand how so many aspects of our lifestyle and habits have reached them.
From my experience, the time I spent with locals has shown me that even if they are still keeping their own ways of life, in places where the population struggles to get food for everyday of the week, it is interesting to discover that they have belongings that do not seem necessary but the influence of materially based cultures has also brought them to thinking they are essential for them to conform to their still precarious but developing society. Products are accessible to the minority that the richer population is but how has it reached lower social classes that we have for image of being beggars or low price labor?
In the two months I spent in Katmandu, the relationship I developed with people living in refugee camps, communities or government owned slums also describes the relationship that western countries have developed with Nepal. Needs from tourists, help from Non-Governmental Organizations and non profit organizations has engendered a changing landscape and priorities that show they will quickly be following our steps. Is the influence we have on them beneficial and positive or is Nepal another country, victim of the feelings we have about people who should live the way we think is right?