It is midnight, I sit in my rooftop room overlooking the alleyway. I take a swig of Nepal Ice, ice-cold and a bargain at $1.30Au. Nepali and western voices interplay in their slow aural meanderings towards me. A dog howls, this refrain is picked up by Baba at the next house, there is a pause and another speaks in turn. The howl picks up in force and magnitude as others join their voices to the wailing. The sounds swirl around my little part of Kathmandu that I call home for this trip.
I had forgotten how much I adore this place.The chaos, if you choose to see it that way, makes sense. It is an honest representation of humanity without the contrivance of hiding away things in the lesser seen places.Things are observable -the struggle, the joy, the madness of modernity. The contrivance of the aid industry and the financial exploitation that can occur. The love of family and human connection, the luck intrinsic to a good life and the rawness of life in a country finding itself again after years of political and environmental instability.
Despite the country having a caretaker government since May when the Constitutional Assembly failed in signing off a constitution for the fourth year in a row – Nepal functions. And as a representative from the UNV (United Nations Volunteers) said to me, even in the ongoing political instability with each Constitutional Assembly failure, that failure is less and less and some solid ground is being found.
Slowly , perhaps ungracefully, a foundation is being built for this developing nation. A foundation where the political gambling for power between the 209 political parties with a foothold in the government they appear to have less ability to unhinge it at the core leading to conflict on the streets.
This is not to say conflict does not occur. Recently after the May constitution failure, a 27 day general strike crippled a number of villages in the far western region of Nepal. Access to food, medical care and clean water was cut off and anyone acting to break the bandha (strike) was dealt with.
According to the acting government last year tourism figures increased by 20 per cent in the Himalayan nation. This growth is essential as tourism is a life blood of the Nepali economy alongside international aid money and development loans from the IMF/world bank. That said tourism cash does not touch all parts of this ethnically diverse country but it adds to the foundations firming despite the geo-political maneuverings of China and India, which are predominantly helpful from an aid perspective, but can have a destabilising effect.
For example, Nepal has an obligation to spend money received from China to develop roading infrastructure by a certain date each year to ensure on-going financial support for an essential infrastructure which needs development. Therefore Lazimpat, the embassy district of Kathmandu is in a small upheaval as buildings are cleared destroying homes and businesses to widen the road to ensure funds are spent and the coffers are refilled.
Nepal in many ways is the front line, the coal face, of interactions between the regions super powers. On reading the English language papers the Himalayan Times, Kathmandu Post and the Nepali Times (among others) this coalface is clearly illustrated – when a Chinese government representative turns up within a few days a similarity ranked official will visit from India and vice versa.
Obviously my observations are simplistic representations of the complex reality of Nepal, one of the poorest nations in the greater Asia region, but they represent the slow changes taking place here. A here I feel privileged to visit often and love dearly.