I am in the town of Namche Bazaar, located at almost 11,000 feet in the Himalayas. Today, I saw Mt. Everest for the first time... yet even more amazing are the people, valleys, rivers, and mountains that immediately surround this place. If there was a chairlift and more snow, I might consider this heaven :) We took a rest day here to acclimatize before heading out on the rest of our trek/ski expedition in these AMAZING mountains! Some picture highlights below at the bottom of this post, but first some thoughts from my travel to Nepal:
OPPORTUNITY IS EVERYWHERE
Raj is 23, speaks incredible English in addition to two dialects of Nepali, and is struggling to make a living selling Hashish on the streets. Truth be told, he was a brilliant salesman. He almost convinced me (who is vehemently opposed to smoking anything) to buy some. He tried to sell me this incredible vision of 'Heaven' which involved a "view of Everest, a beer, and just one smoke of hash" as he kissed his fingers to the sky. He has skills, but in this city, he is limited by past precedences and numerous other barriers. He moved to Kathmandu from his home village in the mountains to go to school and learn English. He excelled at that, but now, he is struggling to get by.
Kathmandu could have been so much more. Clean, prosperous, educated and desirable... Instead traffic moves in a perpetual state of impending accidents, with kids, cows and pedestrians trying to find their way across unorganized streets. Electric wires hang precipitously on the sides of buildings waiting to ensnare a poor victim, the air quality is worse than LA, the buildings look as if a 3.0 earthquake would flatten this place, and I won't even attempt to paint a picture of the human waste and garbage situation...
I'm sure there are factors beyond my understanding that led to things the way they are, but I can't help but think that short-term thinking got in the way of quality of life and prosperity of millions of inhabitants. And for me, the hardest part of this to digest is that the people of Kathmandu are, by any comparison, some of the kindest, calmest, and most patient people I have met. And that is what is so hard to stomach... that these WONDERFUL people are exposed to such unhealthy conditions.
I think the same goes for us as individuals. There is opportunity for quality of life and prosperity if we take the time to envision it. Never settle, demand more, and go for it.
I'm pleased to hear about Next Generation Nepal, Room to Read, and Little Princes (to name a few) that are trying to improve the lives of children here, but I can't help but wonder, what happens to healthy and educated children in a place like this? How can we help and ensure that the next generation, which is healthier and more educated than any before it, to start envisioning and seizing opportunities?
Authors note: I hesitated to post this blog entry as it could be interpreted as critical in nature. I have the utmost respect for the people of Nepal and wish them all a bright, healthy, and prosperous future. In fact, I wish this for all citizens of this planet. As I continue my travels, I consistently pose myself the question: "How can we spread health and wealth from the most fortunate areas to the least?" While piece-by-piece contributions like schools, hospitals, food donations, etc. are important, it is my belief that without a vision for a brighter future that is for the people and by the people, I don't think positive long-lasting change is possible. Based on my research, co-investment models seems to be the most effective - especially from the planning side. Perhaps we don't need more people, funds and organizations investing here, we just need them to do it more effectively under a more unified vision. Your thoughts?