We arrived in Kathmandu around 10 a.m.and visited the downtown section in the afternoon. It was hard to take it all in. The streets were lined with merchant shops selling jewelry, Pashmina scarves, Buddha statues, tapestries, and singing bowls. There was the constant beep-beep of cars and motorbikes warning both pedestrians and vehicles coming the other way to move to the side of the street so that they could speed by. Many of the autos are what we call “beaters” – they are full of dents and dings, and seeing how driving speed and swerve among traffic explains why. There are billboards for Kia, Toyota, and Ford, but I don’t know why anyone would buy a new car when it could potentially become a beater in short order. Gutters line the stone-paved streets and were surprisingly free of garbage along most of the sidewalks. There was an assortment of odors on the street, ranging from urine on one corner to fried food on another corner. As we walked along, merchants tried to persuade us to buy their goods, speaking in broken English to us and Nepalese to their friends.
School let out for the day around 4 pm and the schoolchildren began their walk home. I only saw one schoolgirl out of several groups of students. Three young schoolboys looking smart in their uniforms walked along the middle of the street, laughing and goofing around like typical young American boys. They happily posed for pictures and walked away with arms draped over each other’s shoulders. Rickshaw drivers peddled up and down the streets looking for riders. Since this is the beginning of monsoon season, there may be few tourists, which could account for the lack of riders. I saw well-dressed Nepalese women walking along the streets. One well-dressed woman rode her motorbike while wearing high heels, probably going to work. Although it appears that most Nepalese choose to work, some choose to beg for money. We encountered a family consisting of a woman, and a young boy who was about 6 years old holding a thin-looking baby wrapped in a blanket. Sadly, it’s common practice to starve one child and use that child to elicit empathy from tourists. The only other beggar that we encountered was an old man who knocked on the window of our van asking for money.
We later walked to an open air restaurant that served us a healthy meal of pasta, chicken, and vegetables. The free wi-fi was sporadic, but most of us were able to send at least one email home to our families and friends.