Monday, April 27, 2015


As some of you may know, I recently spent two weeks in Kathmandu with my daughter, Jessica. It was an amazing trip, and as one might expect, an enlightening one. I learned a great deal—both by reading up on Nepal in preparation for the trip and by my own observations once I arrived there.

Kathmandu is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, 50,000 inhabitants per square mile. That is a fact I read.

...if Legos were earth tone
What I learned from observation is that those people live in a city that is constructed much the way a child would build a Lego village. Area wise, Kathmandu is not that big. Rooms are continually being added to current living space by simply building out and up from existing structures.

I also observed some of the most crowded streets imaginable. I’ve walked the streets of New York, Los Angeles, Saigon, and San Jose. They were crowded but for the most part the vehicles stayed in the streets and the people stayed on the sidewalks. This was not the case in Kathmandu. There were only streets—narrow streets at that—and everyone used those— pedestrians, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, trucks, Pedi-cabs, animals. The shops came right out to the streets, oftentimes with their wares stacked alongside the curbs, which were not really curbs but rather ditches for the rain to run off.

The honking of horns and ringing of bells never ceased, not for a moment. Vehicles turned corners blindly with only a horn to alert anyone in their way. They would pull up within inches of those in front of them—whether approaching or coming from behind—and use their horn to announce their presence. Motorcycles literally pulled into shops to make way for larger vehicles.

What I noticed, with all this congestion and continual noise around me, was that no one ever seemed to lose their temper. I never saw anyone flip someone the finger. I never heard anyone curse. I heard no threats. I didn’t even see dirty looks. People just got out of the way or waited for the other to get out of the way.

It was the same with merchants—who like merchants round the globe, did everything in their power to make a sale. They would follow you on the street, initiate conversations that never seemed to end, promised the moon, good luck or everlasting salvation if I bought their product. But when a sale was obviously not going to happen, they simply walked away. No parting remarks, no bad feelings.

The people of Kathmandu are very friendly and helpful—almost to a fault.  
This driver definitely did not know
where he was going.

Jessica and I rode in Pedi-cab once when the streets became so difficult to navigate, the driver got out and pull his vehicle along, with us in it. The first time this happened we were so caught off guard that we stayed in our seats, probably thinking the driver was simply getting the cab out of traffic. The second time it happened, we got out, paid the driver and walked alongside him.

There were times where the drivers seemed to be driving around in circles—it is not farfetched to think even they could get lost in a city so crowded—but they never gave up. A lot of businesses say they aim to please and customer satisfaction is their only goal. These drivers didn’t have to say it. They’d drive through hell to get you where you wanted to go.

School children walking arm-in-arm filled the streets at all hours of the day and were always smiling.

I met some very nice people in Kathmandu. I came away with a strange notion that maybe there is something mystical about growing up in the shadow of the Himalayas. The people I met weren’t full of themselves. They seemed down to earth, satisfied, and at peace living in what I viewed as a hectic and demanding world.

All these observation led me to the conclusion the people of Nepal are very special people indeed.

No one deserves a tragedy such as the one that struck Nepal last week. And yet, sometimes that is the only reaction we can come up with. Of course they need monetary aid, medical assistance, food, and water. Rebuilding will take years, decades perhaps. They will get all that, and I know for a fact they will appreciate it.

Still, I can’t help thinking. These people did not deserve this.
Many of these thousand year old temples have been destroyed.