Because I'm still processing...
There is a coffee shop on the corner of the road that leads to the Radisson hotel in Kathmandu. I found it the first day I was there and needed somewhere to sit for a while. I sat in the window and had an americano and read all of the newspapers from cover to cover. Every now and then I'd think to myself, "I'm in Kathmandu." The coffee shop had patrons but not so many that I felt uncomfortable sitting there for an hour. The coffee was hot enough to have to drink slowly. They offered me a choice of Lavazza or Nepali coffee and I chose the Nepali, which made the boy behind the counter smile. By the third time I came in, I walked up to the counter and he saidt to me, proudly, "Two shot Americano, Nepali coffee, black." On the day I messed up the money and tried to give him a 1000 rupee note instead of a 100 rupee note, he insisted on giving me my change. One of the days I was there I was talking to a man from I think Ohio who now lives in Kathmandu, and he told me how to get to a street fair I wanted to visit. Chris that I was hiking with came and met me for coffee a couple of times.
But although that was comfortable and somewhat familiar to me, a block to the east there was a woman who was always sitting on the sidewalk. She was there every time I walked past, sitting on a blanket on the filthy sidewalk, with her two small children lying next to her. They were all wearing what amounted to rags. The babies had crusty eyes, and there were flies on their faces that they didn't bother to brush away. Their mother, emaciated and translucent, was talking to the children one morning, and mixing something that resembled grain in a plastic bowl with water that she poured from a cloudy plastic bottle. Breakfast. She didn't look at me. Traffic was passing by within two feet of them, and emission controls haven't caught on in Nepal yet. Also most drivers honk continuously and sometimes ride up on the sidewalk. After a couple of days, we went out at night and they were still there. I realized that they weren't just setting up to spend the day there, that was where they lived. There was a bank a few doors down, with armed guards at the door, perhaps that made her feel that she had a little bit of safety from their presence. It occurred to me that a lot of the annoyances that I complain about on a day-to-day basis are really very trivial. I imagined having to try and explain my complaints to this woman - "nobody helps me with the housework". What would she say? "You have a house..."
Children who looked as young as ten were working as porters, carrying enormous loads on their backs up the steep mountain trails, wearing crocs or flipflops on their feet, and we were told that the normal fee for porters is about 200 rupees a day. To put that into perspective, chocolate bars on the trail were 200 rupees, mostly. That's about two bucks a day. Granted, in the non-tourist stores in Kathmandu you can buy a litre bottle of water for about 15 rupees, but still. Not a generous wage.
I had a conversation with a cabdriver, who was lamenting the rising divorce rate in Nepal. He said that divorce was previously almost unknown, but that recently it has become more commonplace. He felt that although Nepal desperately needs the money the tourists bring, they don't need the Western/secular influences.
I loved how close religion is to ordinary life. There are little shrines everywhere, in the street, prayer rocks out on the trail, and people walking around fingering their prayer beads. I liked to see the little old ladies in their sandals, out walking around the stupas and pushing all the prayer wheels. Everywhere you go, there are recordings of Om Mani Padme Hum playing, and I found that it got stuck in my head. I ended up acquiring a cd of it, and have been playing it in the kitchen when I have the place to myself.
I stood behind an Australian man at a little store on the trek. He was wanting to buy a chocolate bar, and he was bothering the owner for something he didn't have, a twix or something. I backed off a bit, because although I was trekking with him, I didn't want to be associated with him. After a lot of complaining, he picked out one of those kitkat chunky bars, and the proprietor said, "300 rupees." My trek mate started getting aggressive, "No, I'm not paying that much, everywhere else it's 200 rupees." The proprietor replied, "300." No sale, and he's off, muttering. I stepped up, smiled, we exchanged Namaste, and then I asked for a Mars bar. "200 rupees". I just pulled out my money and paid him. I would have paid 300. I can't see arguing over what is basically a miniscule sum of money.