by Burleigh Bodart, Greenheart Travel Correspondent Scholarship Winner in Nepal
Despite the conditions in which some of these children live in, our neighborhood is considered middle class. The families are all very friendly and the children are the first to greet you when you leave the house. No matter where you are, you are sure to hear a loud “hello!” from children in passing followed by a “bye!” echoing behind you. My favorite time to go out is at dusk when all the children are in the streets playing before dinner. They run up, arms waving, and are eager to have their picture taken or learn your name. Some have pretty good English and know the basics like, “what is you name?”, “this is my sister,” “where are you from?” and my favorite is when they shout, “pick-shore!!!” in their cute Nepali accents as they pose for my camera.
The neighboring houses are each so unique and interesting to look at. Each home houses at least five families. With so many people living inside each house, there are numerous hidden staircases and entrances to the inside. It almost reminds me of what it would be like to be inside an ant farm; the network of tiny pathways winding around as part of a maze. Women are outside all day cleaning pots and pans, doing laundry, and hanging clothes on the balconies or rooftops. A good amount of children in our area attend school. Walking home in the evening you are sure to see them all dressed in their cute uniforms.
Our quiet little community is just beside a bustling road that leads to everything: shops, markets, schools, and most importantly the start of our 30-minute walks to our assignments. Everything completely changes once you turn onto the main road. We take this route every day to go to the orphanage or schools we work at. The raggedy sidewalks are filled with people, most of them covering their mouths with their garments to keep out the thick dust from the unpaved roads. The constant honking from the streets fills your ears and makes is so that all other sounds become one loud resonating echo.
Walking through the overcrowded streets is a difficult task as you maneuver through the broken concrete, piles of trash, and uneven dirt. Then there are people crouching on the sidewalk, sleeping dogs, and occasional cow that you have to avoid as well. Cars do not stop to let others in and they certainly don’t stop for people. Every driver keeps one hand on the horn lever to warn people of their presence. I’ve had to get accustomed to being just a foot away from cars or buses as the fly by. We often take the tiny vans or tuk tuks to our assignments to avoid the challenging route. Tuk tuks are those small 3-wheeled vehicles that you enter through the back into a somewhat open truck bed with a bench on either side. These can hold around 10 people, although they are smaller than any car back home. The vans are often even more crowded, holding at least 15 people at a time. A young boy hangs onto a ladder outside the door shouting where the van is headed and collecting money from passengers. I know only the basic words to get to and from our house to the assignments. You bang on the roof when you want out, throw your money to the front, and jump out quickly.
The attitude on the road here is far from that of the people. As poor as the conditions are, Nepali people embrace what they have and make the best of it. Things back home are so insignificant when I look at what life is like here. No washing machines, no big screen TVs, no macbooks, theme parks, fancy cars, or 3-story malls. Kids here have only a couple of outfits and few toys. Power goes out multiple times a day during peak power times and water cuts off fairly often as well. There are no stoplights, cleanup crews, and few paved roads. So many things that we all take for granted. Many people here have endured far more that they should have to, but through it all remain positive and work hard to sustain a good life for their families.