Since being in India and Nepal I have seen lots of beggars – people who do not have enough and ask for help. I have read many times that giving money and food to beggars is discouraged because it encourages people to live this way, and stops then from finding more social ways of proving for themselves. In India and Nepal the giving of alms to religious men is a part of culture, but this can sometimes promote begging in other classes of society.
I give a little to those religious men, and rarely to others. This seems like a bad thing to do, but I am following the advice of people who know more about this than me. I reward local kids when they help me. I think this encourages work ethics, inline with tourism, which is often the best prospect for future work.
Today, whilst sitting on the balcony of the hotel, I saw an old lady carrying earth in the basket on her back which she bought into the garden of the hotel and tipped into an empty flower border. She was obviously tired. The family owners of the hotel have nicely spruced up the garden since I have been here. I get the impression they are new owners, or are making a bigger effort, which is still well above par. When the old lady was done the lady of the house took her a bowl of cooked rice and vegetables, the lady was delighted, and sat down to eat. I noticed she used a spoon, which is uncommon for the Nepalese, but I understand they use cutlery when their hands are dirty. One of the boys from the hotel they handed the lady a bottle of chilled water.
It was so nice to see this kind of community interaction. I don’t think the family of the hotel looked down upon the old lady at all. She is from a different caste, the complicated class system in Nepal and India. I think the family were glad to give the lady work, and were glad to give her some of their own food.
These are the differences in cultures, how these things often do and often don’t happen, but are always important.
When I walked to the World Peace Pagoda I made the mistake of following an American couple and their grown up son. The way was very unclear, and whilst following behind them they turned around saying that a local kid had said it was the other way. I thought it was indeed the other way, the Americans were not sold. The kid directed us to a steep bank were the mountain started. This looked right to me, but the American son was saying how this wasn’t the track and the kid would get us lost and ask for money. My instinct said otherwise and I gave the kid NRs5 (10 cence or 5 pence) for his help. He asked If I needed a guide, I said no, and double checked it was the right way to go. The kid said yes.
I started to climb the mountain, saw more worn tracks and carried on up. I met several people who were coming down and was confident the kid had sent me on the right way. The views from the top were magnificent, as was the Pagoda. After a long rest at the top, I was coming down the mountain and met the Americans who were going up. We exchanged words on how me had made it, and passed each other. I now wish I had asked them if they had gotten lost by not following the kids advice.
I think giving to the needy is appropriate at times. I think giving people something for nothing is wrong, especially with children as they will have much better lives by going to school, and learning about Nepal, farming, business, health and English. If they beg they often don’t go to school.
Today I bought some badges to sew onto my backpack, which seems quite a hippy thing to do on retrospect. However, one that I wanted was out of stock, only the display one left. The guy says no problem, he will make it by tonight. It turns out he had made all of the t-shirts, shirts, towels, blankets, badges and other numerous things in this shop. I was impressed. When it came to the price I knew the price was inflated because I was a tourist. As I prepare to barter I realised I was going to try and reduce the price by 30 or 40 pence. The badge must surely take 1 hour to make, and I would deprive him of this money? Of course not, I am very happy to pay tourist prices for a hand make product by a skilled man supporting his family. I had exchanged nemaste with his young daughter earlier. It’s difficult to adjust to the inflated prices and haggling systems when your start a trip, but I have learn’t that some things are worth paying for, and to not try to save a few pence that would mean nothing at home.