I'm very aware that most of my blog posts are very upbeat and optimistic. Manisha UK does a lot of good in Nepal, which I get excited about and like to shout about. But there are days when I question whether this country, that I genuinely love, has the capacity or the mentality to develop. Yesterday was one of those days.
My wife is hoping to spend a year working in Korea (as am I). For her, as for so many young Nepalese, working abroad is the only way in which they can save money for the future. In order to do this, she needs to sit a Korean language exam with thousands of others, those with the best scores have a chance of being selected. Yesterday she went to pay the exam fee, about £20.
This should be a simple matter, but Nepal lacks basic financial infrastructure to such an extent, that in order to pay for her exam she must travel 2 hours to another city, to deposit the money in the exam organisers bank account. This is bad enough, but as there are thousands of people who want to take the exam and a limited window in which to pay the exam fee, the nominated bank can't cope and allow only 300 people each day to pay their fee. For my wife, that means spending the night in another city so she can get up at 4 am to go and join the queue. It means 2 days off work and a missed class lessening her chances of securing top marks in the exam.
How can a country hope to develop its economy when it is that hard to carry out what should be a very simple business transaction? There are so many ways that this could be done (online payments, paying at the exam centre on the day of the exam, sending payment via Western Union, or at least using a bank with a more extensive network of branches!) but so often Nepal seems determined to find the most difficult and least efficient way of getting things done.
After visiting the bank and finding all this out, we went for some food. I ordered my favourite treat of chicken fried MoMo. These were brought to me a boy of maybe 10 or 11 years old. I was the only one there who even seemed to notice that we were all being served by child labour, a child who should be in primary school but instead has already been condemned to a life of poverty, with the same almost certain for his future children. MoMo have never tasted so bitter to me and I genuinely felt sick all afternoon, regretting that I ate in such place.
Once again, I asked myself how a country can develop when exploitation of children is so readily accepted and normalised? When people can say, with a shrug of the shoulders, 'His family need the money' as if that makes it simple and ok?
Yesterday was a day of despair. Today, I look at these challenges and I don't know if they can be overcome, if Nepal can change. But today I will work harder and longer and I'll know that if Nepal fails, it won't be because we didn't try.