Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What do you need to know?

The amazing thing about traveling in my job is the absolute lack of knowledge that you may have on any subject or country before you travel there, and then how you can become an instant expert on any subject. Take for instance “Nepal”

One it has a big mountain, and lots of other big mountains, the hippies used to like going there, the swami for The Beatles appeared on National TV and a cousin of the Royal family went mad a few years ago and killed half the dynasty. That about sums up most of the world’s knowledge about Nepal, it also has a funny triangular flag in case you did not know.

So sitting in Zurich Airport now, what do I know about Nepal now. Well it is slightly larger than Arkansas according to the CIA Factbook, so that is bad news for Rhode Island and other small US States, Nepal is a potential bigger enemy. It borders only two countries India and China, only 17% of the land is arable the rest is Mountain. Nepal has 8 of the 10 tallest Mountains in the world

Get this it has a bigger population than Australia, estimated at 28,287,147 for July 2006, now this figure may fluctuate according to how many the Police shoot in the next few days. The Average age of your Nepalese is 20 years old and life expectancy is on 60 years old, and females die earlier.

Religion wise 80% are Hindu, 10% Buddhist, 4.2% are Muslim (pick the trouble makers) , well actually it is the Royal Family they sort of decided to have a reverse coup and take all power from the Constitutionally elected Parliament in Feb 2005, Parliament has actually been suspended since May 2002, all power rests solely with King Gyanendra. Nepal is actually correctly called “The Kingdom of Nepal”, Nepal is the short slang.

Unemployment is roughly 42%, 31% of the people live below the poverty line. Before shaking your head at this figure, in Israel roughly 15% of Israeli’s are classified as living below the poverty line. “Nepal is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world” according again to the CIA if you read their economic overview and even take away the civil strife and Maoist problems, Nepal is not looking good by any accounts.

Since 1996, over 12,000 people have died in the Maoist Rebellion in Nepal, intent on setting up a Communist state the Maoists have been waging a bloody and brutal civil war with the Monarchy.

That is what I know as of the moment about the Kingdom of Nepal, like so many other countries I have visited, I fly in and then form an opinion, arriving with a preconceived notion about a nation or its people is foolish.

Treat everyone with respect and dignity and it is returned with the same values, treat anyone with disdain and you are the one who looks foolish and stupid. I have met some of the most fantastic people and friends in some of the worst places in the world.

What we will see hear and smell will form my opinion, not glib background facts from the CIA World Fact Book or BBC Web Site, but then again did you know that the Fiscal Year in Nepal runs from 16 July to 15 July. Now that is the sort of trivia that makes you a champion on “Who wants to be a Millionaire” , when you have run out of lifelines and the audience does not cough correct answers.

I must admit to a mistake earlier in the blog, this would be listed as an Correction in the next blog but I am big enough to admit such a glaring error up front … the flag is actually two triangles not one, see you learn something everyday.

Zurich Airport

Now in Bangkok , have just picked up the Lonely Planet Guide , now I am truly an expert on Nepal

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