- Bhakti Devkota, tour guide and former porter from Lumle
Growing up, Bhakti watched the tourists trekking everyday on his way to school. He saw the tour guides chatting to the tourists and hoped that one day he will be like them.
At first, he started working as a porter in 1997, but it wasn’t until a decade later that he managed to become a tour guide.
“Behind every porter, there is a long story; he needs to support his family and children etc. But I was never tired with my job, you know, because I know that I will learn more and more and then after that I will become a guide,” he told me.
He had just finished a tour the previous day and was getting ready to depart to the Everest Base Camp two days later.
After he became a tour guide in 2007, his income increased but he started carrying the weight of a greater responsibility.
“Now I don’t carry bags but I carry the full responsibility of the tour. When I was carrying bags, I wasn’t mentally working, but now there is so much on my mind when I’m at work,” he added.
When the earthquake hit Nepal in 2015, his trips got canceled and he was out of work for about a year and a half.
- Mohammed Akram, imam at a mosque in Pokhara
Mohammed’s strong faith and vast knowledge of his religion has made him a point of reference among his small Muslim community.
Living among a majority of Hindus, adhering by the Islamic dietary laws, or halal food, is quite a struggle for his community. But Muhammed takes it upon himself to examine each and every new product that gets introduced in the market, issuing a statement to his community regarding whether it should be consumed or avoided.
He has worked in the Gulf countries for several years. But he is proud of his Nepali culture and is extremely grateful to the fact that sectarian issues haven’t poisoned his relationship with his Buddhist and Hindu neighbors.
- Sangita Jirel, waitress from Jiri in Dolakha
Twenty-five year old Sangita has the same smiley, welcoming face that most other Nepalis will greet you with. Coming from a Rai (Keranti) Buddhist background, she has been working since the age of 16.
“I hope to open my own café one day because I’m good at restaurant business, but I need to save money first,” she told me.
Like many other young Nepalis, Sangita struggles to make ends meet. When I met her in early November, she had just started working at the Secret Garden Café in Thamel, Kathmandu, where she works from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm.
“I get so tired. I love sleeping,” she told me, laughing.
She had taken time off from work the previous day for just a few hours to do her laundry and clean her room.
“I think that working in tourism helps. I’m doing my best as well.”
When I asked her whether she would like to travel like the tourists that she meets at work, she seemed to have already thought about it, quickly giving me a list of the places that she hopes to visit.
- Prakash Bizta, café owner from Lalitpur
Even though 28-year-old Prakash traveled around Asia and spent four years working in Australia and Goa, his heart always remained in Nepal.
When he got the chance to open his own business, his choice was right here in Thamel, Kathmandu where he started his career more than a decade earlier.
When I interviewed him, his café, which he runs with his brother, had just opened six weeks earlier.
He believes that the saddest thing in Nepal right now is that many of the country’s youth want to work or live abroad. Even if they study and work hard, there are few job opportunities that await them after graduation.
“Because tourism generates a lot of income in Nepal, now people can afford to study and do many other things,” he said, “For example, I feel proud that I can open this café and give five other people jobs. This is because of tourism.”
Before him, his father spent his entire life running a hotel in Freak Street.
Like his customers, Prakash loves to travel. Some of the countries that he has so far visited include Russia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.