When I strolled through a small bookshop in Pokhara (Nepal's 2nd largest city) most of the books I ran into were (unsurprisingly) about mountaneering and treeking. But this was not what I was looking for. I was rather hoping to find a book that tells about the lives of Nepalis - especially the "real", rural inhabitants of this beautiful country, and not the shop-keepers tourists usually run into.

"A balcony in Nepal" is such a book. Written by an unlikely trekker - a 70 year old grandmother, it tells about the few months the author has spent in Badel - a small village in the east of Nepal, not far away from Mt. Everest. Mrs. Olds trekked a couple of times in Nepal with her husband and fell in love with the country, to which she came back several times, on a quest of "looking for herself".

The narrative is autobiographical, feeling like a journal carefully collected and edited. It is very readable and can be finished quickly. The author tells about the lives of people in a typical Nepali village, their day-to-day hardships, peculiar rituals and, most of all, their apparently illogical happiness and peace of mind. The book keeps coming back to the inevitable comparison of the rich life in the west versus the poor conditions people live in Nepal, and yet somehow they don't look less happy for it. They look more happy, if a comparison must be made. Some point about appreciating what we have...

All in all, a charming book. Not only does it tell a lot about the life of Nepalis, it also raises quite a few interesting philosophical points, so it's an interesting read even for people not really interested in Nepal itself.


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