I awoke this morning at 4:00 AM and hit the streets by 5:00. I wanted to see what life is like in Kathmandu for ordinary people.

One of the first interesting differences I noticed was the morning delivery of small sacks of coal and the preparation of it for the daily cooking fires at some of the tiny eating establishments. Men hammer the sacks until the pieces are broken down quite small, and then the coal is fired in large slightly concave iron vessels. I feel somewhat compelled to sample the fare in one of the tiny cubicles and elect to sample a vegetable dish for the equivalent of 15 cents.

The “restaurant” had only one bench, and two customers ate sitting on the floor. The woman who cooked and served me was very friendly but the floor beneath us literally broke when I stood up.

Later that day, I watched a leper with no toes, fingers, or nose, crawl across the highway with hundreds of trucks, busses, and bicycles zooming by. No one stopped or slowed for him, and one bus may have actually run over his foot. But when he made it to my side, he placed his stumps of hands together and greeted me with a grinning Namaste!

As bad as it is here, there is very little begging. Instead, those who are bitterly poor, try to sell trinkets or services. And everyone keeps themselves meticulously clean. Even those living in four or five-foot leanto’s been out every morning sweeping with handmade brooms. I even watched one desperately poor woman, washing the dirty street in front of her mud brick abode with a rag as small as a washcloth.

These people have great dignity!