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Nepali children learn fast. Parental protection doesn’t last long, and youngsters are expected to either pay for or fend for themselves from an early age.

In restaurants, it isn’t uncommon to be served by a 6-year old. Using their best English – learned at boarding school, if finances allowed – and with gleaming smiles, these young waiters rush to your table with cries of “thank you please”, offering their order pad and a pen for you to scribe your selection. They rarely achieve great accuracy, but the effort and intent is faultless.

Also learning fast, other children met in villages and towns recite English phrases. “Give me chocolate” is the most common, followed perhaps by “You give me sweetie” or “ten rupee?” It is a lesson well learned that these phrases reap rewards. I find it sad that those travelling before me have provided reason to instil this in them, but refrain from blaming the children themselves.

Children, both of the young waiter kind and the chocolate hungry variety, are charming and well-meaning. The lessons they learn, in service or in begging, jar with their nature, but are adhered to with dedication.

The next generation of Nepali people, I feel, will therefore be very different to the current. Children seem to posses the determined spirit of their mothers and fathers but are learning the extra lessons they need to get by too.

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