Yesterday I explained the concept of "same same but different" and gave a short list of the things that have not changed much since I was last in Nepal in 2008.
Now for the things that are different.
Mobile phones are everywhere, and they are accessible to many more people because of inexpensive phones and affordable calling rates (and, unlike in the U.S., no contracts). The explosion of mobile phone use in developing countries is not new news. Mobile phones have long proven to provide a crucial link to banking, health services, and the outside world during political upheaval (for example, the election protests in Iran and Myanmar).
I was, though, surprised to realize that I could use my BlackBerry in Nepal, which now supports smart phone technology as well. Although the service has been a bit spotty, I think that may be my lack of tech savvy and not Nepal's failing, and I am still happy to have my GSM BlackBerry fitted with a local NCell SIM card:
There are also more and more people (both foreigners and locals) toting around laptops, perhaps because of the surge of free wi-fi in restaurants:
As for low-tech infrastructure, the formerly dirt road running north of Boudha is now paved with lovely flagstone:
And Kathmandu is attracting international music stars, with Bryan Adams scheduled to perform on February 19. I have not yet been able to snap a photo of the billboards around the city, but I did find this entertaining YouTube video for proof:
(P.S. Bryan Adams has AGED!).
As much as these changes make life a little easier here, I find myself being most grateful for some things that have remained the same -- most notably, the friendliness and generosity of everyone I meet. By the time my flight landed in Kathmandu, I already had three invitations to family dinners. And yes, I will be taking them up on those offers!