The last thing Nepalis think when they meet Marie Ringler is that she is a politician. "You look like a rock star," some say, others ask: "Are you a model?"
But as a 27-year-old Green Party member of the Austrian federal state parliament for Vienna, Marie is used to such reactions. Here on a six-week placement with the US-based National Democratic Institute, she is preparing a report on ways to increase the representation of women in political parties in this country.
We caught up with Marie during her visit to a school in Patan last week, where she asked a group of grade ten students how many wanted to become politicians. Only two hesitant hands went up. The rest wanted to know what was so great about politics anyway. Marie's answer: "You are in the middle of things, you can't just complain, you have to find solutions."
More hands went up: what makes a good politician? "You have to like people, care about them, you need a will to learn and listen to what people want." And what does she think about Nepali politicians? Here, Marie is slightly diplomatic: "There is a very rigid hierarchy, a deference to seniority and there are hardly any women in politics."
Now it's Marie turn to ask the children some questions. "If you met the prime minister, what would you tell him?" The response comes thick and fast from the group of 16-year-old Nepali boys and girls: "Negotiate with the Maoists", "create jobs", "take development to the villages", "use Nepali talent in Nepal".
And how can the Maoist insurgency be resolved? "Both sides have to be flexible", "both have to compromise", "you have to start with what you agree on and take it from there". Marie is nodding vigorously. It looks like the youngsters are showing more common sense than most adults she has met in this country.
There are still many questions from the class, but time is up. Before she goes, Marie asks the children once more how many want to become politicians. Four hands go up, and she says, happily: "That's double of what we started with. We are making progress."