Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Nepal: From my friends Olga and Nori who were traveling in Nepal when the latest Earthquakes snapped

Here is my diary entry of two days ago. The Nepali are being compared to how the Japanese acted during the tsunami tragedy, stoic....and they are...anyhow, here is the entry.
Monday May, 4th, 2015
Woke up early, supposed to be at the meeting point at 9 a.m. Arrived, had coffee and boiled egg then Nabaraj told us that the group was leaving at 2 . The sun in Nepal is wicked. It’s been hot and bright, but not humid like in Thailand. Beneath my UV umbrella it is cool, or rather slightly cooler.
Nori is sick. That darned water buffalo meat that we ate at Gopi’s place is cruelly running amok in his belly. He has been grumbling as waves of nausea wash over him, impossible for him to accompany me to the village to distribute the donations. I feed him medicated carbon, antacids and tea. I always feel so lost without Nori, he carries my extra batteries, my extra memory chips, extra toilet paper, water, all our money even my tripod if need be…and my UV umbrella. 
I was told that we were not going very far, only 45 minutes away, so no mountains to climb with our jeep and loaded down truck. The affected community is located in part of the Kathmadu valley, flatter than most areas, no high points with snow, only neon green patchy fields of rice, corn, it is green everywhere except in the far distance I can see dots of red saris and ‘kurtas’ that the women wear as they bend in half tending their fields. Red and green, blue sky and sunshine….what a scene with folded mountains in green and purple hugging Hetauda. It is so pretty, but I do miss not being able to see the Himalayas.
Driving along to our destination we did see destruction, but not like the news channels show. Life continues to clip along even tho’ half of a house is in ruins. Yes, some folks are staying outside and under tarps. Many of the homes are newly built, small square solid structures that have not suffered the same crumbling fate of older buildings.
The paved road continues to meander through green lushness. The mood in the jeep is buoyant, cacophonous sounds hit me from all sides, laughter, mobile phones going off, the young guys in the back are singing. Our loaded down truck is ahead and waddling along, goods hanging out the back, bouncing. It feels merry. I sit quietly.
The road changes from paved to gravel, then to a gravel path and finally we turn a corner and the road is a forest path and is no more.
Waiting for our arrival are the members of the village, clumped together on a hill, and as we get out of the jeep we are greeted with a collective “namaskar”… notch higher in respect above “Namaste” the normal greeting. We are not going to their village, they have come to us, since there is no road that we can use.
This trip is very well organized. The leaders of the village have a table ready. Our leaders have notebooks ready, the village leader writes down names of donors in an officious looking black book, a huge sign in Nepali goes up, it says Hetauda School Road Earthquake relief fund (I know this because Anu translated for me). The jeep is unloaded, everyone is watching. There is a lot of needed stuff, piles of it, a variety of things.
Heaps of goods are divided, the plastic rolls have been cut up to make mats for the families, kitchenware in a pile, mosquito nets, bagged rice, bagged puff rice, “chura” (beaten rice), bags of potatoes. I am called upon to give out donations; I hand over my camera to one of the workers so he could photograph me. They don’t know how to use the camera, I put it in Intelligent Mode and tell him to shoot and shoot and shoot….and I pray that maybe one shot will not be blurred. The kitchenware that we purchased I donated directly into the hands of the needy family. It felt so good to give. 
Others took turns to give out donations and I shot and shot images of giving, of receiving. 
The Nepali people from this community gave me a lot of eye contact, quiet namastes, I felt my eye being caught by many, I felt warmth and appreciation coming from them.
I was then asked by the group leader to give a speech (GULP)…..they would interpret my speech to the community “only say a few words”. I’m suddenly terrified that I would end up crying and blubbering like a baby. “Get ahold of yourself”…..I did.
This is what I said:
“ Namaskar…….Mero nam Olga (that means my name is Olga) . I come from Canada. I have been in Nepal 4 times. Every time I come to Nepal I love it more…..and more… and more… and more. Please know that the world has not forgotten you. I know the Nepali people are strong and you will help each other. I want you all to know that I will never ever forget you. Donyabat (that means thank you)”…..ok ok I know it doesn’t make much sense and I wanted to say more but I didn’t feel like straining the interpreter or straining myself!
It looks like many people donated second hand clothing for this expedition and colossal burlap bags full of clothing got emptied onto a tarp and the villagers all helped themselves, in an orderly polite fashion, taking only what they needed, not hoarding, not grabbing. It was the first time I saw smiles appear.
Other speeches were made, clapping and appreciation shown. Anu, my 21 year old friend from the previous mission whispered in my ear “they are never satisfied, they always want more, it is never enough”….I told him that is common everywhere, but we can only do so much and every little bit helps.
Why is it that the trip back home always seems shorter than the trip going out? Coming home, they were not so shy of me and some actually spoke darned good English. They wanted to know how old Nori was, then they wanted to know how old I was. I told them I was 22 and the roar in the jeep was thunderous. Anu, sitting in the back asked, since I was only 22, if he could marry me. I told him “only if you have a lot of money”….another great roar in the car….someone else shouted out “yeah Anu, you must show her your bankbook”. Chatter chatter chatter and I thought they couldn’t speak English all that well. What a pleasant surprise. In spite of the tragedy that surrounds us, it was not all doom and gloom. This Nepali group we are working with seem cheerful yet respectful, no doubt this is the backbone of the Nepali personality.
When I got home Nori was feeling 6 out of 10, so I gave him a Valium and a tea and he is now sleeping.
Tomorrow another day…..and it looks like our financial well is being replenished, gurgling…..and it looks like we will be able to offer more help yet once more, thanks to friends who have entrusted us with their money.
As of today, the reported dead is 7,276. The Canadian gov’t (via CBC) is urging all rescue workers to return home as Kathmandu can be taken care of by Nepal. However, help is so desperately needed in the outlying villages and that is why we stay.

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