Thursday, April 30, 2015
They knew it was going to come. The big One they called it. Every 80 years or so, the earth shakes the ground as the mountains grow a bit. Every year in Kathmandu, it shakes a little, just a little, but no damage done. We get used to it, that's life, kie garne (what to do) they say in nepal. But this year was diferent. The scientist say that it's not over, but nobody knows when, it could be soon, it could be in a decade, no body knows, but it's enough to think deeply about life.
The day before the quake, I went to Kathmandu for the 5th international tattoo convention, which I have attended since the begining. Kathmandu was full of people, it's season time, and festivals bring much people during that time of the year. It was a normal morning, a normal type of day. We were having morning tea with a friend in Thamel, when the shaking started. Survival instinct kicks in automatically. As part of the roof falls in front of us crushing a passing car, we run inside next shop. A chinese couple holds each other, the lady cries, my friend and I hold each other hand, no panic, we stay put and let it pass. Nothing we can do, legs are like paralized by the tremors. A few seconds laters and the earth stops shaking, but our legs and hearts still shake. The car is empty, totally crushed, the driver ran out in time...
My friend and I slowly recover our mind, we go out on our flaky legs. At the corner, the entire building has fallen. 3 shops, and the rooms upstairs. People are already standing on what was once a building, picking out the bricks, the milk man is in the building, he will stay Under 3 hours before to be saved. We know this man and his family, we buy cheese there on our way home which is around the corner. The vegetable man ran out in time, the milk lady as well. We keep walking, go to our room, climb the 3 floors, all is fallen down but the building holds even if cracked. Turn of gaz cylinders, pick up passport, money, emergency needs. Get out of building, start walking and trying to call loved ones. The phones don't pass, people gather in open air, away from buildings. Everyone is in shock, call loved ones is first thought. A message to my sister passes through, at least mam will know I am alive. Finally a call goes through to my friends, I can go sit with them in a garden close by. A few tourists and nepale families sit on the ground. Some after shakes come, bringing fear again with them. Most keep their cool, it's better that way. After a while, we go to another garden close by, a friends house, a nice view of the city, Swanbunath just in front, a tower less to my favorite Kathmandu temple. A few trees, open space, this would become our camp for the next 4 days.
And the days passed. The first couple days, the capital was completely closed. All shops, guest houses, all the doors are closed. No one wants to go inside the houses, people are afraid to eat, the bathrooms inside mean danger. The phone batteries that still have charge give news from around the country. Nepalese share news of their families. Some villages are totally destroyed, Kathmandu lost many of it's temples. Nepal will never be same again, New Nepal the nepalese called it after the revolution, New Nepal it truly is now. After the first couple days of shock, the city starts opening a shop here and there. Every night, a tremor is still being felt bringing the nightmare back for a second, we wait 24 hours with no tremors to feel safer. Around the city, the camps organized naturally. Each new day of camping brought a little more of the kitchen outside, more tents and covers to protect from the rain. Slowly people start wandering around to see the situation. Everyone shares their stories. A young tourist tells me about taking out 4 bodies from under the rumbles, 2 dead, 1 alive, and a girl he did not know if she was alive or dead. He can't sleep, images flashing through his head, many will have to recover from what they saw. All saw a building or something disapear in front of them, all lost something or someone, people need to talk, to share, to feel togetherness. Like a second life, we're alive, and it's amazing to be alive. Now is healing and rebuilding time.
The days pass at the camp. I finally get to recharge my phone, I speak with my sister in france, after 3 days of silence, my heart feels much lighter hearing her voice. I know the media, I know they just pass the horrible images, always forgetting the good parts. Yes, there is destruction and many suffer a lot, but the beautiful thing was to see how fast people organized camps, how people shared whatever resources they have, how people helped strangers. Out of devastation comes a feeling of solidarity, and this the news rarely show, and that is what I will remember, is people helping each other instantly and naturally.
At the camp, we are lucky, we have water, enough food and good spirits. Every night becomes a feast, we celebrate, we drink whiskey and we kill a few chickens on the 4th night. In other camps, many don't have that luck. Some camps don't even give food out, people are left on their own to find what they can. Many tourists are left with no money, no passport, as everything is locked in the rooms and buildings are close. Friends help each other as they can. Ambassies open their doors for camping, many will be flown back to their country. On the 3rd day, buses start again, slowly evacuating people out of the city. Walking around kathmandu is a sad sight, how many chais on Durbar Square temple steps, never again. A part of history has passed, a part of us with it, a new page opens up. The shops slowly start opening their doors, people walk in the streets, they share news. The 5th night will be the first time that many sleep inside a building.
I take the bus back to Pokhara. Hard to let loved ones behind, but it's better for the moment and they know I am safe. Here I can write and give reports other than the media horors. The buses run fine, the road has no problem and buses run. I arrive in Pokhara, where no damage was done. I am full of dirt and I smell bad. All is normal here, shops are open, nothing is broken, people joke as usual. I take a shower, I eat a breakfast, I know it's first shower for many, a bed to sleep in for many, we're safe for now.
As nepal wakes up from the quake, now is time to deal with the rebuilding. Many want to help but how? That's a big question here, how to help? Many know that the government will get much money, but how much will really get to where it's needed is another question. Millions will be lost in utter corruption, a few dribbles down to the people. So many are self organizing, take things in our own hands they say. So on our side we are organizing a Funky Buddha Tattoo Hands donation box to distribute directly to people around us in need. Nepal will have a dificult year, but nepalese are strong and they will do what they have to do. The season is pretty much dead, and it will not bring the income for the year. All the money will go out to rebuild and little will go in. Nepalese abroad will send money to families, that's best they can do for rebuilding inside. Soon the moonssoon is coming, that means landslides. The land being craked will mean even bigger landslides. It will be a tough year, but I know that all will do the best they can from inside and from outside the country, and nepal will come out of this even stronger I hope. If many landmarks are gone, we will keep the memories, and build new ones, so goes life, kei garne. Keep on living, much gratitude in the heart for all the support from family and friends. This is for first report as life slowly takes it's course again, I will keep posted with news:)