Helping earthquake victims in Nepal with 1 Big Boost - Part 2
Higher yet we go
This morning began with the shifter between my legs. The engine rumbling beneath, we headed further up into the mountains. In a different truck this time, though we had a smaller crew we were more crowded and I was in the middle of the front. Second gear was notably uncomfortable. The driver pushed my knee to the left so he could steer, a moment later to push it back to the right so he could shift. On repeat. There was nothing more to do than submit.
We were headed through the clouds to visit homes we had sent roofing to the day before. I recall wondering if there was such a thing as a pinnacle. When we finally arrived at the first cluster of damaged houses, we parked the truck where there was a small group of people waiting for us and followed them down a narrow path through the trees. It quickly opened up into a field of corn and other crops; on the other side of which were a cluster of three houses made of the typical mud and daub walls usually painted in cadmium orange, framed by wood and with corrugated aluminum roofing. These small conglomerations of houses turned out to be quite typical. The first thing I noticed was that the pattern and shapes of the cracks looked exactly like the ones I saw in Haiti in 2011. A Mandelbrot set reserved solely for earthquakes.
The damage of the houses varied from subtle cracks to piles of rubble with most somewhere in between. Many of the houses we couldn’t even enter for fear of imminent collapse, but we were allowed to go into one to see that sometimes barely visible damage on the outside can hide total destruction on the inside.
A small surprise
At one point the path became too treacherous for Marianne and Tuk, so they turned back to the truck while Liz and I continued with our evergrowing entourage to survey further damage. We stopped between two of the houses, wherin stood a beautiful garden full of an impressive array of multicolored flowers and other plants. As we paused I closed my eyes to soak in the smells."Doesn’t it smell amazing?" I asked Liz. It did. It almost smelled like Marijuana. As she pointed behind me, I turned around to see a massive marijuana plant growing just off the path. The only other time I’ve seen marijuana growing openly was while touring a plantation in Jamaica, complete with children playing hoops and marbles in front of it and colorful clothes drying above in the sun. But I suppose when you’re that far into the middle of nowhere there isn’t much fear of discovery. My understanding is that although it’s technically illegal it is common among young and old alike and not really enforced at all. One of our guides smiled and asked if I knew what it was. Yes I do.
Throughout our journey the faces of the people struck me as if humanity were throwing itself at me. They took many forms and yet were all the same. At one moment I might see joy, but was it a joy at receiving much needed help, or a joy lived every day? At another moment I saw pain and hardship. Once again I wonder whether it is the pain and hardship of this current moment, or is this simply life I am gazing upon? Either way there was consistently kindness and curiosity. Never once did I see a moment of hatred or malice in any person I met. Never once was I afraid, and never once did I feel pity, for the people neither gave the former nor asked for the latter. This is important, andI know of no other way of explaining it than by showing a few demonstrative photos.
As we went on we saw even more damaged homes than earlier. Here many people couldn't enter their homes at all. I immediately wished there was more we could do for them than bringing roofing materials, considering some of them could not use them for anything other than a temporary shelter until they have completely rebuilt the rest. Still, I am aware that there is only so much a small group with limited time and funds can do. We do what we can and that's better than nothing.
People’s sleeping arrangements varied. Even those with homes they could enter feared sleeping in them at night. Some stayed with friends or family. Others slept under tarps or shared their barns with the animals. One man we met had recently finished his new house which withstood the earthquake while his old one had not. He was the only lucky one we met.
Facing the Earthquake
At some point in the afternoon it hit me. It only did so because I have a very good internal compass and had been subconsciously been paying attention all day. Virtually all the homes we had visited throughout our tour had the worst of their damage on the side which faced east - towards the epicenter of the quakes. It is hard to imagine the strength of an earthquake dissipating within the confines of a single home and it is unrealistic to imagine everyone’s easterly face was weaker than the rest of the structure, yet this is what I saw repeatedly. As you would more expect from something like a hurricane, tornado or even a tsunami, the side facing the earthquake was always hit hardest. I have never heard of this being a thing before and I have no hard evidence to back it, but this is what I witnessed and thus thought worth reporting.
Sitting through the rain
Towards the end of the loop without Marianne and Tuk we were offered coffee. Just as the coffee was served the rain came, sudden and intense. We took shelter on the porch of a condemned house and talked to the families while drinking coffee, eating an assortment of bananas, waiting for the rain to end. It didn’t last long and once the drops became drips, the sun came out again we headed back towards the truck.
Delivery of roofing
As we neared the peak we stopped by one final house and delivered roofing to them. The driver seemed to know this family well, particularly the one young woman, and they talked for quite some time. Meanwhile Tuk played some volleyball with the children. Afterwards we climbed just a little higher. I think we were planning on going even further, but we started to worry about the rain and the ability to navigate the roads if they became slippery with mud, so we headed back and called it a day.
As we drove back down the mountain we crossed paths with a party and were invited to join them for some music, dance and food. It was the same group of people who that morning had performed a Hindi ritual at the temple by the school. We danced and laughed in a blur of horns and bright colors before continuing on our way. I will hold you in suspense for details, photos and video for another day, as it warrants its own story.
At night the stars in the sky were even more brilliant than the night before. Liz and I decided to stargaze for a while so found the darkest place nearby, behind the schoolhouse to lie in the rough grass and stare at the universe around us and which is us, a brilliance you rarely see, billions of beacons stretched across an endless sea. Falling stars flying by with regularity, to the east a constant stream of pink and purple heat lightning striking between clouds. I noted common constellations including the big dipper, draco and orion. Orion’s belt is also known as the three sisters or the three kings, some of the biggest and brightest stars in the sky. "They lead you home," I said, as I drifted off.
Next up: Devastation in Bakhtapur