I diverge from my usual parenting/adoption blogging to write about my favorite country in the world, and how heartbroken I am at the tragedy that has now engulfed it. Not only have human lives been lost and people injured, basic human needs like clean water, sanitation, the ability to cook food and heat homes (luckily summer has just begun there) will go unmet for thousands upon thousands, even millions, for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, priceless cultural and historical sites were reduced to piles of rubble in a matter of minutes, including the World Heritage Durbar Squares of Kathmandu and Patan.
Background: I first visited Nepal in 2004 at the age of 19 with a volunteer organization. I met a wonderful Nepali couple who taught me the language prior to leaving, and we adopted each other as family. I lived with them and stayed with them almost continuously throughout my undergrad years, and was present for the birth of their child, my beloved “niece” who I took to swimming and gymnastics lessons, threw birthday parties for, and picked up from school often. They returned to Nepal almost two years ago for good. Also during that time in 2004, I met one of my best friends, as she was cooking and providing services for the volunteers in Kathmandu. We kept in touch, and I visited her and her family each time I traveled to Nepal. We became “meetinis”, a sort of platonic wedding ceremony that unites same-sex friends in a non-romantic way. In Nepal such a ceremony confers all of the benefit and responsibility of sisters (or brothers) upon the pair. In 2008, she arrived in my city to attend university, and is now married and living here. In 2005 I received a full scholarship to study Nepali at U of W in Madison, and in 2009 I joined with Dan Mazur’s SummitClimb and The Mt. Everest Foundation to deliver medical supplies and run a short clinic in the rural regions of Solukhumbu, south of Everest.
I was just speaking with my Nepali sister (the family I lived with for many years as a college student) last month on facebook, and she was telling me that life was quite difficult in the capital because electricity was spotty at best, so cooking, laundry, and other household chores all have to be done the old-fashioned way, by hand. For this reason, refrigeration, internet service, phone service, indoor plumbing, and other necessities of modern living were undependable. After the earthquake, there will be nothing. I hope that the massive influx of foreign aid will help to get clean drinking water and water for washing and cooking out quickly, but I worry for my friends and family there that they will be living in primitive conditions for a long time, even years, to come.
And this is in the country’s capital city. Due to the already very poor road system and communication infrastructure in Nepal, following the earthquake we still do not know what has happened to smaller villages and towns, especially those closer to the epicenter. One of my best friends told me this morning that her native village has been completely flattened, with untold fatalities.
My Nepali family (sister, “brother” her husband, and niece), and my best friend’s family and dear friends of mine in the capital have all reported themselves safe, but I think about them tonight sleeping outside in unseasonably cold weather, due to the continuation of after shocks and fear of being trapped in collapsing buildings. I hope that the dusty heat of April that is the norm there will provide relief from the cold for those who are now homeless.
I have one friend who is a Sherpa guide who announced on Facebook that he was headed out to Everest on Friday. I have no idea if he survived the many, many avalanches that occurred at the base camps of Mt. Everest. I’m not sure which trekking company he went with, although usually it is Dan Mazur’s SummitClimb and Dan Mazure has reported that all in his party are safe.
As crazy as it is, I wish I was there. Everyone always knew that Nepal would experience this type of disaster, due to its location on a major fault line, the poor construction of its buildings, and its total lack or roads or other infrastructure. I always imagined that as Nepali-speaker I would go there and pitch in, helping with whatever I could. I imagined it would take place a decade or two from now. With a toddler, going there is not feasible or safe, but I find myself wanting to be there anyway. There is no place in the world with kinder, more welcoming people, beautiful landscapes, or richer cultures.
Yo man, ta, mero Nepali ho. (As for my soul, it is Nepali.) From a popular song in Nepali.