It’s scary enough when you hear about natural disasters around the world, but it’s so much more scary when you know people in the country. It was pretty horrifying to read the first line of the BBC article yesterday:
“Nearly 1,000 are known to have died in a powerful earthquake in Nepal, with many more feared trapped under rubble, officials say.”
I feel my chest tighten as I read on. “The 7.8 magnitude quake struck an area between the capital, Kathmandu, and the city of Pokhara”
In 2010, I went to Nepal and spent a month in this amazing country where I knew nothing about the culture or the people. To be honest, when I first landed in Kathmandu, I cried with fear of the unfamiliarity. But the people of this country are some of the friendliest I have ever met. I spent the majority of my stay in Pokhara; and most of my time in Himalayan Childrens’ Care Home. This is an organisation founded by a man called Lama Pasang, who used to be a head monk from a remote region called Mustang. He founded HCCH with the view of trying to break the cycle of poverty that the children of Mustang were stuck in. Some of these children are orphans, some are from families that are just too poor to look after them. At HCCH, they go to a good school, have food in their stomachs, sleep with a roof over their heads, and just have opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have.
One of the highlights of my time in Nepal was just hanging out with the kids and listening to their stories. They would tell me things about Mustang. They told me about when they were in school there and faked having a tummy ache, so that they could play truant and make sling shots instead. They loved the story of the Monkey King, and would narrate the tale so enthusiastically, it would put a smile on your face just watching them. All they needed to have fun was each other and whatever happened to be next to them at the time.
I was well looked after by some of the locals I also met. They were like my family whilst I was there. They would show me around when they could. I was even invited to eat at a couple of their houses. They would ask for nothing in return. Even in public places, strangers are nicer than what I’m used to. People would have a conversation with you as you walked down the road, and you’d just go your separate ways at the end of it. On my bus journey from Pokhara to Kathmandu, the man I was sitting next to got off at the service station and came back with 2 of the same chocolate bar and offered one to me. I politely declined thinking that I shouldn’t encourage strange men, and he ended up eating both of them. But there was no further communication between us and I think he was just genuinely being nice. Something that really makes me chuckle thinking back, is this one time when a family asked to take a photo with me. I thought they wanted me to take the photo, but this aunty pulled me towards them in an embrace and it just shows how accepting they are of foreigners.
When I was leaving, one of the older kids of HCCH saw me off at the bus station in Pokhara, for which he actually had to get special permission. I sat on the bus with the scarf that Lama Pasang had placed around my neck and I was happy to have met such inspiring people.
I am so relieved to hear from my friends in Nepal, but I can’t imagine how they must be feeling right now. I have made a small donation via Oxfam. This post wasn’t actually initially written for awareness, merely to share with you my stories of Nepalese people. But this earthquake has caused a lot of damage, and they are in need of aid! Please help in whatever way you can.
Suitcase Bunny x