Nepal’s aftermath [on me]

Nepal has affected me in ways that I don’t even know yet. I cried in the morning, thinking about leaving. I cried saying goodbye to my friends. And then saying goodbye to my other friends at the airport. I cried the entire walk from the terminal to the plane, thanking the Nepali earth I walked upon. Maybe I’m just more open now, but something grabbed my heart here.

My brain isn’t exactly sure why I’m so effected. There are definitely things here that make me uncomfortable. I’ve never been in a caste culture before. On the one hand it creates the most incredible diversity of faces that varies even village to village. On the other, apparently the maid could be fired if I accidentally step on her toe (because I am presumably higher caste). That’s hard for me.

My nerves are fried. There have been more than 250 aftershocks since the first quake, and we keep hearing that the third fault line that runs through Nepal will slip any day now (we even read about a Brahman priest who promised to hang himself if there was a quake within the next five days. That was a week ago). Every night I prepare a “go bag,” ready to grab if I need to run out the door. Often I wake up with my heart pounding so hard that it feels like the earth is quaking and I need to put my hand on the wall or stare at my water bottle to make sure it’s just me. Every big truck that drives by, every plane that flies low overhead and I’m on red alert. And I wasn’t even here for the big one.

Most Nepalis seem to be managing better than me. Yes, some are horribly traumatized. Many may not be sleeping, plagued by nightmares or even more scared to fall asleep than I am, but every day they get up, go to work, hug their children, eat dinner, everything as they normally would. There is fear but even more-so an incredible sense of acceptance. So many times I was told “everything is fine, don’t worry.” The earthquake happened and there is nothing to be done except move forward through the aftermath.

The last few days I have been staying with a team of psychological trauma counselors, and Rick and I took one of their training courses. Incredible stories came out of those two days. One of the most amazing was a man who came in a couple of hours late. He lived 5 hours away, his house was destroyed and I think his wife and children killed in the quake. But he did not come for himself. His best friend had lost everything too, and had turned to alcohol. He wanted to learn how he could help his friend. He heard about the course that very morning, hopped on his motorbike and came for his friend. The sense of love, community, and the need to heal is something I have never seen or experienced anywhere else.

Maybe it is just the emergency situation that has brought people together like this, but I think it’s more than that. And the psych team, who have worked in Haiti and Japan after their disasters, and in Africa with kidnappees and child soldiers, seemed to feel that same as I do. That this is a special place.

And now I know that Nepal has a place in my future.

I have been asked to be an international ambassador for CASD-Nepal, the organization that has enabled and continues to manage the emergency shelter project.  They are now adding emergency support programs for mothers with newborn children (providing formula, clean clothes and nappies, soap, and blankets), school age children (schools have been shut since the earthquake and many parents still wont let their children out of their sight, in case of another quake), and ongoing mosquito net and food distribution. All of this in addition to a massive water project in a town that takes 7 hours to get to (and then a 30 minute hike), and women’s empowerment and entrepreneurial programs (which also combat domestic violence). This organization focuses on the rural poor, in the places that no one else goes. I have seen it. I could not be prouder to represent an organization.

You can find out more about CASD-Nepal at CASD-Nepal.org. You can support their emergency programs HERE. And you can pray for us volunteers, that we will find balance and appreciation and not guilt, and specifically for me, returning to America without a place to call my own, without a job, but with a full but mourning heart.

These photos from my dear friend Ioanna

These photos from my dear friend Ioanna

DSC02158

DSC02167

3 comments for “Nepal’s aftermath [on me]

  1. Janet
    May 31, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Amazing stories, Nicole. I’m sure your engineering background allowed you to make a huge contribution there. I can also understand how overwhelming everything must be.
    We have about 10 Nepali refuge students at our school. A couple of weeks ago, my class sponsored a culture fair and we represented Nepal. The students collected a couple of hundred dollars to help with the relief effort. After reading your post, I will recommend that we send it to CASD.
    I’m so proud of you for going there, for putting yourself in harm’s way and being brave, for opening your heart to those most in need. This sounds truly life changing for you. I can’t wait to hear what the next chapter will bring.
    ¡Abrazos fuertes. . . . . .hasta la próxima!

  2. Margaretha
    May 31, 2015 at 11:28 am

    Now we share two special places. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer for 3 years in Nepal. Thank you for lending your love and expertise for our beloved Nepal.

  3. May 31, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    This is the most moving, beautiful, heart-tugging post I’ve read in a long long time. You have changed the way I think of Nepal. And you have my deepest respect for what you are doing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *