Sunday, May 10, 2015

Earthquake Diary #5 Wednesday April 29: Hunting for an Outlet

For the first time since the day of the earthquake, I woke up in my own bed and cooked myself my own breakfast. My German roommate slept in later than me, as she hadn’t been able to sleep well at all in the terrible German embassy. Mid-morning, my British roommate returned home from her embassy, and told us about some Mexican ‘earthquake friends’ she knew who knew a way for us to volunteer. AND, they had electricity AND wifi at their hotel (we had neither). So the 3 of us packed up our gadgets and power cords and headed up the road. When we arrived, the wifi was in fact working, but the electricity was out, which meant my dead laptop and phone were useless. We also found out that the Mexican girl’s big plan was to walk into a camp with like 4 bags of rice and hand it out to people, and I was like “oh, ok I think we’ll pass then.”

My German roommate got a call from the organization she volunteers at asking her to come in and bring her laptop, as they had work for her to do. I went with her, and we stopped at an ATM so she could withdraw some of the cash she had received in donations from Germany. I noticed that there was an outlet in the ATM, and having no shame, plugged in my phone. I waited for my roommate to go home and come back, charging my phone in the ATM shelter the whole time. Some of the Nepalis laughed at me when the realized what was happening. Didn’t care. When she got back, we walked 20 minutes to her office, where there were a tonne of people around. Turns out they wanted her help redesigning their homepage so that it was more earthquake oriented, and to collect the latest news updates. I was able to charge my phone, but not my laptop (forgot the damn adapter!) and sat there soaking in information from the internet. 

At least 3 Facebook groups had formed in an effort to try to coordinate all the separate volunteer actions that were taking place. One group was geo-mapping all earthquake related events and calls for help. There were countless villages where all the homes had been destroyed and no aid had arrived yet. At this point I hadn’t wrapped my head around the names of the districts, and it was all unfamiliar and far away. But it seemed like so many people in Kathmandu had heard the pleas for assistance and wanted to help in some way. My roomate’s organization, Himalayan Climate Initiative, had also sent some volunteers out to one of the camps to do a needs assessment and hand out some supplies. We had made it through the immediate threat to our survival, but now there was a new sense of urgency in Kathmandu.

After a while, once I had written down some potential places to go and volunteer for the next day (it was too late at this point for today), I gathered up my stuff and went to search again for some electricity. But first I stopped at home, because I had run out of clean underwear! So I came home and handwashed like 7 pairs, using up as little of our precious water supply as possible. I can handle dirty shirts, dirty bras, but dirty underwear is just TOO FAR. I noticed that several of my neighbours had also hung out some laundry to dry, so I must not have been the only one who had exhausted their clean underwear supply.

Once that was taken care of, and I had hung them up, it was time to find some electricity. I knew that the hostel had generators and wouldn’t even notice one extra white girl plugging her shit in to leech of their power supply. So I walked on over. When I got there I chatted to some of my friends there, and this is when I found out that one of their coworkers was missing. He had been trekking in Langtang Valley, where some huge avalanches and landslides occurred, burying the entire village of Langtang. He had been guiding two guests, and so far they had only heard from one of the guests. I had met the trekking guide before, and this was some of the worst news personally that I had received yet. All we could do was hope for the best. Some people were walking back to Kathmandu from this valley, and it took about 4 days, so there was still a chance he was on his way back.

I hung around the hostel to sit in on a meeting they had scheduled to organize their own relief efforts. They had collected some donations just from current guests, and had plans to buy supplies and drive them out to a village the next day. They seemed to have everything under control, so I left before it was over. I hadn’t been walking around at night since the earthquake, and usually I feel really safe in my neighbourhood, but everything was so unknown and my situational awareness so heightened that I wasn’t sure if it would be safe. Luckily, of course, I had no problems on my short walk home, other than a few more aggressive than usual neighbourhood dogs (poor things were just hungry). The animals had REALLY been on edge for the last few days; most notably dogs and birds. 

I should also mention that the weather had been TERRIBLE since the earthquake. It had rained every day, was chillier than usual, and on Tuesday or Wednesday it actually HAILED. It was like nature giving Nepal the finger. While this had never really affected me, not even in the camps, I knew that it was bad news for all the people who had lost homes and were sleeping outside in flimsier tents than what I was lucky enough to be sheltered by. And as the ground continued to shake, we knew that this loose, wet earth would be extremely dangerous to those in the mountains.

To finish off Wednesday, we stress ate nutella , peanut butter and biscuits in the kitchen with our headlamps on. This day got lost in our minds, because although we actually processed A LOT of new information, it really felt like we hadn’t DONE anything. We decided that tomorrow, we needed to DO something, HELP some people. The need to help was our driving force at that point, as it seemed was happening to everyone else in the city too. Must be one of the steps in the emotional process post-disaster.

Stay tuned for misadventures in volunteering and more stress eating!

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