Thursday, May 7, 2015

Earthquake Series: Part 3 Monday April 27. So is it safe YET?

Monday, April 27

Wake up at US Embassy Facility - 5:30AM

I woke up REAL early, and REAL hungry, possibly by a tremor, around like 5:30 or 6. My friends had slept in another tent (their tent was full when I had arrived), and were all still asleep. I couldn’t believe how well I had slept, or how much better I felt. I braced myself to eat cold pasta for breakfast, but was informed that if you searched thoroughly enough you could fine OATMEAL. YAY! And I managed to find one!!! I once again failed to properly use the heating packet, so I braced myself to eat cold oatmeal. This oatmeal tasted like muffin batter! Apparently the diet of an American soldier overseas consists of just sugar in different forms, including a literal packet of sugar to make “juice” with and a packet of table syrup (to put on what? My oatmeal?). Not wanting to waste the precious non-pasta meal, I forced myself to keep eating until it was finished. 

The US camp actually had very lovely washroom facilities for us to use. The water was being pumped out of the swimming pool, providing us the luxury of hot showers, which I don’t even have in my apartment here. I didn’t take one on this day due to lack of any shower supplies, but definitely put hot shower on the mental to-do list. I brushed my teeth (I forgot to mention last time that I went about 36 hours without brushing them) and it felt so good. 

Team meeting @ US camp: 7AM

At some point early in the morning, the security guy who has been put in charge gathered us together to inform us that he would not tolerate blanket hoarding, and if he caught anyone with more than 1 blanket in the upcoming night, he would kick them out into the street, even if it was the middle of the night. I actually laughed a little, because, like, what a crazy, overreactive, extreme American thing to say. My American friends later confirmed that they too thought the punishment seemed a little extreme for the crime. He also informed us about the safe haven, the shop part of the building that had bullet-proof glass. We were to run into there in the case of “people coming over the walls”. *GIANT EYE ROLL HERE* Get over yourself US Embassy. We found out later that this asshole hadn’t even been in Nepal for the quake. No street cred.

Leave from camp: 9 :30AM

My friends and I discussed our options for the day, not sure if we’d be spending the night in the camp again or not. My American roommate had left for the airport around 4AM. We had no idea if she would actually get on a flight or not. I decided to leave my stuff there but leave for the day. My one friend had been with me at the farmer’s market when it struck. Here house is on the other side of town, and she hadn’t felt safe enough to go home since Saturday. I offered to go with her to check on her place and her roomate, as she hadn’t heard anything from her yet. We checked with the consular staff to see if it was safe, and she made a displeased face and said “well, we’ve heard of some muggings”. We went anyway, because that seemed pretty unlikely to happen to us in the middle of the day. Before we got in a taxi, we walked over to the hostel (very nearby) so I could check on my friend again. He had been working non-stop since Saturday, all day and all night, helping guests get to their embassies and evacuate and such. So he was passed out, but at least I knew he was still safe.

Take taxi to Patan: 10:00 AM

We jumped in a taxi, but screwed up and took it from the main tourist area where they always overcharge anyway. PLUS earthquake price. We had no idea what earthquake price would be. We agreed to 800 rs, (usually 300 tops) and took off. Along the way I asked the driver how his family was. They were fine. How was his house? His house had been destroyed. We drove past Ratna Park, and he pointed into the tent-filled area and said “my family is here”. This was our first time to drive through other areas of the city, and seeing the tents helped the situation to sink in a little further. Along our way, we still didn’t come across any scenes of total destruction. Mostly we noticed small piles of debris, small walls toppled, makeshift tarpaulin tents in odd places and bumps in the road that we were pretty sure hadn’t been there before. When we got to our destination, I gave the driver 1000, told him to keep the change, and use it to keep his family safe and healthy.

The tents in Ratna Park

Arrive at friend’s house: 10:30AM

My friends neighbourhood was comletely intact. The only noticeable differences were a bus park full of busses that should have been running, more people than usual walking around with nothing to do, and a community electrical plug-in that someone had set up on some steps. My friend’s apartment was even more unaffected. Her water was running, her electriciy was working AND there was wifi. It was like some magical earthquake-proof castle. We pulled out our devices and internetted furiously for like 2 hours. We stress ate a whole bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter cup mini’s. Eventually, I needed to head back to my apartment to meet my German roomate and decide our action plan. My friend decided to stay in her apartment because it was so luxurious, had an earthquake-proof wall and her roomate would be staying there too.

Head for home: 2PM

We walked to the main road, saw NO taxis, but did see a bus that could take me home!! So weird to be riding on a bus, just like it was a normal day. On the way back, the bus passed a temple that had been TOTALLY destroyed. Like, you couldn’t even tell it used to be anything. Part of a statue in a roundabout had come down. The stadium was full of people (no roof). Malls were missing windows and parts of their signs. We didn’t drive by the site, but it was clear that you could no longer see the Dharahara tower where it used to stand. Eventually we got back to the park, and it was full of tents. I hoped to myself that the majority of those people still had houses they could return to when the aftershocks had subsided, and were just sleeping outside for safety like me. At this point, the bus got PACKED, and some of the fear instilled by the Americans started to rise in me. “Shit, what if someone does something? Tries to rob me?”, amongst other silly things. Of course, unsurprisingly to anyone who has been to Nepal, when it came to my stop, I made the helpless foreigner motions, and about 10 people started shouting for the driver to stop, and were moving out of my way, and helping me make my way towards the door, just like they always do. Stupid fear-mongering! Works way too well!
The temple was 10 times bigger than these pillars, now just rubble.

In my apartment: 3PM

On my way home, I noticed that some of the shops in my neighbourhood were open, which I took as a wonderful sign. I got home, talked to my landlord, and chatted with my German roommate. Apparently the German embassy was not nearly was well set up as the British or American. They weren’t given food until lunch that day (so like, almost 24 hours without), and she had shared everything she had taken with others. This includes her sleeping bag. She said three of them were using it! They didn’t provide them with anything, they had to dig their own toilet out in the backyard, and they didn’t help them to figure out flights home or contacting family in Germany. Sounded like the embassy staff were practically trying to be as unhelpful as possible to a bunch of people that had just been through a traumatic experience. Not very cool. 

Leave for embassies: 5PM

While we chatted, there was a knock on the door, our new British roommate to move into the American roommates room! Talk about good timing to move apartments. She had luckily managed to catch us at home. We all agreed to go back to our embassies to spend one more night to get us through the high-risk 72 hour period for aftershocks. This had been originally 24 hours, extended to 48, and finally to 72. We had gone the whole day with no serous aftershocks like Saturday or Sunday, but if they weren’t staying here I definitely wasn’t going to stay here alone. We agreed to meet back at home again the next day around noon. We packed up my German roommate with enough food for the evening, I grabbed my shower supplies, and we headed out again.

Arrive back at camp: 6PM

Back at the American embassy facility, I managed to get a spot in the tent with my friends, as some others had left from there to go to the airport. I ALSO managed to grab a camping mat! WOO! Major upgrade from my cardboard (but I still kept it under the mat anyway because it was like my Wilson). I rummaged through the food and opted for ratatouille. There was a Canadian couple in our tent, and one of them had actually figured out how to use the chemical heating packs! So her wife explained to us how to do it, and we got excited for our hot food! We joked about how Americans and Canadians WOULD be the group of people to survive a huge earthquake but then all get diabetes during the aftermath. So. Much. Sugar. I somehow managed to screw up cooking my thing AGAIN, but it at least was warm. That evening, the couple who had left in the morning were spotted walking back into the camp around 8AM, and we were all like “shiiiiiiiiiiit”. They’d gone to the airport at 10AM, sat around all day with no food or water, were told their flight would be leaving the next morning instead.

People who failed to get on flights arrive at camp: 8PM

Background: the Kathmandu airport is TINY. One landing strip, 5 docking station (is that an airport or a spaceship? Whatever). Their plane arrived at the airport, but had to wait while aid planes landed. Eventually, it had to fly off to Calcutta to refuel. It returned later, but the same thing again. Aid planes were being given priority (understandably, most would agree). Their plane ran low on fuel a second time, and gave up for the day. I cannot even begin to imagine how chaotic the airport was. I landed right after they cleaned up the Turkish Airlines plane that had crashed (just a little, no fatalities), and I thought it was mayhem THEN.

Big bedtime tremor: 9 or 10 PM

As we were settling into our beds, we felt one more large tremor, enough to cause us to sit up abruptly, but not enough to make anyone get out of bed. I think we all went “UGHHHHH STAAAAAAWP IT!” I was immediately glad we’d decided to sleep outside again. I was asleep within 30 minutes from then.

Stay tuned to hear about the end of immediate threat of danger, the beginning of learning about the extent of the damage and incredibly uncertainty. 

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