Monday, May 4, 2015

Nepal Earthquake 2015 Part 2: It's over, right?

Sunday, April 26

British Embassy: 6AM

After being fed a meal of not so terrible oatmeal, we were briefed by the ambassador himself. Officially, we were told to go back to our homes/hotels and get our stuff together. British nationals could return when ready to leave (the country), the rest of us encouraged to seek out our own government’s help, but told we would be welcomed back if there were any further major occurrences. We hoped (again) that things were tapering off, so we decided to head home and shop for some post-apocalypse supplies (water, hand sanitizer, pasta). My American roommate had a flight scheduled for the next day (Monday), so she went to the airport to see if she would be flying on time or not. Everyone else left for home as well. When we got home, we met our landlord, who informed us that our water tank (on top of the roof) was leaking, and advised us to fill as many buckets as possible with the remaining water so it wouldn’t be wasted. After this crazy exercise, we (myself and my German roommate) were both so exhausted, we crashed on our beds. Unfortunately, we couldn’t help the feeling that we were constantly moving (could have been because we were!). I didn’t sleep at all. At about 10 AM I could no longer ignore the hunger, so I went to the kitchen and devoured an entire BBQ chicken thigh I had purchased the day before at the farmer’s market. It was delicious, and I was much happier afterwards. I went back to bed and tried unsuccessfully to sleep some more.

Arrive at home: 8 AM

We had been feeling small tremors all morning, but nothing very large. Then, at about 1PM, the house started to shake, but instead of subsiding after a couple seconds, it intensified. I dove under my desk, which I had left placed in the doorway (apparently the safest place to be if indoors). I yelled to make sure my roommate was awake and doing the same in her room. I could hear the water in the buckets we had filled sloshing around and spilling all over the floor. Finally it stopped. With our adrenaline pumping again, we found each other in the hall and decided it was definitely time to go back to the British Embassy. This was the second big aftershock, 6.7 (some information says it was a second earthquake, some say that even if it is a second earthquake it still counts as an aftershock because it was triggered by the first one). After experiencing that inside my apartment, I can truly not imagine what the bigger one must have done to the place. We took a few minutes to pack our bags so that we were better prepared than the night before, taking warm clothes, medicine and some food, and headed back to the embassy. We bumped into our landlord and he agreed that we were probably best off there. 

6.7 Aftershock/second earthquake: 1:09 PM

When we got back to the embassy, they were a little more hesitant about letting us in this time, but we promised that we wouldn’t use up their resources and just wanted to sit on the lawn and be safe from earthquakes, so they let us in. Surprisingly (to me, the one who clearly forgot to think for a while), there were more people arriving on Sunday than there were on Saturday. In hindsight, obviously, these were the people who had been outside of Kathmandu Valley on Saturday. We chatted on one group of British people who had been rafting when it happened. They said they were in a gorge and the rocks started to fall around them. Their boat guide freaked out and jumped out of the boat and left all the tourists on their own to try to navigate. Luckily, they were able to survive the incident and make it back to the city in one piece.

Arrive at British Embassy again: 1:30

After sitting and relaxing at the embassy for a while, we were informed that most nationalities were being redirected to their own embassies. My roommate and I were determined to stay together, and I ignored the call for Canadians to load into a van to be driven to the American Embassy recreational facility (embassy workers get their very own complex with a pool, spa, full size baseball diamond and tennis court, exclusively for them to use. Even regular American citizens can’t get in there without a special invitation!). Eventually, we were all gathered together again to be told that we would be asked to leave: Canadians to the US camp and Germans to their embassy. They told us that they didn’t WANT to force us to leave, but they would have to place priority on making space for British nationals. They were still so polite, and they insisted on cooking us up some food before we left. We walked part of the way together, and split up, not sure when we would see each other again. I headed into the US camp.

Arrive at US camp: 4:30 PM

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of Americans that I like A LOT. However, I was a little apprehensive about entering into this American sphere of abruptness, fear-mongering and libertarianism (all just hunches at that time), especially after the good humour and politeness I experienced at the British embassy. First impression: in a city where almost every neighbourhood had lost power, this US facility was still running their metal detectors and x-ray scanners for bags. I was asked to hand over the butter knife stashed in my bag to spread peanut butter with. After this, a consular service worker asked for our details and whether our families had been notified that we were safe. Right after speaking to the consular service lady, I spotted my American roommate who had braved the chaos of the airport earlier that day. I wasn’t very surprised to see her, as I’d been hearing that it was total madness. She told me that she got there, looked around for about 15 minutes, and without speaking to anyone decided to leave and return to the city to the US camp. She said there WASN’T anyone there to speak to, and had decided to just try showing up the next morning at the time her flight was scheduled and see what happened. I also met up again with all the people who had been at the British camp the night before. Some people hadn’t even bothered going home, even before the big quake at 1PM.

The American Camp. Not too shabby.

Meet with friends at US camp: 6 PM

The American camp was mostly operating on an every man for himself principle, so I scavenged a piece of cardboard that was about the length of my body, and traded some precious 3G time for a blanket with my American roommate (like straight up prison/refugee camp style). I found a nice spot on the ground to set up my bed, away from the edges of the tent and near a big group of other Canadians (strength in numbers plus they are friendlier!). Then I searched through the boxes of MRE (Meals Ready to Eat?), aka Soldier Food, and found some pasta, which I ate cold because it turns out you have to have a degree in physics to figure out how to cook that stuff. Much to our surprise (and delight), the MREs contained Poptarts!!!! Now, I’m old enough to know Poptarts are gross, but if that wasn’t the most comforting thing I’d seen in a long time…Unfortunately, the ones I got weren’t frosted, so that was disappointing. 

"Soldier food". Not amazing, but very appreciated.

I chatted with my friends for about 20 minutes (discovered they were ALSO stoked about the Poptarts), managed to get ahold of a couple more Nepali friends on the phone, and promptly fell asleep at about 8PM. And I slept like a log through the whole night, with my cardboard mattress, my backpack pillow and my one blanket, unaware of the continuing tremors and the heavy rain, because that’s what 36 hours of cycling between adrenaline and anxiety does to a person. 

Asleep by: 8 PM

And that concludes the second day of post earthquake life. Stay tuned for more about Camp USA, venturing into the south side and stories from the German Embassy.

1 comment:

  1. Great story Mary. Thanks for sharing and stay safe.