Three weeks ago our world in Kathmandu changed. Global plates, constantly in motion, get stuck, pressure builds, and then they slide in a lurching motion that stirs the surface, our world.
We counted ourselves lucky. It was the weekend, it was in the middle of the day. Many people lost their lives, but it was not the predicted “Big One” that was going to kill into the six figures. We counted our blessings, but the “what if’s” that were shared were wearing.
- “What if it had been at night?”
- “What if it been a workday?”
- “What if it had been a long weekend when our staff and students scatters to the four corners of Nepal: Langtang, base camps, Namche Bazaar.”
It could have been so much worse.
By the time we gathered together as a staff 4 days later, we had to gone through severe aftershocks, water shortages, and a rising sense of uncertainty about the ground beneath our feet and the country we had come to love. We shared our stories, and bonded as if we had survived a battle.
We were certain about what needed to be done. Online learning for the families that were out of the country. We are a Google Apps campus and have been using Google Classroom since the start of the school year. We added calendar alerts for the parents to monitor student assignments.
We setup a relief site to channel the offers of financial help from our friends around the world. We reached out to numerous remote communities effected by the earthquake. We found out what they needed, then using funds from our donors, we purchased supplies locally and we delivered them, traveling along remote mountain roads.
Linda and I went on one of those trips, to the village of Balthali. First we traveled to the town of Banepa in one of the school’s vans. At Banepa, we purchased rice, oil, and salt to add to the blankets and tarps we brought from Kathmandu.
Everything was loaded into two Bolero trucks. A Bolero is a small heavy duty four wheel drive truck from India that is a popular means of transport onto the paths called roads in Nepal.
Linda rode in the cab of one of the vehicles and learned about post earthquake life from one the Balthali villagers. I stood in the back of the other truck, hanging on to the frame, not unlike I use to do when traveling to the land fill with my father fifty years ago. I bruise a little easier now and was careful not to bruise my painful ribs, I had injured the previous week, any further. The ribs? No, they were not injured stretching out to save a neighbor from falling into a crevasse as the earth split open. I injured them reaching for the TV remote while pivoting my overweight body over my ribs on the arm of an easy chair.
Along the way we passed villagers harvesting the fields. The same work that saved many of them as the earthquake happened in the middle of the day.
The above was suppose to be the end of my post. I had done my mental rewrites and was ready to put thoughts on the screen on Tuesday night. Maybe with some uplifting phrase about the country finally getting to normal. We had power, internet, and our favorite restaurant delivery service, Foodmandu, was back up and running.On Tuesday we were enjoying a nice lunch of leftovers from Imago Dei that had been delivered to our house the previous evening. At the table we were not talking about earthquakes or tremors, but laughing about Catholic upbringings and guilt. Then it started shaking. Easy at first, then with a gathering intensity. Everyone went under the cafeteria tables. It was only adults as all the elementary kids were playing on the field. The shelter of my table was already filled with bodies and I only managed to stuff my head inside, fully conscious of my exposed back. It was a 7.3 earthquake. Again. Another major earthquake.
This time it was a school day for us (Nepali schools were closed). There was a loss of confidence, a loss of sanity, but no loss of life. Training kicked in. Students and faculty gathered on the field. Linda and I were in charge (as we have been on many drills) of the ninth grade. Like all of the other grade leaders, we had our emergency bags. We took attendance. Each group either held up a green card if everyone was accounted for, or a red card if someone was missing.
Everyone was safe. We set up the command table.
We still had internet but cell service was problematic. We used email, our webpage, and Facebook to reach out to our community. Quickly everyone was able to contact their family members either by text or phone. However the city was in chaos. People had rushed out of buildings into the streets bringing all the traffic to a stop.
We set up the tents (again) and passed out water and food.