When I took off to the hills last Friday for a relaxing night out of the city, I hadn’t imagined that my stay would be extended due to a 7.9 earthquake that would hit Nepal. But, while luckily enjoying a drink in an open field, when suddenly a deep rumbling came from the earth below and the tin roofs began to dance, I quickly realized this was not the weekend getaway I had expected.
My boyfriend Ben, who is a student here at Rangjung Yeshe Institute (at Ka-nying Shedrub Ling monastery, Kathmandu), and I had driven out to Dollu, a small village near Pharping, the night before the earthquake for what was intended to be a one night vacation. Instead, we stayed four nights in a small garden with several other families and tourists. During the first quake, most people were fortunately in the fields working. People froze where they were for the several minute duration and, immediately after, rushed from the fields to save their dogs and livestock from crumbling buildings. From the hills we saw poofs of smoke arising from the valley where buildings were falling and the sound of falling rocks or landslides nearby was overwhelming. For hours, we all stayed, half frozen, in a large field. The entire village gathered in a few different spots as we endured the aftershocks- thinking that it was merely a matter of waiting them out before everything could begin to go back to normal. Some people were laughing off the fear, screaming “Ayoooo” every time we felt a rumble but as the village quickly realized the damage that was done and the relentlessness of the aftershocks, a far greater solemnity came over the town.
Having remained in the fields all afternoon, people gradually began to collect blankets and warmer clothing from their damaged homes. All the people collected together under tarps for what would hopefully be only one night but the following morning, the booming aftershocks continued, people’s nerves were tenser than ever, and the damage done was beginning to become a reality.
Ben and I were lucky enough to find shelter inside a small garden restaurant and from within the fences of this small oasis, everything seemed fine. Upon walking through the village, however, we found people suffering much greater devastation than ourselves. Many houses had collapsed, some entirely crumbling to the ground and others showing massively dangerous cracks. During the course of the few days we remained in Dollu, people eventually started emerging from the hills asking for food or cooking supplies. We began to worry about the imminent shortages of electricity, water, food, and first aid. Without internet or cell phone service, it was nearly impossibly to know the extent of the damage the earthquake had caused but these wanderers certainly began to enlighten us of the even more desperate situations in the surrounding hills.
Once the aftershocks began to spread themselves out a bit, we finally worked up the courage to wander outside town a small ways. Heading to the main road that goes through Pharping, we were shocked to see countless jeeps and trucks overflowing with Indian nationals heading towards the border. We encountered a group of ten men walking on the road who told us they were walking to the border. This reality that so many were fleeing the valley confirmed the fear that the earthquake had wrecked havoc far and wide.
I am now back home in Bouddha and sitting in the makeshift, pop-up office of The Chokgyur Lingpa Foundation. Many people from the community, including monks, nuns, foreigners, and locals have come together here to send aid of all kinds to such villages as Dollu, Pharping, and the surrounding areas. Dollu may only be an hour’s drive from Kathmandu but during an emergency crisis, there is no accurate way to describe just how remote these areas feel during a crisis situation. Here in Kathmandu we are well aware of the lack of resources that are available even on the normal day and the difficulties of reaching any place outside of the valley, but now the situation has amplified to an indescribable extent. Thanks to organizations such as the Chokgyur Lingpa Foundation and the loving work of many people both in and out of Nepal, we stand a better chance at bringing aid to the hills before it is too late.