Around 5 am, we woke with the birds and ringing of the temple bells. Everyone eagerly packed up and returned to their homes for some decent rest. Unknowingly, we had slept through several aftershocks and were about to sleep through a few more. Luckily they were small and barely noticeable, therefore posing little threat to our safety.
I woke up again around 1030, still tired. The majority of the day was, again, spent outside and near doors. But for the most part, things seemed to be returning to normal. We watched the news. The death toll was still increasing. Estimates were being made. Slowly more information was coming in from the rural areas that had not yet been reached. We were beginning to get a greater grasp on the extent of the situation.
International aid organizations flocked to the capital alongside search and rescue crews. Supplies poured in, especially from India, and began to be distributed – although aid was mostly limited to the Kathmandu valley. In many affected areas, people complained that they had received no aid or support at all and that the government was doing nothing to help them. There were a few protests on the news. Having spent so many hours traveling on the poor mountain roads and witnessing the terrible infrastructure in Nepal, I wondered how long it would take for aid to reach everyone outside of the capital, especially taking landslides into account. And, like the people, I wondered if the government would do its part to help its citizens.
It was around this time that I began planning my next move. Do I stay and finish my volunteer teaching? Do I try to leave the country, and if so, how? Or, as an aspiring development worker, do I stay and search for an opportunity in the aftermath? What skills do I have that are needed? How am I supposed to extend my visa in the wake of all this? Can I even get into Kathmandu?
A few days before the earthquake, I had lined up an internship with “Voice of Children” – an NGO serving and rehabilitating street children in Lalitpur, just next to Kathmandu. I wondered if this offer still stood. I had yet to hear from anyone there and prayed that the children, staff and their families were all okay.
As night fell, we had a few drinks and discussed the events of the past few days. With all the news laid out, the situation had become clear. I felt for the Nepalese people so much. Many had lost everything, and those who hadn’t were forced to watch the rest of their country struggle and suffer an additional blow beyond those they had already suffered from over the past years. Their most treasured religious and historical monuments were gone, striking at the heart of their national identity and culture. I could not identify with this, despite how much I love Nepal. It is not my home, it is theirs. They love it here far more than I ever could, and their pain is far greater.
Just before bedtime I noticed everyone crowded together, looking up at the moon. When I asked what was going on, they said the moon had “switched positions” and deemed it some kind of superstitious omen. It looked the same to me. Some people laughed about this nonsense, I included. But it was still interesting to see how susceptible people become when they are scared and desperate.
When night fell, we returned to the temple compound. This time, I would be sharing a mosquito net tent with Madhu. There was more room and a bigger blanket for the both of us. I anticipated sleeping through the night.
Besides sharing the area with several other families, tonight we also shared it with three Sadhus – holy sages in the Hindu faith. Alongside the oscillating snores of our neighbors, I listened to the comforting sounds of the Sadhus praying, which went on for quite a while. Their gentle voices and chants put me at ease and helped lull me to sleep. Madhu commented that they normally don’t pray for this long. I responded, “that’s okay” – we all knew Nepal needed the extra prayers.