Editor’s note: This is another in a series of columns about Palmer Lake resident Jay Heinlein’s work and adventures in Nepal. Heinlein went there with Five14Nepal, which combines trekking adventures with humanitarian projects in the earthquake-stricken country. The Tribune of the Tri-Lakes region, Pikes Peak Newspapers, Inc
By Jay Heinlein
KATHMANDU, Nepal – A year ago, I was happily living my life in Palmer Lake, somewhat oblivious to the devastation that occurred a world away in Nepal on April 25th and May 12th.
On those terrible days, massive earthquakes measuring magnitudes of 7.8 and 7.3, rocked Nepal, unleashing catastrophic death and destruction.
More than 9,000 people lost their lives as entire villages were flattened and 700,000 were displaced. Ancient cultural heritage sites were shaken into rubble. More than 1 million homes and structures were badly damaged. The natural disaster was the worst Nepal had experienced in 81 years.
Global emergency relief organizations responded swiftly and effectively, bringing emergency supplies and assistance for the survivors. And, tens of thousands of volunteers from every continent came to help, bringing expertise, strong backs and big hearts.
Eventually, in October, I traveled to Nepal to seek adventure and provide humanitarian relief. In the months since, I’ve seen the devastation that remains and I’ve met a lot of amazing Nepalis.
From my flat in Kathmandu, I can tell you that a year later, much work remains to be done. Many helpful organizations and volunteers remain in Nepal with the objectives of long-term and ongoing progress and development.
From my travels into the countryside and trekking to mountain villages, I can also report the spirit of the people of Nepal is unshaken by the catastrophes. Even as their world is largely in ruins, Nepalis push ahead with a strong sense of hope, resilience and tenacity.
The Nepali word for resilience is lachak (roughly translated: flexible and springy, able to return quickly back to smooth). Nepalis embody the word. It is inspiring to witness them “springing back” from the most difficult of conditions. These include natural impediments including a harsh winter, and political obstacles that resulted in a crippling supply chain and fuel blockade on the southern border (the blockade was no picnic for us foreigners either), and delays in distribution of billions in foreign aid.
When I arrived in Nepal the havoc wreaked by the quakes was evident everywhere, both in the Kathmandu Valley, where I am based and live, and in the rural villages I have visited including the Districts of Rasuwa, Nuwakot, Chitwan and Nawalparisi.
But, curiously, even in some of the hardest hit areas, the damage seemed to be “selective.” I would look up to see the back of a building completely fallen, and then the adjoining structure would appear to be relatively untouched.
Government officials have said, that it will take several more years to rebuild houses that were damaged or destroyed. In the meantime, tens of thousands of quake survivors continue to live in flimsy tents and makeshift shelters.
Rebuilding efforts are being done, with the consideration that Nepal is located in one of the most seismically active regions in the world. Objectives include building better, more earthquake-resistant structures, while preserving traditional styles and cultural architecture.
What can you do to help? The Nepalis need the world to come visit and lend a hand. Of Nepal’s 75 districts, only about 15 had severe damage. Infrastructure such as the airports and hotels for tourists were generally not affected by the disaster.
Nepal depends on tourism as a mainstay of its economy. It is safe to visit Nepal, and its rich beauty remains.
In my own experience, I have never felt such welcoming hospitality, than by the Nepalis, who dress colorfully and festively, in celebration of life, and show such graciousness, natural joy and warm kindness.
I encourage everyone to consider an adventure/relief trip to Nepal. If you are like me, you’ll come away with memories of a lifetime.
Jay Heinlein is a lifelong writer, a publishing professional for over 25 years and principal of Heinlein Publishing Services. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org