Oh Nepal

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The news of the earthquake in Nepal have left me utterly heartbroken.
So many lives lost, so many ancient historic buildings and temples destroyed, so many homes in ruins. And so many villages not even accessed yet.
We are fortunate because so far, all of my relatives are safe. The same goes for close family friends. We’ve been in contact with them and the stories they’ve told are devastating.

My grandmother is afraid to go back inside, my uncle has been wandering the streets of Kathmandu and a close family friend who’s also a heart surgeon is almost constantly fighting ti save lives. People are being treated in hospital hallways, out in the open in front of hospital buildings and everywhere else where it’s needed.

Nepal is a country with a rich culture and history. The people are warm and friendly, welcoming to everyone and they need our help.
The infrastructure of the country is weak at the best of times so I cannot even imagine what it’s like now. The government barely said anything so far and neighbours are trying to safe neighbours sometimes with just their bare hands.

#prayfornepal seems like a popular hashtag and I’m thankful for it all but let me be clear: praying alone, being sad alone isn’t enough. Please consider donating whatever amount you can to help to a reliable charity of your choice.
Right now getting basic supplies, medicine, clean water and food and equipment to save people buried in the rubble is probably the top priority, but the rebuilding of the countr y will take a long time and for that too, ressources are needed. Please don’t forget that.

The New York Times has listed some charities here. Austrian readers can also donate to the Austrian Red Cross.

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ETA:
I forgot: Facebook has enabled the safety check, where people who are in the affected regions can mark themselves as safe and let their friends and families know that they are alright. Should you be looking for someone, the google person finder may be able to help you. And last but not least, viber has made calls to nepalese landlines free using viber out.

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Reflection

What did I know – or thought to have known about life? About living standards? Adventure? Poverty? What did I know about myself?

I was in Kathmandu in February once, and I remember being so, so cold. The cold was inside of my bones, seeping through my entire body. I felt like I’d never get warm again. We didn’t have warm water for showers, no heating, next to no electricity, and I woke up more than once in the middle of the night because I was freezing.

So I thought I knew how to appreciate electricity and warm, running water. I thought I wouldn’t take it for granted anymore because I knew what it was like to have to live without it.

The reality is different, though. It’s frightening how fast and easily you adapt back to what you consider normal and take things for granted again once you’re home. And how, from that experience onwards, you think  “Oh well, I can go through anything now.”

How wrong I was.

My days in Africa were filled with difficulties: the language barrier was the most obvious one for me, but it was something I expected to be hard. What I didn’t know about was the complete lack of electricity whatsoever. The lack of plumbing or running water – never mind warm water took me by surprise, too.
I carried buckets of water from the cistern to the main house, making a ten minutes walk seem like eternity. If we wanted hot water for the shower, we had to heat it up over open fire. Toilets? Ha! How about a hole in the earth that was used by the entire village?

Cooking dinner? Awesome when you can’t see anything at all. We sat around a tiny bench, torches in our mouths trying to cut tomatoes and the chicken that was, until a day ago, still living right next to our room.

I thought I’d seen everything. I thought I was conscious of poverty and I thought I was able to handle it all. Culture shock seemed to be a word I thought I didn’t know.  And in a sense I wasn’t shocked, it just took me by surprise. Never once had anyone mentioned that this was how I’d spend those two weeks. Never once had I thought all these things would end up complicating my stay – adding to the already established difficulty I experienced because I couldn’t speak the language that well.

However, my days were also spent with playing with kids, “teaching” mathematics and French, cooking meals, washing the dishes or collecting water. I went on wild taxi moto drives up to a waterfall – the true speed never to be known because the speedometer was broken. I was in a car with four French girls when the driver got lost in the African bush at four o’clock in the morning.

I danced around the fire, clapping and laughing to the sounds of a drum, drinking Togo Gin, eating Fufu, and having a great time.

It was difficult, yes. More so than I ever could have imagined. Was it worth it though, in the end? Yes. A thousand times, yes.

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