We spent time in Nepal in 2013, right in that area that is close to the epicenter of the earthquake. That is no big deal, of course. Right now, with disaster in chaos everywhere, there are 300,000 tourists there. That we were in a place that is now in a disaster … it just brings it closer to our hearts.
We tried to contact our guides, Pramod and Demar, but of course there is no electricity. Both live in Kathmandu, but odds are this time of year they are out doing their jobs. We can only hope they and their loved ones are survivors.
We caught a bus ride in Kathmandu to Pokhora, where we started our trek through the Annapurna massif. The road was terrible, and every other vehicle was a bus. On the trip we had three flat tires. The passengers, mostly locals, laughed. This is just part of their routine.
The people … I tell my wife that we are seeing the “tourist interface,” and the friendliness is part of their need to bring in money. I don’t believe that people are much different anywhere we go. But the smiles register with us, and are are part of our permanent memory.
Kathmandu – we only saw a little of it. Poverty is extreme, roads are dirt, traffic is chaos. Streets are lined with buildings and dark doorways and people sitting minding stores. Plumbing is scant, odors abound. There are no “lanes” on roads and vehicles form clusters, and passing is routine. Cows, sacred in parts of this world, wander the roads. Beggars are common, and we are told to ignore them, as most are paid by entrepreneurs, a form of chattel slavery. The free market works!
We lived mostly without hot showers and with holes in the ground as toilets. I stopped drinking coffee and learned to eat sparsely, having lemon tea and porridge for breakfast, Ramen noodles for lunch and the same for dinner with a slice of bread. It’s really all I needed. I lost five pounds, and felt good.
So now that chaos has had disaster visited on it. What to do to salve our consciences? Life is so good for us, less so for them. The Nepalese government is cash-strapped and not much good most of the time. I don’t trust the Red Cross. I don’t trust the United States or its military to truly want to do anything worthwhile [unless cameras are present]. The Indian government is very good with disasters, highly efficient. I suppose we could send $$$ that way, but it for us to feel good more than anything we could possible do for them. It is not enough.
So we are just like everyone else, watching in dismay and hoping these very tough people can pull together once again and make their lives livable. The smiles are real.