Relics and Hope – Nepal Part 3

In Humanitarian Response, Nepal on May 4, 2015 at 7:27 pm
5/4/15 Kathmandu, Nepal
I went to a Cultural Orientation session this morning held at the UN compound.  It was very enlightening, the facilitator was a British man who’s lived here for 17 years, married to a Nepali.   Then my colleague, also married to a Nepali, she walked me around the city center where all the old buildings were – it was breathtaking.  Not just the damage, but what is still there!  It was just incredible, the shrines, temples, and holy things all around – just too much to process.  I took a ton of pictures, I’ll have to see if I can download them off my phone so I can keep taking more.
One thing that’s inspiring is how much they’re cleaning up.  They’ve started stacking up the bricks and salvaging what they can.  People are sweeping up and getting on with life.  There are still a lot of shops closed – many people have left the city to go back to their rural family homes, kind of a reverse  migration.  It unclear if this is temporary or not. The proprietor of the guesthouse where I’m staying has been selling a lot of bread and pastries, more than usual, because the normal bakers in the neighborhood have left. 
It’s been good to see life returning to Kathmandu – people circulating, taking care of business.  Restaurants and shops open.  Even kids playing.  There is still a lot of damage and the effects on this country will last for a generation.  But there’s definitely hope here.  That’s always inspiring. 

Snot Nosed Aid Worker, Nepal Part 2

In Humanitarian Response, Nepal on May 2, 2015 at 5:48 am
Saturday, 2 May 2015, Kathmandu
Yesterday I got a tiny taste of the field work.  We received a shipment of various household goods that had come overland from our India office. Three giant trucks, loaded with sleeping mats, blankets, soap, buckets, tarps, and rope, enough for about 500 families.  Our initial goal was to unload the trucks and then put about 300 kits together.  I helped unload, we got about 1 1/3 of the way done unloading when it became evident we were way understaffed, so we left the rest for today.  They ended up completing that today, and tomorrow there will be an initial distribution to 250 households, or about 1250 people (we average 5 people per household in Nepal.)
Going to where we were unloading the trucks, I got to ride across the city and see a little bit more.  The damage from the earthquake varied from untouched to totally destroyed.  There were some new construction sites where you could tell they were using reinforced concrete with rebar, those places seemed like they were in good shape.  There were a couple of tall apartment/office buildings with big cracks; those probably won’t survive another big shake without being reinforced. There are some really quaint looking parts to this town. I’m bummed I have to come here after so much has been destroyed.
For a country prone to earthquakes I’m surprised with the amount of brick construction they’ve used. The regular, small red bricks. Blocks of buildings are made with bricks – the structures that were not buttressed by neighboring properties mostly fell down; lots of roofs had caved in as well. Many brick walls have fallen – this makes it interesting because it exposes some of the fancier properties that were previously very private.

Change of subject… I’ve got such a cold, it’s annoying.  My colleagues here will remember me as the dude with the cough and runny nose. So far the food here has been pretty good.  They like spicy food, which is nice. Lots of rice, lentils, and veggies, it’s very simple. My guest house host makes me a nice omelet in the morning.

Red Eyes and Airports – Nepal Earthquake Response Part 1

In Humanitarian Response, Nepal on April 30, 2015 at 8:48 pm
27 April 2015, 2:35pm, Home
I’m booked to go to Nepal. It’s turning out to be this year’s banner natural disaster.  My NGO has mobilized very quickly and we’re sending in a large team, mostly made up of people from the India program but also from around the region.  There are still many people with fresh experience in both the Philippines and even Haiti.  Something about Natural Disasters brings out stronger motivation in people – way more than these civil war or political violence situations. I’m struck with how much momentum there is to help in this situation when it’s just as dire in Syria or South Sudan…  But some altruism is better than none.
I’m steeling myself to absorb some serious tragedy. My job is as a Human Resources Technical advisor – I’ll be going to facilitate staffing – local and international.  I expect I’ll be interviewing many local people and helping hire them on – so I’m expecting to hear a lot of awful stories that are fresh in people’s minds… I’ll be there by Thursday so the disaster won’t even have been a week old by then.
I have to pack a tent and sleeping bag, and they say it’s raining. The weather shows that it’s only in the mid 70’s during the day, so I’m not too worried about it being extremely cold, although I suppose it could get cold at night.
29 April, 2015 7:25pm Istanbul Airport
This is my 5th time flying through Istanbul.  I actually have a frequent buyer card with the Caffe Nero here, a few more lattes and I’ll get a free one.
Love the total internationalist crowd that flies through here, it really is a true cross section of humanity, with Africans, Asians, Europeans, the Americas…  I passed by my gate, it’s a little too early to be there, but I can already spot the aid workers.  Looks like there are some search and rescue (SAR) people, as well as some European aid workers. I didn’t wear my NGO shirt… I seems to like wearing the same outfit when I travel, which is currently jeans and a thin cotton button down shirt.
Thank god for the T-Mobile international data roaming… Tons of emails on Nepal, looks like my first order of business will be to help staff up for distributions we’re planning for May 1. Than to get a handle on all the international staff that have come through.  We’ve got a lot of staff with relatively recent disaster experience in the Philippines, and our veterans are from the Haiti response.  This is my first big deal disaster response deployment, on this scale. I hope it doesn’t show to my colleagues… For my past jobs it was more second wave, going in once early recovery started.
30 April 2015 Kathmandu, Nepal
Arrived this morning, that was a brutal travel schedule, two red-eyes in a row.  I kind of slept but my body clock is just broken.
Flying in, I was surprised with how much of Kathmandu looks totally fine.  I have no frame of reference as this is my first time to Nepal.  But talking to people about it – this was already a pretty poor country, with typical run-down areas and roads, etc.  There were many buildings that looked totally fine, whole areas and neighborhoods that were in tact.  Driving through the city, there were some shops open, selling anything – fruit, household goods, like your typical bodega shops.
Apparently there is a 3 day mourning period going on right now, so many shop are closed. That would explain how dead it was in the city when I was driving around at about 8:45am.

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