It’s been just over a year since an earthquake shook the mountains and valleys of Nepal on April 25, 2015. I have great sympathy for the victims, having been to Nepal twice and knowing that resources are limited even in the best of times. After the earthquake, the scarcity of clean water, food, and health care was compounded by a lack of shelter as villages crumbled and the lucky escaped with their lives.
Nepal stuns with the beauty of the Himalayas, stretching from Annapurna to the Everest region. I’ve hiked both areas and most “roads” are narrow rocky paths crisscrossing the region, peopled with locals, travelers, and donkeys laden with cases of food (and beer!). I realized how isolated the people were as we walked through forests stopping at the scattered tea-houses for masala tea and momos, the Nepalese answer to the dumpling. People were kind and welcoming. I’m sure the few dollars we spent on our meals were a significant source of income.
Fall is the trekking season and some of our porters had left their farms after the harvest for the more lucrative tourism-supported pay they could enjoy in October and November. And we were just as happy to have them help carry our gear as we trekked on the back of the Himalayas, enjoying the autumn sun during the arid and warm days, wrapping ourselves in our sleeping bags at night, braced against the mountain cold.
When I hear of disasters in another country, it doesn’t feel distant to me when I’ve been there. I think of the people I met and worry for their safety during the event and I worry for their recovery. Location makes all the difference, as a similar event in the U.S. would not have near the same effects.
I was in Japan when the earthquake hit on Friday afternoon, March 11, 2011. I was on a bus on the way to the airport with another colleague after a week of business in Tokyo. I was glad to be leaving as we’d already had some disturbing small earthquakes that week and I felt it was time to be going home before something more serious happened. But our timing was off. When we arrived at the airport, flights were shut down and we spent the night in the airport until flights could restart the following day. I was in a heated building on a relatively cold wet day, with access to restrooms, and some access to food and water through the various vending machines in the airport. The ever organized Japanese handed out sleeping bags. We stood patiently in line, took our bags and staked out a spot for the night. The workers who were stuck at the airport, closed their shops and prepared a place to sleep on the floor. All relatively calm and I’m sure, nothing like the mayhem in Nepal. Of course, we were nowhere near the tsunami zone. But I’ll admit that the constant aftershocks that night while tucked into my airport sleeping bag were unsettling. The cold hard tile floor was not the most comfortable bed but I felt lucky in comparison despite the feeling that I needed to sleep with one foot out of the bag, ready to run for the first exit if the aftershocks turned into an actual quake.
Japan has just had more earthquakes and one shook Ecuador in the last month. Natural events become natural disasters for many reasons. Countries scramble to help and the global response eases the burden but the cycle continues and each time we think that things will be better next time. Like many others, I do what I can, contributing money to various agencies. I also spend time in countries, volunteering my time for other projects with the intent to empower the people and propel them to better lives. And I hope that the men and women I met while volunteering and hiking in Nepal, working in Japan, and traveling in Ecuador are safe and healthy along with their families.
For more travel information, check my website: www.wanderlynn.com
©wanderlynntravel.wordpress.com; photos cannot be reproduced without permission