May 2015

I’m only writing cuz Dil has finally settled down in my lap. He’s a rambunctious dude… But he’s outrageously cute. I’m so happy Luie is so tender with him!  

                   

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 Spring is here and radishes are one of the first sprouts of the season. They give a refreshing bitter boost to any lunch. This pita took less than five minutes to prepare. It’s naan I heated in the oven for 3 minutes, spread cream cheese and chobani plain Greek yogurt, then added shredded carrots and radishes. Slathering this with pink beet hummus adds aesthetic to this already beautiful lunch and topping with peanuts gives it a little crunch. Bon appétit! 

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This natural disaster is a recipe to change you, especially when you are a world traveler at the end of your journey who has escaped for one last spontaneous adventure to Nepal.
Flight over Kathmandu 3 Hours before Earthquake

Flight over Kathmandu 3 Hours before Earthquake

My flight landed 3 hours and 6 minutes before the 7.9 rocked not only my world, but our planet from Katmandu to Dehli.

Lauren, a travel companion met in India the month before, and I had booked an airbnb room for one night.

Lauren and I Landed- Excited to trek across Nepal

Lauren and I Landed- Excited to trek across Nepal

We were drawn to Dil’s Home Stays, located in Kathmandu, because of the rooftop view and positive reviews of Dil’s hospitality on AirBnB.

More than Just a Room in Kathmandu- AirBnB confirmation

More than Just a Room in Kathmandu- AirBnB confirmation

From the instant Dil picked us up at the airport we sensed his outrageously genuine character.

Dil- The most Hospitable Man on the Planet

Dil- The most Hospitable Man on the Planet

This hospitable attitude radiated through his home as his two polite and smiling teenagers Manisha ( Daughter 17)and Diwas (Son 14)

Manisha Lauren and I

Manisha Lauren and I

Diwas Lauren and I

Diwas Lauren and I

greeted us with fresh garden grow lemongrass tea. As we sipped this sweet concoction, thinking life was too good to be true, thoughts raced of the adventure ahead. However, Dil was quite insistent on resting at the house since we had endured a long journey from Rishikesh India and we hadn’t slept in 24 hours.

We and had just settled into our lovely bedroom when the quake hit.

Bedroom at Dil's

Bedroom at Dil’s

Both on our beds ready for a noon nap, we felt a tremor. Then the tremor did not stop, and adrenaline kicked in, and we both stared at each other and questioned- is this an earthquake? We were like scared puppies on all fours, legs out, arms spread, eyes wide, unsure of the world. What do two tourists who have never experienced an earthquake before do in a situation like this? Let alone in a foreign country? Instinctually, we clamoured to the doorframe and reminded ourselves to breathe. Like true millenials we googled, “what to do in an earthquake”, but the Internet was already wiped out. We moved into the living room. The tremors were so strong we could not walk without falling over yet somehow, amoungst the clanking walls, Lauren managed to smoothly move the heavy box TV from the glass table onto the floor as I awkwardly juggled a plastic vase.  (The significance of my contribution in saving important household items vs Lauren’s is laughable in retrospect!) We were thinking of Dil and his family and saving his home in these brief moments.

As we knelt with fright, holding hands, time seemed to stop, yet we realized how dangerous our situation was and that we needed to get outside quickly. We pushed thoughts of the house caving in on us away. Suddenly, our guesthouse owner’s 14 year old son Diwas rushed up the stairs. Our knight in shining armor, he gave us direction when we most needed it. His concern was helping his grandfather, Lauren and me down the 2 flights of stairs. This Nepali brother is so incredibly brave.
Chaos ensued outside in a whirlwind of mothers screaming, babies crying, and the entire community rushing towards the terraced dirt field. It seemed like minutes had passed and the earth was still reverberating violently. Once you are in a supposedly safe place where buildings will not topple and crush your body, your imagination starts to race. At least mine did. As the trembles forced me to the earth, my mother flooded my mind. She is all I could think of. What would she do if I died? I didn’t want her to worry about me. I wanted my mother, and father, and sister and brother, and everyone to know that I had lived a wonderful life and that I loved them. Then self preservation mode kicks back in… What if the quake gets worse? What if the earth cracks open at my feet? You construct survival scenarios in your mind and life moves in slow motion: if the blue building falls, I’ll go there; If that house topples over, I’ll grab the terrified little girl whose mother has hands full with two screaming toddlers. This first earthquake was a maze of memories flashing before my eyes and being frozen in the trembling world.
Suddenly, the senselessly shaking earth came to a hault. We had made it. At least for now. We had little idea what had just happened and didn’t for hours in that field. Two blond white girls (they considered me blonde, I know 😉 in a sea of strangers who instantaneously welcomed us and told us we were beautiful. Looking back, we probably were a cheerful distraction to what was happening. But we didn’t know what was happening. No information. No communicaiton. No electricity. No idea when the next tremor would come. And they did come. According to the USAID site, more than 20 aftershocks—ranging between magnitude 4.5 and 6.6—followed the initial earthquake that afternoon alone.  Unpredictably, every couple of minutes the ground rumbled and fear darted deep into us, every time like a knife re-piercing our hearts. You could hear it in the screams of little kids as their resilient laughter vanished into a run for their mother’s arms. This conundrum between panic and remaining calm is an exercise in self realization unlike anything I have ever known.
Through all this terror, Dil’s family was our strength.

Dil, Diwas, Grandpa, Manisha, Madhu and I finding hope post quake

Dil, Diwas, Grandpa, Manisha, Madhu and I finding hope post quake

Kathmandu View

Kathmandu View

Words cannot explain how grateful I am to be part of this Nepali family and for the protection they provided. They put us- Samed, Lauren and I (the pack), three American guests they had met moments earlier- first in every sense of the word. The entire neighborhood, nearly 100 Nepali people, and the 3 Guests, spooned on top of each other outside that first night, keeping each other warm, keeping each other safe. “Guests are gods in our culture” they proclaimed. 

The tents we "spooned" in

The tents we “spooned” in

For the next week, Dil, Madhu, Diwas, Manisha, Grandpa and the entire neighborhood ensured we were comfortable; feeding us plentiful meals, serving us hot tea, setting aside water for us to wash, and sacrificing their own resources even when devastating news from their home villages was trickling in.

Dill serving us breakfast on his rooftop 2 days post initial earthquake

Dill serving us breakfast on his rooftop 2 days post initial earthquake

Conversing with Dil

Conversing with Dil

Dil’s immediate family, his mother and brother, still live in his hometown of Jyamrunz, a village near Gorkha, the epicenter of the quake where images of extreme damage and casualty continue to flood the world news.  After four days of continual tremors and no communication from his village, a call finally came through. All 7 of us were sitting around their dining room table eating by candlelight (the power was still out), celebrating Manisha’s 17th birthday, when Dill’s phone rang. Luckily, his family and friends were unharmed but their was a quiver in his voice exclaiming that the house he had grown up in, where his mother still resides, and collapsed. He shared that no aid has been able to reach the village due to landslides and rain blocking the pathto where he grew up.

Pray for Nepal

Pray for Nepal

My heart sunk imagining his beloved mother standing in the rain, upon the rubble where she raised Dil’s 9 brothers and sisters. The images on the news now have such a piercing personal connection for me. Over dinner that evening, Dil shared stories of his entire family uniting in that house. There were over 50 grandchildren now. So many cousins and brothers and kids and granddaughters that everyone would have to eat dinner in shifts. He didn’t know how and where everyone managed to sleep in that house the nights they were all together. He smiled as he spoke of these jovial reunions. Then, solemnly he sighed: Thinking out loud he mentioned he might never see some of them again since the house was gone. We all fell silent.

Neighborhood Tents

Neighborhood Tents

Collapsing Buildings

Collapsing Buildings

2015-05-03 11.36.23

We watched this hospital collapse during the second big aftershock of 6.7 magnitude

What Kathmandu Looks Like

What Kathmandu Looks Like

The most impactful way we can thank Dil and the Sapkota family for their graciousness is to give back. Thus, Lauren, Samed, and I (The Pack) have organized a fund to aid Dil’s family and home village, Jyamrunz.  Therefore, in honor of your friendship with me, please do what you can to spread awareness to as many people as possible by spreading the love we received from our Nepali friends and by helping raise funds for the millions of thirsty, hungry and shelterless families throughout Nepal.
Dil’s family resided in Jyamrunz, near Gorkha, the epicenter of the earthquake, and our Pack is happy to say that we will be transferring funds to Dil’s account (in small amounts to avoid any Nepali government intervention aka taxing and bribing). This money will be used to buy clothing, food and supplies for the devastated families and hospitals in the region. I’m hereby assuring that not a single dollar will go to any other cause, you can hold me fully accountable!
The Pack: Lauren, Samed, and I

The Pack: Lauren, Samed, and I

If you can help, literally every dollar, dirham, pound, rial or rupee will help. The average Nepali makes around 120 – 150 dollars A MONTH. So your $20 is about 17% of the total monthly income of a working and fortunate Nepali. The nights are cold, people have already began protesting against their government because of slow aid to help, and families are hungry. It would mean a lot to me, The Pack, Dil’s family, and the nearly 30 million Nepali people if you contributed.

May God, Allah, Buddha, Krishna or whatever you believe in bless you and keep your families safe, healthy, and well.
Surviving a natural disaster like this instantly prioritizes what is most important in life- hospitality, gratitude, resilience, and uniting the greatness inside us all.
Thanks for sharing my personal experience.
This is only one story of the millions affected. You can read my fellow travelers stories here:
Samed: If you’re not moving, you’re slowly dying
Lauren Tyner: My Story
Stay posted for Earthquake Footage YouTube video uploads on the EEETHEWORLD YouTube channel
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Anyone who has experienced an earthquake understands the terror shaking the earth is as frightening as the terror shaking one’s soul. This natural disaster is a recipe to change people, yet three survivors have rallied together to ensure this dreadful experience changes them, and the Nepalese people they interact with, for the better. This inspiration comes from the Sapkota family where Samed, Lauren and Hallie (LouLou) met as airbnbers at Dil’s Homestays.

We invite you to support Dil’s Family Here: NEPAL HOSPITALITY- Rebuilding Dil’s Leveled Village Jyamrunz

2015-04-28 12.23.13

The outpouring of hospitality Dil Sapkota, his family, and all the Nepalese people have shared with us is beyond words. At the instance of the first 7.9 quake, Lauren and Hallie were just settling down for a nap at Dil’s house after a 24 hour journey from Rishikesh, India to Katmandu, Nepal. Samed, was cliff side en route to a mountain village located near Gorkha, the epicenter, when the tremors began. While Diwas, Dil’s son, bravely escorted Lauren and me out of the house to safety in a nearby field, Samed garnered the courage to make a ten hour trek with strangers back to Dil’s house. The three of us united after dark underneath the makeshift shelter where 100 neighbors piled on top of each other for the long night ahead. From that moment on, we endured 79 more hours of aftershocks, two of which registered 6.7 and 5.2 on the Richter scale. From our experience surviving this devastating quake and interacting with the resilient Nepali people, these are our 7.9 ‘quake-aways’ for the better:

2015-04-27 18.01.41

 

  1. Keep Smiling, it’s contagious:  2015-04-29 09.14.302015-05-01 05.56.58

Some people panic in life threatening situations- which is understandable. But we quickly learned if we remained calm, took deep breaths, and smiled through the tremors, people around us would calm too.

  1. Hospitality is hope: 2015-04-26 10.10.11

Dil’s family could not have gone father out of their way to make sure Lauren, Samed and I were comfortable. Only 5 hours after the first quake hit, under the makeshift tent shelter, Madhu, Dil’s wife, and our Nepalese mother equivalent, served us dinner as if we were seated at the living room table. This hospitable attitude and sacrifice in the kitchen to provide us an outrageously delicious meal leaves us speechless. Her willpower to bring us beyond the earthquake and to experience Nepalese food, despite the conditions, inspired us. This ability to carry on life as usual, and even smile, and share dinner embodies willpower in the highest form.

  1. A meal is a big deal:2015-04-26 10.10.192015-04-27 09.13.11

Never in our lives had we worried where the next meal was coming from, and thanks to Dil’s family, we did not have to worry this time either. However, post-quake two million homeless Kathmandu families now had to search for food that would not be prepared in their home kitchens. The Nepali government took over three days to start serving food and providing aid. Walking through the city, we understood what hunger felt like and vowed to be grateful for the food in front of us. Even a week later, villages which have been leveled, such as Jyamrunz where Dil grew up, have yet to receive food and water.

  1. Can’t tell if you smell: 2015-04-29 09.54.21

With electricity out for days, no water pump, and only 500 gallons of water, we adapted to not showering. We joked about the plethora of products stored in our home showers. We thanked dill profusely for the water bucket he set aside for each of us. We doused ourselves in deodorant and perfume, and we enjoyed being with each other, pheromones flowing, because that’s all that really matters. Dil’s daughter Manisha turned 17 three days post-quake. For her birthday, Dil boiled water, so she could take a warm bath and feel clean: A gift which humbled us all.

  1. Spooning with your village isn’t awkward: 2015-04-27 09.44.03

We are all humans. We all need food, water, and sleep to survive. The beauty which comes from disaster is that this human element awakens when you are all relying on each other in survival mode, and this was especially apparent that first night, when sleep fell upon us all. All the neighbors came together…literally. Under a makeshift tarp and bamboo tent, we “slept”100 bodies twisted and spooned across a 250 sq. ft. area. If you need to be warm do this: Grab a partner, sit on your knees in thunderbolt pose… Have your partner sit facing you, but directly to your side then both collapse to your inside, resting your heads on each other’s knees and hips. Your internal organs are protected and heat radiates between you despite the chili outside air. Everyone spooning you on other sides helps too. If you are warm, your mind is left to the hierarchy of other thoughts. And something special happens when an entire village is touching. We will never again take space for granted, and remember this night warm and safe with each other.

  1. Possessions mean nothing and everything: 2015-04-27 08.42.44

As backpackers, Lauren, Samed and I already had an understanding of minimalism; Survivalism was new to us however. When it was safe to head back into the house, we efficiently packed survival packs to grab in case another quake hit and all of our “stuff” would be gone. How many times had we sat in a bar and asked friends, so if you were stranded on an island…what would you bring? Acting this out in real life is a sinking feeling. In my small backpack I fit mixed nuts, biscuits, and shaved coconut (all the food on me), a liter of water (all the water on me), a sweater, 2 shawls, wool socks, (hot during day, cold at night) deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, and perfume (seriously, I have the coco mademoiselle travel container and every ounce of my being loves smelling nice) my journals, a pen, my iPhone, the money I had left, and my passport. You learn to make do with little that you have. We all have a new found joy of possessions. Possessions can be meaningful to you, especially in an instance of survival. Whether you have a lot or have a little, appreciating what you have makes all the difference.

  1. Place your own oxygen mask before others: 2015-05-03 11.36.232015-05-03 11.35.262015-04-29 08.49.422015-04-27 09.44.28

All we could think of post-quake was how can we help? We wanted to help make dinner, we wanted to help rebuild the brick wall that had fallen, we wanted to comfort the crying babies, and we wanted to help in the mountains where entire villages collapsed. Part of this helplessness feeling stemmed from having zero information. All power and communications were down. Anything to help would take our minds off of this scary situation. We were still guests in everyone’s minds and despite the earth shattering event that had just ravaged their country; these Nepalese people were trying to please us. The next day, 12 hours post-quake, we walked into the city. We passed UNICEF, and as grateful as they were to have willing American volunteers show up, they turned us away due to liability and training issues. At the US embassy they let us know USAID and the American Red Cross would probably be coming in a couple days, but for now, just return to your safe place. Helplessness settled in. So we passed a hospital. We felt somewhat glorified purchasing glucose and water from a local pharmacy and just making rounds serving “glucose pané”in the front lawns where injured families waited with their loved ones. As we served them this energy concoction, we felt somewhat relieved as we were contributing to society in some positive way.  I know it’s tough for people to understand, but we did everything we could to help on foot, and sometimes just succumbing to helplessness in a time like this and letting the powers that be take over, is all you can do. We needed time to process our own emotions of surviving the longest recorded earthquake in history too.

.9 Live.love.Laugh life goes on:2015-04-26 10.34.36

Children are wildly resilient. We can learn from the kid that starts kicking the ball back and forth minutes post-quake or the group of younger ones focused on chess. Dwelling on what happened, or even worse, what could happen (and did), couldn’t change anything.  We did our best to help in town at the hospital, but it was through moving forward with life that we realized we were helping most. When we arrived in Pokhara, the usually bustling tourist heaven was turned ghost town overnight. Countless Nepalese people thanked us for being there and contributing to society. Our big dinners and paragliding experiences were not only helping us process the tragedy, but continuing to fuel the economy in a town that needed it more than ever. When we arrived in Pokhara our jeep driver said, yes, I have lost my house, but it will be rebuilt, and we must move on. Extraordinary!

~

YOU CAN DONATE TO DILS FAMILY VIA OUR FUNDRAISING WEBSITE HERE!

 

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