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
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
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
From the instant Dil picked us up at the airport we sensed his outrageously genuine character.
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
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
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 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
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
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
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 path
to where he grew up.
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.
We watched this hospital collapse during the second big aftershock of 6.7 magnitude
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
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