Chronologically reversed - seek out the older entries first.....
Following my stint in Bangladesh, I travelled to Nepal to volunteer my services on an organic permaculture farm. Despite my foolish hopes, there was no Internet available to me; not on the farm itself, nor in the surrounding area. During the day I was very busy and, at night, it was very dark, making it extremely difficult to keep a daily diary. I therefore wrote mini bite-sized nuggets of whatever caught my interest as, and when, my interest was caught. Some days had multiple entries, others had none. In all honesty, each day just blended into the next. I have named this part of the website: “’Fermented Piss’ and other stories”. These stories follow immediately my parting from Kathmandu. My experiences in Kathmandu itself can be read at the end of the ‘Bangladesh’ part of the website.
p.s. My apologies to those friends and family members whose last communication from me before I disappeared from the grid for two weeks was something along the lines of “Been arrested in Bangladesh. I’m fine. Speak soon”
p.p.s. As many of you are probably aware, a catastrophic Earthquake struck the country whilst I was there. Partly for this very reason, I have posted these ‘entries’ (or ‘episodes’) exactly as I wrote them at the time. Some of the emotions and observations were made before I became aware of the extent of the disaster, reflecting how I felt at the time. It may perhaps illustrate to you how quickly and dramatically emotions can change in such circumstances. No offence is intended to anyone affected either directly or indirectly by the very sad events that occurred.
Despite the reduction in the number of buses running due to the fear that the road might fall apart at any moment, we boarded one that risks it anyway and set off for Jhapa. The others continue elsewhere, but my destination is the border town of Karkavitta. Despite news that India are willing to grant Temporary Landing Visas for those who need safe passage, this message has clearly not filtered through to the Nepalese immigration officers yet. I’m resigned to spend a night here in the meantime, contacting the embassies for a confirmation email of this arrangement to try again tomorrow. I’m offered a passage by a ridiculously dodgy man who “knows a guy” but, my adventures in Dhaka still fairly fresh in mind, I decide against it. I’m so glad that I’m yet to publish online the fact that I dipped a foot in India illegally just a few days ago.
Wow – so much worse than we could have possibly imagined. We finally get a full report from Kathmandu, and the description given to us by a friend there is “Kathmandu is f*cked!” We’re told that it suffered in excess of 10 tremors, each further destroying the city, and increasing the death toll. Messages have come through on my phone from panicking friends and relatives, but we’re without TV or Internet so it’s still impossible for me to fathom just how bad it could be. I was there just 4 days before it struck – I still have that vision in my mind of a peaceful, tourist area.
We trek several miles to the nearest Wi-Fi spot in order to send emails and messages to loved ones, to comfort them that we are far away and safe. I post a light-hearted comment that I’m invincible for now, but there’s an ominous feeling of guilt throughout our party: guilt that we laughed in the first place, guilt that we’re safe; and guilt that we’re unable to help. The villagers are panicking and, through second, third, and/or fourth hand information, are convinced that their houses and lives are in mortal peril next. Their country is falling apart, and their families and friends are in amongst the worst of it. We feel like strangers, imposing on personal grief. It’s time to leave. In the morning, we head off to the Indian border to try to arrange safe passage away.
News is filtering through that that little Earthquake we felt was not so small after all. The radio tells us of a measurement of 7.5 on the Richter scale. If I remember my Geography lessons from school, that’s pretty bloody big. Phone lines are down, and network providers have stopped working. We’re told that Kathmandu has suffered damage, but there’s no way of contacting anyone there to find out. The radio mentions one tower there that contained more than 400 people collapsed, and that many of those will have died. We’re feeling guilty for laughing about it earlier now.
One of our many projects here will be to build a kitchen out of pounded Earth. In a nutshell, we take dirt, shape it in a particular way, and then pound it tight until blisters form on our hands. The outside of such buildings are rarely all one colour due to the layered approach of the building work, so it’s not ideal for the aesthetically obsessed, but it does have some particular advantages such as natural regulation of temperature, and resistance to fire.
This, without a doubt, is the most physical exercise I’ve done in a while. Unfortunately, it mostly exercises the forearm. Having been single now for two years, that’s the one part of my body that doesn’t really need the extra exercise…..