April 21, 2015 – “I read somewhere that whenever there is an earthquake in Nepal, we’ll all gonna die because houses aren’t built safely.” “Don’t worry. Something like this will never happen.”
April 25, 2015 – It’s Saturday. Farmer’s Market day in Kathmandu. Even though I have been there many times before, I felt excited. Finally some good coffee, pancakes, sweets and bread. I have been to Nepal for more than two months now, but I simply don’t get use to the food. I might be too picky but I’m just not the “rice-and-lentils” kind of girl. I’m graving for fresh fruits and vegetables almost every day and that’s why Farmers Market is so special to me.
While we were sitting on the steps, enjoying our veg sandwiches, coffee and fresh pressed fruit juices, we realized that something was different today. And indeed there were less people. Usually it was crowded, busy, chatty, full of life but this day it felt kind of dull and lifeless. We blamed the bad weather conditions.
After talking to some friends and buying home made snickers and sugar-free cake for my colleagues at work, we moved on to Thamel – one of the most touristic parts of Kathmandu – to get some souvenirs. Clueless of what will happen in about an hour, the most important thing for me was to get a haircut. So I left the others, who where searching for the cheapest Buddha or Ganesha statue, and headed to a nearby Spa. (I might appear to you as superstitious but this morning was, until 11.56am, a normal Saturday morning to us. At this moment, nobody knew that this day will change our lives forever.)
“I had the strange feeling, that I will not get a chance to get back there.”
Me and my new haircut joined the others at Pilgrims Bookstore where I decided to get some souvenirs for my friends and family back in Austria. I had the strange feeling, that I will not get a chance to get back there, so I grabbed some scarfs, pencils, cards and notepads. Outside we were discussing what to do next while a friend of mine was still looking for some tiny Ganesha statues.
Suddenly, things happened very fast and I hardly remember them: people were screaming and started running away, a woman got almost hit by a car, windows broke, someone grabbed my arm and pushed me in the middle of the street, I felt my friends next to me, I didn’t know what just happened until someone said “an earthquake, we have to get out here”. I panicked, my hands were shaking, my whole body was shaking, I started crying. I didn’t know what to do, I felt nothing but fear.
It was Peter who got us out. It was also him who pushed us in the middle of the street, who hold our hands and who made sure that we neither get hit by a car nor by something else (f.e. pieces of glass or bricks falling down). I have never believed in guardian angels but I know that I would have been dead without Peter. I do owe him my life, that’s for sure and I will always be grateful and thankful for that. (Peter, if you are reading this: THANK YOU! You literally saved my life! I wouldn’t be able to write this if it wasn’t because of you!)
“It was like in one of those movies where everything behind you collapses and the only solution is to run.”
I remember that I asked my friend Simone to hold my hand, she was shaking and crying too. Somehow, we made our way out of Thamel. We managed to get to an open area and tried to call another friend of us who was supposed to be nearby. We couldn’t reach her. The communication system had already broke down. We continued our way to the big crossroad when suddenly Nepalis began to run. I turned around and expected one of the big buildings to collapse but instead I saw a crowed just running in our direction. I had the urge to scream at them “stop running and panicking!” but instead I started running myself. It was like in one of those movies where everything behind you collapses and the only solution is to run.
The street was blocked by cars, mostly taxis who tried to get away from the small streets in Thamel. A pylon had fallen on a car, a man’s foot was terrible bleeding and another man held the body of a little girl in his arms. She was most probably dead.
“I’m not born to be a hero.”
People asked me how I felt during the earthquake but I can’t answer that question. I felt nothing at all. I was paralyzed by fear, even the days after. I couldn’t sleep or eat, I started crying for no reason and I panicked when I got near a house or when an aftershock hit. The only thing I wanted was to get back to Europe, back on safe ground as soon as possible.
Today, one week after my arrival in Luxembourg, not only the earthquake is still hunting me in my dreams. I feel guilty that I have left so many behind but I also know that I would have been more trouble than help. I’m not born to be a hero. I’m the one who sits in the corner, crying and waiting to be rescued. Playing a main role is not my part in life, I’m supposed to be in the background and to write about people who are doing amazing and to whom we can look up.
And that’s what I’m doing now:
First of all there is Sam, my boss. I haven’t seen her after the earthquake but I talked to her on the phone and I’m pretty sure that she was well dressed and groomed as always. She told me, as if nothing happened, that she’ll send me my internship certificate as soon as possible. Nothing, not even an earthquake can wind her up. (Thank you Sam for being not only a great boss but also a role model.)
Then my colleague Priya, who I envy because she’s not only extraordinary pretty but achieved so much and works so hard. She was the one who told me that we have to live in reality and carry on. How can someone that young be that tough? (Thank you Priya for not only being the nicest colleague ever but also a friend.)
I don’t even know what to write about Nirnit because he is just indescribable. He is the most funny person I have ever met and I’ll never forget him lip-singing “Uptown Funk”. He told me that he and friends are helping some people in affected areas in Kathmandu by bringing food and medical supply and I am pretty sure that he is not only bringing help and hope but puts also some smiles on people’s faces. (Thank you Nirnit for making me smile and for trying to introduce me to Kathmandu’s nightlife. It didn’t work this time, but there is always a next time.)
Furthermore there is Sanjog, the not so nepalese looking photographer who will surprise you everyday anew by f.e. collecting, organizing and distributing supplies all around Kathmandu and Kathmandu Valley. Due to social media I know that he and his team helped a lot of people and brought them the help they desperately needed. (Thank you Sanjog for sharing your Italy-experiences with me and for showing me around in Kathmandu’s shopping areas.)
And then there is, of course, everybody else from M&S. Due to the limited time I had there, I didn’t get a chance to know you all but you guys are doing a great job and I think it’s incredible that you had a meeting only a week after the earthquake. Special thanks to Astha, Binit, Grung and Biraj for being nice and kind to me. So far it has been the best internship I have ever had, due to this amazing crew.
Furthermore there are my girls. I have never seen someone that tough, full of energy and strong but words can’t describe what they have done. When I lost faith and fled back home, they stayed in Nepal to help. Now it is our turn to help them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1588264324746561/?fref=ts
Simone: Thank you for holding my hand seconds after the earthquake.
Sissi: Thank you for being so optimistic and fearless.
Mareike: Thank you for making jokes and reading out loud the horoscope even a day after the earthquake.
Anna: Thank you for thinking that you are old at the age of 23 😉
Helen: Thank you for sleeping next to me even though I haven’t had a shower within 3 days.
Last but not least I want to thank everybody from the area where we slept two nights. Even though most of them had lost a lot because of the earthquake, they still offered us tea, food and company. They stayed calm when I panicked and kept me smiling when I wanted to cry.
(Dieser Text erschien ursprünglich 2015 auf meinem ersten Blog.)