Most of the time we go through the day in the bubble of routine, planning, doing, feeling. We play the scales of our emotional range blindfolded: pissed at being cut-off; happy at the pat on the back, the cute cat video. Then every once in a while something huge occurs, vast beyond our understanding, and the illusion of our control is peeled from the bone, and we are left fragile and exposed in the face of a power that takes no notice of our precious selves. This happened last week in Nepal, when a massive earthquake turned the country upside down.
We had been in Kathmandu just a few weeks earlier, so the experience was still very immediate. Our shipment from there was sent 4 days before the earthquake struck. I am thankful for that, in my own self-interested world, but I am also thankful that the payment to the friends there that we do business with was processed in time, and they have those funds to use in what will be a very difficult time.
Our first concern was with the people we have got to know over the last 12 years. Three responded the first day that they and their families were OK. After that, as expected, communication became more unreliable as cell phone batteries died. The power supply in Kathmandu, sporadic at the best of times, had now ceased completely. We also learned that good friends of ours, Kathy and Bruce Macmillan, were trekking in the Langtang valley, not far from the epicenter, when the quake hit. Slowly news started to come from others in the capital.
For all the destruction that it caused, it could have been worse. Saturday is the common day off in Kathmandu, and offices, schools and many businesses were closed. People were outside with friends and family. Our friend Arif was working on his motorbike in a friend’s garage. The ground started shaking so violently that he was thrown onto the bike. They made their way to the door, to see the building right in front of them collapse. Arif walked through the broken streets back to his home, where family were safe, but outside, afraid to go back in. They spent the next two days sleeping in the street, doing what they could in the neighbourhood. Like most people in the capital, Arif knew friends and family in the surrounding villages. With other friends he started organizing trips into the countryside, taking food and supplies to give away. It soon became clear that no other aid was going to make it to these places, and he appealed to us and anyone else he knew to help in whatever way they could.
Meanwhile we received devastating news about Bruce and Kathy. They were in the village of Langtang when a massive landslide swept it off the mountain. The picture of it posted on the amazing facebook page, Langtang missing/found people taken by Finjo Lopchan on May 1, needs no words. Another account I heard from a Canadian trekker who was in the next village gives one a sense of the power that overwhelmed them. He was sitting in a lodge when the shaking began. The guides told them to run outside. For four minutes the ground heaved and buckled, leaving cracks beneath his feet as he watched the stone buildings around him turn to rubble. When that subsided and they were pulling people from the debris, a thunderous wind came out of nowhere, at least, he estimated, 100km/hr. He looked up and a black cloud of snow and dust was rolling down the valley: the aftermath of the plunging slide that took Langtang.
Everyone knows the paralyzing grief of losing loved ones, but that doesn’t make it any easier. We take inspiration from the example of how to live left us by our dear friends, and the courage and resilience of the people of Nepal. Arif, the son of our Tibetan jewelery maker, is doing great things with his ground-level relief efforts, and we have set up a groupfunding page on a site called fundrazr which can be found here: htts://fundrazr.com/campaigns/0z8Ba. For some descriptions and pictures of what Arif is doing, we have made a facebook page: “Arif’s On the Ground Nepali Relief Fund”. Donations that are made we forward directly to Arif. During May Western Union is only charging us $1/ transaction for the relief funds.
We are also staging a fundraiser of our own at the Community Farm Store in Duncan on Vancouver Island (5380 Trans-Canada Hwy, Duncan, 250 748-6227). On Saturday and Sunday (May 9-10) we will be holding a sale of our goods with all proceeds going to either Arif’s relief fund, or a charity of your choice where the Canadian government will match dollar for dollar all the money we raise. We will have a selection of our beautiful duvet covers, table cloths, jewellery, clothing, art and much more. To view some of our inventory, go to kebeandfast.com. Our sale will be held on the mezzanine from 10-6 both days. We are donating our goods for the event, and the Community farm Store has generously donated the space.
We have been humbled this week not only by the power of our planet, but also by the people, near and far, who have stepped up to help. For a moment let us put aside our cynicism, move beyond the bubble of uncaring comfort that is our default, and celebrate instead the indomitable spirit of joy and bravery I have seen rise from the wreckage of this tragedy.
These were all taken in Kathmandu in March and early April. Click for a larger image, or go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/croquet/sets and view the Kathmandu and Patan albums as a slide show.