An earthquake of magnitude Mw 7.9 hit the region in central Nepal only 13 km away from Muchok Olang, a small rural village in the Muchok district in the hillsides beside of Barpak, where the epicenter hit.
While driving the last hour the amount of fully damaged houses increased drastically. From the bottom of the hillside we walked 1 hour up a steep foot trail in pitch dark, with only the Maglites and sound of the jungle around us.
Photos - David, Corinne, Christoffer & Leila
Hot and sweat we entered the village first meet by the ruins of the school. Then a warm welcome to what we realized was the shelter camp of the village. They had prepared Dal Bat (traditional rice and lentil dish) and shared roksie (local wine), snack and water pipe. They gave us their nicely prepared bedrooms on our arrival.
We ate, drank and talked in the light of maglites telling us us about their experience and needs. Roads and community solar panel. Approx 3 km road is destroyed connecting 9-10 000 people in the area. One solar can give one bulb to each 7 households.
They told us that they did not want a stone house anymore and had decided to live in shelters for the next decades. They spoke out of fear of experiencing their houses collapse. Our job is to convince them that there is earthquake resistant building techniques available and that we hope they will keep their traditional home and culture.
I woke up 05.18 from the goats just outside my beds “window”. A square hole in the wooden planks they had cleverly build their shelters from, covered by a rice bag curtain. I love it I do really love the mountain life - even though the reason to visit now is sad.
I get outside getting an overview of the camp and meet two ladies doing their morning routine, washing dishes and themselves. One of them sits down in front of me with her blue saree wrapped around her bust. She is clearly sad and terrified. She explains what happened and how they now live, she cries, I cry. The morning is beautiful and the Himalayan landscape as amazing as always. The contrasts melts within me.
Im of to look around, passing total ruined houses, facades, walls, buffaloes and goats. The water from where we drank our water from the previous night is poring from the well. I meet the camps “granddad” which tells me how the earthquake trembled as something that sounded like a massive drill before the ground moved from side to side as the houses collapsed.
I wash my face and am amazed on how they have set up the camp. Everyone has gotten shelters. They have cleverly helped each other sort out stones from wood and built fully functional wooden shelters with galvanized metal plates as roof. The earthquake has thought them the importance of solidarity. Families that before cared of their own had helped the more needy to build their needed shelter. They cooperate and function as a connected people taking care and helping the once weaker than themselves.
My thoughts go to that this will help us during our rebuilding project. We cannot do this alone and will need them to cooperate and partake in rebuilding their village. In the middle of the devastating scenery I get hopeful, thankful and happy. “Our” village is right now of the kind we are blessed to work with.
I meet the blue saree lady again on her way to her old house. Among ruins of other houses I ask her to show me her house. She walks into her house telling me she was asleep at the moment the earthquake hit and tried to get out but fell to the floor. Where she tried to bump towards the door and got stuck in the entrance. Probably unknowing that she sat on a safe sport. She tells about big rain and huge stones falling from the hillside 20 meters from her house. Her face is sad and still scared. Her name is Hima Devi Amgaen (I mistake her earlier for her sons name Govinda) she is a widow since 3 years, has two sons.
Her neighbor points to her own house and start telling about “dunga” large rocks falling to the ground. And I understand the nature of the huge rock measuring over 2 meters we passed when entering the village last night. The fear of more stones falling down on themselves and their kettle shows clearly in their faces.
We get down to drink morning tea before David, Corinne, Christoffer, Bishnu and I join the villagers on our survey. From house to house we interview the families in their ruins and outside shelters. Noting down their data, family members, livelyhood, does the husband live in the village or not. Bishnu explains the different needs. Some need immediate galvanized metal plates for roof before the monsoon.
At approx 09.00 we get Dal Bat and fresh up from the sun that starts to get to us. At 09.30 we go down to the school. They have managed to get some support of galvanized metal plates and have build 3 classrooms. They have been provided a tent and get two tables and 7 chairs for the teachers brought from Kathmandu by us.
David gets the survey of the schools data. And the teachers and students gets ready for what we realize is a puja (Puja is the act of showing reverence to a god, a spirit, or another aspect of the divine through invocations, prayers, songs, and rituals) arranged for our visit.
From my years spent in Nepal I’m used to get tikkas during different celebrations. But this one was of the kind never experienced before. The amount of flower garlands placed over our heads and tikkas on our forehead and face was quite overwhelming. My thoughts went to that they must be pretty happy we paid them a visit. Afterwards Bishnu told me that the villagers had said that he brought them God. Well, we are hardly Gods but all of us and the team in Kathmandu has a burning desire to help people less fortunate.
With the sun burning at noon and all red from tikka and full of flower garlands we continue our survey visiting the poorest families. And having Bishnu with us to point out two other schools needing to be rebuild. The neighbor village primary school and the nearby villages secondary school at the foot of the hillside. Understanding our rebuild program can continue from hillside to hillside in the area.
We now work on getting the complete data from the 55 households, 3 schools connected to Muchok Olang. At least 25 toilets needs to be rebuild, the road up to the village has approx. 3 km damage from landslides. They ask for community solar to get one light bulb for each household.
Arriving back in Kathmandu, after another 24 hours of bumpy road on our 4 wheeler, our team soar from sleeping on concrete in a tent and visiting another village for the survey our western bodies feels smashed and tired.
We meet up with Annette and Thomas Tingstrup, which decides to join Rebuild NEPAL for our work at Muchok. Our vision is the same, we want to make an impact in a specific area. Their understanding and knowledge in Nepal is priceless. They join their USD 14 000,- of present fundraising.
Bishnu Simkhada which is born and raised in Muchok Olang is on board to supervise and handle our funding and revisions.
Building will start in October. Villagers will come to Kathmandu to be trained and we are working on the plan of rebuilding.
Samples of the earth in the village shows that earthbag building is the most sufficient. Keep on suporing our project by sharing and donating.
To be continued...