Nepal in our hearts and minds

By Ella Skrocki

Empire native Ella Skrocki recently returned from Nepal. She writes these words following the terrible earthquake on Saturday that has claimed the lives of thousands.

After the network in Nepal came back this morning, I finally was able to get through to Angnima, the mentor I lived with for two months while studying in Nepal’s rural villages. Angnima was hit by falling rock while fleeing Langtang as the trees and land caved in around him. He and the rest of “our” family is alive. But they are left with absolutely nothing. The home, that I called my own during my time in Bharku is now in rubble. The villages in the Rasuwa district surrounding Langtang have been devastated, for nearly all of the homes have been destroyed, leaving residents to camp outside in makeshift refugee tents with very limited blankets, and food. Luckily the water in these rural areas is pure, but those in Kathmandu rely, unfortunately, on purified or bottled water for the city was already extremely polluted prior to the current environmental destruction.

As news reporters focus their attention on the climbers on Everest, there are hundreds stranded and awaiting rescue in Langtang, among other secluded mountainous villages. Langtang village has been completely wiped out, the only survivors being the eight children who were attending school in Kathmandu. Not the bread maker who made us cheese and homemade bread sandwiches that cured the stomach of my food-poisoned travel companion. Nor the ever so sweet couple that fed us a most delicious plate of dal bhat, sat around the fire with us and laughed with us during our stormy overnight in the village during our trek through Langtang. I worry greatly for the surrounding villages, for many of them are made up by traditionally designed homes, decades old and questionably strong enough to withstand a heavy monsoon season, not to mention a 7.8 magnitude earthquake.

I remember the village of Gatlang so clearly, for I was there just a month ago. I sighed as I walked the Tamang Heritage Trail away from the traditional village, pack on my back, for I had only gotten to spend a mere 24 hours there. Rachel, the friend I had the privilege of sharing this experience with, had to keep reminding me, “At least we had the opportunity to see Gatlang for the time that we did”. Oh and how grateful I am for that short, sweet period of time indeed.The Tamang people who reside in these long-established villages are among the kindest, most genuine human beings I have had the pleasure of interacting with. Though understanding each other verbally was difficult at times, language barriers did not take away from our understanding of one another. A smile goes a long way, even on the other side of the world. I just hope that through the darkness, not only butter lamps will bring them light.

Updates from a dear friend in Kathmandu describe the chaotic city as a nightmare. The poverty stricken, still constitution-less country has been working hard to stabilize, reconstruct its nation and bring its people together over the last 10 years after being torn apart by the 10 year civil war. Bodies are being found faster than they can be burned, tent cities are the only “safe” areas for people to sleep due to seemingly-never-ending aftershocks. Numerous people are still missing and trapped amongst the rubble throughout the city. In Kathmandu, along with the thousands (or millions) of homes piled on top of one another now in pieces, some of Nepal’s oldest, holiest structures have collapsed. The Boudha Stoupa, Swayanbu Temple, Patan … World Heritage sights and both Hindu and Buddhist places of worship that have been standing for centuries are now only memories that we can pair with photos. Though no photo will ever do the intricate, expressive buildings justice. I walked among these structures just two weeks ago, marveled at the art carved into each inch of the stone or wooden construction. As well as gazed upon the hundreds of people at a time that would visit these places for daily prayer, meditation, pilgrimage, picnics and dates. The dedication that the people of that part of the world have towards their religion is absolutely inspirational.

I had the opportunity of spending two weeks in the now-pained village of Thulo Shabru, where I took part in the celebration of losar, the Tibetan New Year. Days prior to February 19, the Tamang people became anxious awaiting the rain, which we so received on the last night of the year. For the people of Thulo Shabru, this brought high hopes for a successful, positive upcoming year. Through the week of celebration, blessings occurred among the villagers as well as over the land of the village as well. Shamans rid the village of dark spirits in order to encourage the village’s well being. The ‘final’ day of losar ends with reading of ancient scripture by the Lamas, in order to ask for good health, wealth, luck and protection from their Gods, mother nature and the universe. I left Thulo Shabru that afternoon feeling confident that they would receive the protection and wellbeing they so deserved, but sometimes all the prayer in the world cannot prevent nor combat tragedy.

Though the Tamang and Nepali people in general are incredibly strong and self-reliant, they are in need, for they have suffered such abundant loss that it is too much to handle for one country.

Angnima once asked me the simple, heartwarming question: “what is religion without wiping the tears of those in need?” I dare you to try and answer that question. More so, what is happiness, love and life without wiping the tears of those in need?

I remember, a morning in Langtang Village, I watched him run his walking pole to an elderly woman that was limping by. I asked him if he knew the woman. He said “No. But what good does using this pole bring when I know that someone else needs it more than me.”

The Nepalese believe greatly in karma. If you do a small act for one, they believe you will receive a great reward in the future. In the villages, I was fed like a queen, by humble people that had so little in regards to tangible items. They would take great offense if one were not to accept two heaping servings of dal bhat for they wanted to give to bring them happiness. The elder father of my dear friend Dorje once told me: “I am a poor man, but I have a big family”. And that is all that really mattered. Tangible wealth does not matter, no. Health, shelter, love and family, surely do.

Hospitals are overflowing, supplies are scarce, and the number of people left homeless, cold and hungry after this tragedy will be enormous. Right now is the time you can make a SIGNIFICANT impact on someone else’s life. I highly encourage donations to organizations that will work in rural areas, for without homes, the villagers will go to take haven in the city which will add substantially, to the chaos. But wherever your money goes will positively impact countless lives. Do what you can and give what you can, I beg of you, on behalf of those who now have nothing. Think of all the ‘stuff’ you have just laying around. You have the opportunity to share your wealth. I encourage you to strive to separate yourself from the unnecessary stressors of physical appearance, money, material goods, drama. Instead, bring yourself happiness by doing something for someone else today, and then encourage others to do the same. Every tiny contribution helps to make a big, positive change, like the tremors prior to a 7.8 magnitude earthquake.

Consider helping Nepal by giving to these organizations.