Nepal Earthquake in 2015 // The Aftermath
I must admit it has taken me a bit long to write this article about the Nepal earthquake in 2015. There are good reasons for this but I am so happy to share with you some photographs we took while in Nepal and the earthquake aftermath in 2015.
The world as we see it is beautiful but it sometimes suffers. As it happened with this breathtaking country.
To give you a bit of a background why we took this trip and what we did there, I shall start from the beginning.
Nepal was never on our list to be honest. I almost didn’t even know where to find it on the map. Until one day, when a good friend started working for World Vision in Kathmandu and invited us there. (Thank you Vali!!). Free accommodation for an entire month in Nepal was all of a sudden possible.
As many people know by now, Nepal has been through unbelievable struggles in the past decade and the past year alone. Earthquakes kept on shaking the grounds for months and if this wasn’t enough, things got even tougher. For some political reasons (not at all justifiable), India has decided to stop exporting any gas, oil petrol since the Autumn of 2015. With shattered houses from the earthquake, Nepalese people also had broken hearts, as their bread and butter was taken away. Without petrol, they could not drive for work, without oil and gas they could not cook and feed their families. Entire countries were advised not to visit Nepal during this times, so tourism has decreased around 70%, from what we were told. Considering Nepal’s main economy is based on tourism, everything hit them hard and strong.
It may not sound like the best of timings for us to visit either, but we had tickets long before any of this had happened and so, together with our friend from Radu Benjamin photography, we went.
Let me explain to you some of the photographs we took in Nepal. Bare with me, it’s a long story, but it’s still a very little part of a month’s worth of experiences in Asia.
Below, Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, as seen from above, on the hill of The Monkey Temple, around lunch time. It is by far one of the most polluted places in the world, along with India, although it sits in a valley, surrounded by the Himalaya’s mountains..
When we were there, there was already a petrol crisis, so you can see hundreds of car and motorbikes, parked on the side of the road, waiting to buy some petrol on the black market, for 5 times the regular price.
The aftermath of the earthquakes in 2015 can be spotted pretty much everywhere. Many temples shaken, houses lost even couple of floors. Life has to go on still, even with much loss in people’s lives.
The festival of lights was approaching (celebrated similar to our Christmas holidays) – brothers would buy gifts to their sisters and kids go carolling and dancing in the evenings, for money or sweets. Everybody was decorating their homes with lights and Marigold flowers. I was passing through a narrow street in Kathmandu when I encountered this man, just sitting on a very old couch (if you can still call it a couch) , as if he was only waiting for time to go by. I politely asked if I could take a photo of him and he nodded, without being bothered at all by my camera. It was here when I realised that street photography is not as exciting for me unless I get to interact with the subject I want to photograph. That’s when I feel that magic happens.
As we spent a couple of days just walking around the city of Kathmandu, we found this temple in the area of Patan. My heart skipped a beat when I saw him sitting in the doorway of this temple as he was praying consciously to his gods. He wouldn’t even talk to me until he finished his prayers. It was sad and beautiful to watch him, all in the same time.
This image stopped me in my tracks. It looked like a Biblical scene, where people would come to the temple, some to pray, some only to get few crumbs or coins. Temples in this country exist for religious reasons, but for commercial ones nonetheless.
Sometimes, the line between the two is very much thin.
As we were walking around Swayambhunath (also known as the Monkey Temple), monkeys would stare you for food and take advantage of any opportunity.
Beware though, monkeys here are the most aggressive and territorial animals, so don’t think you can pet them. They will attack and bite. And it’s not pretty.
Tibetan monks. Precious kids. I’m fascinated by their culture and dream of getting to Tibet one day. But that’s on my long list of places to see some day.
Tents set up for people who have lost their homes after the earthquake in 2015. In the image below, they were waiting in line to get a portion of rice for the day.
Little restaurants for street food, where you could buy the best Momos in town. Momo is a traditional food, a dumpling with buff or veggie filling. One of the best traditional foods they have, if I can say so myself.
Due to the fuel crisis, women especially started to feel very frustrated, as they couldn’t cook for their families. They decided one day to get out in the streets and block some trucks with fuel, that were driving for bigger cities, where the tourists were. It was almost funny to see the entire scene, because despite of them being so upset, they were still smiling and were not at all aggressive. The police came to the scene but gave up arguing with the ladies in the end. Only more empty promises were made.
One of the reasons we had to go to Nepal was because people mattered. People like this guy, Benjamin, who decided to give up on his land and build shacks for people who were left without their houses. He has 5 families living on his land now and his dream is to build a guest house for tourists to come and stay there. He plans on having an entire community of Christian Nepalese around him, which is a daring dream in a hindu country.
He thought me about Grace and love for people I was short of giving Grace to.
She is Rozina. A girl with dreams bigger than herself. Although she has lost her home because of the earthquake, she is hoping to teach and help others. Such a beautiful soul!
Rice harvesting season.
As we got a bit tired and frustrated living in the overcrowded and polluted capital, we decided to go to the jungle, to Chitwan National Park. Because it was right after the rainy season, the grass was really tall, so it was extremely hard to see any sort of wild animals, except for some dears and rhinos. There is a large number of elephants at the resort, kept in chains but let freed for grazing in the mornings. They were also used like horses, to carry heavy loads and bring wood. The season you visit such places is highly important, as it can increase your chances to see a tiger so obviously, we didn’t.
Being outside the capital is probably where the beauty of Nepal lies, so our next stop was the Himalayas. We hired a guide to take us to Annapurna Base Camp, a 5 days trek in the Himalayas. We could see some breathtaking views and waking up at 5 am to see the sunrise over the Himalayas is something I shall never forget.
Before you decide on doing such a trek though, do a bit more research, please, don’t go like us, not having a clue what you’re going to do. Also, no one tells you this, but trekking in the Himalayas actually means climbing more stairs you have ever climbed in your entire life altogether. After a few days, a straight road is all you can wish for and your knees are going to ache for days. Take my word for it.
Like a mountain girl. It’s all about the stick.
Along the way, we met sherpas and people living in the mountains, with beautiful big smiles and strong arms. They could carry loads we could never even lift but it was their only way of taking anything up the mountains.
I will never forget this day. We arrived at a guest house , where this lady made some tea for us. We went inside the kitchen and Sam was fascinated by her beautifully aged face and the light in the room so he asked if he could take this photograph of her. She kindly obliged so Sam shot this portrait I will forever cherish. All we had to give this lady was some chocolate and raisins but up in the mountains, snacks are an international love language as it is impossible to get anything up there, unless you pay a sherpa, quite a bit of money.
This portrait would have never happened if we hadn’t taken time to go inside, talk to her and create a connection. It was one of the most beautiful days in the Himalayas mountains.
This is Asmitha. A 15 year old Nepalese girl living in the mountains with her grandma. Without any children or school around a good walking distance, she didn’t learn to speak any English and most probably is not even educated. We stopped at her grandma’s house on the way and were amazed by her beauty. There was this wooden kitchen where she was trying on her scarves and the light was piercing through the ceiling. It was one of those breathtaking moments hard to describe and this photograph stands as testimony for it.
We woke up early before sunrise to walk for an hour, for a view not many have seen. Here’s Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek, at 3,210 m. It was the most beautiful place we’ve seen that month and I feel so blessed to have shared this moment with Sam. It was painful to get there, but so worth it.
This trip would have not been the same if it wasn’t for some special people who looked after us, guided us and even fed us.
Carmen (on the left) is a beautiful soul with a heart and love for this people I can barely understand. She has thought us more things about love and mercy and my heart was just blessed meeting her. Plus she can cook the best rice recipe in the whole wide world. The boys can confirm, no doubt about that! Thank you Carmen… you’re a gift.
Pierangelo, on the right, is the Italian guy who left years ago on a quest to find meaning and found God in Asia instead. Since then, his heart beats for these people and is an ambassador of love amongst them. He is a man of action and does not stop helping them in any possible way. Such an amazing human and we were so grateful for the bridges he created between us and many around.
Thank you both, Kathmandu is lucky to have you.
Radu, Sam and I, after a month long spent in Nepal, back at the airport. We ate more rice than I thought it could be possible, we washed our clothes by hand, we had power cuts at least 3 times a day and we even stepped in a swamp (clearly that was me).
But at the end, we were richer as people and with bigger dreams.
I’ll conclude with a story I’ll forever keep close to my heart and that changed me a bit. One of the most meaningful 5 minutes conversations I had.
As we were on our way to Nepal, on the transfer bus for our next plane, I was sitting next to this middle aged lady and we starting talking. She asked me where I was going and why there. I explained my only purpose was to explore, rest and grow. She then said the most beautiful thing:
I often ask people how big is your garden? It’s not the square metres or the trees or the flowers.
It’s the Oceans and the mountains and the roads less traveled.