The plan prior to the earthquake was to start from the very end of my field experience, and work my way backwards to the very beginning. I think I’m still gonna stick with it today. So here I am, sitting in a cafe in China, typing away, reminiscing.
(Photo credit to Grace R. for CNSP group photo in the very end, thanks girl!)
Before I forget, let’s begin with my village family picture.
I honestly don’t know how to describe my last days of field research, the study program, and Nepal. The day the earthquake bestowed itself upon this world, everything changed. It was as if–
Imagine a very normal day, you’re kind of happy and content, walking on the streets to somewhere, on this metaphorical timeline where you know where you’re going and what you’re gonna do in the next few weeks. And suddenly, a ginormous hand came down from the sky and plucked you straight out of the world you once knew.
Everything was very abrupt, and just as surreal.
But don’t get me wrong, it was a peaceful steady-paced process. It’s just that, I never thought my four-month experience abroad would end so… soon.
Bua (homestay dad) was helping out with the tarkari (vege curry) in morning of departure. That was something I remembered very clearly, as I hid away into the walls of the stone house, camera ready to capture the lasting moments of our last day in Bagmara, Bharat Pokhari. I’m not sure why this instance stood out to me, but it reminded me of my first night there, sitting at the dining mat and attempting to decipher the social structures in our traditional Brahmin family. I remember thinking–if I were his daughter, I would be the one cooking all the meals, serving daal bhaat morning and night, and eating last after everyone else at 7:40pm. But that day, I understood that things are actually a bit different.
The night before, the aamaa of another family asked me if I could take her to Taiwan and American with me, jokingly offering to babysit for my future newborn. The night before that, sano dhai told me to send their regards to my family. They all asked me if I will return.
My response was simple: ma pheri aaunchhu | ek ganda paachi aaunchhu!
I’ll be back in a year, I promise. When it’s safer, and when my family and school are not freaking out at every precious day spent at this country.
Saying good bye, red rice blessing our foreheads and white khata scarves around our necks. I don’t know why I simply couldn’t cry. Still feeling heavy in the heart, weighing me down with my trekking backpack.
A brief bus ride back to the city, away from the hill of tigers, crossing the setho nadi (white river), vehicles around us multiplying by the second as we finally reached Pokhara, almost untouched by the disaster.
Saying goodbye to Sujata as we hugged and she stepped out of the vehicle. As she turned away with her traveling backpack towards the apartment, it hit me that this adventure has reached a conclusion. I remembered the time when we held each other on that grassy field, how vulnerable we felt. And the tears finally came and I can’t believe all this has ended.
I can go on forever about how weird it felt to be in Pokhara. I cannot imagine what is it like for my friend Ann, who arrived from a Chepang village in the mid hills of Chitwan. Coming from an area of destructed houses and dangerous landslides in a community of heavily-marginalized villagers, Ann told me it was as if the earthquake never happened in this strange bubble of Pokhara.
One last glimpse of the Annapurna range before we leave the Kaski district…
…and suddenly, back to Kathmandu. I pressed my nose against the airplane window, peering through my foggy breath as my heart pounded with anticipation. It took me a while to realize that the bright orange squares are not roofs, but disaster relief tents.
“I think they’re from a rescue team.” “Where do you think they’re heading to?”
Arriving at Kathmandu. Rushing to our long-separated friends, our little group reunited finally, chattering filling the bus with excitement. It did not take long before the atmosphere dropped. I held my breath.
According to my friend, buildings here are a hit or miss. You can walk by a couple blocks of perfectly well-standing apartments, and suddenly–the bricks, rocks, and glass everywhere.
I wish that everything was back to normal, that we just came back from our 1-month field research, that we will continue our well-planned CNSP curriculum in the program house and that our roommates are in the hostels, waiting for our arrival.
But we all know that’s not true.
“I feel like this is all a dream, and I will wake up in my bedroom in the girl’s hostel and find out that we haven’t even left for field research yet.”
I would play this game, where whenever I turned into the fourth floor hallway and approached my bedroom, I would pretend Samiksha, my roommate, was sitting on her bed, reading away at her physiology notes for the next upcoming exam.
Where is the resolution? I don’t know, it breaks my heart to even think about leaving.
Saying good bye to the lovely streets of Thamel, to its hundreds of multi-coloured signs and tangled phone lines, to the numerous metal doors rolled down for the time-being, a temporary state of quiet before the exciting chaos returns again with the recovery of this country. But for now, tents. Everywhere.
A final night-time gathering in the program house basement (aka classroom, occasional dining area, theatre room, or napping space) as we watched yet another episode about funny governors, parks, and recreation.
And lastly, saying good bye to my CNSP family, to the didis and dhais, to Summy and Benji, to Janak and Banu, to the program house, to Kirtipur. I remember hugging everyone, walking towards the waiting taxi, and–as tears came again, rolling and rolling–I turned around for one last farewell.
“Thank you for everything!”