Showing posts with label after the earthquake. Show all posts
Showing posts with label after the earthquake. Show all posts

Sunday, 18 February 2018

The House that Buddhi Built

This is the house that Buddhi built.



 As some of you know, I went to Nepal soon after the earthquake in 2015 - invited by friends who wanted me to see that the country was still up and running and open for business. And it was - hotels were still open; guides were ready with their kit to take trekkers up the mountains; restaurant kitchens still smelled of oil and chillies. There was damage - and an urgent need to get on with the rebuilding - but more than anything the country needed its economy to get back on its feet. And that meant the return of tourism.

But I couldn’t avoid seeing the damage, the families living in tents in Kathmandu, the homes propped up by poles or bits of corrugated tin. And among these damaged home was Buddhi’s.

Let me tell you a bit about him. Some years ago he took me into the mountains. I hufffed and puffed up the slightest incline and he was beside me for every step. He phoned ahead to find me the best rooms in the tea houses. And when I flagged he took my rucksack and carried it. He is funny and kind and he kept me safe.

And he has a hearing problem. He was born with only one ear, and his hearing in that ear is beginning to fade. Life as a guide is becoming impossible. He cannot take a big group (and get the big tips), and has to rely on single trekkers or couples. It is barely enough to keep his family - and certainly not enough to rebuild his broken house. It would cost £1500.00 to replace it.

And so I wrote After the Earthquake and all proceeds went towards a new house for him, and appealed to anyone who had a penny or two spare, and we raised the money. I thank you all. 

But really, we did the easy bit. We didn’t carry bricks up the mountain. We didn’t work in the blazing sun, nor in the monsoon, to build the walls and put on a roof to keep the family dry. We didn’t wield a paintbrush go make this new home look beautiful. Buddhi did all that himself.

I won’t show you a picture of Buddhi’s old house, nor the drawn look on his face when I saw him just after the earthquake. But this is how happy he is now.


Sunday, 21 January 2018

Surviving an earthquake

I thought I understood the impact of an earthquake. My last visit here was three months after the devastating earthquake in 2015 - and I saw for myself the fields of tents in Kathmandu, where families had nothing but a flimsy tarpaulin between them and the monsoon. I saw the crumpled temples in Durbur Square, the sacred Boudnath held up by scaffolding. I met one of my guides, with a brave smile failing to hide his worries about the cracks that made his home uninhabitable for him and his young family. (Many of you will have contributed to help him rebuild it - more of that another time).

But last week, in the middle of celebrations in a school in Thulaswara, a small village in the hills north of Pokhara, I got the glimpse of how shallow my understanding had been. Even now I understand no more than a nanodrop.

For one minute we were asked to stand and remember those who died. There we stood, the might of the snow-capped Himalayas behind us and the sky a deep summer-blue, to remember. That’s where I saw it - etched on the lined faces of the old women, in the old man leaning on his stick, even the children stunned into silence as they remembered the events of that day. And their faces showed, not memories of buildings collapsed into dust and rubble - but fear. 

The very ground beneath their feet is no longer reliable. In a few terrifying minutes they learned that the  foundation on which they build homes and schools and small farms and temples, on which they teach their children to walk, can rumble and heave and reduce their lives to nothing.


Yes, temples and homes still need to be rebuilt. But that feeling, that fear, was stamped on every face, that day, in the sweet January sunshine. And what I noticed, what I felt, is nothing compared with the feelings these brave people live with every day.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Look who has come to stay!

Guess who this is, come to stay?



Those of you who have read about my travelling in Nepal will have 'met' Tika and Shobha. This post is for those who have no idea who they are!

I met Tika over fifteen years ago, when I first went to Nepal with a tour group. Then, in 2005, when I embarked on a year-long trip around the world, I contacted him to help me get the hang of travelling independently in Nepal and north India. He took me up mountains and down valleys. Before one such expedition he mentioned that his wife (Shobha) was joining us for the day. We trekked up a mountain (she strode up in flip-flops and I plodded up in walking boots). I seem to have passed some sort of test, because she invited me to join them for supper - cooked on a small fire on their rooftop.

It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. Every time I return to Nepal Tika organises my travels. If he's not actually with me he is at the end of the phone. He has the rare capacity to see the funny side of everything, even close encounters with tigers and crocodiles.

Meanwhile Shobha looks after me. When you are in Nepal, she says, I will be like your daughter. I will cook for you, and do your washing. (I eat like a queen, but do my own washing when she's not looking.)

And now it's my turn to look after them. I'm pretty useless in the cooking department, but will do my best. The washing can be thrown in the machine.

But most of all I want them to feel at home. They have shared their home and their country with me several times, and now it's my turn. This visit will be less about what we do, and more about making sure they know how much I appreciate everything they have done to me. And, because this it Tika and Shobha, I am sure there will be plenty of laughter.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

What's happening with this house then?

What with all the fun I had in Ecuador and the Galapagos, you might have thought I'd forgotten about that house we're building in Nepal.

What house? Well, for those of you who weren't around last year: I went to Nepal last September, to visit friends and to see how things were after the earthquake. To be honest, they were tough. Not only had stuff fallen down, but no tourists were visiting - so there was no money to get on with the rebuilding. The mountains still glorious, hotels and restaurants empty, and the Nepali struggling to make ends meet.

I ummed and ahed about how to help. And then I met a family, in the mountains, whose house had fallen down - and it was going to cost just £1500 to rebuild it. Not quite peanuts, but surely I could raise that? We can't rebuild a city, or even a town - but we can rebuild a house.

Not any old house. This is a family I know - the top storey had collapsed and they were living on the ground floor, in the rubble, and hoping that aftershocks wouldn't dump the whole thing on their heads while they slept.

So I launched a project, which you can find here. And I wrote a book, After the Earthquake, and every penny of profit from that is going towards building this house. (If you live outside the UK, or don't use Amazon, I'm sure you can find it if you go hunting. Do contact me if you can't find it.)

And how has it gone? Well, the appeal site is misleading, as I've been given much more than that. And the book is selling well.

And (drum roll) ... we have a house!!!! Well, have the money for the house, the foundations are down and the walls are on their way up. One family can sleep peacefully again.

What's more - we have begun a second house. This is an older couple, from a village high in the mountains, who spent the monsoon in a tent.

I'm proud of us all - we did what we set out to do. But if anyone is new to this appeal, and (like me) can't imagine just how dreadful it must be to be old and in a tent with the monsoon battering down, then then please follow the links.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

To Quote Tennyson ...

'The year is going - let him go!'

(I only know this is Tennyson because it's a line in one of the pieces we sang in our Christmas concert.)

The crackers are pulled, mince pies eaten, wrapping paper put out for the recycling, and it's time to pick up the pieces of normality (whatever that might be.)

However, it is worth remembering that time and date is a person-made construct, that the decision that the year turned in January is simply an idea that we have all subscribed to. Nothing magical has actually happened. That doesn't mean that we should turn our backs on all the razzmatazz. Far from it - I enjoy a good shindig as much as the next man or woman. But I have no doubt that those went to bed early with a mug of cocoa on New Year's Eve, just like any other night, can confirm that one day slips seamlessly into the next whatever the calendar might tell us.

And yet - to return to Tennyson, who was writing about the turning of the year - maybe these dark winter days are a good time to reflect, let go of regrets and 'what ifs', and look forward to what we might be doing when the days get longer.

Which, for me, is double-edged. After the Earthquake came out just before Christmas - and has some lovely reviews already, plus making a significant contribution to the house-building fund. If I were ever to take marketing seriously I ought to do it now, given that Nepal needs the income.

But, just as this little book needs me to cheer it on, and I'm still talking to anyone who will listen about the house-build appeal, I'm deep in last-minute planning for the next trip, to Ecuador and the Galapagos. This trip has been on the calendar for months - long before I knew I was going back to Nepal and thought I might write about it. I am at the helplessly excited stage. (I've got one more blogpost before I go - so I'll tell you more then.)

So I'm sorry, Tennyson, but I can't let go of last year. I shall carry the needs of Nepal and her people with me into 2016, for nothing magical happened at the turn of the year to solve her problems. At the same time I'll look forward to my next adventures.




Tuesday, 15 December 2015

After the Earthquake - Over the Hill Goes Back to Nepal!!

'Tis done - thanks to some wonderfully supportive people who have read, edited, made me coffee etc along the way. Without them I'd still be at the head-scratching stage. You all know who you are - I am deeply grateful to every one of you.




Here, for those who have no idea what this book is about, is the blurb:

JO CARROLL hesitated before returning to Nepal after the earthquake. Arriving as a tourist when local people were in such need felt an intrusion.

Not at all, Tika told her. We want you to come. We need you to come.
Within hours of arriving she saw just how right he was. Nepal, it seems, has been forgotten since the journalists left with their pictures of destruction. But the welcome is as warm as it has ever been.
Even from the crocodiles …
All profits from this book are contributing to rebuilding one house. We can’t rebuild a city – but we can, and will, provide for one family.


Thank you all for your patience and support.

And here (hurrah) is the link to buy the book.



Sunday, 6 December 2015

After the Earthquake - the first bit.

It's almost here - After the Earthquake - my little ebook about Nepal. I know I said that last week, but now it's nail-biting time. The copy edits should be back any day now.

So, while we're waiting, here is the beginning:


It was a Saturday morning in April. I rolled over, half asleep, to turn on my radio and listen to the News.
Early accounts were disorganised. An earthquake had rocked Kathmandu. In the foolish light of dawn I believed it was nothing more than the earth grumbling, far beneath the city. But, as I carried on listening, the full devastation became clearer. I made tea and turned on the television. All those glorious temples, reduced to rubble. Families wept in the streets, for themselves, and for the thousands who had died. Villages flattened. Avalanches crashing down the mountains, taking tents and trekkers with them.
I felt as if I were drowning in helplessness. It was hard to eat, to sleep in my warm bed, knowing so many shivered in tents in the parks of Kathmandu, and who knew how many were searching for shelter in the mountains.
What of my friends? Where was Tika? Shobha? Bhadra? Ajay and Upama? Those who had kept me safe and laughing since my first visit to Nepal nearly fifteen years ago. It was a few days before I knew that they were all safe, but they were frightened. The ground hadn’t stopped quivering. My feeble efforts to support them were not enough.

Now, five months later, I’m going back to Nepal. I can’t abandon them, these friends of mine, considering all they’ve been through.
We’ve all seen those after-the-earthquake pictures: the ruins in Durbar Square, temples where the faithful once rubbed shoulders with tourists wielding selfie-sticks; where incense wafted across crowded streets and made my eyes water. We’ve read of villages flattened; of families facing the ravages of the monsoon with nothing but a bit of borrowed tin above their heads. We’ve read of avalanches and death in the mountains.
Yet – I confess – I’ve been reluctant to go back. Even now, in the sterility of the Departure Lounge at Heathrow Airport, I have misgivings. I will not exploit the needy, nor gawp at their misfortune. I’ll not gaze at people living in wretched tents. There is something uncomfortable about travelling from the comfort and safety of my western home to a country where the needs are so huge. Might I be seen as patronising? What use could I be? I can’t rebuild a home. I can’t even cook something edible over a fire. I can play with children – surely scant consolation for people who have lost everything.
But Tika has invited me. I’ve known him since my first visit here. He has guided me through an adventure or two in the past. We want to see you, he said. Stay in our home, he said. It is enough to stifle my qualms. Besides, there is no resisting Tika.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

After the Earthquake

Yes, the ebook is nearly ready. Mark has designed this lovely cover:



And where there is a cover - the book can't be far behind!!

A copy editor is doing the necessary nit-picking and once that is done all that's left is my final read-through and then a battle with the technology to get this onto Kindle.

I've never written anything as quickly as I've done this. Generally, when I get back from my journeys, I spend time going through my notebooks, reminding myself of sundry adventures and the wonderful people I've met. Only then can I begin to tease out the story of a trip and shape it to make an interesting story.

This time has been different. This little book is to raise money for the house in Nepal (if you've no idea what I'm talking about, check it out here) - and so the sooner it comes out the better. At least - with travel writing - I'm not making anything up. I know what happened - but the task of framing it and making it interesting can be a challenge.

I've had some wonderful readers - and the reactions have been encouraging. With so little time to reflect these readers have been essential. And now the copy editor is checking for seriously wobbly sentences and spelling (to my shame my spelling of place-names is notoriously careless - I scribble them in my notebook, copy the scribbles onto the computer and then believe myself).

So - the end is in sight. And then, dear readers, I'll need sales, and reviews. Not because I want wonderful Amazon statistics. Not because I get a warm fuzzy feeling when people say nice things about my writing. But because there is a family in Nepal that needs a roof to their new house.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Trying to do everything at once.

It's that time of year again. So you've probably only got time to skim-read this. But what choice do we have?

Well, I'd argue that we do have choices. We don't have to be swept along by the Christmas greed-feast that is promised in the media. We can stand back and notice the hype and select the aspects of the whole performance that matters to us as individuals.

On top of all the seasonal mayhem, I'm working hard to get After the Earthquake (my little ebook about my last trip, to raise money for the house) ready for the off - I've never written anything quite so quickly. I knew the story, of course - I've not had to make anything up. Even so, it's been a challenge to make sure I unpicked the drivel from my notebooks and found the core of what I really needed to say.

It's been through readers and an editor, and is now with a copy editor who is nit-picking anything that still doesn't make sense. I'm stocking up on coffee for the day I have to play with the Kindle site and get it on Amazon. 

At the same time, of course, I'm still in touch with friends in Nepal who struggle with the impact of the blockade. They survive from day to day. But what else can they do?

Plus - early in the New Year - I'm off to Ecuador. (Did you really think I might spend the winter in front of my own fire?) So there are the unavoidable hours curled up with guidebooks working out where I might go, and how I might get there. And trying to learn Spanish so I don't get into the pickles that I landed myself in in Cuba.

It's almost too busy. I feel as if I'm wearing too many hats - the writing hats, the travelling hats, the getting-ready-for-Christmas hats (which involves the annual pondering about what the season actually means to me and to those I love.)

I feel a bit like a duck - appearing to swim with the tide but paddling like mad under the water. And you? You sailing serenely into the Christmas mayhem?

Sunday, 18 October 2015

So, Nepal - what comes next?

I've been home a couple of weeks - surely I've had time to think?

There's never an end to thinking (that's part of the fun of it) but a few ideas are beginning to take clearer shapes.

The first - I'm going to fund rebuilding one house in Nepal. I've seen the devastation and it would be easy to throw up ones hands in helplessness in the face of such need. How can one person make a difference in the middle of all that? I can't rebuild a town - I can't even rebuild a village.

But I can - and will - raise enough money to rebuild one house.

I happen to know which house this is - but I'm not going to tell you anything about the family who live there, nor post a picture of their temporary home, nor go on about the struggle to keep going in one room under a tin roof. I'll not exploit individual misery like that. You'll simply have to believe that the hope we can give to this family will ripple out to others.

How? For starters, I've set up a GoFundMe page - for anyone who is able to spare a pound or two. You can the link here.

But - I hear you spluttering - I'm only aiming for £1500.00!! Because that is all it will cost. The man can rebuild his home himself, so what is really needed is materials. Again, you will have to believe that I've checked this with those in the know.

As well as GoFundMe I'm writing a little ebook about my visit, and all proceeds will go towards the house-build (I know one person who will be pleased, as she has been nagging me - in a kindly way - to write this).

And here I have a very big ask: because this will be a small ebook I cannot sell it for more than about 99p which gives me about 34p. In the past I've always paid full price for a copy editor - but this can easily swallow over £300 - and I'll leave you to work out how many books I need to sell before I make a penny. And so if anyone knows a copy editor who can reduce his or her fees, and work fairly quickly (I'm well into a first draft and want this out as soon as possible), I'd be deeply grateful. I am, of course, aware that copy editors - like the rest of us - have to earn a living, and so will understand if they are all, to a man and woman, struggling to make their own ends meet as Christmas approaches.

So - that's where things stand at the moment. I'll be indebted to anyone can share/tweet/generally publicise the GoFundMe page, or who feels able to support this in any other way. If I could I'd send everyone cake.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

In four days ...

I'm heading back to Nepal.

No, I've not packed. But I have done a lot of thinking.

As you know, I have friends there and have been asked to help promote Nepal's tourism industry. It has been floundering since the earthquake. Bookings are down. Too many hotels are empty; too many restaurants quiet. Mountain guides stand around and look at maps. Yet these are hardworking people, trying to rebuild a country. For that they need money - the sort of money that tourists can bring.

I've had several people ask what they can do to help. I've had a generous donation (Tika will help find a home for that) but not everyone has money to spare. I've been given goodies to squash in my suitcase to take up to villages in the mountains (Tika will help carry them).

But the thing I really need help with is the promoting-tourism bit. I've no training in marketing. Efforts to sell my own books are a bit hit and miss. But this time the marketing matters - and I haven't the faintest idea how to do it.

At the moment, I don't even know exactly where I'll be going (Tika will ...). All I know is that I shall write about what I find - and that the writing will be slanted towards encouraging other people to visit. No doubt I'll spend time with friends, but that will not be the story. No doubt I'll sit by the lake in Pokhara and ponder, but that will not be the story. I hope I climb to the tiny coffee plantation, on the path towards Begnas Lake, to drink some of the best coffee in the world - that will only be part of the story if the lack of tourists is affecting the family.

And so please, my loyal blog-followers, can you help with the promoting-thing. If you think I'm missing something, or should emphasise something else, tell me. Ask questions (I'll have internet connections, at least some of the time). Bang on about it on Twitter and Facebook. If people get irritated that's fine - as long as they get the message.

Nepal is open for business. And it's still beautiful.