The last two earthquakes in Nepal have been devastating. Some villages reduced to rubble. People dead or badly injured. Often these occurrences in smaller poor countries get at best a headline or two and then disappear from the consciousness of most of the rest of the world. However, Nepal is home to the tallest mountains in the world. Lives were lost on Everest directly because of the quakes. That will get the media attention across the globe. Relief agencies and individual groups all poured money and attention to help in the plight of the Nepalese. Governments followed suit. Where it all went nobody is completely sure. A lot of it was simply pledged and never truly manifested. Other items arrived in great quantity without any idea of how to distribute it – many of these goods were available in Nepal at much cheaper prices along with Nepalese connections to get these items where they were needed. Other items were simply just not needed. Through all this other agencies were shining – medical relief organizations were experienced and fit into the structure already developed here to help efficiently. Others came to simply work – throw their backs and hands into the effort. Nepal operates through connections – much more so than merit.
Relatives and friends work in a web of connectiveness. Our host in Kathmandu operates very well this way. He knows who to go to and how to get things done. You are either in or out. Our climbing Sherpa, our porters, the tea houses we stay at, our place in line at the Lukla airport, it is all through Nima’s connections. Lack of connections means that things just don’t happen – certainly not efficiently.
All this said, much has been done to help the Nepalese people. They are a very resilient people, extremely strong and very resourceful. Their rugged lifestyle leaves them to sink or swim and they learn to swim. Our host here in Namche took her family into the countryside last May for a whole month for fear that an earthquake might hit Namche with the taller close buildings and kill or injure many. They stayed in a tent and survived on food they carried from their stores at the hotel.
When I talked of this with her husband he still started to tear up. A very emotional time for them. Our host at the Tea house in Dole told me of rebuilding her home – she and her family and connected family had done so just in the time since this spring. Even with many things that they needed having to come by yak or porters.Others I talked with had enough savings to rebuild. Some just downsized. One must also understand that the basic materials are still at hand in the rubble of the quake. Stone. Buildings are made of stone and timbers which were mostly salvageable. It appears to usin our group that 90 percent of the countryside we have been traveling in has been rebuilt – mostly by the local people. All the Tea Houses are open to business and have all the items they’ve always had. The trekking trails are virtually untouched – you can go anywhere. Nepal thrives on its tourism. That is the engine which drives this economy. The porters, the Sherpa guides, the guest houses, the retailers, the airport personnel – I could go on and on. Tourism is what feeds their families and pays their bills. Those that own their own places and businesses have an edge in surviving this big downswing in visitors. Those people and businesses who pay rent are worried. This has been a really disappointing tourist season. There are two main seasons here – spring and fall – the monsoons happen in mid-summer. Fall is here and spring was taken up by the earthquake – now summer by the slow tourism.
Why is it slow now? Nepal is largely rebuilt and ready for everybody to come – even in one of the hardest hit areas – the Khumbu region. The hardest hit area in all of Nepal was the Langtang valley and some of that area is still closed. That is the exception here. The same saturation of media attention designed to help the country after the quake has now hurt the Nepalese by impressing on people all over the world that Nepal is a mass of rubble. That was never true. The earthquake was hit and miss – having a major effect on some places yet not even touching most of its neighbors. Media by own business necessities needs to be as dramatic as possible to sell and capture readers/listeners. There are only a few NY Times/BBC news examples out there. The media attention that was part of the process of lifting Nepal back on its feet has now inadvertently helped keep her on her knees.To be fair, the fuel tanker embargo imposed by India hasn’t helped either – but that is not a large problem in the eyes of tourists around the globe.How can you best help Nepal?