After all that has happened, it is time to end the process which began with the internship with a last post on the blog. This blog was created to inform and share my experiences, stories and everything that happened during my internship. Now it ends because everything that has a start must have a proper end, although it is now earlier than it was planned.
Everyone knows what happened in Nepal on Saturday, that is also the reason why I’m back home in Sweden right now … I want to describe everything that has happened since the earthquake last Saturday once so that all interested can take part of this, and I do not want to tell the story over and over again. What I will describe is my perspective of it all and reflect absolutely not what all Nepalis, families and people living through right now.
Saturday the 25th of April I was free, which is weird because I used to meet with the students on Saturdays. They had, however, asked me to be free because they had lot of tests in school so they wanted to use the time to study. It was quite understandable so I had a day off that I decided would be dedicated to a tattoo. That weekend was Nepal International Tattoo convention taking place on Yak & Yeti hotel and it was the perfect chance for me to get a long-awaited tattoo. I had decided that the tattoo would be one of all the beautiful memories from Nepal.
I had booked time on the most famous tattoo studio in Nepal, the tattoo artist and I had agreed that we would start at 11 am He, however, came very late, which was very annoying because I was of course very nervous. I have several tattoos so I should be used, but this would be the longest (5 hours) so it was something new. Moreover, it was in the middle of a convention so I could even compete for the day´s longest (and best) tattoo. Now I am very grateful that he came late.
Sometime after 11 the tattoo artist came and began preparing everything. I was lucky that I was with my roomate and best friend Arturo, who supported me and tried to calm me down all the time. The tattoo artist was ready, I was lying on the bed and he began to clear and disinfect the skin. When he’d put the design on the skin, I felt a vibration, I thought then that it was my mobile. I checked with the tattoo artist and he shouted: ”Shit! lets go! ”. Then everything happened too fast so I do not remember every detail.
I remember I heard people screaming and saw how everyone ran towards the stairs while the ceiling began to crumble down. I understood right away that I could not run that way if I wanted to be ”safe” so I followed the tattoo artist who asked me to hold in a bar that sat in the middle of the window. I could then get some stability when the building was shaken so much that people fell. Through the window I could see how everything was shaken and the people ran, screamed and fell. The birds were also completely crazy and flew in different directions and sounded incredibly much. The tattoo artist was ready to jump, I did not know what I would do, but I screamed a little because of the fear, and then I felt (for the first time in my life) I would die. I thought, now I die, in Nepal, a tattoo convention and then I thought of my mother … she probably would not survive if I die. What would happen to my dad and my brother? I did not want to make them sad, but they could not take such a thing. I wished with all my heart that the building would stop shaking, I realized that it would not remain if the earthquake continued … and then in the middle of all thoughts it stopped there.
I turned around and started walking very fast towards the stairs, I had lost Arturo and would of course not leave him, I met another roommate who was with some friends and from the crowd, I see Arturo coming to me. I had never seen a man who was as pale as he was, we hugged and walked away as fast as we could. The roof was still collapsing down, the whole floor was full of dust, but the only thing that was important was to get out before the hotel would fall down completely.
When we were out there it was hard to believe what had just happened. We were so close to death that one wanted to cry and scream at the same time. I was shaken and called my mom as soon as I could, I knew that the news would spread and it would be difficult to get to talk to me, so I wanted her to know that I was feeling good. Neither I nor she took the dimension of what had just happened but that would come later. A few minutes later everything started to shake again, the first aftershock, at first we thought we were safe in the hotel parking but after a few seconds, we saw how the ground began to crack. Before the third aftershock we realized that there was a parking lot underneath, so the cracks was not a good sign when we were around 200 people that stood in the area.
I could not get news of Dolma, I did not know how the children were doing. I simply could not imagine how they did if i, still an adult, had panicked and cried with every movement. Finally I got to talk to Dolma, she was feeling good but saw very bad things, the children were not with her because she was on the way to a workshop that we had planned together throughout the week, but they were with Victoria (intern last semester) which reassured me a lot.
We stopped outside the hotel for a while, maybe a couple of hours. During those hours it was tears, fear, panic, but we could also get to talk to several relatives and close ones. My brother told me that he dreamed that he, my father and I were in a building that began to fall down. Then he woke up with the news of the earthquake in Kathmandu. I asked him to tell all that I was feeling good and then we lost contact. People started to check the news and started talking about all the shaking, all buildings that had been destroyed. When the earthquake began turned reality into a movie, the whole thing was too scary to be true.
We were lucky that we were many and wanted to stay together, we began to think what would happen then and how we should act when we decided to leave the area. The plan was to wait an hour after the last aftershock because then it was less likely that it would come back. Yes, we had no idea what would happen the following days. We went out and decided to walk home, it could take more than an hour but no one wanted to sit in a car, or be in any way indoors. We started walking and saw some windows had been broken, a few houses that were half-destroyed, people were scared and streets that had received a lot of cracks.
On the road to Boudha, where we all lived, one of the girls said that their school had said that when such an event occurred they would all meet in the Hyatt Regency. A hotel in Kathmandu that the school had a collaboration with, it was considered to be very safe during an earthquake because there were many open spaces without anything that could fall down. On the way there I also got to talk to Victoria, she was feeling good and the kids too, everyone was afraid and wanted Dolma with them, but no one was injured and the whole neighborhood was there with them. I was much calmer when I was told that both the children in Manjushree and girls in Gokarna felt fine and no one was injured. We also felt two smaller aftershocks on the way to the Hyatt so the fear was always part of the party.
We started thinking of our houses, how they looked? how were all in Boudha? how many houses had been destroyed and how many injured were there in the area? We gathered at the Hyatt and was told that the decision was to sleep out at night, not recommended to be indoors and we were not prepared for it either. Once we knew what we would do, we got the opportunity to go home and get everything we had to keep warm during the night and see how it looked. In addition, we were missing one of our roommates who hadnt a telephone and had not been with us at the event.
Going home was really scary! The feeling of uncertainty and that everything around started shaking was constant, everything was closed and the streets were empty, it was one of the unpleasant image of the area that I do not want to keep in my mind. Once we got home, we met our friend who we had not seen, she felt good and did not leave the house even though we explained how insecure it could be. Then it was time to get into the house and then into the room. The first attempt was worthless, I came in, saw that a ceiling lamp had fallen and ran out again. After that a friend explained me that it was only that, the house appeared to be safe. I then ran into my room, the feeling are impossible to describe. I came in and saw the things and clothes had fallen down, but nothing more happened. However, I got the first of many panic attacks. I could not breathe, everything started shaking again (in my head) and I had to run out again, this time with tears on my eyes. After a few attempts, I got hold of my passport and Swedish residence permit, jackets and some fruit. Arturo did however collect my blanket and other things because I could not go into the house again.
We came to the hotel with lots of things for the cold night and we got a place in an improvised tent on the tennis court. We were all scared, we did not know what would happen but something was sure: It was not the end and the night would be long! It was furthermore not possible to communicate with anyone, but I had time to talk to Victoria and was told that she and Karin felt good, and i talked to my brother to tell him where I was. After that I was disconnected for two days.
We were together and it felt good, but the fear was still part of the group since we had been told that it was expected several aftershocks during the night. We did not talk much to each other, we were quiet and had lot of ideas, but no one wanted to worry the others, we tried to be strong and go back to sleep but it was not all of us that succeeded it. I did fall asleep a couple of times but woke up repeatedly because of panic. I heard an airplane and in my sleep I thought that it was an aftershock, so I jumped out of the sleeping bag and had difficulty breathing. Arturo tried to calm me down every time, but we were both pretty scared when the aftershocks came. As you can assume it was not possible to sleep the first night, and not the next either.
The following day everything felt much calmer so when I first got the chance, I went to Manjushree. Getting there was difficult, again i got the feeling that everything was shaken and I could not stop thinking that the buildings would crumble down. So I ran as fast as I could to avoid thoughts and feelings. When I arrived to the home, I could see the children sitting and playing on a mat on the garden. Two walls beside the entrance had fallen down and the neighborhood camped outside the home. They saw me and started screaming: Valentina, Valentina earthquake .its coming !!!
What do you say about that? I just ran and hugged them. They appeared to be calm and Dolma seemed to have the situation under control. Sabi, the oldest girl in the home admitted she was scared, she asked how I was and where I had been when everything happened. I wanted to cry, I was scared, but of course I could not show it in front of the children so I stayed together, I tried to talk about other things but it was difficult to keep the thoughts away from the aftershocks. I helped Dolma to create a list of children’s names, telephone, address, blood group. The children wondered why we did it, I replied that it was a game. They were reluctant but I asked them to remember all my weird games, and told them that this was one of those and ask them to help me to fill in the list quickly. I heard Dolma said that she just wanted to ensure that the children felt fine even if she died. THAT WOMAN! She is a role model, one of the kindest people I have met, a mother to her own sons and 20 children, she was really scared as everyone else but she would never show it to the children because she is their greatest support. If there is something I am sure of is that the kids are in the best hands.
I stayed with the kids for about 30 minutes, we played, we talked, and the children wanted to sit next to me, they wanted to be hugged and I did it with the greatest joy. Even in the most difficult moments they filled my batteries and took lot of smiles from me! I had to go back to my campsite, I hugged everyone, asking them to keep me informed and promised to come back. Which was a big mistake because I was not supposed to promise things that I could not keep.
Back at the hotel I was able to let the tears flow down … I was excited because I got to meet the kids and the staff but I found it really difficult to see the situation and think about what would happen later. People began suddenly to talk about foreigners evacuation. There was nothing that affected me, I was not supposed to go anywhere, not a chance that I left all. Besides, I had not even contacted the embassy, neither the Swedish nor the Colombian so I just ignored information about evacuations.
People from the hotel came and warned everyone on the tennis court about a new and strong aftershock that would come at 12. How did they know it? We did not know but we sat tight next to each other and tried to keep us calm. At about 13 everything started shaking again … Why could not it just end? Everything was shaken so hard that we ran into the middle of the track in case the fence would fall down. It was long, it was horrible and it was strong! Then we were told that it was the strongest aftershock. The feeling of seasickness never disappeared, I still was not prepared to use a toilet indoors so were peeing outside and the day was spent without any possible communication with the outside world, and waiting for the next quake.
In the evening they warned of a storm that came from India, the hotel wanted us to camp inside the lobby. People discussed all the options and decided it was better to be soaked than to be inside when the aftershocks come. We got, however, never wet. The people in the tents were working as a team, we were a team (even though I did nothing) and we wanted to take care of each other. We shared food, water and blankets. My friends prioritized my vegan diet, even in these circumstances, and it felt good to be there with those people who got the panic to be softer.
During the night I also got in touch with my brother, he asked me if I wanted to go back to Sweden. For me it was not an option then I would surely not abandon the children, not a chance! but I promised him that I would analyze it and make a reasonable decision. My friends at the camp voted for me to go, they would themselves find a way to go from there, but I could not understand why it was a good decision. It would surely help, there were so many people out there who needed us, we could not just fly away. A little later I talked with my mom, she would support my decision but asked me to think rationally, and not only with the heart.
It did not take long before I realized what she meant … I was not feeling good, I was very unstable emotionally. I could laugh for a while and then start crying like a little baby, I had panic attacks very often and felt weaker with every hour that passed. Moreover, my presence in Kathmandu imply a need for water, food and resources … for example, if I stayed at Manjushree they would make sure I had everything I needed, which means I would take their resources. I would not be of any use, and instead I would take the resources that Nepalis needed, so I understood then that the best thing was to leave Nepal.
Next day was communication much better, I got in touch with my brother, with my mother and with social workers without frontiers. Everyone thought that the best thing was that I would go away from Nepal as soon as it went, I felt then (and still feel) that I made the right decision. They day was filled with stress and frustration. Both my brother and I contacted the embassy, SOS International, Falck Global assitance and all possible actors that could help me to go away from the country. Victoria and Karin helped from Gokarna with a few calls and constant communication with my brother when it was difficult to contact me. Despite everyone’s effort, nothing seemed to work, it did not look bright for me and I lost patience and hope.
I asked Dolma what she thought about me going away, I was apologetic indirectly. For her, it was also obvious that I would go back and be ”safe with the family.” I felt how my brother was becoming desperate when no one wanted or could help. He checked the option to book a regular flight, but either they were booked, they were absurd expensive or I could just not fly to the mass of countries because of my Colombian citizenship. He did not, however, show that he lost hope, he would not let me know that he cried every time he hung up. He spoke calmly and said at the end of every conversation that he loved me and that I did not have to worry about anything because I was not alone. He would not leave me in Nepal, he would take me away that week!
It is now, I realize how long that Monday was, or so it seemed to me. I speak also with Calle, he would stay in Nepal and help. He was as calm and strong as usual, he understood why I wanted to go and helped as much as he could. During the evening our three friends went to Delhi and then continued to their home countries. Arturo and I were extremly happy that they could go but that was when we realized that half of our camp had been evacuated and that put pressure on us. Although it was difficult, we had each other and that is what counted then, that gave calm during the night.
Around 22 most had gone to sleep, there was some shaking but there were not many people who noticed it. We had two new girls in our tent, two journalists working in Delhi that would report on the disaster. They had installed themselves in the lobby but after the quake, they were so afraid that we gave those places that our friends had left. I could not hold me anymore and began to cry like a baby again. How long could this be? Why was I so weak? Why could not I be strong and help instead of panicking? Why could not I go somewhere while all other evacuated?
I cried so much so that I had difficulty breathing .. so I went to the lobby and pretended that I wanted to charge my computer, but I really just wanted to cry alone. Victoria and Karin had a flight to Bangkok the following day, they wanted to take me with them, but Colombian citizens need a visa to enter in Thailand so it wasnt possible. I was happy for them, sooo happy that they could go, but still wanted to just cry. In between my tears there comes a guy who worked at the Hyatt, he wondered what happened to me and wanted to help me. I said that everything was okay, but I was afraid. He refused to go without me being calm down. It all ended with a fruitful conversation in the lobby. He told me about his family, their destroyed houses and all he had lost. He wanted me to smile and be happy that we were uninjured and found ourselves in a safe place. He made sure I drank hot water and took me back to the campsite when I stopped crying. The conversation gave not only quiet, but it made me realize how stupid I had been and how much people had to take. They didnt cry, they worked, they continued to live because they can not book a flight to another country. They have to fight through the circumstances and build up the country that the earthquake destroyed. With a lot of guilt and hope I fell asleep deeply.
Tuesday started early as usual, we improvised a breakfast and started planning the day. Arturo’s school had fixed an architect who would check our houses and assess whether they were safe or not. We would go in batches in small groups, our group was number 2 so we had time to go to the grocery store and buy everything that we needed for at least one week. Being inside a supermarket was really scary, but we did it and it was as fast as we could. On the way to the camp we found a small local restaurant open, we ordered the only thing that was available, one of the most spicy plates I have eaten in my life, but it did not matter, it was food, and it was incredible valuabe under the circumstances.
When we were back in the hotel Arturo told me that Mexican embassy could evacuate him if he wanted it. He refused to go even if I tried to persuade him. He already had a plan on how he could help and he was the only one who could make that decision. I made contact with the Swedish Embassy in Delhi, they had my information but had not been able to do anything because of the situation at the airport. My brother, however, had good news, he was able to rebook my ticket and I could go on Friday. I could take it, it was just a few days, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Mom did not let him buy it yet because she had contact with the Colombian embassy in Sweden which was prepared to act either on the day or the day after. All of a sudden, I get help from all different directions.
Victoria and Karin phoned before they went, they were always there to support, and I never felt alone even if I did not get to meet them after the quake. My brother said he would wait a couple of hours or he would book the ticket and I felt a lot calmer after the conversation with the guy from the Hyatt so I went with the architect to check our house. On the way there, while he looked at another house, the guy from Falck Global Assistance called , i mean those from the insurance company. He asked lot of things but he had important info for me. Communication was interrupted and I started getting mass sms from my brother in which he asked me to contact them immediately. They asked him not to book a ticket before they could contact me. I do not know how but they did contact me after mass trials. He asked me if I could take me to the airport … Well, I could … he said that he would try to book a flight that night. He never said a time, just tonight. I then ran to the house, panic-packed everything that I could get and went back to the hyatt to get the things I had there and take a taxi to the airport.
On the way to the Hyatt, I received a text message saying that I was booked on a flight at 21:30. I got tears again, but this time it was joy. I had lost Arturo and I wanted to hug him and say goodbye before I would take me to the airport. I got to the hotel, packed everything, tried to charge my mobile and rang Dolma. I did not keep the promise, I would not come back and say goodbye, I would take a taxi to the airport and probably fly for a few hours and I could not meet with them one last time to say goodbye. I could not help crying, I asked her to apologize, I explained how much they meant to me and said that I loved them and would miss them so very much. She asked me to be strong, she said she was happy that I would be safe, she said that both she and the kids loved me and would miss me much. After that we hang up. Arturo came running to the lobby and we had to say goodbye before the taxi came and picked me up. I reminded him of the chance he had to be evacuated, recover and meet his family. I explained that it was okay to be afraid, and that it was reasonable to accept when you were not a help, and instead could be an obstacle.
I cried much for all that I left behind me, but I felt it was the right decision. I emailed my ticket to my brother who did not know I had it. They were incredibly happy about the news. Inside the airport, everything was much calmer than I had expected. I had to wait a while before I could check in and then I let the emotions, tears and thoughts come out. It was incredibly difficult to leave all, I had wanted to hug them the last time at least, but I think they understand why I acted as I did and I hope they know it’s not the last time we will meet. I’m sure I’ll return to that beautiful country and meet with them again.
I promised myself that I would go back to recove and help children and Nepal as much as possible from Sweden. I can do a lot more here than what I had done from Kathmandu. The first thing I want to highlight is long-term efforts by the association for street children in Nepal operates with both the children and the students. Right now the country needs urgent action, but the help will be needed even when the emergency situation is over. Cities must be built up again, people must return to their normal life and children need shelter and an opportunity to continue to learn and grow in a safe environment in order to have better opportunities in the future.
I do not believe that it is possible to help the whole world, unfortunately it is not possible for a person to help an entire country, but it is possible to make a contribution that will ensure that many children and families are better off. If each person gives / makes the little they can, we can really create a change.
I have now had the chance to witness the great change that association for street children in Nepal creates and i want to continue to be part of this important project. Therefore, I leave the information that you who are interested can use to make a donation. Everything works in a situation like this and the country is in great need of help. Do not let Nepal be in the shade, we can all help to improve the situation over there!
BG 900-3658 or PG 90 03 65-8 mark your contribution ”Earthquake”
You can also swischa to the association’s account 1239003658
http://www.gofundme.com/gayatri-fund ( for the emergency help)
Now this end and I would like to thank everyone who was somehow involved in this adventure. This internship is something I will never forget. I do not mean the earthquake but the internship itself, all the beautiful children who motivated me every day, the staff at the various orphanages who taught me all about professionalism mixed with pure love. The internship is meant to give an idea of how it is to work in the field i have been studying for and for me it means a professional development of course, but the most important of my internship was the huge personal development i got. All lessons have made me grow as a person and that I will take with me for life.
❤ ❤ ❤