Travel diary from Johan Magnusson, Loof Foundation Representative in order to help earthquake affected orphan children in Nepal

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Sat May 9

16:17 I’m leaving a sunny Mariestad by bus towards Skövde, my son Martin drove me to the bus station. It feels good to finally be on the road, there has been a lot of preparation for this and I’ve actually had some travel fever this time.

22:30 The flight was delayed because there were some technical issues.

23:09 Now we are taking off! Fortunately I have some waiting time in Doha so that my luggage should arrive in time so I can catch the next flight to Kathmandu. I start to feel sleepy, I am hoping to be able to sleep a few hours onboard which I think I need as I have a tough few weeks ahead of me now.

Sun May 10

06:30 Doha time, I land in Qatar, an hour late. The flight to Kathmandu taking off at 7:55 now I am in a bit of a rush. I feel a little worried that my baggage will not catch up with me. I wouldn’t want to end up in Nepal without my food, tents and sleeping bags.

7:55 lift off towards Kathmandu.

15:05 We have landed, but it is full of aircraft at Kathmandu’s airport, there were so many aid flights into the airport we had to circle for quite some time. We would only be able to circle for two hours over the city so it was very lucky we were able to land.

18:30 I got out of the airport and fortunately I got my luggage! It was not quite the chaos that it usually is. There were less people this time, luckily there was no direct damage to the airport but a lot of air aid and equipment around the runways and airport. Our contact Karma met up with me and ran me through Kathmandu’s streets that work much like ordinary streets (but not in Sweden). I saw many heavily damaged houses and many houses with cracks and scuffs in. I saw a large tent camp, where I would not like to spend the monsoon season that is approaching fast. I feel really sorry for the poor people who have to live there. There is less traffic and people, Karma says that everyone is afraid and many have returned to their villages because there are no jobs now in Kathmandu, no tourists, and so much has been ruined.

19:00 Then I arrived at the monastery hostel, not a single human being, nor tourist, just me with the monks. I feel sad that the people here who have already been hit hard twice. I was planning the coming days with the Karma. He is feeling well but he looks worn out, he works hard for his village Ratankot. We will not go to the village tomorrow, but we will go on Tuesday. Tomorrow we shall buy all the basics for the villagers. We will make sure that the car is completely filled with auxiliary materials for the villagers.

21:30 Accommodation at the monastery hostel is very simple, very hard beds (but, however beds), there is a shower (cold water) and toilet (that you can sit on). There is a communal kitchen, there I boil water for my freeze dried goulash-soup and coffee. It is pleasantly warm + 22 and humid so I get to sleep well tonight! Thank you for today!

Mon 11/5

6:00 I awoke up but went back to sleep again. Turns out later that it was an aftershock at that time so it was probably not so strange that I awoke.

9:30 I woke up and I slept okay but a bit warm. Cooked breakfast and texting Karma to see how we would plan the day.

10:00 Time for a shower. I also found out there was hot water! The sun has had time to make good on the roof solar panels!

10:30 I’m now going out on Kathmandu’s streets, as I set off for Karma’s store. There were very little people compared to how many there usually are, there were almost no tourists at all. I saw a tent in the first garden I passed. As I pass a small tent camp. It seems like many people are in some form of apathy, feels tragic and sad when they really need to fix housing for lots of people. I found out today that about 2 million do not have shelter in Nepal and the monsoon begins very soon!

12:00 I found a large tent camp where people from Japan was helping digging holes to build restrooms outhouse. Lots of home-built tent/huts. I was going around and watching, I was struggling to keep the tears away, very moving.

13:30 I find Karma in his shop with no customers there either. He says that many of his friends have already started to ration food and eat only one meal a day. I feared that this is just the beginning of a widespread famine. Karma has found pressings of tents, sleeping mats and mattresses that we should buy for the “Home of Hope” children.

15:00 We went away to the center of Kathmandu to buy these things for the children of the orphanage. Central Kathmandu has to be experienced, it is quite impossible to describe. Lots of houses with heavy damage, only supported by logs. Several houses were completely destroyed and some areas cordoned off, but no one really seems to care. It is all fully active even though there were houses leaning against each other over the alleys. We acquire tents, really good quality, large waterproof mats and mattresses. A small problem is that everyone tries to increase prices with the disaster. Karma knows what it should cost, but everything is twice as expensive anyway, unfortunately.

18:30 It was starting to get dark, we managed to get a taxi that holds everything we bought. Karma sits on top of all luggage, so full is the car! A taxi now costs 4 times as much as normal (after Karma negotiated). I felt sad that it should have to be this way, but in one of the world’s poorest countries, it is perhaps not surprising considering what just happened.

19:15 I got back at the monastery hostel, feels good, I do not feel confident with being out in traffic when it was dark with no street lights, every car was driving without headlights and full of pedestrians crossing the road.

19:30 I took a much needed shower, has been hot today, close to 30 degrees and the sun and everything is insanely dirty, smoky and dusty so you get really dirty. It was a cold shower as we had run out of hot water. I managed to find a washing machine t wash my clothes in.

20:15 For my meal today it was chicken that tasted great, I was really hungry.

I was able to fit in a little diary writing and then I decided it was bedtime. In the morning at nine o’clock it’s off to the village Ratankot. I was feeling a little worried about how it will be to get there, all the houses seem to be uninhabitable.

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Tuesday, May 12

7:30 I woke up having slept ok but a little hot and a lot of noise. Then I had a breakfast and packed all my gear.

9:00 I am now waiting for Karma to take me in the car with all the things we bought yesterday to the village Ratankot.

9:30 Karma and the car have arrived.

10:00 I am now on the way with the crammed car with a fully packed roof.

11:45 Lunchtime is now approaching, 1/3 of the journey done. Not as many trucks as the way to China is not open since the quake. But there are several military aid shipments.

12:30 We stopped in a small town (Khadichaur) to buy water and some things for Karma’s mother. Karma goes out to the shop, I was left in the car when everything starts rocking violently, people start running in panic and it takes a few seconds before I realize that now is the earthquake and it is outrageous! I think instinctively that I’m safer in a car than on the narrow street when it starts falling bricks and other debris. As soon as it stopped shaking, I jump out the car to see where Karma is, I also managed to take some pictures of the panic and devastation.
I was easily able to find Karma, unharmed but very stressed, we jump in the car and hurried out of the village, clearing away things that have fallen on the road in a few places. I see several injured.
We stopped in safety from falling things and awaited the expected aftershocks. That was why Karma wanted us to move out of the village quickly. There are several aftershocks, all really sharp. Everyone tries to get hold of loved ones, Karma has a wife and child in Kathmandu. I’m trying to get hold of Sophie since I guess it will soon be out on the news in Sweden. Sending text messages but my mobile network is down.

14:10 We go forward slowly, with cracks in the road in many places. The mobile network starts to work again, Sophie calls :-) it feels really nice to talk to her, feeling a little shaky inside when I tell her what I have experienced and it will catch up with me what danger I had actually been in!

14:30 We have arrived where we turn aside out of the village road, a road is not the right word, it requires a four wheel jeep and the road gets really steep downhill for 30 minutes, through floods and then 45 minutes up the other side again.

16:00 Now we are in Ratankot unloading the car and we distribute the first things to some of the orphanage children. There is a big crowd when I arrive and I get a lot help with the tents. Almost all the houses in the village are in ruins, they have built tents and huts where they now live. It has been like that  the whole trip from Kathmandu, it is very moving to see it all – all their whole homes are in shambles.

20:00 I have just eaten and now I lay in my tent and write my diary, there has been three aftershocks tonight. I have been interviewed by the newspaper, radio and television. What a day, I can’t believe the feelings and impressions have caught up quite yet.

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