Nepal earthquake: The temple is gone but the people will rebuild

Saskatoon Morning online host Matt Kruchak reflects on the six-months he spent in working as a freelance journalist in Nepal.

Saskatoon Morning online host Matt Kruchak reflects on his time in Nepal

This ceiling will crush me if an earthquake hits, I thought, as I looked up at the exposed concrete overhead. I made this assessment of my apartment on my first day in Kathmandu, Nepal in 2008.

I knew there was a chance a massive earthquake could hit. However, the thought of being crushed in one never crossed my mind again over the six months I worked there as a freelance journalist.

The thought wasn't even in the back of my mind, since I had day-to-day hazards to focus on to stay safe — like not drinking the water; not getting hit by a bus crossing the busy uncontrolled streets; and most important of all, watching where I was going.

Just over a week into my stay, I ran to catch a mini-bus and I fell into an open manhole. I smashed my shin up and spent a few weeks hobbling around the rugged streets on crutches.

Saskatoon Morning online host Matt Kruchak worked as a freelance journalist in Nepal in 2008-09.
I was lucky. I knew it. Not because my leg wasn't broken, but because my daily worries were few, and trivial, compared with the problems the over one-million people living in Kathmandu faced.

Life is difficult for the majority of Nepali people in the valley. Poverty is rampant, air pollution is a problem, and rolling blackouts caused by hydroelectricity shortages during the dry season can last for up to 20 hours per day.

Working days are long, that's if people can even find steady jobs at all. The country's unemployment rate is over 45 per cent, forcing many people to work abroad in the Middle East to help feed their families at home.

Many kids take up jobs — from serving tea to collecting money on buses to working in shops. The rate of child labour in the country is 34 per cent.

As tough as life is, I was amazed with the hope people had. And I was inspired by the work of those I met who were trying to make a difference. 

When the magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit the country on Saturday, the already difficult lives of the Nepali people turned dire.

A Nepalese policeman stands atop of a rubble at Basantapur Durbar Square that was damaged in Saturday's earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Sunday, April 26, 2015. (Bernat Armangue/AP)
I woke up to this horrible news. I thought of my friends and the warm, generous people I crossed paths with — the Tibetan Buddhist monks I had tea with, the man who sold me newspapers each morning, and the Canadian woman who owned one of my favourite restaurants in Kathmandu. Were they OK?

My friend, Dechen, posted on Facebook that she was safe. Two brothers I befriended are OK, but said in an e-mail that people are suffering. They don't have tents, or enough food and water.

I was stunned by the damage as I looked through the first photos posted online Saturday morning by the wire services. It was hard to believe the destruction in the old city I was seeing.

A Nepalese cycle rickshaw puller pedals past buildings at the Basantapur Durbar Square, damaged in Saturday's earthquake, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Sunday, April 26, 2015. (Bernat Armangue/AP)

It brought back memories of when I would lose myself in the slow-moving crowd heading towards Indra Chowk, an ancient market in the heart of the old city.

Women sold colourful spices. A man sat in the shade and drank milk tea, while a woman dodged the crowd with an offering in her hands as she made her way to one of the Hindu shrines in the square.

This scene played out the same way for centuries. I was transported back hundreds of years.

From the market, I would make my way towards Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site. I continued to picture myself in the past as I moved with the crowd towards the square and the massive Maju Deval temple came into view.

Today, the 325-year-old majestic wooden temple is a pile of rubble.

The earthquake has caused the loss of lives. It destroyed people's homes, livelihoods and historic sites.

What it can't erase is the history and resilience of the Nepalese people. Their hope for a better country is too strong. 


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