Sunday, May 31, 2015

Staying well

Living overseas is a rotation of leaving people or being left behind. It's emotionally taxing, though the goodbyes become so regular that we often forget to leave, and stay, well. Pollock wrote about building your "RAFT", to start your new adventure without bringing a bunch of baggage with you (pun intended). What about those of us who are staying put? That's hard too! Amidst natural disaster coping, this year it's been a challenge to say the least. Here are some things to think about for those of us saying goodbye to people moving on who have touched our lives in some way; best friends, co-workers, friends of your kids, etc.

(In that we are in a post-natural disaster situation, this doesn't cover leaving or staying when people have quickly evacuated and are not coming back. I wish I had more on that, perhaps in the future).

1) Go ahead and build that raft even though you aren't leaving. Reconcile with the people leaving, affirm them, say farewell. Think forward with them, and think forward positively for yourself.

2) Set aside time to spend with them in the last few weeks.

3) Take pictures, write cards, make farewell gifts that will pack easily - whatever fits your style.

4) Be conscious of making plans for the future in front of them, they will of course be left out.

5) Share in their excitement about their new post or repatriation.

6) Acknowledge the awkward, the sad, the happy with each other. Put words to it. It'll make people feel better and normalizes the whole thing we go through all the time.

7) Understand they are coping with a lot and your relationship might change as a result.

8) Grieve; it's ok. Change equals loss, loss equals grief.

9) Have kids?  Teach them how to say goodbye, help give them words for their feelings, don't shoo away the feelings with "you'll find a new friend" just acknowledge the sadness/frustration/guilt/anger.

Have other great ideas?

Thursday, May 21, 2015


After a big shake last Tuesday, in which we evacuated school and took a day off for buildings to be reinspected, things have calmed down.  There are still aftershocks here and there, though it's getting to the point that sometimes people feel them, sometimes they don't.

In our community nerves are raw; focus is lacking.  But we're in our houses.  We're back at work doing pretty normal things.  Sure, there have been changes, but for us, life is pretty normal.  Go to school, come home, play, eat dinner, read books, kids' bedtime, read books without pictures in them, go to bed.

Temporarily rebuilt

Except the knowledge that we are in a bubble.  A bubble of resources, of options, of support.  Expat.  Privileged.

It's hard to live in that space.  It's uncomfortable on many levels.  We've picked up our pieces, and there are so many without any pieces to pick up.

As a school we are supporting our local community and beyond. We have received numerous questions regarding donations. A PayPal account has been created: Lincoln School Kathmandu Earthquake Relief Fund through our business manager Janne (Shah) Gadegaard.

Money collected will go through a process of thorough vetting of needs to rebuild homes, provide medical and supporting the communities. No administrative costs will be incurred. We are sharing how the funds are distributed through our website and our Facebook page.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Saturday April 25th, 2015: A week later

We must be creatures of habit. Minutes ago Jeremiah left the house to go to school, I have just put Liam down for a nap upstairs in his crib, and Tegan and I are hanging out downstairs. Exactly what we were doing this time last week. Until about noon, that is, when the ground started shaking. Luckily Tegan was already in my lap, I held her tight, avoided the shelf that crashed to our right and frantically thought about how I was going to get upstairs to Liam. I knew I couldn't make it up the stairs right then, I couldn't even take a couple steps without falling. Tegan was terrified.

After what felt like ages the ground stopped shaking and I got a text from Jeremiah that said "get out now!".  I put Tegan outside, told her to stay there, and raced to get Liam. I'd known we'd placed his crib in a place that no furniture would fall on it but had no idea about the structure of our house.  I walked into his room and saw him just waking up and with great relief I grabbed him and raced down, snagged some shoes for all of us, and sat in the yard with both kids on my lap.  Jeremiah met us just a few minutes later - he'd made his way down from the 3rd story of our school building and ran home.  Aftershock after aftershock hit.  Neighbors gathered in our yard, a space that is away from things that can fall.  People were gathering in the streets.  I emailed my mom "we're ok", knowing it was the middle of the night there but that this would be on the news when she woke.  I tried to call our friends.  Nothing would go through.  I sent texts.

We decided to go to school - just a few minute walk.  Jeremiah went into the house to grab essentials to pack a bag.  And we booked it.

At school we met up with other folks who were either on campus for school-related activities or those who were nearby and made it to school as we had.  No one was hurt.  Hugs, tears, shaking; we sat for awhile.  We hung out in the field and tried texting, calling, skyping, to account for everyone.  Turns out facebook was the easiest thing to use, when texts or calls wouldn't go through, a facebook message would.

We pulled out snacks for everyone.  Water.  Blankets.  After awhile we determined we would sleep there.

We slept in a tent that night.  Aftershocks continued.  They still continue as I write this exactly a week later.

Our school is well equipped, we felt safe and well supported.  Folks that lived nearby grabbed food and supplies from their houses.  Friends helped with Tegan and Liam.  People checked in regularly so we'd always know where everyone was. It was a scary and difficult time, but we have good people around us here.

Food set up in the middle of the basketball court

Making a house out of sidewalk chalk

In the coming days we would sleep in a classroom, on a friend's ground floor, on our own ground floor and finally 5 days later in our own beds upstairs.  We slowly got back cell service, power, wifi.  We are still waiting on our water, but who cares at this point?

For the first 4 nights I slept with clothes and shoes on.  And was glad I did as we evacuated for aftershocks.  We've had a bag packed by the door ready to go with money, passports, diapers, wipes, snacks, water, headlamps - what we've come to realize are the essentials of our life right now.  In seconds I could go from asleep to scooping up Liam and ready to go.  As we slept with groups of people everyone strategically placed our layout so everyone could get out quickly.  Every time I was indoors I knew how we would get the kids and get out if needed.

Doing dishes

Things are settling down for us.  However, for so so many people of Nepal life only continues to get worse.  Living with that gratitude that my family is safe with the heartbreak that others are not is a daily struggle.

Many have asked us how to help.  There are a lot of forces at play here that are barriers to getting help to those that need it.  I won't go into all that here, but our school has set up an account that will allow us and folks connected to the community to help in effective ways with no administrative costs.  On our website you will find a link, with the following information: 

"As a school we are planning to support our local community and beyond. We have received numerous questions regarding donations. A PayPal account has been created: Lincoln School Kathmandu Earthquake Relief Fund through our business manager Janne (Shah) Gadegaard.

Money collected will go through a process of thorough vetting of needs to rebuild homes, provide medical and supporting the communities. No administrative costs will be incurred. We will share how the funds were distributed through our website and our Facebook page later."

Friday, May 1, 2015

Earthquake update

Day 6 - We have been back in our home a few days now, and last night spent the first night upstairs after sleeping on our ground floor a few nights for quick evacuation from aftershocks.  Our power and internet were back after 3-4 days though we are still without running water (our pump is broken; we are getting bucketfuls of water from our ground tank).  We had a day at work today to prepare to start school back on Monday, we are excited to see our students.

Much of Nepal is still quite devastated and in need of resources. Perhaps I will have more words about this whole experience, perhaps not, but for now, we are safe and thankful.