Like a rigid piece of iron I sit bolt upright on my yoga mat. It is 5am and bitterly cold. It’s 2011. The frosty air is in my bones, but not my heart.
The sun is rising.
I’m watching a Nepali man dressed in white fling himself around a tiny wooden stage. He’s teaching us yoga; yoga like I’ve never experienced it before. All around me supple Nepali bodies follow his guidance. I’m ten seconds behind. I’m copying the actions; the foreign chatter flows over me.
I’m exhausted. My body aches. The Nepalis are relentless with their postures and breathing, not once offering resistance or complaint. Heavy breath surrounds me amidst stifled giggles at my lack of flexibility.
The Nepalis are a unit. They’re strong beyond belief. They move as one.
THEY ARE ONE.
And that’s how I know that this week and those that follow, although the toughest in many of their lifetimes, is where they will show us strength and triumph.
I spent eight inspiring months in Nepal in 2010-2011 working with the team at Marybert School & Orphanage, KTM.
I loved, I laughed, I cried, I played, I supported, I explored.
I sat, I ran, I read, I ate, I wrote.
I worked, I rested. I breathed, and for some of the time I looked in the mirror and got a fright to see blue eyes looking back, not deep brown. I was confused to see milky white skin.
I’ve seen men fall down in the street only to be helped up by ten running bodies desperate to set him right. I’ve watched little old ladies supported across muddy fields. I’ve seen mothers carrying more babies than could possibly be theirs. I’ve seen men leap off tuk tuks to help the driver of a broken down car or a crashed motorbike. I’ve seen straw carried on backs that have no use for it, and homeless children and elders taken in when they need a home. I’ve seen conflict too; where there’s light there’s always dark.
The loyalty, the compassion, the support that Nepalis bring forth is humbling.
In a culture where everyone is respectfully called brother or sister, aunt or uncle there is no place for anything but heartfelt help. When I first returned to the UK I felt lost, I could no longer call out didi, bahini or dai (sister, brother) because no-one knew what I was talking about. I was once again relegated to calling out ‘excuse me, or hey’- our own ‘connection’ felt barren.
I was numb when I heard of Saturday’s earthquake and devastation. Cosied up in a personal development seminar in a nice hotel I wasn’t ready to be touched by tragedy that has and is affecting friends and families I love, and the little girl Shanti I’ve supported for four years. I awoke in tears on Sunday; the feelings had come to greet me.
At this moment most of my friends and their families are known to be safe. We’re still awaiting word of Shanti (pictured above leaning on my chest) who’s in a remote village in the north west of Nepal. Pray for her, alongside prayers for the country and its people; our friends, our distant families. This isn’t about me, it’s not even only about my friends and loved ones, this is about recognising that we can support from afar when we see people able to survive and rise up.
The children at Marybert School & Orphanage are sleeping outside in the playground right now; blankets and the bodies of each other for warmth.
Nepal has lost more than 3,000 of its people; fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, and everything in between. We know that the death toll will rise; there’s talk of 10,000. And I know that the other 27 million of the Nepali population will be doing all it can to rescue, to support, to help, to strengthen, to listen, and to love.
It’s one of the poorest countries in the world and now facing crisis; I choose to see its first class humanity, compassion and strength because I know it’s there.
How it will rise from this remains to be seen, and I know that it will. I know our team at Marybert will support our children through this, and I know that we will help to support our team.
For whatever reason this has happened to such a beautiful country, we are right here doing what we can; funds, prayers, compassion.
Let’s choose to focus on the strength and strengthening, not the devastation.
If you’d like to know more about the charity I support check out: www.mysmallhelp.org
Love – because that’s all there is.