“Cables are not swinging anymore, yes?”

There were three aftershocks yesterday, which were more or equal to 4. This morning students went to school, people went to work, shops were open normally, and things seemed like normal. Aftershock is not considered to be big thing now and people of Nepal are moving on. Amidst the hard times of recovery process, it is possible to find gems in a chaotic debris of destruction.

I have been spending times with kids assisting them to learn to take photos. I like to collect their stories. There are many things I learn about them and couple of heartfelt experience. I love the way how photography allows people to be able to produce visual materials worth value of articulate. In one of the many sessions yesterday, while Rishu(8yrs) was writing a poem, Risan(6yrs), her brother, ran quickly near their camp and came back with a photo and eager to show me.
B: Risan, what have you got in a photo?
R: “batti ko taar” (cable to bring light)
B: “Why?”
R:*smiling and confused*
B: did you see anything there or what do you want to show me?
R: *Rishu trying to assist her brother* “halleko chaina ho?” (cables are not swinging, yes?)
R: *nodded his head and took me with my hand to show that place, and pointing towards sky with some lines of electricity cable above broken houses* that moved some days ago, we don’t have home, I cannot go to school, and my parents are crying.
Rishu: *came running after Risan* Due to earthquake, now and then it swings and my grandpa is very scared and grandma starts to pray. Today it swinged twice I felt very scared. It is not moving now hopefully it does not swing anymore.

Risan: *Rishu trying to assist her brother* "halleko chaina ho?" (cables are not swinging, yes?) Photo: Risan Shrestha

Risan: *Rishu trying to assist her brother* “halleko chaina ho?” (cables are not swinging, yes?)
Photo: Risan Shrestha

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Activities you do together can be healing with children.

I wrote about the “vomiting” culture in a previous post. Even though “vomiting” is common for adults, it is not common among the children at all, nor adults speak to children about it. The unseen mental stress of child fatality is thus mostly found in shadows. In this post, I write about my experience about interacting with children in an affected region and fun things I like to do as a way to be with them and share our familiarities together. I am not a specialist in this subject and besides not trying to be subjective in this topic, nonetheless trying to share the things that I absorbed along the way.

a poem and a drawing made in the session at balkhu

a poem and a drawing made in the session at balkhu

After helping to distribute relief supplies with local community personal, I usually spend sometimes with kids. It usually saddened me every time I interact with them and learning how much mentally and psychologically the earthquake has traumatized them. Not everyone but some of them were shocked, scared for any movement, are not able to speak, and are mostly staring at one certain place with eyes wide open. While trying to speak with them, the sense of cold touch in their hands made me feel how, in our culture, as I talked earlier, lack in understanding of mental problem and importance of psychological support towards people who are in need for that. That practice of when one don’t know what’s happening, blame it to the bad spirit or some angry god.

photo took by one of the child during a session

photo took by one of the child during a session

While being with children, I am mostly being with them, nothing whatsoever planned way, but just hanging around. Sometimes speaking with them about experiences, knowledge sharing, listening to how they feel, writing, drawing, telling jokes, making things out of papers, and playing games in groups. It is actually not so difficult as you might think it is.

they usually love to do activities together

they usually love to do activities together

Some children are usually shy in the beginning and might be still not comfortable to be with strangers right away, so I don’t expect to happen anything fast. The thing I need is the willingness to be in their physical level (sit in ground), smile, willingness to hear, ask question about them and their interest, feel free to tell about myself in simple way, respecting their views, little (sometimes lot of!) patient, and no expectations whatsoever from the interaction. In most cases, the session goes forward towards learning to use camera and photos of things they seem to tell or value. Not all the time is suitable or time for kids to interact with you, it so I usually try to be sensitive towards that too.

a child run towards his house when his mother asked to come to eat lunch

a child run towards his house when his mother asked to come to eat lunch

Does it sound difficult? I thought the same in the beginning, but surprisingly it does not take time once you forget yourself as an adult and become friend with them. And what about the whole group, you might think if it sounds difficult with one child. I have good news; it usually happens that once I am able to interact with few children, in no time there will be a bunch of others joining as an interest or curiosity.

kids play in the rubbles of broken house

kids play in the rubbles of broken house

Sometimes I have realized that it is also about the trust I am able to create with them and how much I am comfortable with them, which further can be seen from them reflecting upon back to me. Just like simple saying goes “to create a trust and respect, you need to be able to give trust and respect to the others!”

writing and drawing is always popular

writing and drawing is always popular

sunshine drawing made by Ruksana

sunshine drawing made by Ruksana

Besides, I have revisited the same location twice or even thrice and have managed to find few kids from previous session who has been so happy to see me and have been sort of “recommending me” about the things they did with me to other new kids and thus the trust pass over to new ones without any effort.

multiple visit always is fun and easy than first visit

multiple visit always is fun and easy than first visit

#‎BackToSchool‬ – how is my school now?

Photos and text: Barun Khanal. ‪ As the beautiful country Nepal has been hit by two big earthquakes, thousands of people died and nearly 800,000 resident houses, schools, and administrative buildings collapsed or have been damaged badly and not possible to use anymore. As the country is struggling to get itself back on its foot, on Aitabaar Jestha 17th 2072, or Sunday May 31st 2015, schools had been quite busy for this day preparing to start their operation after almost a month of shutdown cease activity. Many districts which have not been severe earthquake-affected has been operating their schools now and then but after the second big quake they call up until further notice.

name card of a student found after an earthquake

name card of a student found after an earthquake

Recently Nepal government issued a notice suggesting schools to start studies in all part of the country, as much as it is possible in practice. Nevertheless, students in the affected regions went back to school today for the first time since the first big earthquake on April 25. The streets in Kathmandu valley seems quite busy that morning, as the town prepared for this step towards getting back the ordinary life.

Schools started to operate across the country on 31st of May.

Schools started to operate across the country on 31st of May.

Jenim Shrestha and Jenith Shrestha were about to head to their school with their father Rajendra Kumar Shrestha when I met them in a small alley near Ason, Kathmandu. Jenim and Jenith study in the New Milleniun School, located in Kupondole area of Kathmandu.

“I have been to school before and it seemed ok. There was someone calling from School to come from today, so I am getting ready for that”, Jenith Shrestha, 14.

“I have been to school before and it seemed ok. There was someone calling from School to come from today, so I am getting ready for that”, Jenith Shrestha, 14.

Rajendra was not sure about the condition of the school, but he knows that there is a playground that belong to school so there is an empty space near the school if school need to build temporary classes outside. Shrestha told there is also a main building of school but assumes there are some cracks. “I am going to see what’s happening there when I drop them to school. “, Shrestha denoted.

“I am going to see what’s happening there when I drop them to school“, Rajendra Shrestha

“I am going to see what’s happening there when I drop them to school“, Rajendra Shrestha

Raising his voice to make himself clear from his bikes noise, he said, “Other times school used to operate from 8 to 15, but today it’s only from 9:30 to 14”. Then he instructed boys to get in the bike, and they left towards the school.

“I don’t know the condition of their school and we cant go to their school now because we have to go to work. If bad situation, there is a playground in school where they will hold classes”, Mohan Shrestha

Mohan Shrestha and his wife Yunis were heading towards the town with their children Sabina, Kabita, and Raju. These parents are not aware of how children’s school situation is after the earthquake. Mohan said he hear from someone that school is broken from inside. Yunis, a mother of these children, added a comment “People say that the ones who don’t have any place to go are now living inside that school. I have only heard but have not been there so don’t know”. I ask if they go to see the school now, Yunis replied that they are not going all the way to school; they have to go to work. Mohan believes that there is a playground in school where they will hold classes. Lynagmo (name changed) studies in class 9 of the Paropakar high secondary school. She was with her mother heading towards the school when I tried to stop and talk with them for a while. Her mother was also not sure how is the condition of a school, but said that someone from school asked parents to come to meetings in school, on the first day. However, Lynagmo remarked that she has been to school and there is some damage but not so big.   They were in a hurry and didn’t want to be in a photo either.

“There was no class today

“There was no class today”, Achyut Bhatta, Sanepa

I met Achyut Gautam, in Durbar Square with his parents. Attired in his college uniform, he felt confident in sharing his thoughts and experience with me. “There was no class today”, he positioned himself towards his parents while they grin at his answer. Gautam is studying in Friends College and is relieved that there is no damage in his college and all students are fine. After his first day at college, he had come to pray in temples with his parents. When I asked about this situation in his school, he explained in a soft tone about the day in college, “There are some small cracks near courtyard that’s all. The first day was a just short day, no study. Maybe there will be normal classes from tomorrow. “ I met Samikshya Gautam playing in front of a shop near Kalimati. Her parents Hari Baniya and Ganga Gautam (mother) were sitting inside the shop and chatting with Suraj Timalsina about the earthquake last night. When I asked whether Samikshya is going to school today or not, Ganga replied, “We don’t know if her school has started or not. Our house has collapsed, so we are looking for renting a house”.

“We have been living in tents and have finally managed to start this shop from today. We haven’t been to school to see the situation there”, Ganga Gautam

“We have been living in tents and have finally managed to start this shop from today. We haven’t been to school to see the situation there”, Ganga Gautam

Hari mentioned they have already paid for the school fees, bought uniform books for their daughter few days before the earthquake came.

“Ma ta aja school najaane / I am not going to school today”, Samikshya Gautam

“Ma ta aja school najaane / I am not going to school today”, Samikshya Gautam

Purushottam and Basudev Bhatta, both parents and coworkers in Basanta Durbar square seems to be both happy and unsure about sending their kids to school. Being doubtful about the things news media writes, Purushottam comments “I don’t know how much is truth on what media tells but I read in a newspaper last Friday that some schools have not allowed parents to go visit the school”. Basdev adds, “And some schools have been hiding the earthquake damage in an attempt to open the school”. While there have been reports on some schools trying to instantaneously make quick repair filling the visible cracks, some schools have been truly sincere about their situation and transparent about that to a public.

“Schools should put an effort to convince us- parents; they should allow and invite us to visit the school and talk with them about the situation and what can be done”, Purushottam and Basudev

After a long pause Basudev remarks that adults are scared situation themselves and that will affect the kids. In his boosting expression, he advances, “Think about the children. They are our future generation, schools should not play with their future”. Looking towards the sound where Shankha is playing, he adds, “We as an adult can run outside when necessary, children can’t react right away, they get confused and more scared”. Puroshottam and Basudev looked abruptly at each other both strongly reflects that schools should put an effort to convince parents; they should invite parents to visit the school and talk with them about the situation and what can be done.

“I am fine, we all are fine together”, Basudev Bhatta

It is necessary that instead of trying to hide destroyed structure, it’s better trying to settle the deep problem lying underneath those school infrastructure. On the other hand, many of the students, whose classrooms and schools have been destroyed during the earthquake, have been allotted classes in short-term learning centers in temporary shelters, either themselves or supported by different NGO and partner organizations. The learning center at Resettlement community at Bode, Bhakatapur is one of them.

Teachers (Chandra Kumari Tamang) volunteer in learning and fun activities from Tashi Waldorf School at temporary learning center at Bode Resettlement Center, provided by China Foundation for Poverty Aleviation.

Teachers (Chandra Kumari Tamang) volunteer in learning and fun activities from Tashi Waldorf School at temporary learning center at Bode Resettlement Center, provided by China Foundation for Poverty Aleviation.

It has also been a little prestige game among the competing schools to be able to open the schools in one way or another instead of giving out “out of order” notice. Most of the parents that I had a chance to have conversation feel insecure of sending their kids to school. On the other hand, they also feel good that children can finally go to school because children will be occupied and parents will have time to do other things. A mother taking her children to school quickly commented while she walks forward, “Its good effort to start school finally, children have been bored at home, and it had been difficult for us to last couple of weeks to handle their activities and keep them occupied. Now it is better”. She walked away laughing loudly, quickly grabbing her two children towards the school. Some schools have their activities starting late and ending early. While the aftershock is still shivering people now and then, parents do feel good about opening the schools while some don’t have enough confidence on schools infrastructure and staffs and teachers’ capability to handle the earthquake situation. For now, the schools are running, offices are in normal times, traffic is getting crazy, farmers are busy reaping and putting new plants in their field, and people try to get to their normal cycle in the way it is possible for them. It seems like the earth has been calm for few days.

Survivor’s adverse post-earthquake experiences led to fear and trauma- Nepal’s challenge.

serenity

The situation with Nepal is, well, as usual in any other disaster cases, is that the hot news for international media is over. After documenting dead bodies, broken houses, crying people, they have left. The foreign aid is pouring, and the politics behind it continues. What has been portrayed as “everything lost” hides behind the difference between what “reality” and what can be portrayed as reality. It is important to understand that we have not lost everything, and Nepal is not flat all over as you might have seen in news and media. However, people are now trying hard to start living their normal lives among the torment of ongoing aftershocks. The physical damage remains, but the mental scar among the lives in general people are quite invisible unless one lives among them. People are not able to speak properly or think logically because they have been restless, most of the street-talk is about the quake, children get easily sick and irritated, but mothers (who are themselves in traumatized state) starts to blame their child for not co-operating.

rose flower safe among the torment of a broken house

It’s been more than a month since the last big earthquake hit Nepal, and aid for the victims focused more on providing basic needs (food, shelter, and clothes). Indeed in the time of emergency, people look out for the vital requirement for living, subsequently they seek secondary needs (e.g., education, sanitation, health) only after their basic necessity get fulfilled (Marshals Law). Due to current earthquake situation, trauma from an earthquake, ongoing shakes, uncertainty, and fear of loss of lives of loved ones, lead to tribulation for a disturbing mental state among the people. In Nepalese culture, the mental state of a person and psychological issues are somehow quite below the secondary needs, or can even be sometimes said not considered as need at all.

It has become common talk among adults to speak about quake-fear, shocking news they heard, complain about an inability to sleep properly, and how miserable their lives have been. If you are from Nepal or have been in Nepal (not limited to a touristic expedition) living around locals, you might have surely noticed our culture of “vomiting” your problem out. This has been the most common way to heal the trauma that has recently affected from the earthquakes. It is common that we like to speak and listen to others, to speak about your problems, even with strangers, with a smile. One friend who happens to recently visit Nepal commented “It is quite amazing how they explain the bad situation in so relaxed way even to me, we have never met before, but it seems like now I know a lot about the recent happening in that person’s life…. They can speak for hours, and in the end they always smile and say that ‘life is like that’, and usually ask to come inside their temporary shelter for a tea”. I agree about the open-heartedness and hospitable nature of people in Nepal, but there is a catch.

himalayan range

Unfortunately, mental treatment is limited to casual everyday talk; psychological strain is not taken seriously as a “problem”, nor diagnosed. Simple mental stress do get help with the help of speak, but a serious long-term problem needs treatment. Psychological issues are rather considered temporary sentiment and believed to pass away as time (and life) proceeds. Different forms of trouble like stress, grief, sorrow, anxiety, distress for long time are even considered as disability of some form or lead to treatment related to psychic assumption. A diagnosis of psychosomatic illness is appropriated lightly, considered to be shame of and most of the time hidden from others. In worst cases, victims are either shut down from other people, even kept tied in a room, and easily reach the state of being marginalized from society. It is a recent practice that an emotional need of a person and working out with children’s psychology is seen in public tradition. Also, there is a fair amount of articles in a local newspaper that inform about the earthquake-stress-induced problems.

an edition of Kathmandu post

This blog and project started because we strongly believe that it is important to look and think about people as well, and not only broken houses. We curiosities with the interest in us, the Nepalese people, our lives, how we are managing, resilience towards the disaster, strength towards coming future, power to the weak ones, and energy that we get from these strong people whose life and story convinces us that there is hope, and thus our self-reliance towards the people originated with the “Hope from Nepal”.

clouds of hope

We will soon start to keep these lives and hopes high throughout our posts in future.