When I found out how devastating the earthquake was that hit Nepal, I sobbed; I fretted; I was angry; I was out of my mind. I did not leave my computer for days, wondering how I can help, if I should fly there, what is the Nepali government doing, what am I doing here in Phnom Penh? I'd see a photo or a news clip and burst into tears.
I'm still bursting into tears, a month after.
I was not surprised to hear how Nepali people and expats organized themselves one day after the earthquake hit. I was not surprised when I heard that a good friend of mine converted her hotel into an earthquake relief headquarter.
She's still working tireless long days, organizing day trips to villages that have been completely wiped out between tremors and more earthquakes. She calls it a "soul shake down." They started with phase one, search and rescue. Then on to phase two, aid and relief operations to the villages the government was not reaching. Now they are thinking long term, planning vocational training and workshops. These workshops will provide skills that will help in the coming years, post-earthquake.
It's strange to be in Cambodia when my favorite country (my home) is going through tragedy. I feel helpless and guilty. I was trying to invent ways I could help from here. When the Nepali government instituted a mandate, demanding aid money go to the prime minister's relief fund, smaller operations like NayanTara's group fretted that their funds might not reach them. I thought maybe I could fly in with massive amounts of cash to help...maybe not one of my smartest ideas.
NayanTara presented her series "Being Nepali" at The French Institute a few months ago. She signed the photos over to me, hoping that I could roll them up and bring them back to Nepal or keep them myself. Turns out, the prints are glued to heavy boards, not easy to mount. I leapt at the opportunity to exhibit them here in Phnom Penh, post-earthquake.
Managing this exhibition has been cathartic and inspiring for me. My friends who are most likely sick of hearing me start sentences with "One time in Nepal..." have gotten involved. They came together and helped me organize this beautiful exhibition. Without the help of my friends and "The Plantation," this exhibition would not have taken place.
We raised money; we showed our support and love for Nepal; we candle light vigil-ed; we ate momos; we donated; conversations were had; tears shed; and we all looked at beautiful faces of Nepali people and drank and ate in the name of those we love, those we lost and those who are working so hard to rebuild Nepal.
I'm hoping Photo Kathmandu still takes place this year. It is too soon to discuss, especially since the location we were planning on exhibiting is now rubble. Maybe a photo exhibition about "time" is a great way for people to heal over this tragedy.