Nepal’s people have welcomed me into their country. Jumping into the unknown in the manner that I have done is difficult at times, as I am submerged into a new culture complete with new customs and new expectations; however, jumping into the unknown as I am doing is also beautiful. I have been welcomed into the home of Lhakpa Tamang Jangba’s family–a family displaced by the earthquake, a family tightly woven with threads of love, threads of acceptance that carry them together through their crisis.
Since coming to live with Lhakpa and his family, I have become involved in a few projects concerning story-telling through photographs and writing with this displaced community from the Langtang Valley. One project I am currently helping with, called Picture Me Here led by two American women, Brigid McAuliffe and Patti Bonnet, is becoming a cornerstone of empowerment within the community. The project seeks to give these displaced individuals a means to tell their story through photography. I am learning so much from the project and from the participants. I am learning how to see the beauty that lies within everything. I am learning how to be patient with what I see. I am learning once again the lesson that life continues after devastation, that life will bring laughter even in times of crisis.
Nepal is beautiful–the landscape, the colors, the people. A photograph can capture the beauty; a photograph can also capture the despair.
Before I arrived on the ground in Nepal, I wrote to you about the fuel crisis. Now, living here for just shy of a month, I have witnessed the crisis with my eyes as I see cars, motorbikes, and buses wait in line for petroleum and diesel gas for over 24 hours, sometimes not receiving a single drop. I have witnessed this crisis with my heart as I listen to the people not sure of how they will conduct their daily lives as the crisis continues, as the crisis worsens. Not only is there a scarcity of petroleum and diesel, but now the crisis is spreading to food products–sugar, salt, and oil.
I have a maximum of 4 or 5 days of gas left. Then no gas. Then what to do?
–Lhakpa Tamang Jangba
Every day there are more difficulties to be faced; more burdens to endure. Electricity is out for a period of time every day; water is not always running. Scrolling through Facebook, Nepalese friends question who their new Constitution is for. I was buying shoes at a local market one day when the clerk began to discuss with me some of the internal problems of the country. He expressed to me how the Nepalese government does not take care of their people explaining that “they have everything and we [the citizens] have nothing.”
I witness displacement around me every day in Nepal. This photograph above is someone’s home. When we walked past this makeshift shelter, Lhakpa explained to me “This is the real life in Nepal. This is what happens.” It is a story of helplessness; a story told by the welcoming faces I meet each day.
I have learned so many things in the short amount of time I have been living and working with Lhakpa. He is a light within his community–a person that breathes hope into the people that surround him. One day he shared with me that he was once told that understanding is another word for love; that if there is not a mutual understanding, the more you try to love, the more you will make people suffer. Lhakpa’s ability to be patient, to be flexible, to understand is beautiful; learning from him is an experience I will be forever grateful for.
Earlier today I was feeling sadness for the people around me, for the situation at hand. As the electricity had been out for a few hours, I walked through the darkness into the room that I am staying in; this room is also the room that a candle is lit each day. As the light of the candle caught my eye, I heard the laughter of Lhakpa, his wife, and two children coming from their room.
It was this light and this laughter that amazed me, that reminded me again that life continues through crisis. These are the moments that inspire me; an inspiration that continues to surprise me, appearing in the most unlikely of times. It is this inspiration that empowers me to write, to share with you, my Readers, what my experiences are teaching me.
Thank you for allowing me to share; thank you for listening.