I just flunked an interview, I knew it! It was when I realized I was talking to someone I don’t want to work with, at least that’s what my gut told me. I felt after the 2nd question in the interview that I was applying for a “beauty pageant” than for development work, so I abandoned all impression and just went along with it – and that was the longest interview I had for work. Sure enough I didn’t get the call back.
Couple of weeks later the earthquake struck Nepal, leaving the country shaken and some parts of it completely flattened. Another 2 weeks the second earthquake struck and more devastation. The already fragile infrastructures that were damaged by the first earthquake of April was collapsed by the second earthquake in May. The death toll increased and the impending monsoon made all efforts to recovery strained, not forgetting the hourly aftershocks not lower than magnitude 5 in the Richter scale.
Then I got the message, asking me if I am ready to be deployed for short emergency mission.
To be or not to be?
Hmmmm … you see I am a development worker, mostly did long term work post emergency. The threat of security has always been minimal in that context, meaning I can do and go wherever I want to reach as many people as I need to for my work. So I debated between my two self (or more) – Can I do it? Can I function in emergency context? Am I ready for earthquakes?
At the back of my mind “it’s Nepal silly, the country I missed visiting when I was still has the drive and energy to climb” and it’s my opportunity to see the Himalayas, Everest even.
I did my research, I looked into what’s happening on the ground and braced myself, responded to the e-mail and gave my resounding “YES” I’ll go.
Choosing the right post
It’s short term and most of the emergency response effort had been covered when I will arrive in the country in mid-June.
The first thing I need to do was to decide which of the 3 post offered I can do or want to do — I choose the lesser challenge according to me — project management of one site covering 2 districts in the central region of the country, west of Kathmandu.
Since I’ve been managing projects all my life in disability development context, I just have to find my niche in the same space in emergency context – how difficult could that be? oh so I thought.
So PM it is.
Since it’s only a 2 months post as expected from emergency missions I only had one luggage enough to tide me over and be back in no time.
Flying in the night
Taking the plane late afternoon from my home country, leaving delayed as usual, I arrived one hour to boarding for Kathmandu in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Good thing though was that the person sitting next to me was from Nepal and going with the same flight as me – so if I am late he is too obviously!
Luckily, the plane stopped at the gate next to the one connecting to Kathmandu, so delayed or not in the end I had time to relax before I boarded the midnight plane that arrived midnight again in Kathmandu.
Good thing the food was good both flights. I am not sure about the food in Nepal, although I love Indian food not sure if its the same – so a little airplane food in that taste genre was not so bad.
At the airport
Arrived very very late with 30 kilos of luggage I was happy. I felt very important, telling people in the visa section what I will do and they were very happy for my arrival (well that was how it is so take it!)
I was time warped. Arriving late and in a small airport, coming in from two big ones knocked me off and sent me back to earth – reality check! This is it, I am in Nepal.
Now, I have to look for the driver, I am sure the organization in spite of the busy schedule on the ground would send one driver for pick-up, and I found him, brandishing the organization logo so I approached this lovely man, more like a boy actually and explained who I am and took me to his smallish car, then we sped away.
Treated like an important person – sitting at the back, a/c on, I had a good view of the outside hoping to see first hand even in the dead of the night the devastation of the earthquake.
The trip took 30 minutes with traffic according to the driver but since we’re the only car in the street, it barely took 20 (but the trip feels long the first time) and was amazed to see that there were no damages in the main thoroughfare until we reached our guesthouse.
The driver, Raju said that most are in the districts and Kathmandu had been spared except for some old buildings and monuments.
I rest my case, I will be in the thick of it anyway soon.
As soon as I arrived at the beautiful guesthouses and met some of the people I will work (and live with) for the couple of month I am in Nepal, I head off to my assigned room and slept like a baby.
The next day, I woke up dazed but rested.
It’s time to go to work.
*Next post I will talk about the Guest House and the life we had inside.