One Year Ago Today

Since we have returned home from our round-the-world trip, on quiet evenings we like to play a game where we try to remember what we were doing on the same day one year ago. For example, on March 25, we remembered that one year ago we had left Ko Lanta in Thailand and flown to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. On October 25, we remembered that one year ago we had been exploring ancient Olympia in Greece.

One year ago today is a milestone that we are not soon to forget.


 

One year ago today, we were in Nepal.

One year ago today, we left the town of Syabru Bensi and started hiking up the Langtang River valley on the first day of our Langtang trek, which we had been looking forward to the entire trip. We chose to take the “low road” path that stayed down in the valley with a more gradual ascent.

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One year ago today, on the trail we leapfrogged a few different groups and individuals, making small talk about the scenic canyon and the arduous nature of the elevation gain.

One year ago today, we debated continuing to hike for another hour to our intended first night’s stop of Rimche, but then decided to take a break for tea and chapati in the village of Bamboo.

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The view from our table at the teahouse

One year ago today, at 11:56 Nepal time, at 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal about 100 km west of the Langtang valley.


 

One year ago today, as we were drinking our tea, we felt the ground shaking beneath our chairs. We turned to each other and asked, almost incredulously, “Is this an earthquake?”

One year ago today, we weren’t quite sure what to do in an earthquake. We thought about running into the teahouse, but changed our mind when the workers ran out of it.

One year ago today, we followed everyone up onto the raised terrace that belonged to the teahouse, and sheltered ourselves under wooden tables while boulders as big as cars crashed down from either side of the canyon.

One year ago today, we saw the teahouse we had considered running into flattened by a falling boulder.

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Looking south at the teahouses immediately after the quake. Compare to the above picture

One year ago today, we followed the other tourists, guides and villagers up just above the village to an area with two huge boulders that had not moved, with a small depression in between.

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This photo was taken by fellow trekker Corey: http://www.gofundme.com/tjssd5h9

One year ago today, we huddled against these boulders as further aftershocks and landslides occurred, praying for moments of calm and pleading with the Earth to stay still.

One year ago today, we stretched out for a night of fitful sleep under an orange tarp thoughtfully put up by others in the group.

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One year ago today, our families and friends back in the USA heard the news of an earthquake in Nepal, but did not know exactly where we were or how badly our area had been hit.

One year ago today, we began to make connections with this group that would help us survive until we were rescued five days later.


 

One year ago today, the village of Langtang, two days walk further up the trek (and where we were planning on spending our second or third night), was wiped off the map when a glacier broke off on the mountain above, triggering a massive landslide.

One year ago today, in Kathmandu, the royal palace and many of the historic temples surrounding Durbar Square (which we had visited three days prior) were destroyed.

One year ago today, the building adjoining the hotel that we had stayed in while in Kathmandu collapsed, killing multiple people inside.

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The same view after the quake, with the hotel just beyond in rubble

One year ago today, a villager on the trail just below where we sat was struck in the head and killed by a falling rock.

One year ago today, Or Assaraf, an Israeli trekker who had ridden on the same bus to Syabru Bensi that we did but had started his trek in the direction of the Gosakind Lakes, was killed in a landslide triggered by the earthquakes.

One year ago today, over 8000 people in Nepal lost their lives.


 

One year ago today, we were truly fortunate.

For more information about our experience, you can read our series on the Nepal earthquake. Many of the organizations that we highlighted in our how to help post have continued to do great work in Nepal as the country continues to rebuild, so please consider donating.

Monthly Recap: Month 10

Well, this monthly recap is very late! It would have come out, should everything have been normal, on May 2nd. However, as many of you know, we were actually getting ready to come home after experiencing the Earthquake in Nepal on May 2nd. Because of that earthquake, Month 10 turned out to be the last month of our trip… We had been planning on making it until Month 11, but the world had other plans for us. Month 10 had some great times as well as some not so great times (see aforementioned earthquake). Let’s recap, shall we?!

Here are our stats for this month.

Countries visited:  3 (Vietnam, China, and NepalSpecial Administrative Regions: 2 (Hong Kong and Macau)

Beds Slept In: Tarps Slept Under:Embassies Slept In: 1 (Hopefully the first and last of our life.)

UNESCO Heritage Sights Visited: 7 (My Son Sanctuary, Complex of Hue MonumentsPhong Nha – Ke Bang National ParkCentral Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – HanoiHa Long BayHistoric Centre of MacaoKathmandu Valley) *** As of July of 2015, there are have been many new UNESCO sites added! We were pretty excited that two places that we visited on our RTW were now recently added! YAY! Those include Singapore Botanical Gardens (visited in Month 7) and Ephesus (visited in Month 5). Total on RTW: 49

We traveled by 3 planes this month.

We traveled by 4 boats this month.

We traveled 4 long distance buses/minibuses.

We traveled by 1 train this month.

We traveled by 2 helicopters this month.

Top Moments:

~ Our biggest emotional high was when we were rescued by helicopter from Bamboo Village in Nepal. We had never ridden in a helicopter before and on that day, we rode two. We couldn’t have had better scenery: the beautiful Himalayas of Nepal. Despite the destruction caused by the earthquake and landslides, Nepal is a gorgeous country, well worth a visit! If you are interested in supporting Nepal after the devastating earthquake, check out some ideas here

 

Runners Up for Top Moments:

~We had an absolutely lovely day biking through the outskirts of Hoi An. We went a bit off the beaten track and biked through rice fields to a great beach! Good day all around.

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~We rushed through Phong Nha National Park in order to see some of the renowned caves there. We struggled with which tour to choose, but ultimately went with a general tour of three caves. It was all amazing, but our favorite part was experiencing swimming through a mud bath in the Dark Cave. It was hard to explain the feeling of floating through a pool of mud – how we imagine it would feel to be on the moon – almost weightless! Overall, a lot of fun!

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~We really enjoyed lots of places in Vietnam, but another great day was when we kayaked through the karsts in Lan Ha Bay. We had a lovely day in great scenery!

Getting used to the kayak

Getting used to the kayak

~Another great day was when we took the funicular up Hong Kong Peak. Great weather – it wasn’t too hot way up there, and  you just couldn’t beat the views!

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Items Missing, Broken, Discarded, or Added:

 

Honestly, we don’t really remember… Sorry!

Packing Update:

We were glad that we had held on to our colder weather gear because we used every bit of it in Nepal. It was particularly good when we hit an emergency situation and ended up having to sleep outside for 5 nights.

Books Read: (Have you read any of these??)

Della has read All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (4)

Eric has read Overkill by James Barrington (2), Gods of War by John Toland (4)

Eric and Della have BOTH read Tai-Pan by James Clavell (4)

The rating system is for Della’s mom who is refusing to look at Goodreads. It is 1 to 5, 5 being the highest.

Make sure to catch up on all our monthly recaps: Monthly Recap 1, Monthly Recap 2, Monthly Recap 3,Monthly Recap 4, Monthly Recap 5, Monthly Recap 6, Monthly Recap 7, Monthly Recap 8, Monthly Recap 9

We’re Home After the Earthquake: How Do We Feel?

If you’d like to contribute to help the people of Nepal recover from the devastating earthquake, please visit our page collecting some worthy causes.

We’ve just passed the one month anniversary of the original Nepal Earthquake. We’ve been home for about 3 weeks now. One of the questions that people keep asking us is how we feel. It has taken us a bit of time to come up with an answer to that question. We feel a lot of things and some of them are a bit hard to explain. But, we’ll try to describe them the best we can.

The order that we write them does not really signify the extent to which we feel them because as time has gone on, the emotions change. They grow and shrink, but they’re still there. The order is mostly a reflection of the order in which things occurred…

For our own ease of writing, we’ve each written in the first person. Della writes in italics while Eric writes in normal type.

We feel…

Disappointment

I’m a bit disappointed in my own abilities to cope with a disaster. I remember being more confused than anything when the earthquake first happened. I don’t think I had logical thought quickly enough to save my life. If I hadn’t been in a place where I was somewhat safe, then I’m not sure I would have survived. For example, a few minutes before the earthquake happened, I had decided I needed to go to the bathroom. I remember seeing a sign that was near where the donkey was in this picture.

The view from our table at the teahouse

For some reason, I told Eric that I needed to go but I was going to wait until our tea arrived. If I had followed my usual pattern and gone right away, I don’t think I would have thought fast enough to get out of the area when the ground started shaking. I would have been under the rocks in this picture.

Another look at the destroyed teahouses after some of the dust has settled

As camp life continued, I don’t feel like I was drain on the group, but I wasn’t a leader either. Of course, not everyone can be leaders, but I’m still disappointed in myself. I’m not sure if I would have been as effective in surviving without the help of the rest of the trekkers who were there. The best way I can think of to explain it: If it had been a film… I wouldn’t have been the hero. Far from it, I would have been the equivalent of an extra, maybe “Trekker #28,” and might have been cut from the movie during editing. 

I think I’m generally OK with how I acted during the earthquake. I am disappointed in my lack of contributions in the survival situation afterwards. Watching TV shows like “Survivor,” I always imagined that I would be one of the ones that would step up and help organize the activities around camp. But as it turned out, I was too reluctant to suggest much of anything and relied on others to lead the way. I’m very glad that they had the knowledge and foresight to do things like string up a tarp, because I don’t know if I would have had that idea. I’m not sure that any of my contributions around camp were essential.

Lucky

Somehow, despite the bad luck of being in Nepal during the time of the quake, we had the best luck we could have had. We were seated outdoors, as close to the middle of the canyon as we could be. Even among the terraces, ours was the best because very few rocks flew that way which prevented injury. We came out of the earthquake and the landslides literally unscathed. We were in the low part of the valley which meant that survival was relatively easy – we weren’t cold or worried about altitude sickness. We experienced the earthquake while in a village which meant we could stay there and use resources from the village to meet our basic needs (food, water, shelter). There was an amazing group of people who, by accident, were stranded with us and through their support and camaraderie we survived. 

I keep thinking about how many different little things led up to the luck of us being where we were when the earthquake hit. As Della said, we were very lucky that we ended up where we were. What if we hadn’t made the last-minute decision to stop at Bamboo for tea? What if we hadn’t spent an extra day in Kathmandu before setting out on the trek? What if we had gone straight to Nepal from Vietnam instead of going to Hong Kong first? We were very lucky to end up in the situation that we did.

Guilt

I know that survivor’s guilt is a thing. It’s hard to explain exactly because there is nothing that I did or didn’t do that allowed me to survive while so many others didn’t. But, I feel a huge weight of guilt all the same and maybe that is exactly why I do feel it. I think we as people look for explanations or reasons for things. It’s in our nature to understand why something happened. But, that’s just it. There is no reason why. I was lucky, but I feel such guilt. There were a lot of wonderful people, people who probably deserve to be alive a lot more than me who aren’t. I know a lot of people didn’t even have a chance… Those who were in Langtang village had no time to do anything. Moments after the initial quake, essentially a glacier coming at huge speeds just bowled over them. But, why was I lucky enough to be where I was? What twist of fate allowed that to be? What have I done to be more deserving? I know the answers of course. Nothing. The tension under the earth became too much and the great plates that have been forming the Himalayas for generations moved. The earthquake happened and some places were hit worse than others. It is a random occurrence and I was one of the lucky ones. But, that doesn’t really stop how I feel. 

I also have a hard time coming to terms with our survival when so many others didn’t make it. I also feel guilty about the resources that were expended to rescue us when so many other people in Nepal were in situations which were just as bad as ours or maybe even worse. We had plenty of food and a decent shelter, and we could have definitely stayed out there longer if need be. Or, we could have tried to walk out, like some others did (although I think it would have been a gamble given that there was at least one landslide on the trail every day). Should I feel bad that my status as a tourist meant that maybe our rescue was given higher priority than sending supplies to a local village? A few people have asked a version of that question since we’ve returned and we don’t really know how to answer it.

In addition, I wonder if there is something more that I could be doing to help. I got to come home which is safe and comfortable and far away from the tremors of the earth. But, should I have stayed in Nepal to try to help? (More likely I would have just been in the way.) Should I be doing more here to raise money? (Not sure what else I should be doing…) Should I be giving more of my own money? (Already given probably more than I can afford easily…) Overall, I think we made the right choices, but it doesn’t stop the uncertainty and guilt. 

I also feel guilty that we maybe we haven’t done as much as we could to help. We made the conscious decision to come home for what we believe were the right reasons, but other people who stayed seem to be doing great things. The same can be said about our decision to go back to our old jobs as opposed to dedicating our lives to help. We will try to keep raising awareness, but is that doing enough?

Frustration

I have been looking forward to my visit to Nepal for soooo long. My parents have these fantastic memories and pictures from their Langtang trek 35 years ago. I so wanted to have my own memories. The top of that valley just looked like the most glorious place. I am so frustrated that we didn’t get to finish our trek and continue what we had planned for Nepal. I’m also frustrated that our fantastic RTW journey had to end on such a sour note. Now all of the wonderful memories are overshadowed by how the trip ended. On top of that, we ended our trip early, cutting out a month of this journey of a lifetime. Again, I think we made the right choice to come home, but it is still so frustrating to have it all end like this.

I didn’t have the same personal connection to Langtang as Della did, but I still was quite frustrated to not be able to complete our trek. I had expected it to be an activity like our self-drive safari, a huge adventure that would test us in ways that we didn’t expect but would be something we would look back on as one of the highlights of the whole year. We kind of got that, but not in the way that we wanted or expected. And losing a month of our year-long trip hurts. Once the trip of a lifetime is over, what do you do with the rest of your life?

Sadness

A beautiful trek is damaged – perhaps beyond repair. More than 8000 people are dead. A country that was struggling with poverty before is now wrecked with terror and destruction. So many people, beautiful people, have lost their homes and all their possessions. They will struggle to just survive in the years ahead. Hundreds of children from the Langtang Valley are now orphans, their parents buried under rock-slides. They will have to grow up without so many of their family members and removed from their homes. I tear up randomly throughout the days just thinking about it. Terror and heartbreak are now familiar to the people of Nepal. 

And then, while fearing and mourning for all the people in Nepal who lost their livelihoods due to an act of nature, I hear news stories of people in other areas of the world who are facing some of the same pain… And even more terribly, it is due to war; People creating the terror and pain and inflicting it upon others. And that, in a lot of ways, is even worse. There is so much darkness, cruelty, and pain in the world, and it is hard to see beyond it at times.

It hit me at some point while we were in Bamboo that we had just watched the life’s work of many people be destroyed right in front of us. And after we were back in Kathmandu, the stories that the cab drivers and business owners would tell would just break my heart. Every day now I hear about aftershocks that just have to be terrorizing the people living there.

Helplessness

I mentioned above about the pain and loss of the Nepali people (and so many others around the world); it’s hard to know how to help. I live in a beautiful place that is solid, orderly, and mostly safe. I want to help, but sometimes it seems hopeless. 

Anxiety

While sheltering at Bamboo, our senses were always on alert, feeling for aftershocks, listening for landslide, and looking to spot helicopters coming towards us. Even after we got back to the US, I’ve found it hard to turn that sense of awareness off. I have to remind myself that a thunderclap is not an earthquake. And every time I hear a helicopter I reflexively look up to the sky to see where it’s heading.

Hope

Even with all of the negative emotions discussed here, I do have some positive feelings associated with the event. The spirit of the group that stayed at Bamboo inspires me and reminds me of all of the good people in the world. Seeing all of the messages on social media that helped to get us rescued shows me just how great of a network of people there is out there that care for us. Finally, looking at all of the great work that is being done for relief in Nepal gives me a hope that the country will be able to persevere and rebuild.

Denver Area: Dancing Fundraiser to Support Bamboo! Friday, June 12 6 pm

Eric and I have been looking for ways that we can support Nepal. One of the ideas I came up with was to use Zumba as an avenue to raise some money to help support the villagers of Bamboo. Click here to read our Earthquake story and learn how this village saved our life.

Margie Krest of Dancing the Soul has graciously agreed to host and support this event. I taught Zumba at Dancing the Soul for several years before I headed out on our RTW journey. It is a wonderful studio in Denver that offers many modalities of movement and stillness. I’m so pleased that this wonderful community has agreed to help support Nepal!

On Friday, June 12 from 6-8 pm, we will have an event called Move for Nepal. It will feature several types of movement including Qigong, Belly Dancing, and Zumba. Two other instructors will be joining me to lead this class. We will Move for approximately 1 to 1.5 hours and then enjoy some wine and chocolate and ask any questions people may have about Nepal.

We’re asking for $15 donation with all proceeds going directly to the people of Nepal.

You may sign up in advance by going to http://dancingthesoul.com/ and clicking on “Workshop Schedule” on the top right hand side or clicking this link. You can also chose to donate directly online at that time.

Dancing the Soul is located in the Mayfair Neighborhood of Denver at 950-C Jersey Street | Denver, CO 80220. Click here for more info on location.

Please come to help support Nepal. (It will also be my Zumba debut after my RTW trip and I would love the support of familiar faces!)

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Connections: Team Bamboo

Traveling is a wonderful way to meet people! Unfortunately, often those connections are strong but only fleeting. Connections is our tag to recognize and remember some of the wonderful people we meet.

If you’d like to contribute to help the people of Nepal recover from the devastating earthquake, please visit our page collecting some worthy causes.

We’ve described our experiences during the Earthquake in Nepal and now we’d like to write something a little bit more hopeful. We’ve written about a lot of Connections that we’ve made with amazing people on our travels. As great as those relationships were, it’s probably safe to say that they aren’t nearly as intense an the connections that we made with the people who sheltered with us in Bamboo after the earthquake in Nepal.

A lot of people ask us about what the group dynamic was in this large collection of people in a survival situation. It could easily have been pretty bad, with people taking an “every person for themselves” approach, but from the start it was exactly the opposite. Everyone was making sure that everyone else was ok, and sharing food and water.

As the days went on, this team spirit continued. Projects that were done were for the good of the group, and never just for an individual or small group. In many ways it was hard to find something to do to make yourself useful, because so many other people were volunteering to do the same thing!

Beyond the practical matters though, it was a great experience just interacting with this group of people. Even though the group was from all around the world, they all spoke English (which we are always amazed by). It was easy to pass the time by just striking up a conversation with whomever happened to be sitting on the rock next to you. Everyone kept a positive attitude, and when some would start to get weighed down by disappointing events, others were right there to pick them back up.

We have also been inspired by the different efforts that members of the group have started to help Nepal in the aftermath of the earthquake. You can find links to support their causes on our earthquake relief resources page.

Even though we were thrown together by a random twist of fate, the diverse group at Bamboo quickly became a team, surviving and working together. We forged a bond that we hope will last a lifetime!

Team Bamboo plus the staff of the Chabad House

Team Bamboo plus the staff of the Chabad House

How We Got Home from Kathmandu for $104

If you’d like to contribute to help the people of Nepal recover from the devastating earthquake, please visit our page collecting some worthy causes.

After spending a few days in Kathmandu, we caught a series of flights over 35 hours that got us all the way back home to Denver. Even under the special circumstances, we were able to do like we did for most of the flights on the rest of our trip and book it using airline miles.

Booking the Flight

As we alluded to in a previous post, we had already booked a ticket leaving Nepal using miles. We were scheduled to fly from Kathmandu to Seoul, South Korea on May 12, which we purchased using United frequent flyer miles. United considers Nepal and South Korea to be in two separate regions, so it cost us 37,500 miles per person, plus $21.90 per person in fees. We got these United miles by transferring points from our Chase Ultimate Rewards account which we got by signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. We also had some United miles gained from signing up for the United MileagePlus Explorer Card.

Once we decided to head home, we had the idea to see if we could switch our South Korea ticket to one heading back all the way to Denver. Amazingly, there was United award availability for the day we wanted to leave, Sunday May 3. We called United customer service and fed them the flight details, and they agreed to change our ticket. We did have to pay the difference in miles and fees, as the new flight to Denver cost 42,500 miles and $52.20 per person. The United rep kindly agreed to waive the change fee once we explained the circumstances, which we were definitely grateful for.

The Journey

Our trip back to Denver required three flights: Kathmandu to Bangkok on Thai Airways, Bangkok to Tokyo on Thai Airways, and Tokyo to Denver on United itself. Both layovers were fairly long, and two of the flights were as well, so it would require over 35 hours of travel time.

We got to the airport in Kathmandu four hours ahead of scheduled departure, since we had heard that it had been very crowded and chaotic since the earthquake. As we headed into the terminal, we saw missing people posters, including one for Or Assaf, who rode our bus to Syabrubesi.

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There was already a long line at the Thai Airways checkin desk, so we were happy we got there early. But that was the main delay; immigration and security lines were actually quite short. We spent a couple of hours in a small lounge where we got a bite to eat and bought some souvenirs with our last rupees. We also ran into the Japanese tour group which had sheltered with us at Bamboo. It turned out they were on our flights to Bangkok and Tokyo!

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As we headed out to our plane on the tarmac, we got our last look at Kathmandu. We could tell the airport was still quite busy with relief supplies being ferried around. We had mixed emotions: happy to be going home to see family and friends, but sad to be leaving Nepal on such a low note.

Once in Bangkok, we had four hours before our next flight. We were excited to be able to sample our favorite cuisine from the Asian portion of the trip again, so we sought out a restaurant that served Thai food. We found a small Thai Muslim place and enjoyed some of our favorites.

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One part of the flight to Tokyo that we were looking forward to was the plane itself – it was our first time to ride on the giant Airbus A380. Our seats were towards the front of the bottom level of the double-decker plane, so we didn’t really get a feel for how big it was until we saw the outside after the flight. The flight itself was overnight, arriving in Tokyo at 6:30 AM, so we probably should have tried to sleep, but we mostly ended up watching movies on the fancy in-seat entertainment devices.

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Arriving into Tokyo was a little depressing, because Japan was to have been the final stop on our round-the-world trip. As we looked out onto Tokyo from the plane, we pondered what could have been. Our layover was ten hours, so we considered leaving the airport to get a taste of Japan, but ultimately we decided that we were too tired to really enjoy it. We would leave Japan for a full visit sometime in the future.

Our view of Tokyo as we flew in

Our view of Tokyo as we flew in

Instead, we used two United Club passes (another perk of the United MileagePlus Explorer Card) to spend the day hanging out in the United Club. This was much more relaxing that just sitting in the outside area. We were even able to get a nice nap in. As the day went on, we took frequent advantage of the free snacks that were placed out, including sushi. We also had some free sake and draft beer poured by a pretty neat machine.

The flight from Tokyo to Denver was thankfully direct, but long. It also went back in time, so to speak: since we crossed the dateline, we arrived in Denver (at 12:45 PM) earlier than we left Tokyo (at 5:00 PM). This flight was on another plane we were interested to fly on for the first time, the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The interior was quite nice and new, and we had another good personal in-flight entertainment screen to help us pass the time.

We hoped for a nice, sunny day to welcome us back to Denver, but unfortunately it was cloudy and rainy. Nevertheless, it felt good to be home.

Walking into the Denver Airport

Walking into the Denver Airport

Postscript: Cancelling Our Japan Flight

As we said, we had planned on making our last stop on our trip in Japan. We had gone ahead and booked our return flight home from Tokyo as well. The booking on this was fairly complicated: we used American Airlines miles to book a series of flights from Tokyo to Denver, one on Japan Airlines and another on American Eagle. This was especially complicated because we couldn’t book it on the AA site, since it doesn’t actually show Japan Airlines availability. You can see it on the British Airways site though, so we got the flight numbers from there and had to call American and feed them the flight info. This cost us 32,500 AA miles and $44.90 per person.

Once we came home though, we weren’t going to go back to Japan, so we wanted to cancel this flight and get back our miles. Cancelling was easy, but American charged a “reinstatement fee” of $175 to get the miles back. We tried to explain to the representative about our extenuating circumstances, but she couldn’t change the policy. So, we would like to again thank United Airlines for being considerate and waiving fees, since other airlines apparently can’t.

We are wrapping up the story of our earthquake experience in Nepal. We were extremely fortunate to survive and to be able to come home to the USA. Our stories are now over, but those in Nepal are not that fortunate. Huge numbers of people have lost their homes and their livelihoods. Please take some time to donate (any amount, large or small, can help) to help this beautiful country recover. We’ve collected list of organizations that you might consider here.

After the Earthquake Part 5: Returns and Reunions

If you’d like to contribute to help the people of Nepal recover from the devastating earthquake, please visit our page collecting some worthy causes.

We woke in the US Embassy one week after we had set out on our bus ride to begin our trek of the Langtang valley. It had been the most comfortable secure night we had since then. The US Embassy was extremely solid and we didn’t even feel any aftershocks while we were in the building.

The Embassy was still serving hot food to all those still sheltering there, so we had a nice warm breakfast with our companions, Corey and Kathleen. After some discussion, we all decided that we wanted to head back into Thamel, the backpacker center of Kathmandu. Kathleen wanted to continue to support the businesses there by buying some more souvenirs and we (and Corey) wanted to see if it was possible to pick up our things that we left when we went on the trek.

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We had spent our previous nights in Kathmandu at the Hotel Bright Star, which we really enjoyed. The owner was an unbelievably kind man who had gone out of his way to help us. We still had his business card and were able to reach him on his cellphone. We were thankful to hear that his family were all safe and that he would meet us down the street from the hotel that morning.

We wrote a bit more about the hotel before and after the quake in our post Kathmandu: Before the Quake. But, it still breaks our hearts. Hotel Bright Star was still standing after the quake, but the hotel right next door was completely destroyed. Unfortunately, there was also quite a bit of damage to Hotel Bright Star and we do not know when/if it will operate again. The owner had sent his family to Pokhara, but was waiting near his hotel for us (and several other trekkers) who had left stuff with  him. His kind spirit in the face of his own personal tragedy is something we will never forget.

We also visited Corey’s hotel and he was able to pick up his things as well. On our way back, Eric spotted someone he recognized on a scooter zipping past. It was Valerie (the French girl who had just celebrated her birthday with chocolate pancakes in Bamboo with us the day before) and her guide Srijan!! We called her name and they stopped to share their stories. We were so glad that they had both safely made it back to Kathmandu. We weren’t overly surprised though, as we knew the French had been waiting on helicopters when we left Dhunche the day before. We had a brief but welcome reunion with them before we had to head on our way.

We carried our bags back to where we had been planning to meet Kathleen. While we were waiting for her, Eric spotted a group of our Bamboo friends in the back of a taxi flying past us! (Yes, Eric is really observant and has good eyes!) We tried to follow them, but couldn’t catch up. Corey and Della grilled Eric to see if he could tell exactly who was in the taxi. He was pretty sure that it had been the South African couple and the Australian sisters. We were disappointed not to have spoken with them, but so thrilled that they had also arrived in Kathmandu from Dhunche. It had been quite hard for us to leave our Bamboo family there the day before.

Corey had an idea for a place for us to eat lunch, so after we met back up with Kathleen, we headed that way. We had sat down (happy to see that the place was relatively undamaged and was serving food) and began to order. Suddenly, as we were looking out the glass doors of the restaurant we saw more people we knew: Aviv, Yonaton, and another Israeli friend from Bamboo! We ran out the doors (probably to the confusion of the wait staff) and called them back. After several hugs and brief summaries of rescue, they invited us to a reunion at the Chabad House in Kathmandu where the Israelis had already been planning to meet. We agreed we would see them there.

We returned to our lunch but had to jump up again a few minutes later. We saw the Australian sisters walking by! Again, we ran to the street and experienced more hugs and short tales of helicopters before also inviting them to the Chabad house for the reunion. It turned out that the rest of our Bamboo team had all been taken from Dhunche to Kathmandu only that day via large Nepali military helicopters (aside from a few individuals who had made it on transports the day before). They told us that there was no one from the Bamboo team left in Dhunche when they left!

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At 1 pm on May 1, 6 days after the earthquake that stranded us all together, we met with our Bamboo team at the Chabad house. Unfortunately, not everyone was there, but through discussion, we now knew that everyone we had been with on the mountain had made it safely away. We had even been in touch with the Lithuanian brothers (who had walked out of Bamboo) via Facebook and knew they were on their way home. It was extremely emotional and we were all feeling thrilled to see each other in a safe place!

We left each other that afternoon, only after agreeing to meet again for dinner to share each other’s company once more before people started leaving Nepal.

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By this point, the support operations at the embassy were clearly winding down. There were only a few others still sheltering there, and the staff were starting to take some deserved days of rest, so it felt quite empty at times. The Marines who guarded the embassy seemed to be ready to not have to worry about our security as well. We decided we should either leave the embassy or head home, and opted for the latter, booking a ticket back to the States for Sunday.

We spent one more day in Kathmandu and went into Thamel once more. We made an effort to spend all of the cash we had brought with us on the trek buying souvenirs and donating to people who were working for relief. We said goodbye to Kathleen tearfully as she left for home. We shared a lovely meal at another one of Corey’s favorite restaurants before we too had to say goodbye to this beautiful but devastated country.

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On our way to the airport on Monday, May 3, we had a sobering discussion with our taxi driver. “Nepal is finished,” he said, “finished! Homes are destroyed, all tourists are leaving. There is no work. Nepal is finished!” We hope with all our being that he is far from correct. While we know there is a lot of effort needed to rebuild, we also know that there are a lot of dedicated people our there working very hard to do so. See this link for just some of the stories of people working to support Nepal. We hope that you’ll join them. In addition, Nepal is a beautiful country and will continue to be beautiful. Don’t take it out of your travel plans – they need tourism now more than ever. Let’s all help prove that taxi driver wrong!

We will continue to tell the story of our earthquake experience in Nepal. We were extremely fortunate to survive and to be able to come home to the USA. Our stories are now over, but those in Nepal are not that fortunate. Huge numbers of people have lost their homes and their livelihoods. Please take some time to donate (any amount, large or small, can help) to help this beautiful country recover. We’ve collected list of organizations that you might consider here.

Use these links to read the rest of our Nepal Earthquake story: