One Year On


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Earlier this week, April 25 to be exact, marked the passing of one year since the Nepali earthquake.  The anniversary was covered a little in the media if you watched carefully, and referenced in the coverage of the more recent earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador. But, it has largely been forgotten by most. Facebook reports from friends in Nepal focus on how little has been achieved since the first wave of humanitarian help, and after donations from all over the world poured in to rebuild homes and infrastructure, the news I hear is not good.  Reconstruction projects are tied up in red tape.  Little has been achieved. Villagers who lost their homes and possessions still live precariously in tent villages waiting for help.  For many the aftermath of the disaster in frozen in time.

One year on for me, its a very different story.  I can hardly believe its been only a year…a particularly challenging one too..with so many changes. New country, new job, new home…in a completely different corner of the planet.  Yet a big part of my heart remains in Nepal.

Among the many reminders of our time there is a tapestry project that I worked on during the crisis.   I’ve made a tapestry cushion in several of the countries that we have lived, picking a subject that appealed to me, as well being symbolic of my time in that country.  After a long online search, I picked a beautiful peacock in shades of blue and purple.  Its a memory of my time in Chitwan where we watched wild peacocks running around on the jungle floor.  The plan was to slowly work on it, especially during all the travel required before we reached Jamaica.  I started work on the tail, a little every night.

We spent the first two nights after the earthquake sleeping on Robert’s office floor.  As we headed over to the safety of the Embassy, I grabbed a little overnight bag, a book, and the tapestry for something to do. In the days that followed immediately after the earthquake, I worked on the tapestry almost non-stop.  There was something extraordinarily calming about the repetition of the “needle in, needle out”needlework stroke, giving my hands something to do and occupying the motor skills function of my brain, which handled the task of deciding the direction of stitching and what section to tackle next, leaving the rest of my brain to work on processing what had happened.  I guess it was kind of a meditation.

Ironically, I was unable to finish it before we left.  The kit I purchased had been mispacked and I had reams of purple and blue leftover, but ran out of the background colour.  The manufacturer in England had gone out of business and I had to search online until I could track down the wool brand, identify the particular shade of white, and find a supplier that could mail it to me.  After several months of unsuccessful tries, I was able to source the wool and finish the tapestry here in Jamaica.   Yet the project is still not complete.  Its yet to become a cushion and now I have to figure out where to buy sewing supplies in Kingston..the hunt goes on!  Its tempting to somehow symbolically connect the project with my personal journey from Nepal to Jamaica, how all the little stitches over time form not just a picture, but their own tapestry of memories, challenges and unresolved issues that have been part of any big change in life, but especially this one….or something like that….

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And then I ran out of yarn for that lower left-hand corner.

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The finished tapestry.  Now where to find a fabric and notions store?

The Big One


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Opening that baby up….

We live in an earthquake zone. A high risk earthquake zone that is due to experience “the big one” every seventy years or so. The last big one was in 1934…you do the math. It’s overdue. Knowing this is part of the Embassy’s strategy to try and keep us safe, and with that policy comes an “earthquake kit” that we store in our garage. It looks a lot like a dumpster, but its full of essential supplies in the event of an emergency. What’s more in contains supplies for about four families. We are the rally house for our Embassy community as our home is deemed the most earthquake resistant in the area.

Annually we’re required to do an inventory of the contents to make sure they aren’t expired, damaged or missing. So this past weekend we did a thorough check of the contents. What’s in it?  I wondered the same and opened the big metal bin to go through everything. There’s mats, blankets and tents for sleeping, water and MREs (meals ready to eat), a wide selection of medical supplies, ropes, axes, hammers, crow bars, torches, batteries, even pens and pads of paper for leaving messages.  We did search and rescue training back in October, which teaches the basics on what to do in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake.  The helmets, head lamps and crow bars brought up memories of training on how to move huge concrete slabs with wedges and levers. The list of items was long and it was a reality check of what it might really be like if a disaster happened. It so hard to imagine a scenario when the contents of the chest are all we have to survive for an indefinite period of time. Let’s hope it never happens.

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Everything was dusty from sitting around for a year in the world’s dustiest city (almost)

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Items were stored in plastic containers that looked like they needed replacing more than their contents.

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Checking items off from the list

According to this blog — at least lately — my life is one long resort visit. Its not. But its more fun to post about the joys of life than its problems…at least that’s the way it works for me. Occasionally, I think its interesting to share some of the less romantic, gritty realities of living in a developing country. At least, a few of them as the pertain to me. Earthquakes are the flip side of the coin to living in this extraordinary place.