April 24, 2020
Dear Adam, dear world:
Tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of the April 25, 2015 earthquake and, as I am sure it has been for most of those of us who live here in Nepal, it has been on my mind for weeks now. Rani Pokhari, a temple and Kathmandu landmark damaged during the earthquake was supposed to have its reconstruction completed in time for tomorrow. The magazine I edit planned a special anniversary issue, and I’d been collecting articles from a cross section of our writers about their memories of that time and how the devastation and subsequent reconstruction (or occasionally lack thereof) affected them and those around them. Memories, observations—they were great articles and I’m not sure when we’ll be able to use them, or even if we will again return as a print publication.
This pales in comparison to what is happening in countries where so many have died from this pandemic, of course, but I know that across Nepal, people would have wanted to gather and in some way commemorate the nearly 9,000 lives we lost here that day.
Earlier this week I heard from a friend that a major supermarket had reopened. Shops have been open here—but only some, and only for a few hours a day, and not everything is available. So yesterday I planned a trip down there, uncertain if I’d be stopped on my scooter because there are rumors everywhere about where and when you can leave your house.
The supermarket was open, and I was pleasantly surprised by their organization. White circles, a meter apart, have been painted looping the now empty parking lot, on which we all waited patiently. It seemed only six people or so were being let in at a time, with a wait of about ten minutes between groups. At the front of the line, a squirt of sanitizer on each pair of hands, a temperature check (the first time I’ve seen that here), and we were allowed in. A pleasant voice looped over the PA system, asking us to please keep three meters away from other shoppers and try to keep our visit to twenty minutes. It was strangely relaxing compared to the rather hectic, crowded shopping experiences I’ve had since we went into lockdown on March 24, and also nice to see shelves full of pretty much everything.
Even with shortages and limited shopping hours, though, we are the lucky ones. There are stories of day-laborers walking back to their villages from Kathmandu with their families, after their jobs abruptly ended, and with them their means of feeding themselves and their loved ones. At least in their home towns they will be able to eat, but with no transportation available, many have just set out to walk for days.
Last week I misjudged my water usage—there is a tank on my roof that feeds my taps, and usually I can open a valve that fills it twice daily. But now it’s only once a day, early in the morning, and sometimes, as I said, I misjudge; especially as, in an attempt to keep busy, I am washing lots of things. The taps ran dry, and I used the bucket of water that I always keep filled in my bathroom for just such an eventuality. It’s difficult to properly wash your hands as we’ve been instructed to when you can only do one at a time, scooping water over with the other one. Yet I know for many, this is daily life, not an occasional inconvenience—there are many areas of Nepal without running water. I wonder how they are managing.
I have no idea about the future or how I will pay my rent or any of the rest of it. But a few days ago I figured out how to get my cat to eat regularly—he’s had recurring cysts, and my vet, not considered an essential service, has been closed—by feeding him on a flat plate instead of his usual bowl, so he can lick up the food instead of using his teeth, which seems to be painful for him. It’s a small thing on the face of it, but compared to what he was getting, a few small bites that I’d hand feed him before he’d run off in pain, it is a relief and one less thing to keep me up at night.
There is a certain surreal quality about life now, the way it has stopped, that reminds me of the days and weeks that followed the earthquake. The difference, of course, is that this is not just happening to us, but to the whole world. Like many, I wonder what life will be like after; like the rest of us, I have no idea.
Take care, of yourselves and each other, now more than ever.
In lieu of payment, our friends and contributors to the Corona Correspondences are dedicating donations to nonprofits and independent businesses in their communities. Neve’s contribution will be directed to Women for Human Rights Single Women Group International Inc.