In The Midst of Chaos

We just had our early lunch at a tea house in Phortse.  We had just spent a night and woke up to a lot of snow.  It snowed all night and have not let up.  Phortse is a small yak and potato village up a hill.  It gets the most sun and we always plan on staying in Phortse whenever we visit the Khumbu, this is our third time.  Surprisingly, we met the tea house owner’s daughter, son-in-law, their little boy and his mother visiting from Utah.  The Sherpa couple who owns the tea house was able to send their children to school in the US via exchange student.  Their daughter met her husband in high school then married.  Both the son-in-law and his mother were on their way to Gokyo.  They left the day before.  It felt like being home as we got to know the family from the US.

Doug was in the dining room reading his book.  I was in our room, relaxing and took a nap.  It was about 12:00 pm on a Saturday.

I felt movement from the bed and woke up.  It was a big rumble and the first thing that went to my mind was a really big rock slide because our tea house was situated beneath a hill.  I stood up and the earth was moving.  SHIT!  I ran out while grabbing the walls and the door to stay balanced.  I went out to look up, no rockfall.  Seriously, what was I thinking.  If it was a rockfall, I’d probably be crushed.  Doug came running out of the dining room and we just stood there waiting for the whole thing to be over while holding on to the walls.  The hard rumble took about a minute to stop.  Everyone in the village, including us were outside.  We were all stunned and stood in silence.  We all looked around to see if everyone was okay.

I checked on the daughter in her room and found her hurt.  She had fallen hitting hard on the floor while protecting her son from hitting the floor.  She was okay, just a minor bruise.  Her Sherpa mom came to also help her daughter and grandson.  She was going to be fine and her son was fast asleep through the whole thing, amazingly.  She really kept him protected on that fall.

We knew it was an earthquake of at least 7.5 magnitude.  We both lived through the big earthquake that hit California in 1989 so we were familiar with the extent of the tremor.  It’s also weird that we were able to estimate the magnitude.  The question is, where is the epicenter?  It did not feel like the earth was swaying, it felt like a very hard bouncing movement.

We were very shook up and yes, scared.

The heavy snow prevented us from going to Gokyo and have kept us safe.  Phortse had minor damages in the village.  Communication was down and we had no wifi.  We got word from the son-in-law and his mother that they were heading down after seeing a whole village on the way to Gokyo collapse before their eyes.  They were both turning around to head back to Phortse as soon as possible.  They were both shook up and looked horrified as they sat down to warm up by the stove, drenched in cold snow when they got back.  The mother, looking very shell-shocked told us that she only had two close-death experience in her life and one of them is what she just experienced on her way back down.  I can see from her eyes that glassy look of uncontrolled emotional fear.  We consoled her as she stared at the warm stove.

Everyone was okay.  We were all safe physically but emotionally, not quite.  It’s unsettling to not know what is happening outside of the tea house.

We wanted to know what happened and how much damage was to Nepal.  We absolutely had no news except of what we just experienced.  We know that the villages on the way to Gokyo were badly damaged.

Luckily, the phone line was working and we were able to make international calls.

A Malaysian trekker and his porter who just came from another village checked in after a few minutes after the earthquake.  Also, shook up because they were on the trail when the earthquake hit and had to cover from rockfalls.  He immediately made calls to let his wife know that he is okay.

I made a call to my mom via LAN line to California to also let her know that we were okay and found out that the earthquake reached major news internationally.  We got information that it hit Kathmandu pretty hard with a magnitude of 7.9.  16 dead at Everest Base Camp after an avalanche caused by the earthquake at that time.

We were in a state of shock.

The aftershocks were big enough to get everyone out of the tea house.  Immediately running outside, waiting for the tremor to go away.  Aftershocks after aftershocks.  Day and night the whole day.

It was hard to think.  All I could think of is whether that was the big one or is there a bigger one coming our way.

It was hard to sleep, fearing rock falls and another aftershock.

I got a call from my mom the next day with more information.  It’s horrifying to learn that many villages have been destroyed.  It’s also unimaginable to think how Kathmandu was affected.  Doug also got a call from his mom with more information.

It’s frustrating to have no details of what happened.  No communication.

We thought about all our friends in Kathmandu, are they all alright?  We thought about our friends and families who are probably worried about us.  We want to let them know that we are okay.

We stay put another day in “Peaceful Lodge,” hoping for more news and it was a safe place to be.

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