Blown Away In Nepal
My little yellow tent sailed off the cliff where I had slept the night before. I couldn’t stake it down because of the rockface, so left my duffle inside as anchor against the strong winds whipping up from the steep Himalayan valley. It was all replaceable; clothes, dehydrated food and sleeping gear. All the important stuff was right next to me in my backpack; satphone, radio, toilet paper….
Ewan Coldicott and I were out in the field as part of a joint American/New Zealand Red Cross IT/Telecoms Emergency Response Unit (ERU). When I heard about my tent I looked down the mountain and kept on about our business. With all the serious disaster surrounding us the loss of my tent seemed pretty mild. To get to this remote mountainous area of Nepal we had driven at walking pace up a narrow, dusty road with steep drop offs, stopping only for a landslide which partially blocked the road and to check on our sensitive equipment strapped to the roof of our car. Our destination was Dhunche, a remote village high in the northern mountains where we were going to support a 35 person Canadian Red Cross medical unit perched on a narrow strip of rare, flat land. This Red Cross unit was the only medical facility in the region and needed contact with the outside world to do their job.
Along the way we passed destroyed villages waving strings of colorful Buddhist prayer flags. Their baked brick homes built on a ridge line had literally crumbled during the earthquake. Survivors had salvaged and gathered what they could and were sleeping outdoors or under raised blue tarps with the Red Cross symbol.
Finding a clear line of sight to the satellite among the steep mountains was a challenge. We finally locked on and got the row of green lights – success. At this point the lack of useable living space turned into an advantage for us. As we hammered nails and strung our cables we realized it was all so compact we could cover the hospital as well as the Red Cross medical personnel sleeping quarters with one large wifi antenna. As Ewan explained the system to the Red Cross team a villager ran up the mountain path carrying my tent and duffle over his head. “Auntie, auntie, your tent!” Now we were all smiling; the Red Cross hospital workers had internet and communication with the outside world and I had my tent back.
All the best from Glen and Julie Bradley, American Red Cross IT/Telecoms disaster volunteers