It’s seven weeks today since we left Nepal, eight since the earthquake. Since then I’ve been working on a project to raise money for the people there. I’ve enjoyed it so much and been so motivated by the cause that it’s just continued to grow. And now somehow it’s (sort of) finished.
This is the reason why I’ve been pretty AWOL from the blog; I’ve been scribbling away. This is the story of how it came about…
The earthquake in Nepal was scary. Really really scary. The only way I can describe it is that it felt like some unnatural force underground was really not happy. We were slightly further away from the epicentre than Kathmandu, but luckily the force moved away from us, rather than towards us; there was hardly any damage to buildings in Pokhara. It took a few days for people to spring into action, raising money, setting up voluntary groups and organising jeep loads of supplies to take to the worst affected areas a few hours drive away. We donated some money, sure, but when it came to physically helping we were never in the right place at the right time. Plus we were barely sleeping, waking at every aftershock tremor to run outside, so our brains just felt dull and we were definitely pretty self-involved, focussing on dealing with what had happened and where we should go.
Our friends, Adam and Felicia, were doing great work packing boxes of essential supplies and continued to do so for a couple of weeks after we had left, even going out to the villages to deliver them. We never managed to help out that way before we left.
When we got on the bus, driving back through the Nepali countryside to India, the overwhelming sensation was guilt. Guilt that we hadn’t done more for the people who couldn’t just get up and leave like we had; essentially running away. Deep down though, we knew that we couldn’t have been any real help in the frame of mind that we were in, that we just had to get somewhere we felt safe.
That was when I decided that I wanted to contribute in a different way, using my skills to raise money for the long-term rebuild of Nepal. The bus was 8 hours: a lot of thinking time. Throughout the journey the idea of writing and illustrating some kind of book or short story developed. And it has been my ongoing project ever since: sketching, drawing and writing (and sweat and tears and love), influenced by more or less everywhere we have been on our journey so far. The outcome is a small book called The Country That Shook.
I used recycled printer paper from our lovely guest house owner in Allahabad, drawing pens from London and Tokyo, a calligraphy pen to write the story from Kawaguchiko by Mount Fuji, sketches on the back of maps and plane tickets, plus some beautiful Japanese fabric paper, and an illustration style I’d developed during my time in Sri Lanka and India, unknowingly it seems, for this purpose. So basically it’s a melting pot, a mish mash, an amalgamation of experiences, all pasted together and I hope this is what makes it unique.
It really is an amazing cause. People there didn’t have much to begin with, we definitely felt that before the earthquake happened, and now some of them have absolutely nothing. With the monsoon starting the need for waterproof shelter is paramount, and the monumental task of rebuilding entire villages will take years, hard work and money.
The Country That Shook will be available to buy online when it’s printed. And I’ve started a Kickstarter campaign today to raise the funds for that to happen… If you know anyone, young or old, who might appreciate a quirky tale about an alternative explanation of why the ground moved on 25th April 2015, click this link and pledge some money, or share it online somewhere. I’ll be so chuffed if it works!