One week before the Earthquake, I found myself in a village, west of Pokhara, with my Nepali friend. We went for a lovely walk and he pointed out the Kali river. At that moment I recalled my small amount of knowledge on the Goddess Kali (a Hindu Goddess) and remembered that she was the goddess of destruction and creation.
I recalled that at times, I had meditated with Kali and asked for her guidance as I moved through destructive periods of my life. Asking her to guide me in the dark moments, so I could find my way to the light and start creating again. In the past 6 -8 years, I have been destructing and recreating regularly and felt quite an affinity with Kali. Like being reunited with an old friend in the land of which she was born, through thousands of years of ritual, culture and religion. I became aware at once of her presence and at that time, felt it quite fitting as I had just ended a long destructive cycle with my ex-husband and was ready to create a new chapter.
April 25th, 2015, I was sitting in a cafe in Thamel, Kathmandu, the major tourist area, called the Olive tree cafe, sipping banana Lassi, when my table started to shake and within seconds, I was hanging on to the large concrete pillar next to me watching people running from the upstairs rooms to the floor.
People were all holding onto structures and after about 40 seconds I realised it was an earthquake. Not being familiar with earthquakes, I had no idea how destructive it had been at this time. After what seemed like 5 minutes, (maybe only 2 minutes) I noticed everyone just standing around looking bewildered then slowly the chatter started. It was soon obvious that no-one knew what to do and the street outside was chaos as Nepali people and tourists were running everywhere and shops were slamming their doors.
For some reason, I remembered that in earthquakes you want to be away from buildings, so I decided my first action would be to get out of Thamel – and quickly!
Thamel is old and many of the buildings are storeys high and the streets very narrow. I certainly did not feel safe there. I calculated the distance back to my guest house (maybe 1000 metres) and figured that I had maybe a few minutes before the aftershocks started to come. I briskly walked back, all the time looking up. I noticed some walls down and people crying, however, I felt I really needed to get to safety first and then assess the damage and what to do.
I arrived back to shocked and confused people and soon it was apparent that this was not a Nepali experience this was something very different… The power was gone, no phones, no wifi, we were in the dark for 24 hours before we started to learn the magnitude of the quake.
My new friends at the guest house managed to set up a radio and we started to find out information over the radio which my new Nepali friends would translate. Many tourists started to arrive looking for safety and food. We would help them out sharing our food and helping them with directions to the embassy. However after 2 days it was getting harder to source food and water, as stores were shut and Kathmandu was feeling like a ghost town around the Thamel area. People were starting to show signs of post traumatic stress syndrome and sleeping outside had become the norm. By day 3, I realised that I really needed to think about what to do next.
I took a cab to the airport and it is was clear at this stage that many tourists had already left the country and here I was, flying domestic back to Pokhara, where my Nepali Friends were. It felt like the most natural thing to do… I did not at any stage want to leave the country. Sitting at the domestic terminal I was alone for the first time in days and it was at this stage, it hit me that I was the only westerner in the airport… “Was I crazy?” I asked myself… yet I felt completely calm and the only place I wanted to be at the time was back in Pokhara. The airspace was busy so flights were delayed about 5 hours so I finally arrived back to Pokhara at 3pm.
After reconnecting with my Nepali friends and checking everybody was safe and sound, I retreated to bed and slept lightly in between tremors which had continuously been occurring since the quake. By this time I was sleeping through them, albeit lightly with an escape plan if needed.
In the morning it was clear to me to start a fund, to raise money… I’m not sure where the idea came from but soon it was underway, and by the next day the fund had raised $1000+. This excited my Nepali friends, so we got together with some tourists and started a group that was dedicated to helping villages in need of Aid and support. By week one we had assisted 3 villages.
People were donating from all over the world, and in Pokhara the town was abuzz with collection points, groups coming together to support Nepali villages. It was amazing and I was in awe of the generosity and trust from foreigners and locals. Soon it was clear that there was a core group who were committed and within 4 weeks we had raised and spent between us a total of $45,000 and assisted 11 villages, of approximately 11,000-15,000 people.
Upon reflection I realised that Australian dollars goes so much further here. Eg: 1200 rupee is a bag of 30 kg rice and is approx AUD $15.00.
We were spending AUD and USD and we were feeding and assisting 1000’s of people… Suddenly the idea of spending 1000’s on a mortgage and bills in Australia seemed futile. I felt like my money and my time could be so much more useful and worthwhile here. It just made sense, more sense than anything in my life. For the first time in my life, I felt like what I was doing was actually making a direct difference to the lives of people and it felt like the most natural and on purpose thing in the world… My heart was filled with so much gratitude from all the generosity, from all the support near and far that I was energised and completely at peace within myself… MY MIND WAS QUIET! It was like everything suddenly made sense, everything I’d ever experienced had culminated to be available to me in this moment for me to step into this role. I felt like I was where I was supposed to be.
The people that I’ve met so far on this journey have become significant people in my life for so many reasons and continue to inspire me for their dedication, commitment and focus on the cause and this has further motivated me and lead me to this point… Complete destruction of the old… thanks Kali…
So I needed an Earthquake to move, let go and step into myself. Taureans are stubborn, but really an Earthquake??? Being an Earth sign I guess it makes sense…
Today as I sit and write this, I know so much of this experience is missing as I am still in the process and will continue to edit and add to this story, however right now I am back in Australia for 2.5 weeks to pack up my old life and relocate to Nepal to continue on this mission. I am literally emptying my house, tying up loose ends, raising much needed funds and heading back to Nepal. Our fund is “People helping people – Nepal” and we are committed, long term, to work in the gaps and fill the spaces that other larger Organisations can not or will not. We work in a person centred way that preserves and empowers Nepali People to rebuild their lives and preserves their culture and way of life.
My children have been amazing and I am, as usual, in awe of the people they have become. I have absolute certainty despite the many differing opinions, that as long as I stay in this space that everything will be perfectly imperfect and imperfectly perfect… As Goddess Kali ensures, always balance. She does not allow us to be lead astray as she keeps us always aligned through the cycle of change… One of the only consistent things that exist in the universe, movement and change… Love comes in many forms, especially through destruction.
KATE HANSSENWWW.KATEHANSSENNEPAL.BLOGSPOT.COM WWW.KATEHANSSEN.BLOGSPOT.COM
Motivated by change and inspired by stories of others, Kate loves to engage people and connect with them. She views life as an opportunity to explore “Self”. Her most recent life experiences has seen her teaching Bounce Programs as a Life Skills Trainer and volunteering in Nepal after the 2015 earthquakes, where she raised $50,000 AUD and coordinated the relief to help those who were most impacted by the devastating earthquake. Kate also has taught Meditation, provided guidance counselling and studied in alternative health. Kate is a keen writer and singer and hopes to dedicate more time to her writing and public speaking to empower others and see their lights ignite.