It’s a bright sunny day as I depart Nepal. The country where I have been based for the past six weeks has been very kind to me – startlingly so, for one so used to the cold and aloof streets of London.
It’s still hard for me to grasp how the Nepali people can remain so upbeat, so friendly, so curious when they have difficult circumstances.
The poverty, the fuel crisis in the middle of winter, and the continuing earthquake threat would trouble anyone’s mind on a daily basis.
Indeed, there is the sign that underneath it all the psychological wounds are still raw.
Last Friday, there was an aftershock or mini earthquake measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale in Nepal.
In my hotel in Kathmandu, I felt my chair wobble initially followed by the ground shaking and my eyes widened at the sight of the pillars of the building moving side to side.
It was over in a matter of seconds, thankfully nothing having fallen on me.
But news emerged this week that more than 70 people had been injured – and a number of those were maimed from jumping out of windows as soon as the earth began to quake.
What I have heard most from people I’ve spoken to is how so many are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. They’ve diagnosed themselves, as there is no official programme to help rebuild the mindset after such devastation in April 2015 when almost 9,000 people were killed.
That someone should immediately take their chance jumping out of a window at one rumble under the ground highlights the amount of fear that permeates the Nepali psyche at the moment.
Reminders of the destruction are everywhere, especially in Kathmandu where rubble is just piled up a lot of the time, not even cleared away. Some reconstruction is going on but the government still is dragging its feet in allocating relief funds for reconstruction.
Even then, a lot of the structures being rebuilt are being built to the same spec as before. So if another earthquake happens, and a large one is unfortunately predicated under Kathmandu, the country will be back to square one.
Initially, what brought me to Nepal was a desire to do something to help the disaster relief as a volunteer. Whenever I have been asked why I came to Nepal and I explain the aforementioned reason, the locals have said “thank you so much. This is very kind of you to help our country.”
But leaving now I can’t shake this overwhelming sense of sadness. Not only because I have fallen in love with this country; it’s stunning landscapes and extremely affable population, but because I feel guilty about abandoning a fragile country hiding a fragile mindset.