Due to unforeseen circumstances, we moved back to Nepal in January of this year. We found a great house with an amazing view of the foothills. It rests on a ridge with about 50 feet in front of it before there is a drop off overlooking a valley and another ridge across the way.
Just a week before the earthquake, my house helper and friend had returned from having a baby boy, her second child. She had been gone a month which took its toll on our routine and the cleanliness of the house. I tried to keep up, but it is a lot more work without automatic dishwashers, swiffers, and disposable toilet brushes and wipes. Not to mention the increased dust in a house that doesn't seal against the outside elements.We had finally settled in. Lee had helped me the week before to hang pictures on the wall (no easy task with cement walls), and I had completed my vast organization project, rearranging closets and toys to make things easier to find. The next task was to get the garden in shape.
The morning was a bit chilly and overcast. I had read about a second hand sale at a nearby hotel celebrating Dutch King's Day. I thought I might be able to find something to help improve the garden and possibly some kids' clothes, specifically for the new baby. It was Saturday, and our favorite bakery makes fresh donuts every Saturday. So we planned to grabbed some donuts and head to the sale. After our extremely unhealthy breakfast of the fried yumminess, we drove up the hill a ways and set out to shopping. Most of my money went to one particular mom who had several baby boy clothes because she was the one who would take Indian rupees, which is all we had left to spend. The kids were getting bored and hungry even though we had eaten plenty of donuts before we started shopping, but carbs don't keep them full very long.
It was about 11:30 am and we decided we could eat a snack at one of our favorite restaurants. We drove back down the hill to Cafe Soma, which is a couple doors down from the bakery where we had just eaten our donuts. The place was pretty busy and only one table was empty large enough for our family. It was the furthest table from the door. Our kids were the only ones under the age of 12 in the building.
We placed an order for smoothies, milkshakes, and coffee. My youngest two kids picked a couple of books off the built-in bookcase that lines the wall. We settled in to wait for our drinks as I read a crazy South Asian version of Jack and the Beanstalk to the kids.
The kids were a bit cranky and antsy. The table started to jiggle a bit and I wondered which kid was kicking the table enough to make it shake. Then I noticed a panicked look on some other customers' faces as they stood up and darted out the door. I quickly realized my kids were not the ones shaking the table but it was in fact the ground that was moving. I shouted, "Get down! No! Get out!" as I simultaneously stood up, grabbed the hands of the two kids sitting on either side of me and shot toward the door. I moved as quickly as is possible when the ground is moving underneath your feet. I saw a woman in a blue shirt on the ground in front of the exit. I tried to figure out a way around her, knowing Lee and the other two kids were behind me. But the ground was moving so much I couldn't entirely control where my feet were going. As the ground swayed to the left, I tried to move toward the right, but instead I fell on top of the woman crawling on the ground. I'm not sure if my kids fell too or not, but I let go of their hands so I could stand back up and get out. Lee swooped them up in his arms, and I ran out the door glancing back to see that they were right behind me. I had seen my oldest run out of the restaurant before I had fallen.
When we were finally out, I looked around, the ground still swaying underneath me. Everything around us was still standing. Then I heard one of the kids ask where the oldest was. I immediately found her standing a couple yards away from us with one of the waiters. Tears were streaming down her face and she was calling for me. I rushed to her and heard the waiter telling her not to cry. I said her name and took her in my arms and told her it was ok. I was relieved and overwhelmed and could feel my heart about to beat out of my chest. We all just stood there for a moment as if in disbelief. Then a man - a Westerner - approached us and said, "There will be aftershocks. Get to somewhere safe away from electric lines." "OK," I thought. "Where do we need to go? What do we need to do? We still don't have an earthquake kit." We've talked about how we needed to be prepared for a large earthquake because there has been a pattern of large earthquakes in Nepal every 80 years and it had been 81 years since the 8.0 in 1934. "This one was big. It must have been the 'big one' we've been anticipating." As I was trying to make a plan in my head, Lee said, "Let's go." "My purse is inside," I replied. He responded, "So is my phone. I'll go in and get them." As I watched my husband go back into the building we had just escaped, I prayed for his safety and gathered my children close to me like a mother hen.