Bishnu and I are finally in Kathmandu. I arrived in the early morning just as school children, dressed in impossibly white uniforms, weaved through dusty streets on the way to school. The Ministry of Education officially reopened schools June 1st, but is having teachers focus on helping students cope with the disaster. Rather than traditional subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic, students are playing games, drawing, and talking about their fears, which is impressively progressive.
Thursday is the United-Nation’s led international donor’s conference. Government officials and celebrities are here to publically announce how much they will offer in recovery aid for Nepal. The numbers will be large, but if history is any indication, only about 20 percent of these promised funds will materialize. The devastated regions will struggle to rebuild for the coming years — even decades.
The airport worker writing down my lost baggage claim — yes, I’m starting out this trip with not a single change of clothes or a toothbrush — asked if I came in with Leonardo DiCaprio. Apparently his arrival is eminent.
Most of today I walked around buying food, clothes, and toothpaste, all while trying to remember to look right, not left, when stepping off the curb. Looking the wrong way is just plain dangerous. They drive on the left side of the road. Pedestrians are expected to play chicken with the onslaught of vehicles to cross every road. My jetlagged reflexes were not as adept as usual.
We also met with both Build Change and NSET, National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal, on Wednesday. These two organization are keen to see our research materialize. We all want to know what school retrofitting techniques worked and whether it changed communities. NSET would especially like our data for the donor’s meeting tomorrow, where a major international development agency is going to be announcing technical standards for rebuilding. - NSET thinks those standards are impossibly high for many communities in Nepal. Knowing whether NSET’s low-tech retrofitting methods were successful could make the standards attainable for all communities.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!