Watching from the sidelines

A young pupil shows her mum the pink whistle she got with her Moving Mountain School Bag at Shree Chippling Primary School in  Sindupalchowk district.

A week ago I returned to Finland to fulfil a couple of commitments, and work with my clients before Finnish summer starts. It was almost impossible to step onto the plane at Tribhuvan International Airport, but at the same time I had a feeling that this would do both Moving Mountain School Bag and Gary Wornell good. 

I didn't realise until a couple of days ago just how much the earthquakes had affected me. I survived those events - terrified during the shaking each and every time - and desperate for the souls who had perished under the terrible weight of their homes. For Nepalis this is often the only asset they have. It represents a lifetime of saving - and now it is gone they really are at a new beginning. I survived the ordeal twice. It somehow changed me.

The journey through airport hops reminds me of the 1969 Stanley Kubrick science fiction movie - 2001 A Space Odyssey. I'm in transit lounges in a space station with people from middle eastern countries in long white robes and immaculate headgear; surrounded by luxury and glitter and too many watches which remind me just how limited my time is.  These places make me feel alienated at the best of times, but now after post-quake Nepal I find myself floundering. Get a grip I tell myself.

These last two days I have had interviews with the press. For the national paper here in Finland we were talking about Moving Mountain School Bag and the initiatives of post-quake youth groups and medical teams. For the local paper - we talked about the quakes, the community solidarity, building shelters, and the fact that in my current state of mind I would feel better if I was around those who experienced the same thing as I.

Arriving in Finland where the land hasn't moved more than a few centimeters in the last 100 years - its hard for friends to do more than stare - say they can't imagine what it must have been like. When I look at my photos, they are also not mine - they look like the work of someone else - a war photographer - a person who experienced something terrible and survived.

New bags have been delivered for Rewati's team to fill - they will go on the road again soon and there will be new photographs - the remains of a school, the clean up: it will all start to lose impact I think to myself - people get tired of the same images - the same news. We do get bored so easily these days. We are conditioned to feel with intensity - watch youtube videos holding back tears. The images stay with us. And then we have our own lives to get on with. 

It will be the photographs of the children that will put the smile on my face. When you are there with them, see them counting the pencils and the books - laughing and walking around with their bags like young turtles - the armour of education strapped to their backs that you feel this is the right thing to do.

For some of these children this is a cathartic moment. 20 years from now some of them will stand as teachers in this very same spot under the roof of a new building and tell the children sitting in an environment none of us will recognise, the story of the time of the earthquake; they will remember this moment once again and the day they got their school bag from the Moving Mountain.