Norzen and Nawang are nuns from the monastery in Bigu, whose smiles will bring back memories for many volunteers who have been recipients of their warmth and hospitality.
Today we are sitting at the Volunteer Nepal dining room table eating masala-spiced pasta. Mid-meal they lean in to show me photos of the monastery wreckage on a mobile phone, and begin recounting events that are still raw and frightening.
On April 25 in Bigu, Norzen and Nawang were eating dal bhat with the other nuns. All at once, the ground trembled and the walls shook while the nuns sat paralyzed until it had passed. Once the shaking had stopped, they ran outside. All seventy of the nuns spent the afternoon assembling blankets in the open area in front of the school and stayed there, afraid to move inside in case another quake caused the ground to tremble.
Two days later, the nuns, who range in age from six to 90 years old, were reached by French aid workers and one rescue dog. They set up tents, provided the nuns with more blankets and assessed the damage to the buildings. Thankfully no one was hurt, but the bedroom buildings, school and monastery paint a picture of devastation. Even the prayer wheels out the front have been damaged, but somehow the prayer flags are still strung high.
Norzen and Nawang are two of the 11 nuns who have moved to Kathmandu for safety, and they have been in the valley for two weeks now. They are living near Boudha Stupa where lots of nuns from different villages have gathered. The other sixty nuns from Bigu are still at the monastery and sleeping outside in tents.
The current plan is for Norzen and Nawang to stay in Kathmandu for the next five to six months, and then move back to Bigu. Hopefully after that they can begin planning the rebuild of their home.
I think it’s safe to say that they are still shaken, but thankful for their safety, and still so full of love.