I’m diverting a little from my usual posts today to express my deep sorrow at the devastation in Nepal. This country has a special place in my heart and memory. It is the place that first inspired me to write a novel, Shallow Crossing, and even though that novel remains unpublished it’s the book that taught me how to write. Even if it never makes it out of the bottom drawer it will always be my favourite.

The news about Nepal has brought back a lot of memories for me. My partner and I visited there in December 1991. We did what many  travellers to the country do – spent time in Kathmandu, then, using our trusty Lonely Planet guide book, visited the beautiful Pokhara region on a two week self guided trek, staying in tea houses, meeting wonderful people and attempting to take in the breath taking landscape. I say attempting to because the beauty of the place is actually indescribable. There are no words to capture the majesty of the Himalayas. I’d never understood why people would want to climb mountains until then but standing there and gazing out at those mountains I began to realise it was all about setting yourself a challenge and pushing yourself to the limit in order to get there.

This grainy old photo doesn't do the mountains justice but the Himalayas are truly awe inspiring.

This grainy old photo doesn’t do the mountains justice but the Himalayas are truly awe inspiring.

The other thing that struck me about Nepal was the people – the way they approached the challenges of their daily lives with such gracious acceptance. In western society we spend a great deal of time complaining about what we don’t have and all the things we have to do but in this country where the people have so little I found their gratitude for what they did have, and for life in general, truly humbling.

Nepalese women and a much younger version of me smiling for the camera

Nepalese women and a much younger version of me smiling for the camera

My connection with Nepal deepened further when my writing group, The Writers’ Dozen, put together an anthology of our work called Better than Chocolate. We printed one thousand copies, the profits going to Room To Read, a global not for profit organisation that I subsequently became involved with and for which I am now a proud Writer Ambassador. Through the sales of our book we were able to raise enough money to build a school library in Nepal.

BTC

Looking at the devastating images of the aftermath of the earthquake has had me pulling out old photo albums and reminded me of the ways in which our lives can become so intricately linked with a particular place. It’s also reminded me of the precariousness of life, especially in third world countries like Nepal where the poverty that people have to deal with everyday is so often exacerbated by natural disasters. Of course the loss of life is the prime concern but the damage to centuries old buildings and temples is also heartbreaking.

A photo I took in 1991, the view from the Old Palace in Kathmandu. So much of this would now be destroyed.

A photo I took in 1991, the view from the Old Palace in Kathmandu. So much of this would now be destroyed.

You can see an interview with Room To Read’s founder, John Wood, talking about the devastation here: http://cnn.it/1divoVw

I’ve always wanted to return to Nepal and hope that one day I will. In the meantime I’ll be donating to Room To Read’s Earthquake Fund (click on the link for more information) and sending prayers out for those who have suffered.

I hope you will join me.