It has been a hectic couple of days between getting departing from the states in the midst of a major operation locally and landing on the ground in Nepal for earthquake relief.
In preparation for any deployment there is a lot to do to get prepared. It is even more critical when you are deploying for nearly two months! That preparation process becomes even more difficult when you have a major train derailment that happens on the eve of your departure.
My departure for Nepal took place on Wednesday evening May 13th. As many of you have heard, seen or read about, an Amtrak train derailed in Philly on May 12th around 9:30 PM. I was busy packing at the time, but significant events always take precedence (at least when you are in the disaster business. Our team arrived on scene about 10:00 PM and we served around the clock until late in the afternoon on Wednesday.
After leaving the scene at 2:00 AM, I went back home for a few hours rest before getting up and making the last of my preparations, while still coordinating some of the derailment response and necessary info sharing. I was finally off just after 6:00 PM Wednesday.
The flight was lengthy as I flew from Philly to London, arriving at roughly 6:30 AM London time. I then traveled into IHQ (our International Headquarters for our non-Army readers) for a briefing session, departing from there mid afternoon. Once back at Heathrow I took a few minutes to check on the derailment response, the family and some regular business I needed to do (which was obviously pushed thanks to the train wreck).
After a few hours of working and what I thought might be my last good meal for a little while, I boarded the flight from London to Abu Dhabi about 8:00 PM. We landed in UAE just after 7:00 AM for a brief layover (only 4 hours this time) before heading into the final leg into Nepal.
I was especially grateful for a very unexpected business class upgrade (thanks to an over booked economy class for which I was originally ticketed!) which allowed me to get some last minute sleep in before hitting the ground.
I was able to get through the customs process fairly easily before getting through the chaos that was baggage claim and the the virtually non-existent security and customs (curiously the security never had me go through the metal detectors and customs simply verified that my name was on my bag).
I was picked up by one of the team members and we then drove back to the Cafe which the Army has here in Kathmandu that is an outreach program for women and trafficking. The first floor is a cafe style restaurant, the second floor a salon and parlor, and the third a sitting area and outdoor balcony. We have pretty much taken over the third floor for our operation which serves as office, lounge and residence all wrapped into one.
After a briefing session and a great pasta meal, I was introduced to all of the team members on site and an evening team briefing began. In the middle of that briefing we experienced a small aftershock (I actually didn't feel it since it was relatively minor) and we rushed out into the courtyard area of the cafe.
After a few minutes we continued the briefing, discussed plans for my first full day and then called it a night. Because of the large secondary earthquake just prior to my arrival the team has temporarily changed the sleeping arrangements. The females are outdoors in tents setup in the courtyard and the males are all sleeping in the cafe on the first floor so that we can exit rapidly if need be.
That was my introduction to the new normal for the next 7 weeks!....which I am anxiously looking forward to a there is much need across this beautifully mountainous country.