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Dr. C in Nepal: After the earthquake, a home of a million splinters

06/15/2015 05:12 EDT | Updated 06/15/2016 05:59 EDT
It's gone. The home where Shyam Hari Giri lived for 28 years with his brothers and his parents is now in ruins. 

I look at the man I first met six years ago and think about our friendship. It started when Shyam was the bartender at a hotel where I stayed. Every night I would get a drink and talk to him about his life.

He was studying to be a teacher but he was putting himself through university with the tips that came from being a bartender at a famously generous bar in Kathmandu. 

It isn't difficult to recognize the special people in the world, the people who care more, feel deeply, and and dare to dream.  

One of them is Shyam. Every guest at that hotel loves him. He is kind and thoughtful, and has no malice in his heart despite the daily challenges of life in a developing country.

Shyam and I take a journey over bad roads outside Kathmandu for about two hours to reach his hometown of Tukucha. 

Where the road used to be

We pick our way through an area where the road is literally sheared off from the earthquake. He takes us up an impossibly high road and had us stop right outside his house. 

His home is composed of a million splinters. It is absolutely destroyed. Through a hole you can see right into it, to the place where he shared meals and his life with his family. He takes me right to the top of the pile of wreckage and breaks down in tears. 

This young man, who just got married two months ago, is weeping at the loss of his family home. 

I try to comfort him as best as I can and he tries to compose himself.

"Nepalese men are not supposed to cry," he says. He straightens his back and looks forward dispassionately. 

I get down from the precipice, which is basically a pile of rubble, and catch sight of Shyam's mother.

We lock eyes, and I carefully climb down. I go to her and move to touch her feet in a traditional greeting. She grabs me and holds me and weeps.

I'm a stranger to her, someone she knows only in stories from her son. She holds me like I'm her only hope. Her sincerity starts me crying, too. 

This is where they live

Shyam, his mother and the rest of his family now live on the ground underneath a tin roof. They bought it from the small amount of money I sent him before I came over.

I see the space where his parents, his brother, and his new wife sleep. Where they cook and eat. I feel like a stranger, lost in a man's vulnerability.

Shyam hates all of this. He feels that he is a son who has failed to protect his family. As if he could have protected them from an earthquake. He wrings his hands furtively, impotently, as he shows me the shack. 

I relax and chat as amiably as I can. I wish I spoke Nepali. His family finds it strange that an Indian looking man sounds Irish and can't even speak Hindi. 

Shyam is still wondering why I was so insistent on letting him bring me to his village. 

"You have a home," he says. "You could just be there and sleep in it." 

"I'll sleep in my home when you sleep in yours," I tell him. 

In the morning I visit an ATM and give him a cash advance on his work as a translator for my project.

Shyam is going with me around the country, helping me survey the devastation, shoot a documentary about hope, and lay the groundwork for a medical project with Team Broken Earth. The advance should be enough for a down payment to start some house repairs. 

Besides, I meant what I said. I know we'll both sleep better soon. 

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