It was just over a year ago that I was leaving India to travel to Nepal, Qatar and Europe. During that time, I felt the heat build. The temperatures went from hot during the day but comfortable for sleeping at night to atrociously hot during the day and unbearable for sleeping at night. Each night, I would wake up 4 or 5 times, completely soaking, and I would flip my pillow over, rotate myself to the other half of the bed and start anew.
I can only imagine what the heat must feel like now, the heat that has resulted in a death toll of nearly 2000.
My blog is typically not one that relays or discusses current events. I prefer to stick to the lighter side of life, to the stories that have clung to my bones while I travel and long after I get home.
However, this is a prime example of how travel can affect us even when we are at home. Not only is this devastating heat wave happening about a year after I was there, about a month ago, an earthquake rocked Nepal, again about a year after I was there.
These are places I spent time, met locals, worked with local children, fell in love again and again. I experienced these places and they burrowed away niches for themselves in my heart. While I am not directly affected by their troubles, I bleed for them, I feel for them, I hurt for them, in ways I would not had I not so recently been there.
This isn’t the only case of my connection to places faced with disaster. On September 1, 2001, I went to the top of the World Trade Centre in New York City. A few weeks before I travelled to Spain for the first time in 2004, there were explosions at a number of train stations in Madrid. The previous year, I travelled abroad during the SARS epidemic. It was while I was living in England that the London bombings happened in 2005. About three weeks after I was in Chile in 2010, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck the country.
Some may say I leave a path of destruction in my wake. I say this is what it is to be a citizen of the world.
I really must emphasize here that I do not mean to say that I know in any capacity the depth of what the people in these affected places feel or that I truly understand their loss. I do not. All I’m saying is that I was affected. Period. That I was lucky my trip to New York didn’t happen a mere ten days later. That my trip to Chile wasn’t a few weeks later. That actually seeing the candles and photos and signs lining the streets of Madrid in person was far more sobering than it was on a television screen.
Thinking about India and the troubles they face is difficult. On the one hand, travel to India really opened my eyes to how hard life is there (as in many other places in the world). In that sense, I am more of a realist than I ever was before. Many of the hospitals in India aren’t great at the best of times, and the advice to “stay indoors” is ludicrous considering how many people in India have no such indoors to speak of as their homes are made of cardboard, plastic and metal scraps. To remind people to drink water is also silly as many people who have no indoors also have no access to clean drinking water. The population is too vast to properly address and solve this kind of problem. On the other hand, I met and got to know many people in India, visited their homes, played games with their children, and spent hours on lessons for them. Knowing people who are suffering in the heat changes the story for me.
Mostly I feel helpless. What can one person really do from her cozy home in the developed world? In many cases, making a donation is all we can do. I remember attending a dance class fundraiser for Chile, and most recently, I donated to the Canadian Red Cross for earthquake relief in Nepal. As much as I want to get on a plane and help, sometimes too many helpful bodies at ground zero is the least helpful thing in the end.
This is the state of the world. Sure, let’s be the change we want to see and all that jazz. And yes, “if you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito” but disaster strikes on the other side of the planet, and what is there really to do? If you have a better solution, please, please enlighten me.