Quake sounded like train: Duncan Nepal survivor

A Duncan woman is still dealing with the effects of culture shock, combined with escaping a disaster zone, after returning home to Vancouver Island following the deadly Nepal earthquake and its aftermath.

Taylor Winfrey, who had been volunteering as a teacher in Kathmandu, got back to Vancouver last Thursday and made it to the Island two days later after a 72-hour trip with layovers in Dubai and London.

"I’m still in a daze, still in shock," she said on Tuesday. "Even coming home from Nepal in the first place would be a shock. It’s harder to come back home than it is to go there, coming from the poverty to the massive amounts of wealth."

Winfrey was alone at the house where she stayed with other volunteers when the magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit on April 25. She heard the quake before she felt it.

"I thought it was like a truck or a train, and I though, what the heck is coming down our street?" she recalled. "I stepped onto the balcony, and in less than five seconds, I knew what it was."

With the building swaying side-to-side, Winfrey watched from her third-floor balcony as the eight-foot brick wall around the house crumbled "like it was nothing." As fast as she could, she got out of the building.

"I’m from B.C., so I know the drill," she said.

A strong aftershock followed. "Then I knew it was serious," Winfrey said. "I still had cell service, so I sent a text and posted on Facebook to tell people I was alive. I didn’t know the extent, but I knew it was big."

That night, Winfrey stayed in a tent city with the maid from the volunteer house, where she was the only westerner. She stayed awake for 36 hours.

"The ground kept shaking," she recalled. "There were always little tremors, and quite a few notable ones, like fours and fives."

Winfrey, who was registered with the Canadian consulate in Kathmandu, was disappointed with the way the Canadian government treated residents in Nepal.

"The consulate started hanging up on us," she said.

Winfrey even called the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa while her phone was still working, but they weren’t helpful either.

"I had more information than they did," she said.

She felt fortunate that Nepal is relatively safe, and that she knew the area and had contacts.

"I would call it a very safe place to begin with," she said. "If that happened anywhere else, I’d be very worried. Living in the street after a catastrophe is not a safe place."

The day before she left Nepal, Winfrey walked to the school where she taught.

"I had to check on it," she said. "The school was still standing. I talked to one of the neighbours, and as far as he knew, the children were okay."

Although it looked all right on the outside, the school sustained significant damage inside.

"Thank God we weren’t inside, because it wasn’t a stable structure to begin with," Winfrey said. "It’s very fortunate it was a Saturday."

Although she’s glad to be home, she does want to return to Nepal to help with the recovery, perhaps next year.

"Part of me needs to go back," she said. At this point, the worst is far from over, with monsoon season approaching, and Winfrey hopes the rest of the world doesn’t forget.

"The ‘exciting’ part is over, but it’s really just beginning for them," she said. "Everyone gives at first, but in the coming days, months and years, that’s when they’ll need it."