Enjoying the comforts of home again

POULSBO - Driving 700 miles across country is no picnic - especially when it's across a foreign desert in temperatures that would have the Devil himself reaching for a glass of cool lemonade. But those are the conditions that Gordon and Judy Buehler of Poulsbo spent several weeks in February and March enduring as they made their way across India to assist locals in the earthquake-stricken town of Gujarat.

“POULSBO – Driving 700 miles across country is no picnic – especially when it’s across a foreign desert in temperatures that would have the Devil himself reaching for a glass of cool lemonade. But those are the conditions that Gordon and Judy Buehler of Poulsbo spent several weeks in February and March enduring as they made their way across India to assist locals in the earthquake-stricken town of Gujarat. Gujarat was one of many communities that was laid waste on Jan. 26 when an earthquake measuring 7.9 in magnitude sent buildings crumbling to the ground. Anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 people died in the quake, which caused deaths and damage in nearby Pakistan and was felt in Nepal and Bangladesh as well. Brutal aftershocks two days later also drove locals from their homes, forcing many into the streets with little or no shelter. The devastation was the worst to hit India since August 15, 1950, when one of 8.5 magnitude killed 1,538 people in northeastern Assam state. The earthquake just flattened everything, Judy said flipping through photographs of the aftermath. Due to the third consecutive year of drought, the food supply in Gujarat was short before the earthquake – the catastrophe heightened this dilemma, Gordon pointed out. The Buehlers, working as a part of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), helped supply emergency food and shelter for survivors and assisted people in Kachch District of Gujarat along the road long-term reconstruction. Part of this project required the couple to deliver an SUV to the town of 3,000 households. Although the toppled bricks and make-shift shelters they discovered there were a far cry from the comforts of their bed and breakfast Murphy House in Poulsbo – they beat some of the unexpected stops the couple made along the way. The cross-country trek included three flat tires and a blown air-conditioner. Actually, Gordon said the SUV sustained two flats at once on their final night of travel toward Gujarat. Those flats, which occurred at about 11 p.m., took place about 70 kilometers from their final destination but were accompanied by some rare luck – a passing car. Only one went by after that, Gordon said, shaking his head. There was some traffic in the cities – camels and carts. Some elephants and a lot of goats, he added with a laugh. The two also witnessed a large wedding procession during their trip. Included in the ceremony were several brides and grooms to be as well as decorated elephants. With ADRA, they worked to distribute tents to the population in the Gujarat, making the best of the primitive conditions that had them longing for the relaxing, modern environment of the Murphy House. The couple spent several weeks living in a tent with rare showers and a pit latrine. A wash bucket was also provided. It was always hot. Temperatures were around 120 degrees, Judy said. It wouldn’t cool until about 3 a.m. but then it would start getting hot all over again. Due to the persistent heat sleep was a real treat, as was water. There was no rain, Gordon said. It was really different, Judy explained. The town was located in the middle of what was once a sea. Now, it’s simply an island in the midst of an enormous salt flat. But even so, the community has survived and was working with ADRA to drill wells by the time the Buehlers were on their way back to Little Norway. When asked whether they were happy to be back in the familiar surroundings of their Hostmark Street bed and breakfast, the two shared a smile and sigh before Judy replied, Everything here seems so green – and clean. “

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