Getting around, mentally and physically

Like Tupac and The Beach Boys, I get around—with my writing work, that is!

One of the things I love most about freelancing is the unexpected places it takes me, topically and geographically. Last year, I trundled to the Bronx to cover a conference all about wood; wrote about a Taiwanese modern dance company‘s rebound from a devastating loss; and spoke with grassroots leaders in L.A. who are making their streets happier places to walk, bike, and even play—and that was just the beginning!

Pete, Justin, Bikash

Justin (center) with post-earthquake rebuilding partners Pete (left) and Bikash, plus a friendly clothesline

This year, I’m happy to be starting off with a similarly far-flung (to me) gig: an interview with Justin Den Herder, a senior structural engineer at NYC’s Silman Associates, about his experience volunteering for the Pilot Projects initiative Co-Build Kathmandu. Our story ran in the latest volume of cross sections, the magazine of the Structural Engineers Association of New York.

Justin is a smart, fun guy with miles of great stories to tell about his trip. Here’s a sample nugget:

“We wound up purchasing and donating 75, 70-pound bags of rice to people in a small village in Nagarkot,” he said. “One of the most impressive illustrations of Nepalese resiliency I saw during my trip—among many—was the image of old women coming to claim their bag of rice. I’d ask who was there to carry it home for them, and they’d just smile, take the bag from me, throw it over their shoulders, and walk straight up the mountain! I can’t imagine my grandmother doing that. I was struggling trying to lift these bags myself.”

Peep the whole interview here, and let’s give it up for getting around!

One of my clients was in Nepal when the first earthquake struck

I am among the grateful that a wonderful client of mine, Scott Francisco, wasn’t harmed when the first of two magnitude 7+ earthquakes struck Nepal late last month, and that he was able to leave the country before the second one. I wrote this blog post about it for his design company.

Scott helps a family build a temporary shelter

Scott helps a family build a temporary shelter near Kathmandu

Although I haven’t been there yet, I’ve long harbored a certain (if vague) affection for Nepal, and I guess all things Himalayan. Watching the wreckage and misery that surround a disaster is always a souring experience, but in this case it felt worse than usual.

Scott is now in the midst of rallying other architects and structural engineers to volunteer some of their time and expertise to helping assess and rebuild homes and historic structures in the Kathmandu Valley. He’s a real mensch! Check out the details on this LinkedIn post.