Apart from getting to eat a lot of food, one of the really nice things about my job is that I get to meet people from all over the world, who make up our eclectic, vibrant and colourful restaurant industry. One of the most enjoyable experiences that I've had, in the past couple of years, was in the Kathmandu Kitchen, a delightful Nepalese restaurant on Dame Street.
Here, we encountered Nabaraj Koirala, who could not have been more welcoming to two strangers on a cold January evening. He told us about Nepal, while showing us a speciality drink, in a glass bottle that was shaped like a traditional Khukri knife, as used by the famous Ghurkas.
On hearing of the catastrophic earthquake, I thought of Nabaraj, and his cousin and business partner, Ganesh, and their colleagues, who are so distressed about the devastation in Nepal. Both men are Irish citizens, who work hard to promote friendship between Ireland and Nepal, through the Nepal Ireland Society and the Non-Resident Nepali Association. There are around 4,000 Nepalese people living in Ireland, including business and IT professionals, engineers, nurses, doctors and students.
"I am in Ireland over 12 years now," says Nabaraj, who is married to Laxmi, and the couple have a young son. "I came here to study hotel management and hospitality. Now, I am in business with my cousin, Ganesh Prasai."
Ganesh is here 18 years, and he and his wife, Devi, have two children, Aheesh and Ishan, aged 16 and 12. He worked as a chef in an Indian restaurant in Limerick, before coming to Dublin and opening Diwali Restaurant, on South Great George's Street, 11 years ago. "We are very worried about Nepal and the Nepalese people," says Nabaraj. "All our Nepalese and Irish friends, and other communities, are helping us in this difficult situation. The earthquake was of a 7.8 magnitude in our motherland, and a lot of people are homeless. The heritage park in the capital is gone and many historical buildings have collapsed.
"It is very distressing that almost 6,000 people have died, and that figure is rising. I spoke with my family last night, in Kathmandu, and they are all fine, but they are sleeping out in the open in tents, and some people are staying with family and friends in the countryside. They are having a very hard time, and, right now, people need a lot of bandages, painkillers and medical support.
"I heard last night, that people were being discharged from hospital and, at the same time, asking where they would go. While they are being discharged, they are still injured, maybe cannot walk, and have no homes to go to. People cannot go back into their houses because it is still not safe.
"Rescue teams are working very hard, but they are in the urban areas, so they are still not reaching the villages and single homes in the countryside. Our geographical structure is very difficult in the mountain regions and the roads are blocked, so transport cannot get through. We have 75 districts in Nepal and we are landlocked between India and China. In some of the hilly regions, the transport is very poor. They are using yaks and donkeys to go to other villages."
Nabaraj says he remembers his grandparents recalling an earthquake about 80 years ago, but the population density was low then, and there wasn't that much damage. However, that is not the case this time.
Another problem is that, while people may have money in the bank, they cannot withdraw it, as ATMs are not working. So, financial support for immediate necessities is urgently needed.
"All of the countryside houses collapsed because they are of a lighter build, made from mud and straw. These houses are not insured either, so people will have to rebuild themselves. A staff member's house is totally gone. However, as Nepal is basically an agricultural country, and the earthquake happened during the day, most of the people were out working in the fields.
"We had an emergency meeting amongst the Nepalese people here, to appeal to the community, our Irish friends and the Irish Government, because this is a humanitarian situation. We have been getting a good response, and people are making donations. The money will be sent straight away to Nepal.
"We want to make sure it goes to the correct people who really need it."
Over the coming weeks, as this horrendous tragedy unfolds, there will be many fundraising events to assist the people of Nepal. Please do your best to support them,
Customs inspections at Kathmandu airport are holding up vital relief supplies for earthquake survivors in Nepal, a UN official said yesterday, as the death toll from the disaster a week ago passed 6,600.
United Nations Resident Representative Jamie McGoldrick said the government must loosen its normal customs restrictions to deal with the increasing flow of relief material now pouring in from abroad and piling up at the airport.
But the government, complaining it has received unneeded supplies such as tuna and mayonnaise, insisted its customs agents had to check all emergency shipments.