Photo by Chris Turpin, NPR
Villagers take effort to shade NPR's Robert Siegel and Xiaoyu Xie even though it is they who have been devastated by an earthquake.
The earthquake destroyed most houses in Red Flag village. On our first visit, the situation was quite bleak; food and water were in short supply.
Three days later, we returned.
The situation improved markedly since our first visit. We saw villagers beginning to salvage whatever they can from the ruins of what used to be their homes. The scene was strangely serene: People looked up from their salvage operation, waved and said "hello;" children, without a school to go back to, followed us, laughing all the way.
We were quickly surrounded by a dozen villagers, some of them held umbrellas over our heads protecting us from the blazing sun. "Thank you so much for coming all this way to our village. Thank you for caring about us," they said over and over. That is the refrain we hear everywhere we go.
Wherever we stop, people come and share their stories with us. Most of those stories are sad, and some, devastating. As millions of evacuees struggle to put back together their shattered lives, the challenges they face are enormous. In Red Flag village, rebuilding is on its way, it seems. A villager said to us, "thanks to the government and the relief volunteers, we now have enough water and food. But we still need more and better tents. It's the harvest season, we need more tents to store our grains. Then we can begin to take care of ourselves."