Tag Archives: nepal

How a Video Game Inspired Me To Visit a Certain Country


Many of you already know that I have a pretty deep fondness for Nepal. But what most of you don’t know is how and why I chose to visit there in the first place.

Well, the answer is kinda amusing.

You ever heard of this video game?


It’s called Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, a universally praised title developed by Naughty Dog that originally released for the PlayStation 3 system in 2009.

If you aren’t familiar, it’s about a world explorer (like me!) named Nathan Drake who gets caught up in an Indiana Jones-style adventure across the world, trying to obtain a lost treasure before a group of international baddies get their grubby hands on it. Of course, this game is right up my alley, so I had to play it. It also doesn’t hurt that it is one of the best-reviewed video games in history. Play it if you haven’t!


One of the game’s chapters led me (Nathan Drake) into a fictionalized, battle-bruised version of Kathmandu, Nepal. I’ve heard of Kathmandu before, but I knew absolutely nothing about it. But I have to hand it to the game designers, they made Kathmandu feel engrossing (even with all the rubble) and after playing through the chapter, it sparked an interest in actually going there.

I googled Kathmandu and did an image search and was happy to find that the developers of the game were faithful in recreating Nepal as accurate as possible: the colorful prayer flags strung across the old, almost crumbled brick buildings, the temples, the lighting, the snow-capped mountains in the backdrop. Everything was just like I’ve seen from the images.

This is what part of Kathmandu looks like today…


…before Naughty Dog created a fictionalized battle-beaten version.


That yellow taxi even looks like the ones I caught while I was there!

Suddenly, Nepal skyrocketed to the top of my list of countries I must explore.

I made the decision then and there. I had to go.

About a year or so later, I booked a flight to Nepal and worked with an organization in Kathmandu to volunteer at a school in Pokhara. And from there, the rest is history. It sounds a bit farcical and cliche to say this, but it changed my life forever. For the better.

It’s crazy to think that if I’ve never played that game, then I probably would never have gone to Nepal. At least not so suddenly. It was never really on my radar until the moment I blew up bad guys with a grenade launcher in the middle of Kathmandu.

Thank you, Naughty Dog.

P.S – There are two amazing sequels that have also been critically praised. I have yet to play the fourth but will do so whenever I find the time.

Has anything unorthodox ever inspired you to visit a specific place? Please let me know! 🙂


Top 10 Moments From My Quest to the Seven Continents


I began and ended this quest in ice…

…from the Arctic north of Alaska to the frozen continent of Antarctica. In between the two poles, I largely ventured in warm, subtropical climates. From the East to the West, the journey from the oceanic islands of the South Pacific all the way through across the Atlantic to the eastern coast of South America was enlightening, spur-of-the-moment, and the most adventurous of all my tales.

After a little more than a year and a half of constant travel, I successfully completed my Quest to the Seven Continents: North America, Oceania (Australia), Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, & Antarctica.

These are the TOP 10 Greatest Moments from that journey around the world. 

 From August 2016—February 2018

#11. Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro  (Honorable Mention).

adventure born

I had to include this as an honorable mention because it was just so damn special. Attending New Year’s Eve on the exotic beaches of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has been on my ATLAS (bucket list) for years and for good reason; it was truly something remarkable. Coming off the worst hangover of my life (lasting two days!) with a bunch of party-hard backpackers and insane Brazilian locals—I donned in mostly white attire and got silly again with them on on the eve of the New Year. I stood in the shimmering ocean as fireworks were booming and each jump over an incoming wave signaled all the best luck heading into 2018. I was sandy, soaking wet, and buzzed, but on a personal high I haven’t experienced in a long while. Rio delivered to the quest.

(I have yet to publish a post about this moment. Look out for it soon!)

#10. The Gift on the Great Ocean Road


Some of the best moments are the unexpected ones. A few years ago while backpacking through Laos, I met an Australian traveler by the name of Alison who taught me how to ride a motorbike for the first time. Fast forward to November 2017, I still haven’t seen her since. Knowing she lived on the East Coast of Australia, I contacted her and asked if she was around to reunite for a bit. Unfortunately, she was working on assignment in the Middle East.


Completely out of nowhere, she offered her entire home to me while she was away and encouraged me to bring my friends. It was a vacation style house, an utterly perfect luxury abode sitting right at the start of Australia’s Great Ocean Road. I graciously accepted her generous offer, heeded her advice, and invited a handpicked selection of trusted friends who were around the area along. To say our weekend there was a blast would be an understatement. Even more amazing, was the fact that this woman, Alison, whom I’ve only met once in a random country years ago, trusted me with her home. I took great care of it and still plan to one day return the very generous favor to her in some way. This was a very unexpected, yet appreciated compliment to my quest.


#9. Diving With Bull Sharks

Bull Sharks in Beqa Island, Fiji while Scuba Diving

The only thing I wanted to do in Fiji was scuba dive with bull sharks. I got the opportunity on my first day there when a group of scuba divers at a beach house I was staying at randomly asked if I wanted to join on a shark dive the next day. What luck! You would think seeing a gang of ferocious sharks underwater, just a few meters away from you would be terrifying, but not in this case. It was thoroughly mesmerizing in every way. I did three more shark dives in Fiji after that one. One of my most desired travel dreams was accomplished very early in the quest.


#8. Finding A Needle In a Haystack (My Lost Passport in Ukraine)


This can also count as one of my most tense moments during the quest. The lengths I went through to find my lost passport to get out of Ukraine is nothing I will ever just shrug off. The complete language barrier, the bizarre police rides, the mysterious messages from Russian women, the apartment complex puzzle-solving, and of course, the shady man in the trench coat who tried to kidnap me in his alleyway vehicle…I still give myself a gratifying pat on the back for a triumphant ending. When I nearly gave up hope, I miraculously found my passport and was able to leave Ukraine in the nick of time. This quest was not without its trials and this is one unforgettable example of that.


#7. Summiting Annapurna Basecamp


The Himalayas are perhaps the most fearsome mountain range in the world and I wanted to trek it. Not Mount Everest though, I’m not ready for that yet. Instead, I opted for its smaller-scale neighbor, Annapurna Basecamp. A buddy and I trekked up through vivid scenery for nine days until we peaked at 4,190 meters in the cool snow with relative ease. Annapurna Basecamp is the second highest climb I’ve ever done (Kilimanjaro is the first) and the highest summit I’ve conquered on this particular quest.


#6. Lost in Indian Mountains During Christmas


I was sitting in a hostel in Mumbai minding my own business until a local Indian man came up to me and asked if I wanted to hike Fort Torne with him and his friend on Christmas Eve, which was just a day later. I gave an immediate “yes”. Fort Torne was a small mountain range just a few hours bus-ride east of Mumbai where tourists don’t usually go. We left late in the evening and had to sleep on the concrete floor in a small temple at the base of the mountain to avoid wild leopards during their primal hours. We got lost in the pitch black during the hike up which resulted in us sleeping on a random villager’s stack of hay we stumbled across, alongside a stray dog who kept us company the entire night; all while keeping watch of any looming leopards. The next morning, we found our way through Fort Torne. I wanted to do something unique for Christmas, but never could I have expected this. This would have been my favorite Christmas ever, but the Christmas of 1998 still reigns supreme—the year I received a Nintendo 64.


#5. Sparking The Most Colorful War On Sarangkot Mountain


I just so happened to be in Nepal during their Holi Festival. A holiday where everyone celebrates life by throwing colored powder at each other among other traditions like shooting water guns and lobbing water balloons at everyone. Once I found this out, the child in me came all out. I bought a ridiculous amount of colors and water guns, bazookas, balloons, and even silly string and snow spray. I was completely ready to wreak the most colorful havoc on my village and they were prepared as well. It was me versus nearly the entire lot of kids in the area in what was the most polychromatic, rainbow war that I’ll ever participate in…at least until next time when I exact revenge. They completely destroyed me. On that day, Holi Festival became one of my new favorite holidays I was fortunate to experience for the first time ever during this quest.


#4. Walking 500 Miles Across Spain


A friend in Manchester told me about El Camino de Santiago; an 800-kilometer pilgrimage from the France border across most of northern Spain. Many do it for religious reasons. Others do it to find themselves. I did it solely for the challenge. On the way, I met an eclectic range of personalities while walking through whatever the camino threw at me: villages, mountains, highways, forests, cities, farms, grasslands, and the nefarious Meseta region, a hot and dry portion that required all of my mental prowess all while eating rock-hard bocadillos every single day. I completed the camino in 32 days along with the group I met along the way. It was a gracious feeling knowing I could achieve such a major accomplishment to close out the European portion of the quest.


#3. Creating The League of Extraordinary Events


The idea of removing three of my American friends from their normal everyday lives and throwing them into one of the biggest unexpected twists of their lives sounded like complete brilliance. For months, they were certain I was taking them on a special road trip down to Florida. Instead, I pulled the rug right from under their feet by flying them out to Alaska and then immediately to Hawaii to participate in eight extraordinary events and activities I’ve been planning for months. Little did they know that the unknown events involved sharks, icebergs, mountains, booze, ATV’s, rapids, oceans, and so much more. This extraordinary feat kicked off my quest around the world.


#2. Voyage To Antarctica

IMG_1264 2-2-2.jpg

Learning how to sail the Europa, a tall Dutch ship across the infamous Drake’s Passage into the icy wonderland that is Antarctica is arguably my greatest adventure of all time! I’ll never forget stepping foot onto the continent for the very first time, completing the short, yet arduous list of the world’s seven. Over the span of 22 days, I learned the basics of sailing and became a crew member for the Bark Europa vessel. Add on the abundance of wildlife, mountainous glaciers, icebergs taller than skyscrapers, the nights of unavoidable sea seasickness, and the natural beauty beheld…the voyage to Antarctica was truly the ultimate pinnacle of my entire quest.

(I have yet to publish a post about this moment. Look out for it soon!)


#1. Nepal


It was the most heartwarming decision I made on this quest.

The only reason I went back was to fulfill a promise I made two years ago to the class nine students; to take them on a field trip, fully funded by me. If it weren’t for that sole purpose, I probably would have never returned, but I’m so glad I did.

I kept that promise and took that same class, plus a couple other classes on a special trip, but what I didn’t expect was to gain a family while I stayed in the villages in Sarangkot Mountain. I got to know my host families much better this time around and in the process created an unbreakable bond with the people there. I gained a few new “brothers” and never once did I feel like a tourist. I stayed for three months, much longer than I anticipated, and even returned for two more months, just a short time later. I felt completely at peace.

The family foremost culture in Nepal is something I don’t really have back home, I hate to admit.  I always think about the country and how it’s now one of my absolute most favorite places in the world. I already am looking forward to my near future trips to see my “family” and friends there once again. My newfound love for Nepal was the best gift this quest presented me.


Here are some other interesting numbers:

-I visited 26 countries during this quest. Not including airport layovers and transfers. 8 of them are ones I’ve been to before.

-I spent the most time in Nepal (5 months total), which also means I spent the longest time in Asia out of all the continents.

-Not counting being home, I spent the shortest amount of time in North America out of all the continents.

-The longest consecutive time I went without any internet is 22 days.

-I flew on 36 different flights around the world (not yet counting the ones taking me back to Michigan)

-I spent 35 consecutive days without eating meat.

-Out of all of my travels, I’ve been sick the least amount of times during this trip. Only a 24 hour flu and a brief stomach bug. Both occurring in Nepal.

-The absolute worst hangover in my life occurred in Brazil. (Lasted for two days.)

-I learned to say basic phrases in 6 new languages. (Hello, Thank you, Please, Excuse me, etc)

-I held 6 different phone numbers total during this quest.

-I’ve driven a vehicle in 6 countries during the quest. Only one of them was on the right side of the road.

-Around month number 9 is when I first began to feel travel fatigue.

-I always accidentally receive some sort of semi-permanent scar on my body from a trip. With this quest, I came out unscathed.

-I stayed in a total of 104 different hostels, hotels, lodges, and airbnbs. A bulk of this is from the camino in Spain. This doesn’t include homestays, volunteer houses, and friends homes.

-I vomited in 3 different countries during this quest: Poland (intoxicated), Brazil (very intoxicated), and Antarctica (seasickness) (I’m also counting that as a country).

-“Despacito” and “Shape of You” are by far the two most popular songs I’ve heard during most of the quest in many countries.

-The highest altitude (without flying) during this quest was 4,190m (Annapurna).


And now my watch quest has ended.

What could possibly be next? I have no clue. But, I still have a bucket list to complete…


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Teaching Rocks How to Float



Once upon a time, my previous host mother, Mina, trapped me inside her home overnight so I could protect her family from ghosts.

True story.

Weirdly enough, this gave me the inspiration to teach some of the students how to swim. I know none of this relates nor makes any sense but it will in a moment.

While I was staying with Yam and Bindu, Mina asked if I could spend the night at her home with her family while Aatma was away on business, so I could protect them from the ghosts that supposedly haunt her house. These so-called ghosts used to be two women who worked for Aatma and mysteriously disappeared until their bodies were found days later; one floating in the lake and the other near the house in the bushes. Both dead. She literally locked me inside the main room overnight with her, the kids, and some of the neighbor kids, so that I couldn’t leave and so that the evil spirits wouldn’t enter. I wasn’t a fan of being trapped in a room with a bunch of kids all freaking night, but fortunately for Mina, she makes some of the best dal bhat in all of Sarangkot, so that was my biggest draw. But what about those women? They were the extra help that Aatma hired to help cook for all of the students he required to live in his hostel home during examination season. That one died from falling over into the bushes and the other supposedly drowned in Phewa Lake.

Locals drowning in Phewa Lake isn’t all that uncommon. I hear about it entirely too much, to the point where it doesn’t faze anyone anymore. Can these people in Pokhara not swim? It seems to be the general consensus. The Nepali are hardened rocks and mountaineers—not water-loving swimmers. After all, Nepal is completely landlocked with very few, suitable lakes to swim in. This one in Pokhara, Phewa Lake, is the second largest in Nepal…and it isn’t even that big. Although this is coming from a guy who grew up in Michigan, home of the greatest freshwater lakes in the world. But still. Also, these lakes are dirty as all heck.


Phewa Lake. The second largest lake in Nepal.

Okay, so Nepal sucks at swimming. How about my students and family here? I conducted a survey. I first asked my brothers, UK, DJ, and Bipin if they could swim. No. I asked Aatma’s kids. No. I asked the students in the older classes. Most of them said no, with one or two saying they could in each class. I was skeptical of those ones because the people in Nepal can be the nicest liars you’ll ever meet. I even asked the teachers. All of them said they couldn’t except for one. Most of these people have never been in water that went as high as their waists. It blew my mind! That’s when I decided to give crash course beginner lessons to several of the students.

Until a female tourist with extra money decides to take the girls swimming, they were all shit-out-of-luck with me. My focus was on some of the boys from the higher grades—eight, nine, ten, and then the teachers. Each weekend I would spend two days giving swim instruction to each class, starting with class eight, which was Amish’s class. I would only take up to five kids at a time, and I picked them out based on their class rankings (and if they got on my nerves or not).

I would start by reserving two giant, interconnecting rooms at the Pokhara Grand Hotel. The very first real hotel that most of these boys have been to. It’s the only place I could find with a deep enough pool and private enough so there wasn’t a bunch of people interrupting our lessons.


The Pokhara Grand Hotel

It would be like a two-day swimming camp. The boys were excited. Of course, two days won’t be enough time to properly train someone how to swim, but to get them comfortable in the water and be able to do SOMETHING they couldn’t do before was my goal.

I would begin with instructing stretching warm-ups in the hotel room and then acting out the resting strokes they would begin with, along with videos I found on YouTube.


Once we went outside to the swimming area, it dawned on me that these kids have never been in a pool before; only ridiculously shallow creeks that runoff from the top of Sarangkot.

“Don’t go anywhere near the 5ft mark,” I warned them as we entered the pool. I was responsible for all of them, as there was no lifeguard on duty.

Getting them comfortable was necessary first, so I let them play for a bit before we practiced our kicks.


I wanted to see if they could at least doggie paddle on their own, in which they couldn’t do properly.


I spent the remainder of the day teaching them how to do an elementary backstroke, one of the easiest resting strokes to learn as a beginner. Two of the boys started to get it, while the other three were absolutely hopeless. By day 2, one of the adept ones, Samrat, felt confident enough to do the resting stroke the entire length of the pool, all the way to the deep end. Once he successfully did that, he began to enjoy his time in the water, swimming back and forth with ease compared to the others. He was my quickest learner by far out of all the kids I trained.


I kinda gave up hope on the others, at least for our short amount of time. They just had no idea how to control their bodies in the water, so I just let them enjoy the rest of their time before the day was up. Believe me, I tried!

As for each of the following weekends, I took the older classes out, finally ending with the teachers. Most of the boys were just as hopeless as the first batch, but I found that the older the classes got, the more difficult it was to teach them how to do a proper stroke. Maybe it’s like learning a new language? The younger you are, the easier it is to learn because you soak up everything like a sponge. Maybe that’s the case? Even some of the teachers weren’t comfortable in 5ft deep water…It was amusing to me at least.

I’ve practiced with each group for hours and hours each weekend, with adequate breaks here and there. It wasn’t enough time and they definitely require one on one training, but it was the best I could offer, and probably the best training they will ever get in their lives. Swimming is simply not a thing in Nepal, or at least in Pokhara. This pool I found, along with the few other hotel pools in Pokhara are primarily used by tourists, not locals. However, I was proud of the handful who got a stroke down and left the experience tremendously more capable than they were when they started.


Stick to your mountain hikes, Nepal.

Angering the God of Education


I’ve spent the past eleven months, hopping all over the world. I’ve been having fun, but…

I hit a wall right around Ukraine and haven’t fully recovered to form. I’m mentally exhausted. You would think, walking across an entire country (Spain) would give me time to return back to my adventurous flair, but it wasn’t enough. If anything, it made me antsy to return home. But not home home, but rather to Pokhara, Nepal. I can’t say it enough—Nepal has occupied a giant chunk of my heart. That’s why I felt the desire to go back there for a while, before I continue on this quest to the seven continents.

Once I arrived in Kathmandu, my people in Sarangkot were messaging me like crazy! I swear I only told a couple of individuals that I was coming back, but it just goes to show how fast word spreads in the villages of Sarangkot Hill. I took a bus the next day to Pokhara where I was greeted by my “son” Samir and his fellow classmate Bishal. They came all the way down the mountain just to welcome me. I’ve trained them well.


To celebrate, I took them out for milkshakes and then to my local favorite reggae restaurant, Buzz Cafe. Later on, one of my Nepali brothers, UK, came down to welcome me. It’s only been three months since I last saw them, but as soon as I did, I knew I made the right decision in returning. I felt at home.



I taxi’d up the always-horrible roads up to Pandeli, one of the many villages in Sarangkot. It was now the rainy season and the roads were more beat up and muddier than before. Nearly impossible to drive through. My driver had to drop me off about half a kilometer early, because it was impossible to drive any further. As I walked down with my bags in tow, a little boy shouted out from a distance, “Give me sweet!”. I cringed. I recognized the boy from the school in Pandeli I taught at before. He’s the same kid who always and only asks me for sweets and nothing else. Not even a single polite ‘namaste’. I take a little blame for that. I may have bribed the younger classes a little too much with sweets in order to get them to calm the heck down. But I swear that one day, I will give him that “sweet” he consistently demands from me, except I’ll wrap a piece of cow poop in a candy wrapper and give it to him. If that doesn’t stop him from asking me, then I don’t know what will.

I walked down the muddy paths into Pandeli, with kids and random villagers saying hello and wishing me welcome upon my return. I walked half of the way basically in a small stream. This exact path was completely dry just three months ago! Not only that, this mountain was a lot more jungly. So wet. So humid. So muddy. Everything, taken over by green. Below, Phewa Lake was larger and darker than before. This version of Sarangkot felt more alive. It was a welcoming sight.



I normally stay with Aatma and his family, but this time I opted to stay with his brother Yam and his family; just for a little change, even though they are just a seven-minute walk from each other. Bindu, Yam’s wife, came to welcome me along with my other Nepali brother, DJ. Yam came a little later and helped settle me in. I then explained my prospects to them.


Yam and his wife, Bindu.

I usually come to Nepal with an agenda. The first time, almost three years ago, I came as a naive volunteer to help teach English at a primary school. The second time, in January 2017, I came back to fulfill a promise I made to the older classes. That promise was to take them on a field trip that they wouldn’t have to pay for. We did that and we had a lot of fun. This time however, I came with the purpose of just absorbing the culture even more and of course helping out at the school. Only I vowed I wouldn’t do anymore field trips. I took the students on a boatload of big and little trips last time, which my bank account showed for. Not this time.

Soon after settling in, I went down to Aatma’s to visit and noticed he expanded his place even more! He’s now built another kitchen and he made my old room even bigger! Where is he getting the funds to do all of this? The whole family was there: Aatma, Mina, Amish, and little Aakash. All except for Aatma’s teenage daughter, Amisha. “Where’s Amisha?” I asked. “She’s staying down with our uncle because she’s menstruating,” said Amish.

Oh, let me explain this.

So, if you’re a female on your period in Nepal, you are considered “unclean” and must be away from the rest of your family members. You can’t touch them, can’t even be more than a few meters away at all times. It’s especially worse when it’s their first time on their period. They are cast aside, essentially locked inside another room, far away from where the family resides. Like in a shed or something. They can’t even read or study while menstruating or otherwise they will upset the god of education among their many, many other gods. It’s totally superstitious, just like many other zany Nepali superstitions I’ve encountered here over the years. I’ve heard about this the very first time I came to Nepal, but I’ve never witness it happen, until now.

I visited Aatma’s neighbor, the home of Abishek, one of the class ten boys who lives just a couple minutes away.


Abishek and his classmate, Bhuvan.

As usual, I was greeted warmly and with black tea by his family. Normally Abishek’s mother or sister are the ones who serve me tea, but since they were on their menstrual cycle, they weren’t allowed to be anywhere near the kitchen. I found it amusing and rolled with it as Abishek did all the kitchen handling while the females kept their distance. Amused by what was happening, I casually began to whistle random tunes without thinking, and as I did, the two women of the household began speaking to him in Nepalese. I could tell they were speaking something about me.

“Dan, they are saying not to whistle,” Abishek told me.


He just smiled and it seemed like he couldn’t explain. That’s when I remembered someone telling me that whistling attracts ghosts or something like that.

“Oh, the ghosts,” I said, with a slight hint of mockery.

I began to whistle even more, just to see how they would react. All they did was attack me with smiles and laughs whenever I did.

Abishek lived just below my good friend, and fellow teacher, Shree Krishna (Caesar). I wanted to pay him a visit. As a matter of fact I would have seen him by now, but he’s been MIA. According to some of the talk of the villagers, the reason I haven’t seen Caesar yet is because of a plague of bad fortunes, accidentally committed by his mother and sister-in-law.


Shree Krishna (Caesar) and me during my birthday celebration last February.

“Did you hear, [Caesar’s] mother and sister crashed their car into a cow some days ago?” they would tell me.

“Ummm no?” I said

“It’s very bad.”

Very bad indeed. A cow is considered their sacred god…and they rammed into one that was standing on the road (which is actually pretty normal in this country)! From what I gathered, a string of bad luck was on its way to the family of those involved…which meant Caesar himself. Caesar’s brother, Arjun, took a motorbike to Kathmandu to follow respected Hindu figures…or something like that, to relieve their family of guilt, perhaps? Since then, Caesar’s mother has been suffering greatly from a serious lung cancer and since he is the only available one in the family, he has been escorting her back and forth to the most capable doctors all around the central lands of Nepal. After a couple weeks, I finally met up with Caesar at his home, which is about a fifteen-minute walk from Yam’s. But unfortunately, it was brief. While I was there, he received a phone call from Kathmandu telling him that his brother Arjun and his wife were involved in a near-fatal motorbike crash. Caesar, who JUST got back home to settle, had to rush all the way back to Kathmandu, to tend to his brother and his wife. While at the same time, Caesar’s mother still had pending operations where she needed Caesar to escort her. She was too old and fragile of doing it on her own.


Caesar constantly traveled back and forth about six hours each time between Pokhara and Kathmandu to tend to his brother and mother. Photo courtesy of Caesar.

I’m not superstitious in the slightest, but it is all a bit strange how all of these unfortunate events are happening right after they hit that cow in the street. By the way, Caesar’s family extends into Yam’s. Bindu is Caesar’s and Arjun’s sister, which means my brothers, UK and DJ, are their nephews. I don’t expect anyone reading this to actually follow the family trees of this village. It’s mostly for my own admission. Poor Caesar couldn’t catch a break. He had to leave his position at Bal Prativa Boarding School in order to support his ailing family.

Caesar was the maths and science teacher at the school. He also spoke English the best out of all the teachers. Sarmila, the usual English teacher I followed, was on maternity leave. It seems I came at a time where there were many gaps to fill at the school until Aatma could replace their two most qualified teachers.


A photo of most of the staff at Bal Prativa Boarding School, the school I help out at, taken last February. Three of the teachers have left, leaving a major hole in the student’s education.

I always enjoy having my own classes, but sometimes it can be a bit overbearing with the language barrier. The students generally understand me when I speak slowly enough, but then there was always a handful of students, forever lost in the cosmos. Also, I’m calling them out right now, Bal Prativa is full of sneaky little cheaters! It’s examination time (again) and it’s my role to act as a class officer to make sure everyone keeps quiet and doesn’t cheat. It’s way more difficult than it sounds. I had to pretend to record them on my phone and show it to principal Aatma if they continued talking.


I came to the conclusion that the majority of these students cheat, some more than others, and there was very little I could do to stop it. The other teachers weren’t too persistent about it. Once I came to that realization, I just let them be. It’s Nepal.

I didn’t realize how daunting the school situation was going to be this time around. Class ten will be studying for their major exams soon and they were without three of their teachers. The third one took up a job in South Korea doing God knows what. Aatma and Ashok (another teacher) relied heavily on me to continue where they left off from their books, not just with class ten but also with class nine, eight, seven, six, and sometimes five, four, and three, teaching English and Social Studies mostly. Then sometimes they’ll have me dabble in Science and Accounting. What the heck would they have done if I decided not to come back to Nepal so soon?! I gave it my all.

At this point, I still have not seen Amisha nor Caesar, though I have been in contact with Caesar at least. He has been busy, staying bedside at the hospital in Kathmandu, taking care of his brother and sister-in-law, because they were unable to do so themselves. They couldn’t even walk! That’s how bad it was, but Caesar remained diligent in handling the tasks between them and his ailing mother.

Whoever this “god of education” was, he or she put a massive workload on me, which I wasn’t expecting. Now, I don’t believe in any of this stuff but while in Nepal, I roll with it out of respect to everyone there. When I brought it up in class, one student told me that maybe the god of education sent me to Nepal to help while there are no other teachers.

“Maybe…”, I began. “But I think it’s just pure luck.” 

She along with others began to snicker and say things to each other I couldn’t comprehend. It’s no secret to them that I don’t practice Hinduism, like most foreigners who visit this country, but it’s important for me to remain respectful and go along with it.

If anything, the god of education and all the lore that goes with it certainly does make life in Nepal interesting for me. Even the cattle have gone mad.

For better or for worse…

How I Gained Three New Brothers…and a Son in Nepal


Let me introduce to you my three new brothers: Yubraj, Dhiraj, and Bipin.

How did that happen? I’m not exactly sure.

My Australian friends have left Nepal, including Hamish who left a couple weeks back. Now that I was on my own, I made more of an effort to get to know the village and the surrounding villages on the mountain that I lived on. Since class ten, whom I lived with, were contantly studying, I found myself bored at times. So I frequently visited the neighbors homes, specifically Aatma’s older brother Yam Thapa, who lived closer to the private school I taught at. Yam has two sons: Yubraj (UK) and Dhiraj (DJ), who honestly, make for better conversation than Amish and Aakash who are a lot younger.

nepal pokhara padeli sarangkot volunteer village tefl

Yubraj, 18, but more commonly referred to as UK.

nepal pokhara padeli sarangkot volunteer village tefl

Dhiraj, 16, but I call him DJ because I couldn’t remember how to pronounce his actual name for a solid month!

Overtime, I became pretty tight with them. Even staying the night at their home on several occasions by request from them and their gracious mother. Yam liked having me over because I was a valuable asset as far as having a proficient English speaker around to help UK and DJ hone their English-speaking skills.

Over time, I’m not sure how, but the two boys started referring to me as “dai” which means “big brother” and they told me to refer to them as “vai” which means “little brother”. Even their parents and the village began to recognize our newfound brotherhood.

nepal pokhara padeli sarangkot volunteer village tefl

nepal pokhara padeli sarangkot volunteer village tefl

Back home, in America, it’s not uncommon for friends to sometimes refer to each other as a “bro” or “sister from another mister”, kinda thing. But here in Nepal, I found that when you call someone who is not biologically related a brother or sister, it holds more credence.

nepal pokhara padeli sarangkot volunteer village tefl


In Nepal, whenever I ask students how many brothers or sisters they have, their answer would always include their close friends or non-immediate relatives that they personally consider a brother or sister, in addition to their actual biological siblings. And it’s not just a thing the kids do, the adults do this as well. Some of the teachers consider some of the students as siblings too. At first this confused the heck out of me when I began to think that the whole village was somehow legitimately related to each other, but turns out that is not the case. Still, if you are considered a brother or sister to someone in the village, its taken seriously–for life. I was now UK and DJ’s brother, which I will take solemnly.

I messaged my mother and informed her she had two new sons. She didn’t question it, instead she wished to send them a gift (which is difficult because as far as I know, I don’t think mail or postal service is a thing here in this village).

Over time, I gained yet another brother by the name of Bipin. He was a former student of mine, two years ago but since then he has switched to a more prestigious school in Pokhara in order to challenge his studies. He was an academically bright student and Bal Prativa was a cake walk for him. But of course, the more prestigious school costs a heck of a lot more money, and the people in these villages aren’t exactly making it rain with cash. Bipin needed help.

Me spraying Bipin with snow spray, more than two years ago in December 2014.

Back in November (2016), while I was backpacking in Australia, Bipin sent me a message on FB messenger telling me his predicament and that if I could send him $50 to help him with his tuition. I’m always weary of people I don’t know that well asking me for money (I didn’t know Bipin too well at the time), especially over the internet, and more so from a developing country. As much as I wanted to help him, I wasn’t sure how to send the money to him. They don’t have PayPal and I doubted a Western Union-type service. I never met his parents either so I wasn’t sure if I could trust them. I told him I would have to think about it and eventually he stopped asking. So that was that.

Fast forward to now, four months later, I went to visit Bipin and his family about thirty minutes walk from Padeli. I reunited with him and met his mother who playfully only knew how to say “I am Nepali. No English”, whenever she spoke to me.

“Where’s your father?” I asked Bipin.

“He’s working in Malaysia.”

Bipin hasn’t seen his father for two and a half years, which means its only him and his mother working alone on their farm. The moment I arrived, Bipin’s mother made me lunch and continued working nonstop–sweeping, washing clothes, tending to the goats and buffalo, picking vegetables, and even found time to make me tea much to her insistence.

Both invited me to stay the night, which I agreed. Their home was a lot more primitive than Aatma’s and Yam’s. Bipin and his mother shared one giant room which served as their bedroom, their living area, and their storage. I didn’t mind it. Bipin was humble about it all and went out of his way to make sure I was comfortable and constantly apologized for the lack of Western luxury available. I told him not to worry. I was just fine. Still, Bipin didn’t mention anything about the money he asked of me four months ago. So I brought it up before we went to bed.

“Hey Bipin?” I asked.

“Yes, Dan?” (They always same my name in every other sentence.)

“Were you ever able to pay for your tuition? Remember when you asked me in November?”

“The principal agreed to let me pay the months tuition later in a couple months,” he began to say. “It gives us more time to come up with the money.”

I felt guilty that I couldn’t help him at the time. But now that I was here in person, I could lend a hand. I took out my wallet and handed him Rs 7000, translating to roughly $65, which was enough to pay for about five months worth of tuition fees.

“Here,” I said as I handed him the money. “Use this towards your education.”

He was speechless and appeared genuinely appreciative but didn’t quite know what to say.

“Make sure you tell your mom later,” I told him.

“I will Dan.”

The next morning, Bipin and his mother insisted that I stay with them for another night. I couldn’t help but to oblige.

He and I became brothers before I eventually left his home. He then asked if it was okay to add my actual brothers back home in Michigan, Steve and Matt, as friends on Facebook. I said sure but I had to inform them prior, so they didn’t think it was some random stranger requesting their friendship. They both gladly accepted him.

Now let me explain the whole “son” thing…

I’ve grown pretty tight with the class ten boys who lived with me at Aatma’s place. I made an effort to usually spend time with them before bed time and speak with them, casually in English. Of the five boys, Samir’s English was not up to par with the rest. In fact, his was a bit behind for his class level. I concentrated on speaking to him a bit more.

Samir, 16, the most innocent, yet most oblivious to the world compared to the rest of the class ten boys.

Samir is the most naive and juvenile of the boys. He also is around me more than his other classmates and usually wants to play with my phone, hence why I’ll find selfies on it later on, like these:

nepal pokhara padeli sarangkot volunteer village tefl

nepal pokhara padeli sarangkot volunteer village tefl

I barely remember Samir from my previous visit in Nepal two years ago, because he never said a word to me (also because I usually avoided their class). This time, I can’t keep him away from me 😂. Nowadays, I have grown fond of Samir because he’s actually a really good kid. As in he is very protective of his friends, he’s family oriented, and he just means well overall. It’s just that his English kinda sucks. I’d teach him new words and constantly correct his sentences and if he didn’t know a word, then I pushed him to try his best to explain what he meant. I also made him practice English before I gave him my phone to play with. The other boys began to notice how “fatherly” my actions were towards him and jokingly began to tell Samir to “listen to your father”. It wasn’t long before Samir began to call me “father” all the time and I eventually would jokingly call him “chhora” which means son in Nepalese (I think). It stuck with us for the rest of my time there.


Once he even asked me, “How do you kiss a girl with your tongue?”

I almost died from laughter!

I told him, “You’ll just naturally learn on your own soon enough.

Samir’s father is also working internationally, and won’t see each other for a very long time.

Overtime, others in the village began calling me ‘brother’ besides UK, DJ, and Bipin. I’m sure it may just be a thing to call one another that here or if these people are considering me family. Whichever the case, I am completely happy with both possibilities.