back in nepal

Happy new year! How long do I get to say that after new year? Are we still in the window? Because we haven’t seen each other and it’s only January 9th, and it sounds like the right thing to say.

The new year is a great time for people like me because it gives us something to say in the elevator. You can say How was your holiday? Because the person surely took one and their answer should get you to the sixth floor and you can get off the elevator looking like you would LOVE to continue the conversation but this is your floor and OKAY BYE!

That’s not us though. We’re friends, you and me, amiright?

Which is why I’m so happy to share all this fun Nepal stuff with you!

I’m in Kathmandu right now, writing this. In fact it’s 2:25 a.m. on Wednesday morning, my time. Which makes it something like November 2016 for you. (Also I know, intellectually-speaking, why we have time zones, but seriously we can put a Roomba on Mars but we can’t figure out how to just all be on the same time?)

I’m writing at 2:25 a.m. because I have jet lag. I thought I had kicked it on my first night. I hadn’t. Jet lag is one of those things that just pops up at horribly inconvenient moments, like when you’re walking into the CVS and suddenly a static-clinging sock falls out of your hoodie because you forgot to put a dryer sheet in.

Anyway, I’ll get to the point because I have to try to get back to sleep. (I picture Jet Lag pointing and laughing at me right now.)

I’m in Nepal!! I’m so happy to be here. I’m alone for the moment – Lizzie is traveling internationally right now and she’s joining me on Friday for the weekend, as are our friends Mark and Laura (Finn’s godparents) because they’re bringing their daughter Chloe over because she’s going to stay in Kathmandu for five months. Stoked for them to come too. (The kids, BTW, are with their grandparents, my dad and stepmom, who are staying with them and hopefully not letting Beasley eat the remote control.)

But right now, being here alone is surreal. Because I haven’t been in Nepal alone, not since right before Liz and I married. (I do mean literally right before – I moved back to the US in September 2007 and Lizzie and I got sneakily married at the Arlington Courthouse two days later – 6 months before our church wedding.)

When you are not used to being alone and suddenly you’re traveling alone, you learn something about yourself.

Here’s what I learned – it’s kind of boring and obvious, but hear me out:

I learned that I genuinely love Nepal and it’s people. Yesterday I talked with our Next Generation Nepal Country Director for three hours straight. It was awesome. Then we met some other partners I’d not met before and we just talked and I wasn’t at all exhausted. And tomorrow I’m meeting new people and I’m looking forward to THAT.

It’s weird.

There’s something different about Nepal, I guess.

Stepping off the plane, the first thing I recalled is that Nepal always smelled like fire. It still does. People just burn things here, man. Everywhere you look people are burning things. Sometimes it’s just to keep warm, and sometimes it’s by the side of the road so that they can make fresh roasted peanuts, and if you can find me a food that’s better than fresh roasted peanuts I will literally give you an automobile. (You have to supply your own automobile. The giving will be more of a ceremonial thing.)

I got my bag from baggage claim and realized it was a mark of how deeply comfortable I am with Nepal that I felt fine about getting off a plane in a developing country at night with the craziness of people coming up to you, and I had literally no money. I mean literally. The ATM in Newark airport wasn’t working, so I had no cash at all (after paying a visa fee) and the ATMs at the Nepal airport weren’t accepting my debit card.

It shows my level of comfort that when the scammers came up to me offering me an illegal taxi it was me that turned to them and offered them a scam.

“Yes, I would love a taxi,” I would say, much to their momentary delight that they had caught a hapless traveller. “But here’s the thing – I have zero money.”

“You can get money sir, money exchange right here.”

“I don’t have any dollars either. Zero.”

“You have ATM card sir? ATM machine right here, I show you sir.”

“My ATM card doesn’t work. Like I said, I have zero cash,” I assured them. “But you can take me to my hotel, I’ll pay you there.”

“Who pay, sir?”

“My hotel. I’ll ask them to pay you.”

“You are joking I think sir.”

“Not joking. They’ll pay you, I’m telling you. I’ll go in and ask them to come out and pay you.”

“What if they no pay?”

“They’ll pay.”

And then they would stare at me for a moment and shake their heads. “No sir. I cannot take you.”

But eventually I got a guy behind a tourism desk to call his friend on his cell phone who called his friend who agreed to do it, asking me all the way to the hotel if I “sure hotel pay.”

My hotel paid them and put charged my room. So everyone went home happy.

In Nepal, things just sort of work out. But at first glance, it doesn’t seem like that kind of place. It took me a couple of years of living here to learn that.

Being here is like stepping back into my old life here in many ways. I was a loner when I lived in Nepal – I didn’t have a social life. I pretty much did three things:  1.) I spent time with Farid, who started Next Generation Nepal with me, working on NGN anti-child trafficking work, 2.) I spent time with the kids in our children’s home, and 3.) I wrote.

That’s what I’m doing now. Farid doesn’t live here anymore but I’m spending time with our country director, Samjyor – a wonderful guy – getting caught up on our amazing work.

I’m spending time with the kids. Who aren’t really kids anymore but I call them that anyway. I love, love seeing them. They are like family in a very literal way – we lived together, we went through a lot together, we grew up together.

And I’m writing. That’s what I do in my spare time. I’m under a crazy deadline for my fiction book coming out this year, working on final edits, so every spare moment is invested in writing.

(Photo credit: An ashtray.)

(Also, this reminds me – follow me on Instagram! Don’t miss out on some fun Nepal adventure photos.)

And most gloriously – what puts a lump in my throat as I think about it now – is that in a few short days, Lizzie is coming to join me.

You have to understand what that was like, the months of knowing Liz Flanagan over email before I’d met her, and knowing I would actually meet her, having fallen in love with the person. (I look back and its so clear that I would have married her the moment I met her. I’m not saying that to be romantic, it is simply stating how I felt. I didn’t wait all that long to propose.)

The anticipation of Lizzie coming was like nothing I’d ever experienced. If you read Little Princes you recall that I was in the mountains, cut off, searching for families of trafficked kids, wondering if I would be able to get back in time to meet her, and then deciding that nothing on earth would stop me, and walking for 27 hours straight (stopping to sleep for 3 hours) through the mountains to get back, and God clearing the weather so a plane could land and get me back to Kathmandu to see her. (I told her this over and over again in hopes of impressing her.)

I seriously get choked up thinking about it now, writing this in Kathmandu, in a way it doesn’t hit me when I’m in the US.

So this really is like living an old life. But a beautiful one. And one that only enhances the incredible blessings of my life. To be involved with this country, to see our team making an astounding difference in rescuing trafficked kids and reuniting them with their families.

And most importantly, to know that I’m not just going to see the love of my life in a couple of days, but we also get to travel home together and be with our two beautiful children and our chompy muppet of a puppy and our friends and family back in America.

Nepal reminds me of where I came from, and of what I’ve been given. Those opportunities, to feel this deeply about my blessings, don’t come along very often.

Anyway, let’s get to…

The Top Five Least Surprising Things that Have Happened Back in Nepal

1. Thinking I would get killed crossing the road.

Crossing the road in Nepal has got to be the least intuitive action in the history of human movement. You just start walking into traffic. Like, RIGHT in front of speeding vehicles. (Do not try this without a Nepali with you if you haven’t been here before.) Somehow vehicles slow down and circle around you as if you have a forcefield protecting you. But I almost yelped audibly when I followed Samjyor across the road, clutching his arm like a three year old.

 2. Saying Namaste to the same person twice in five minutes.

It’s the worst. I see the guy at the front desk. Namaste! I say. Then I forget I left something in my room, pass him again and holler Namaste! It means I salute the God within you. It doesn’t mean “Hey.” It would be like breaking a ceremonial bottle of champagne over your car’s fender every time you went out for groceries.

3. Asking a waiter five times if something is spicy.

I don’t know how many ways I can ask this kind of thing, but if I’m ordering anything other than, like, an extra napkin, I’m asking the waiter what he means by “not spicy.” “You mean like totally not spicy? Or Nepali not spicy?” I ask. “Not spicy,” he says. “Yeah, but look at me, look at my pale skin and weak constitution. You don’t want to hurt me, right?” I say. “No sir, I don’t want you to be hurt,” he says. “Okay, then I’m gonna ask you again…”

4. Geysering a bunch of water into my face.

If you could see a montage of me accidentally spraying water in my face, you’d think I was some kind of zoo animal trying to clean myself. Water ends up in my face all the time here. First, because when you drink from a shared source, you have to pour the water into your mouth so it doesn’t touch your lips. Try that sometime. Your upper lip is gonna aquaduct that water right into your nostrils and flood your sinuses like an underground cavern in the rainy season. So then you buy your own bottle of water but the plastic is so flimsy that you squeeze it too hard picking it up and you’ll crush it like the Hulk and it’ll shoot up and hit you like an emergency eye wash in a chemical plant.

5. Be up at 3 a.m.

Jet-lag, man. Night one you think you have it beat but that’s just because you’re tired. Night two? This night? You go to bed at 11:15 pm and at 2 a.m. you’re body’s all like “What’s on the agenda?! LET’S DO THIS!!”  

But at least I got a blog written, right? Did it even make any sense? Anyone still there? No? Alright.

By | 2019-01-09T07:15:32-05:00 January 9th, 2019|37 Comments


  1. Another Liz January 9, 2019 at 7:41 am - Reply

    In France, you can wish Happy New Year until January 31st. (!!) Also, when we go to the US and have jet lag at 4 a.m. we go to the Walmart supercenter. Guess they don’t have those in Nepal…

    • Conor January 9, 2019 at 8:34 am - Reply

      I could have used a little SuperCenter action.

  2. Frank Kwei January 9, 2019 at 7:46 am - Reply

    Counting your blessings, with my blessings, with God, with you. Namaste indeed, Conor Brother.

    • Conor January 9, 2019 at 8:35 am - Reply

      Thanks brother!

  3. Sharon Henderson January 9, 2019 at 8:12 am - Reply

    Enjoy your trip with your love! Keep doing great things.

    • Conor January 9, 2019 at 8:35 am - Reply

      Thanks Sharon!

  4. Sharon MOEBUS January 9, 2019 at 8:40 am - Reply

    Just a Great-Grama in MI praying for you and your beautiful Liz! (I met her at Martha’s coffee in Grosse Pointe last month!) I just read “Princes” and have shared copies with family and friends thanks to You are doing such wonderful things in such diverse places that the Lord just laid it on my heart to pray for you! Blessings on your good work, and especially for your reunion with Liz on Friday! xo

    • Conor January 9, 2019 at 8:43 am - Reply

      Thanks so much Sharon! So glad you got to hear Liz! 🙂

  5. Emily January 9, 2019 at 8:42 am - Reply

    Great blog! Reading your book was one of the things that inspired me to go to Nepal last year, and this blog post is bringing back all the crazy amazing memories (except the jet lag… ). Hope you have a wonderful rest of your trip.

    • Conor January 9, 2019 at 8:44 am - Reply

      The jet lag is crazy. I feel like I walk around Nepal in a fog for at least one day. Maybe that makes it better?

  6. Krista January 9, 2019 at 8:43 am - Reply

    Love to read your writing, it has such voice! Can not wait to read your fictitious book, that will be amazing!

    • Conor January 9, 2019 at 8:45 am - Reply

      Thanks for reading Krista!

  7. Laura January 9, 2019 at 8:43 am - Reply

    You had me choking up while choking down my celery juice. What an amazing thing to be able to re-live some of those early moments “pre-Grennan clan” and be able to appreciate what has happened in your life! We are excited to be there soon. I seriously don’t think I’m afraid of monkeys anymore…so I guess I’m going to find out if that was real growth or I just imagined it. Time to BOSS UP and find out! Adventure awaits! So proud of you Conor for being there and continuing what you started years ago!

    • Conor January 9, 2019 at 8:46 am - Reply

      Cannot wait for you guys to be here!!!

  8. Elsa Brule January 9, 2019 at 8:46 am - Reply

    Everything about this is fabulous!!! Smiling all the while reading. Namaste, indeed.

    • Conor January 9, 2019 at 8:54 am - Reply

      The kids were all asking about you! Did you get my email? Pandabi made me send you a photo immediately :-). And Karjit talked about you non-stop :-).

  9. Lance Arguello January 9, 2019 at 9:05 am - Reply

    Thanks for another enjoyable blog. Safe travel and Godspeed.

    • Conor January 9, 2019 at 9:13 am - Reply

      Thanks so much Lance!

  10. Krystn Cedzidlo January 9, 2019 at 9:17 am - Reply

    Awesome! Love the pic of the kids from the book. Thanks for sharing. Have a wonderful time!

    • Conor January 9, 2019 at 9:47 am - Reply

      Thanks Krystn!

  11. Freddy Tedja January 9, 2019 at 9:59 am - Reply

    I read your book back in 2011, follow you on FB and NGN newsletter, and then instagram, and then your blog. It makes me happy to see this post especially the pic of you and the kids. They’re grown up. I don’t recall who is who now (except for Amira. Just remembee her pic in the book, dusty face, runny nose, and seeing her now makes me choked). God bless you Condor Brother. And please don’t make any conversation about cows or your favourite cuts of steak!

    • Conor January 9, 2019 at 10:19 am - Reply

      Thank you for following, Freddy!

  12. Lisa Sharples January 9, 2019 at 10:30 am - Reply

    Hi Conor…from Toronto remember? haha…of course not. Anyway, I have twin girls that are 31 and I would love if they met someone with your sense of humor and sense of adventure…in that order..but that’s not up to me…is it? Happy to read that you arrived safe in Nepal and managed to convince a taxi driver to take you to your hotel even though you didn’t have any money. Reminds me of when I arrived in Oahu after 6 weeks in Australia with zero cash. I did have the advantage of being a 21 year old blonde flight attendant with a big smile…haha…That got me and my friend lots of freebies just by saying we’re waiting for our cash to arrive. We even got a free boat ride …little did we know we were used as bait to get more people on the board. There we were in our bikinis at the front of the catamaran enjoying the sun when …whosh the first wave soaked us. The guys all thought this was so funny….us…not so much.
    I was thinking that you should have brought a refillable water bottle but then I realized that the tap water probably isn’t drinkable for most people. I hate plastic. I’m on a mission to use as little plastic as possible.
    Well enough about me…this is about you …right? haha….I know all about jet lag having worked for an airline for 14 years. I remember waking up at 3am and thinking nooooo I have to work all the way back to Toronto and I’m not getting any sleep.
    Somehow we just get through life’s challenges… like me having twins. I was so excited to be having 2 babies until I got home from the hospital and started crying wondering how I’m ever going to manage 2 babies.
    Ok back to you….stay safe…Namaste
    Look forward to your next blog…

    • Conor January 9, 2019 at 8:01 pm - Reply

      Yes, the hopelessness of jetlag! They should just call it that. Hopelessness.

  13. Jessie January 9, 2019 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    Great blog. Brought back memories of reading your blog and book. Safe travels to you both. ( Glad I sent that email a million years ago to your alma mater alum magazine! )

    • Conor January 9, 2019 at 8:06 pm - Reply

      Yes!! You’re a rock star Jessie!!!

  14. Dad January 9, 2019 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    Great, Conor love, to see you with your other family. Great too to think that the life you led then, all unknown to yourself and solitary, would lead to this Now, and your family here, where Rachel Gran is doing a mighty job keeping your and liz’s wee ones happy, tho missing you both. Take it all in. as it happens. God bless.

    • Conor January 9, 2019 at 8:07 pm - Reply

      Indeed! We miss you guys!!

    • Liz January 9, 2019 at 9:52 pm - Reply

      We are so grateful for you Eamon and Rachel!!

      • Conor January 10, 2019 at 12:23 am - Reply


  15. Anne January 9, 2019 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    Namaste Conor! So thrilled for you to be back in Nepal and revisit the adventure that brought such wonderful change to your life and the chance for you to bring it to so many more. I can only imagine the spontaneous impact of your excitement on the also random powers of jet lag.
    Thank you for the blog post and the wonderful humor – like the Best of the Far Side literary version. Blessings and Safe travels.

    • Conor January 9, 2019 at 8:07 pm - Reply

      Ooh, the Far Side! Loved it! High praise!

  16. Katelyn Thompson January 9, 2019 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    I have laughed through this whole blog post. Hoping you get sleep soon!

    • Conor January 9, 2019 at 8:08 pm - Reply

      Working on it!

  17. Wendy Peter January 9, 2019 at 11:59 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the update! Post some of the needs there for organization and I’ll pray for them. Have your kids ever been to Nepal?

    • Conor January 10, 2019 at 12:23 am - Reply

      Thank you!! They haven’t, I’ve promised them next time they are DEFINITELY coming!!

  18. Debra M April 4, 2019 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    Thank you Conor, for the whole blog…especially for the top 5 surprising things!! That’s too funny, you could not have stated this any more truthfully! I’m chuckling to myself as I remember my trips to Nepal (and the one I look forward to in October)! You could not have stated it better 🙂 I’m guessing it gets no easier?! Haha!

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