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19 Oct 2011, by

Touchdown, Humla

Nine of us flew to Humla on a tiny charter plane – it was the only way we could be sure to secure a flight. This was high season, after all, and most of these 15 seat prop planes were on their way to tourist destinations like Lukla, which is the start of the Everest Base Camp trek. Others were flying to the eastern part of Nepal, having been booked months earlier to bring families home after the largest festival of the year, Dassain. And what was surely on everybody’s mind, which nobody particularly wanted to talk about, was that there was one fewer of these planes in Nepal after one of them crashed in the mountains just a week before we arrived in country.

There’s a saying in Nepal that pilots don’t fly through clouds, because in Nepal, clouds have rocks in them. We waited on the tarmac in the southern town of Nepalganj to board our little charter, and in the chaos of disembarking one flight and piling our stuff onto this little charter we all found time to comment – apropos of nothing, of course – on what an exceptionally fine, cloudless day it happened to be.

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I was in Des Moines last week (…sorry, for those who don’t speak French, you might know it as “The Moines”) as part of the Des Moines Public Library’s 2011 AViD Author Series.

I’d never been to Iowa, and I have to admit that there were only two things I knew about the state: that they were famous for their potatoes (“That’s Idaho,” sighed Liz) and that it’s the first presidential primary in the country. You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I’m a total political junkie. Always have been.

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24 May 2011, by

Inner city inspiration

On one of my recent speaking engagements, I found myself at a high school in Cincinnati. I was peering into a classroom from the hallway and wondering if I should be concerned that a student had a gun to the back of a teacher’s head, who was kneeling down, facing the wall.

I cleared my throat, hoping to alert my guide, a senior. When this failed to attract her attention, I decided the situation at least warranted a question.

“So…that student in there,” I said to my guide, nodding at the window into the classroom. “I think he might be about to…you know….execute a teacher, or whatever.”

The senior took a few steps back and peered in.

“Oh yeah,” she said, in a voice that you might use if your friend had just pointed out how the killer on Law and Order looked a bit like Mitt Romney.

She continued to watch so I did too, wondering how we might explain our inaction to the SWAT team fast-roping down on the roof at that moment, when suddenly, before I could even tell what had happened, the teacher had whipped around, seeming to break the student’s wrist, and next thing you know the gun is across the room and the student was on his back.

“Crisis averted!” she said cheerfully. “Come on, I’ll show you the other classrooms.”

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Copyright ©2012 Conor Grennan. Photos: Larry Closs.
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