In search of adventure, 29-year-old Conor Grennan traded his day job for a year-long trip around the globe, a journey that began with a three-month stint volunteering at the Little Princes Children’s Home, an orphanage in war-torn Nepal.
Conor was initially reluctant to volunteer, unsure whether he had the proper skill, or enough passion, to get involved in a developing country in the middle of a civil war. But he was soon overcome by the herd of rambunctious, resilient children who would challenge and reward him in a way that he had never imagined. When Conor learned the unthinkable truth about their situation, he was stunned: The children were not orphans at all. Child traffickers were promising families in remote villages to protect their children from the civil war—for a huge fee—by taking them to safety. They would then abandon the children far from home, in the chaos of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.
For Conor, what began as a footloose adventure becomes a commitment to reunite the children he had grown to love with their families, but this would be no small task. He would risk his life on a journey through the legendary mountains of Nepal, facing the dangers of a bloody civil war and a debilitating injury. Waiting for Conor back in Kathmandu, and hopeful he would make it out before being trapped in by snow, was the woman who would eventually become his wife and share his life’s work.
Little Princes is a true story of families and children, and what one person is capable of when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. At turns tragic, joyful, and hilarious, Little Princes is a testament to the power of faith and the ability of love to carry us beyond our wildest expectations.
An Amazon Exclusive Essay by Conor Grennan
How Taking Notes and Living without Indoor Plumbing Would Change My Life
When I was living in Nepal, I kept a notebook with me at all times. It was a small Nepali-made notebook—the brand name was Happy Days! or some such thing— and it made me smile every time I looked at it. I took it everywhere I went, and wrote in it often.
The children constantly asked me what I was writing, and I would tell them I was recording our conversations. That was true, but it was more than that. I was also recording everything I found strange in my new home. Like the fact that the kids chewed on chicken bones until they were practically dust, or that one of the boys, Santosh, had a digital watch which he’d borrowed from a friend that, along with displaying the hour, flashed “I Love You!” once per second.
There were times I was caught without my notebook, like in the middle of a soccer game when Dawa’s shot—destined for just inside the invisible right post—was blocked by the broadside of a cow, and I had to try to recall from memory the captivating debate over the role of livestock in team sports, and whether or not the goal should count. (It didn’t.)
Then, when the children would go to bed at 8 p.m., I would bundle up in two or three fleeces, a hat, and woolen gloves I had cut the fingers out of; I’d pull out my notebook and I’d sit down to write my travel blog, copying everything I had put into the notebook over the course of the day into an old, ultra-light Dell I’d bought off eBay for about 200 dollars. It was pretty much useless except as a word processor, but it was the most precious thing I owned. Over the next three years, traveling the globe and living in Nepal, I would end up typing just over half-a-million words on that little workhorse—five times the length of Little Princes.
It turned out that writing everything down in the moment was critical because the more time I spent in Nepal, the more normal these “strange” things became. It became normal to watch my blankets being made from scratch on the ground outside my house, to trade broken flip-flops for potatoes, and to use outhouses on a daily basis without thinking twice about it. (Did you hear that, people? Outhouses!)
The funny thing is, with all that note-taking, I never had any intention of writing a book about my time in Nepal. It honestly never occurred to me that it was a much of a story until someone else mentioned the idea to me.
Once I started writing the book, however, I couldn’t stop. I went back to my old notebooks and I was suddenly in Nepal again, hearing in my mind exactly how Hriteek had laughed, or Nishal had protested, or Raju had squealed as he’d run through the house, bare feet padding against the cold cement floors.
Little Princes, the book, allowed me to revisit that wonderful, difficult, challenging, happy time of my life. I still get back to Nepal, of course, and I still see the children. But they change, they grow up. Writing Little Princes allowed me to visit the children as they were. And also, as the person I was.
Starred Review. Grennan, who once worked at the East West Institute in Prague, embarked on a round-the-world trip in 2006, starting with a stint volunteering for an orphanage six miles south of Kathmandu. The orphanage, called the Little Princes Children's Home, housed 18 children from the remote province of Humla, rescued from a notorious child trafficker who had bought the children from poor villagers terrified of the Maoist insurgents eager for new recruits; the parents hoped to keep their children safe, but the children often ended up as slaves. Grennan was stunned by the trauma endured by these children, who he grew to love over two months, and after completing his world tour, returned to the orphanage and vowed not only to locate seven Humla orphans who had vanished from a foster home, but also to find the parents of the children in the orphanage. This required starting up a nonprofit organization in America, Next Generation Nepal, raising funds, buying a house in Kathmandu for the children's home, and trekking into the mountains of Humla to locate the parents. Grennan's work is by turns self-pokingly humorous, exciting, and inspiring. (Feb.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.