December 20, 2006
It was well after nightfall when I realized we had gone the wrong way. The village I had been looking for was somewhere up the mountain. In my condition, it would be several hours' walk up a rocky trail, if we could even find the trail in the pitch-dark. My two porters and I had been walking for thirteen hours straight. Winter at night in the mountains of northwestern Nepal is bitterly cold, and we had no shelter. Two of our three flashlights had burned out. Worse, we were deep in a Maoist rebel stronghold, not far from where a colleague had been kidnapped almost exactly one year before. I would have shared this fact with my porters, but we were unable to communicate; I spoke only a few words of the local dialect.
Exhausted, I slumped down beside them. I zipped up my jacket and knotted my arms tightly around my chest to keep out the cold. Six days had passed since I split from my team. I had sent them home, back to their villages, promising them that I would be okay. My guide, Rinjin, tried to stay with me. Just to make sure the helicopter comes, he had said. I assured him everything would be fine and pushed him to leave with the others. The trek back to their villages would take the men several days, and they had been away from their families for almost three weeks. Rinjin had taken a last look at the empty sky, shaken his head at my stubbornness, and clasped my hand in farewell. Then he hurried to catch up with the others already descending the trail.
I reached into my bag, looking for food. I pushed aside the weather¬beaten folder, crammed with my handwritten notes and photos of young children, children who had been taken from these mountains years before. The notes had been my only clues to finding their families in remote villages accessible only by foot.
Behind a crumpled, rain-stained map, my hand touched two tangerines - the last of our food. I passed them to the two porters.
I wondered how things would have been different if I hadn't gotten hurt. or if I hadn't split from my team, or if I hadn't decided to wait on that mountain for a helicopter that never came. It didn't matter now. What did matter was figuring out how we would get through the night.
Excerpt from Chapter One
I had one full day day to relax in the Thamel district of Kathmandu. But there was no more putting it off. I reported for duty the next day at the CERV office.
"We're ready to go - are you excited?" Hari asked.
"I sure am!" I practically shouted, because I believed that to be the only answer I could give without sounding like I was having second thoughts about this whole orphanage thing.
We drove to the village of Godawari. It was only six miles south of Kathmandu, but it felt like a different world. Inside Kathmandu's ring road, people, buildings, buses, and soldiers were all crammed into a small space.
There was almost nothing peaceful about the city. But outside the ring road, the world opened up. Suddenly there were fields everywhere. The roads disappeared, save for the single road that led south to Godawari, which ended at the base of the hills that surround the Kathmandu valley. The air was cleaner, people walked slower, and I started to see many homes made of hardened mud.
When the paved road ended, we turned onto a small dirt road and took it a short distance. Hari stopped in front of a brick wall. There was a single blue metal gate leading into the compound. He lifted my backpack out of the back, and held it while I put it on, strapping the waist buckle. With a hearty handshake, he bade me farewell, wished me luck, and climbed back into the jeep. He backed out the way we had come in.
I watched Hari drive away, then turned back to the blue metal gate that led into the Little Princes Children's Home.
Excerpted from Little Princes by Conor Grennan. Copyright © 2011 by Conor Grennan. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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