Kan Yan

Kan Yan (Backward Society Education – BASE): Kan graduated with a BA in Plan II from the University of Texas at Austin in 2006. During this time, Kan conducted research on the education of Turkish students in Berlin, interned for the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former-Yugoslavia, interned for the Texas Speaker of the House on state education, and worked part-time for an anti-private prison campaign. After he graduated, Kan undertook a year of exploring, teaching, traveling, and learning languages. He then enrolled in Harvard Law School where he studying for a joint degree (with the Fletcher School) when he undertook his AP fellowship. In 2008, Kan advised a Karen NGO working on land issues within Burma. After his fellowship, Kan wrote: “It was really nourishing in a way I can't quite put into words.”

Follow-Up on the Returned Kids

07 Jul

Howdy Readers,

I’m getting back into the swing of work down here and have decided to split blogs into two sections—the work and musings. The work will let you know what’s been going on with the film and Musings will give you some insight into the little oddities of living in Nepal.

The Work

Today Kushal, Purna, Songeeta, and I set out at 6:30 AM to conduct a follow-up on the three kids we returned—Binti, Rogina, and Sabita. (If you didn’t get a chance, read the prior post about the return mission and Sabita.) After a recent meeting with Dilli, the President of BASE, the staff decided to move forward with post-rescue operations such that children who do not have feasible homes to return to will be kept at the rescue center, enrolled in a local government school, and transferred to the school’s adjoining hostel.

As a result, part of this evaluation trip was to determine whether the kids should stay with the families or return with us. Binti and Rogina are happy with their families and decided to stay. The kids are enjoying their monsoon season holiday for planting (yes, the long summer break still makes sense here) and all the kids were off playing somewhere—Binti caught quite a few fish with bamboo rods. We showed up, checked on their school work, and asked them if they wanted to stay. I was somewhat surprised to find that they both did. I guess I didn’t know what to expect.

As you’ll remember, Sabita’s aunt wanted us to take her back when we returned her. When we arrived back this time, Sabita looked drastically different in a way I can’t quite put my finger on—something was raw about her. Her hair was in disarray and she was far dirtier than Binti or Rogina. We discovered that she had been living with and caring for her elderly grandmother. The aunt did not enroll her in school so Sabita just went to the school and asked the headmaster to be admitted. She was, and she went to school and did her homework. Pretty amazing, right? All this aside, she looks and sounds different. Her interaction with me is cold where before she was one of the warmest.

We ask her if she wants to stay or go. She asks who else is still there and, upon hearing that Sima and Ram Kumar are still around, decides in that moment that she will stay in Nepalganj until she finishes school. I ask her if she understands she probably won’t be able to come home for a long, long time. She says she does. The grandmother begins to cry. She is afraid of being alone. She misses her daughter and now thinks no one will take care of her. Every time I come here, human tragedy is unfolding. I have no idea what to think so I’m glad I have a task. I continue to film and am again numbed with the bizarre experience of watching someone fall apart from behind a camera. We finish interviewing everyone and I film the grandmother holding Sabita’s hand as we walk toward the motorbikes.

When we return to the transit house, the aunties comb over her body and point out problems that I can’t see. After her first shower in a while, she keeps scratching at her head. Ram Kumar and Sima help her scratch. The Auntie’s are asking her about what happened. Everyone is laughing. She is coming back to herself. Sabita is home. More home than anywhere else. I am instantly thankful for this place because, out of all the massive suffering in the world, it saved this one little person’s life from a continuance of tragedy. And that matters.

The film is coming to focus more and more on Sabita’s story as one of my co-workers went to college with her former owner. Expect to see lots of her in a couple months.


Having come back and feeling more at home, I’ve decided to start making some requests. One, I no longer carry the heavy camera bag on the back of a motorcycle where the full weight sits on one shoulder for several hours. Instead, I ride a motorcycle. Upon leaving the city into the rice paddies at dawn, I realize this is what I should have been doing all along, maybe for my whole life. Doing good work and getting to ride a motorcycle in awe-inspiring openness. Then we rode into a monsoon storm and spent about 6 hours riding over golfball-sized loose rocks. This was probably my least fun motorcycling experience. But it was still okay—especially when I got to push my motorcycle up and down a 2×6 beam onto a longboat ferrying passengers and bikes across a river. I walked on one 2×6 and pushed my motorcycle on the other—bear in mind that my tire is about 3” wide and the motorcycle weighs something like 300 pounds. The boat was a good 3 feet higher than the shore, meaning that the motorcycle could have easily fallen over into a river, probably with me. It’s amazing how quickly one acclimatizes to increased risk. If you had asked me if this was possible before I came to Nepal, I would have laughed. On the boat, I just got in line behind my coworkers and walked the plank with my bike. And then rode up what seemed to be a 40 degree incline of sand. So yeah I went to work today and at no additional cost received what could be billed as an adventure motorcycle journey—except more dangerous. I learned that it is relatively safe to ride a motorcycle about 35 miles an hour on loose stones. Kushal and my new translator Songeeta did fall off and one point after breaking hard ahead of a huge snake. (Sorry mom. Don’t worry thought it was dead.) I also had the sweet, sweet experience of riding between trees in a forest on a bike that was made for paved urban streets.

Posted By Kan Yan

Posted Jul 7th, 2009

Enter your Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *