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Of Gratitude and Moving Forward

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namasteThis is for the thousands of people involved in winning my freedom.

The past month has been tumultuous, to say the least.

I lost my job and some. And, as if that wasn’t enough, just two days before I was to fly home to start a new life, I ended up incarcerated in a Qatari jail. The ordeal lasted eleven nights and twelve days.

When freedom came, the afternoon of Sunday, May 12, I wasn’t even expecting it. I was unaware of all the frantic activities taking place around the world to get me out. As a matter of fact, just that morning, I had done my laundry–by hand, in the bathroom, in a bucket!

When the “Captain” entered our room saying, “I bring good news. You go out!” I had to ask one of the Arab-speaking Nepalese to confirm what I understood he was saying. “Yes! You are free,” came the response.

Running an incredible campaign beginning around May 9, you (classmates, current and former colleagues and teachers, former students, family, other friends, friends of friends and other well-wishers) won my freedom. Your actions and thoughts won me my freedom.

While the actions of those responsible for my incarceration brought great anguish to myself, my family and many others, your actions and thoughts ended that.

Now, as I start a new life, a free man, the way I see it, the only way forward is to pass on your generosity and kindness, in a pay-it-forward kind of way, by devoting my time to alleviating the sufferings of other human beings, of fellow Nepalese.

I hope you will accept that as a small token of my own and my family’s gratitude!

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This Post Has 46 Comments

  1. Dear Mr. Dorje,
    Your more recent post, re: Empathy, helps to explain the response of international teachers like myself to your plight in Qatar. We were able to click, “share” and spread the word because we thought, “that could be me” and with that, we were determined to see you to safety. Those efforts seem small in comparison to the trials that you endured. I am grateful for the lessons that I have learned from your experience. And, I thank you for taking the time to write. I share your posts with every teacher in my circle of friends, and eagerly await your next. Have you considered writing a book? Put me down for the first copy!

    1. Dear Deborah (excuse the informality, you are after all a fellow teacher!), thank you for your efforts in securing my freedom. It’s actually been fun writing about it and I figured other teachers might benefit from my story. The other reason I write is to highlight the plight of those who are voiceless, the Asian labourers in Qatar and elsewhere in the Gulf, who suffer silently, and considerably more. And if my writing about it helps improve their conditions even the smallest bit, I will consider my time and efforts to have been worthwhile. A book could certainly be interesting. The idea has been raised before and I am still considering it. I’ll be sure to let everyone know about it if I do end up writing one or getting someone else to write one.

  2. Dorje, it was a shock to learn of your incarceration. I remember you well and had not followed your journey from Grinnell until I learned of this incident. I’m so happy that you are now safely home, and I wish you all the best in your next life stages. You are an inspiration.

    1. Thanks Melanie!

  3. HI Dorje, don’t know if you remember me, I was a student at UWC USA class 03. Very glad that the online community got you out of trouble…. hope you are recovering well?
    Just wondered if you know of anyone who might be looking for an English (with ESL qualifications) and TOK teacher in Nepal? looking for a change…

    1. Hey Colette, yes, I am doing well. There are a few schools that employ international teachers, such as Lincoln School, the British school (though I don’t know their actual name) and Ullens School. However, I think only Ullens offers the IB Diploma. Good luck.

    1. Thanks.

  4. We’ve not met…that I know of…but I am a Grinnellian. We stick together no matter who or what. So very happy that you are free and to know that your Grinnell connections help make a difference!

    1. Jeff, thank you!

  5. LOVE your school project and that you are safe. You are an inspiration on how to use publicity in a positive way. Your experience highlights how vulnerable we can be when we teach overseas, would love to volunteer and teach in your school if ever its needed.

    1. Dear Ms. P, thank you for your kind words. I would love it if you came; you would make a significant impact, though you might not be able to see the results until years down the road, as happened with me.

      What isn’t detailed in my posts is the difference my foreign teachers, mostly North Americans, made to my education at the Jesuit school in Kathmandu. Starting with the Jesuit priests who initially sowed the seed in my very-young-primary-school-student head to go abroad, the Canadian and American high school teachers challenged and stretched me in ways local teachers didn’t. They fired my imagination about distant lands, people and culture, and the adventure of going somewhere else completely different.

      Your presence amongst students in rural Nepal, telling them your life stories, showing them your attitude, your outlook, your ways of doing things differently will definitely leave an indelible mark in their lives and for some, that may make all the difference.

  6. Bula! from an ex-QA teacher of Fiji origin. Thank God you’re out and may He use this opportunity for you to continue to do better for yourself and your country. With regards to your moving forward I sent you an email as a request to work in partnership for service learning for students and teachers where I currently teach and where you’re in Nepal. Stay blessed and keep moving forward!

    1. I would definitely be interested in seeing where we can go with that.

      And, thank you.

  7. Hey Dorje, I am glad to hear that your are doing well! I organized a decent sized gathering of students & teachers here at ACS to spread the word about you. Even my parents in ‘cow-town’ Wisconsin were doing their part and we are all relieved that you are back home. I look forward to our paths crossing again sometime in the near-future. Tim

    1. Thanks a bunch Tim.

  8. Wonderful to see you free Dorje and free to use your freedom in a sensible manner. I come from a country where many thousands of innocent fellows were imprisoned and also thousands of them were killed. To some extent international solidarity helped to end that. I remember posters in Chile reading “If I had to choose between either freedom or bread, I would choose freedom to fight for my bread, and everybody’s bread.” In a similar fashion, there is still the urge to use our freedom to fight for the freedom of everybody who may be in a similar absurd situation like the one you had to face. A big hug, sir.

    1. Manuel, gracias!!

  9. Hey Dear i m so happy 2 hear Abt releave n congrats! Hpe u hve a gr8 Life ahead n b happy try 2 4get watever Happen in Ur past Life keep smile n b healthy tc

  10. So glad you are free and home. I look forward to hearing about what you do next. It’s amazing to have a new life. -Kendra, Grinnellian

    1. Hey Kendra, thanks for your support. I have started a fundraising campaign to help education of children in a rural district just outside of Kathmandu. Here’s the link: startsomegood.com/edufreeNepal. Take a look.

  11. So glad you are safe and home! Looking forward to your new school project!

    1. Sharyn, good hearing from you! Thank you for your support. I have just begun a fundraising campaign. Here’s the link: startsomegood.com/edufreeNepal. Take a look.

  12. We are just so happy that you are home and safe, Dorje. That’s all. Our best wishes go to you and your family.

    1. Thank you Carol.

  13. You are awesome, Dorje — enjoy freedom. When you have a chance, I’m curious (and I bet others are) what efforts made a difference. Do letter-writing campaigns make a difference? Calls to embassies? Online petitions? Personal connections to princes? Articles in print media? Lawyers? And if you didn’t have any of these, would you stil be locked up?

    I’m sure that to some extent all of these helped and worked with each other, but I’m curious in your particular case what the critical steps to getting your release were.

    1. Henry, just noticed that I hadn’t responded to your comment!! I think all of those combined made the difference. I am not sure if one or a few of those made more of a difference than the rest. I don’t know if I’ll ever know. However, what I am pretty certain is that if I didn’t have any of them, I would still be locked up, most likely for years.

  14. Go well now Dorje .. and know there are friends “out there” who will also want to help you “pay it forward” devoting your “time to alleviating the sufferings of other human beings, of fellow Nepalese”. Take care. Wendy

    1. Dear Wendy, thank you!

  15. This post brings me great joy! While I should be writing reports I am enjoying sharing in and celebrating your freedom. With the saga behind, it is so good to hear of your plans for continuing to help others. I look forward to the fund-raising and hearing of the development of your school.
    Your story will be told for generations to come by all the students who pass through your school. They will sit with their grandchildren and tell them of a man who nearly didn’t build the school where they received their education, which totally changed their lives. Deep within the story will be the message of how important it is to do what is possible to help those around us.

    1. Dear Leigh, thank you for your kind words.

  16. Good luck, dai!!!

    1. Thank you Rachana!

  17. A glorious , silver lining from a deep, dark cloud. May your future be happy.

    1. Dear Mel,

      It can’t have been any other way!

  18. Ridiculous and funny incident, i just hate them, why they don’t respect other.But its really good you returned your own country, all the best from our side for future progress…..

    1. Thank you Nitu.

  19. as a fellow teacher who has previously used your blog in my chemistry teaching, and been shocked and saddened, like many by your incarceration……… I would like to wish you and your loved ones a very fruitful and enriching future path. Best Wishes from Penang, Malaysia.

    1. Thank you for your kind words James. Maybe one day I can convince you to share your expertise in a rural school in Nepal. Penang isn’t that far!

  20. Thank you so much, Dorje for that deep expression of gratitude! You are such a thankful person and it shows your character and your heart. You may have lost a job but you gained freedom and the chance to pursue your vision; you gained us, the thousands of supporters; you gained our respect and our commitment for justice. You eventually gained so much more than just a job. Sometimes we cannot understand why things happen – now when I look at the good that has come from a bad situation, it makes me realize that often the trials in life spur us on to greater heights. The Nepalese community will no doubt greatly benefit from your vision to make a difference and to encourage change so that many could lead better lives. I cannot think of anything more noble, than to bring healing to suffering communities and to lift them out of their despair and hopelessness and give them hope.

  21. Dorje, my friend we did it because we love you!

    1. Alain, grazie mile!

  22. Dorje
    I believe we met when I was leading the MYP evaluation team visit to QA some years ago. One of my main thoughts then was that sometimes there seemed to be a management culture of keeping up appearances with little IB philosophy or principles behind it, despite some wonderful teachers. Congratulations on your release. And yes, your plan to give back to the world is a good one.
    Laura

    1. Dear Laura,

      If your visit was some years ago, probably not. I started in QA in August 2011. Regardless, thanks for visiting! I hope to try…to give back to the world that has given me so much!

  23. God bless you! Your story is one of many am sure, of people being incarcerated in this kinds of countries for no good reason…was so unfair, while the culprits get away with their silly antics. All the best to you!

    1. Thank you Christina.

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