1909382_469662849800739_1305385825_o

Shave to Save

Untitled-3

Mountain Bike Sponsor for Ankit’s Duathlon “PANC Bike”

February has been an insane month with tons of ups and downs in my life. Yes, people of my age are getting married, some of them even have kids and that is something crazy, but I am least worried about all that right now.

First of all lets talk about the Duathlon training. I have been putting in insane amounts of runs in the last couple weeks, averaging at least 6 kilometers every other day. My best 5K time was around 19 minutes and 31 seconds which was in fall 2011, right now I am at around 25 minutes mark (pretty slow, but working on improving the time). I have to take the total running distance to around 10 kilometers by mid-march and right now I am in great track in achieving that. Staying fit and injury free during the course of training is vital too, so on the rest days I do core workouts, lift a little and do HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Moreover, I have discovered a great new locally available source of protein supplement: “Sattu“.  Longer periods of cardio depletes the body of not only carbs but also proteins and other minerals, so I am making sure I am getting plenty of clean energy (carbs) and protein to grow muscles back. In the end, its the muscles that keeps me away from injury. Adding fruits like banana, apple and oranges to a strictly fiber rich diet plan has been vital in replenishing vitamins and minerals too. I have started biking (cycling) to work to, which is around 12+ kilometers to and from and saving tons of money on gas prices #Winning. I am losing fat weight like no other and slowly getting cut (chiseled). If I get a six pack by the end of the training period, I will be seriously amazed with myself. :) (whoever thought that was ever possible.. haha)

In the beginning of February, couple of my friends and I decided to attend a CSR event by Civil Mall. Shave to Save, as the name of the event states, volunteers shaved their head and in return a young cancer patient, Mr. Kamal KC would get around Rs 1500 (~$15) towards his treatment. There were around 84 participants. The entire event was fun, I was absolutely comfortable being on the stage and hanging out with friends for a great cause and doing our part to increase cancer awareness and help someone else recover from cancer. But the after-math of the event was pretty rough on me. I felt insecure, different, I felt like a mis-fit, I was unhappy from the core, I felt like something was wrong with me. Since I have been working out and running a lot, my body has started getting really cold after work-outs and during nights. I was losing weight, although in a really healthy way,  my mind was confused, it thought I was ill and was losing weight because of the illness. Every time I looked at the mirror, I saw a bald-headed guy who was losing weight, I did not like my own smile, my clothes were getting bigger and baggier, my diet consisted of fruits and oatmeal, I was getting sick of eating the same thing, moreover, since my body was not heating up, my mind somehow thought I was sick. Imagine me going to public events or hanging out with friends feeling so insecure, I have not been myself. It was and it still is not easy. I am most probably in one of the best shape of my life right now because of the trainings, but that feeling of insecurity looking at myself in the mirror with a bald head and the missing charm was very rough. I cannot even imagine the psychological and mental effect of chemotherapy on real cancer patients. Training for events like marathon, triathlon and duathlon is tough, it is more of a mental game than anything, but cancer survivors… I salute you guys; so brave, mentally a tough nut, you guys are a true fighter. Without “REAL” friends and family, this battle is not possible, a big salute to that support system as well. If you know someone who is going through cancer treatment right now, make sure you tell them how much they mean to you and how much you love them, join their battle against cancer, its more of a mental game than anything and you need to be there for them. Shave to Save has been a very emotional experience for me.

DSC00411

Students at Samata School. (Picture Borrowed)

On the Duathlon fundraising part, I did visit Samata school, I am currently in talks with the administration on setting up scholarship starting next academic year, majority of the fundraising will happen in March and the administration work will start from April only. I got to Skype with Burch, one of my awesome roommates from college and we may have exciting things to work together in the future involving education in Nepal, but just talking to him made me really happy. Looking forward to another challenge in life, establishing a low cost – high impact scholarship for underprivileged kids in Nepal, lets see how everything goes.

Ankit_Rana

I had to keep myself occupied to not feel insecure.
This was during a networking event with entrepreneurs in the Education Industry

As always, I am still searching for the formula to happiness, still soul searching, I am doing all these crazy things, but I still have not found “Ankit Rana” yet, it will take time, it will always be an ongoing process, but I know it is going to be worth it. I am putting extra effort in spending time with my parents and investing more time in things that matter. I have started developing zero tolerance to materialistic things, focusing more on a greener lifestyle and going through a major life transition. Discovering new things and learning like no other. :)

Well, this has been a long post, but it was absolutely needed, writing makes me feel better, kinda weird.

Sooo.. Be yourself and find yourself. Find what makes you happy, else everything is already lost and life will just become tougher, do things that you love doing, find yourself and it will all be worth it.

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going, because it is the journey that matters.”

-Ankit

Himalayan Rush Rectangle

Himalayan Rush Fundraiser

If you checked out my first blog of 2014, I listed some pretty crazy things I wanted to accomplish in 2014 and I think I have found an activity that will knock couple of “Things-To-Do” off of my list.

Couple weeks ago I registered for the “Himalayan Rush” Duathlon, which will be first ever Duathlon I will participate in and I am very excited to get this done. So what is the Himalayan Rush? Himalayan Rush is a triathlon/duathlon that take places in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal. I have registered for the standard Duathlon which is 40 KM mountain biking and 10 KM trail running. Training for it and doing the Duathlon itself is cool and all but you know whats even better? Fundraising for a local charity, getting that extra motivation and the feeling of helping someone else out.

As soon as I had the idea of fundraising in my head, I had to find if people would be willing and able to contribute or not. I asked my friends and family if they would  be willing to contribute for my cause and I received very positive responses. Raising money was the easier part, finding out a cause to raise money for and its impact were the more challenging tasks.

I started talking to people close to me about the Himalayan Rush Fundraiser idea and got different inputs on where the money could be invested.

Couple of the ideas thrown around were:

1. Funding and helping Nevil, my futsal buddy run camps for underprivileged kids. The school and the neighborhood the kids live in do not have a playground or a place to be themselves and enjoy childhood. So the Futsal camp’s goal was to help them be themselves, develop team building and leadership roles.

2. Another idea was to help a village get started with home stay program somewhere in the outskirts of Lalitpur. Recommended by Bishal, one of my awesome co-worker at Biruwa. His recent trip to the outskirts of Lalitpur left him feeling troubled after finding out huge cultural differences. Mass migration had left the village with only young kids and women who were overly dependent on their husbands for remittance money. Instead, Bishal (considered as an agri-expert at Biruwa :P) wanted to teach the villagers to be independent or even potentially start a home-stay program to learn the local culture.

3. Help fund students for Samata School (AKA Bamboo School) recommended by Bishakha. Samata Schools are a group of private schools in Nepal, however, students pay only Rs. 100 per month unlike other costly private schools or underperforming government schools. Samata’s infrastructure is made up of sturdy bamboos which is way authentic and cheaper than making buildings with concrete. The school tries to keep itself sustainable by having higher volume of student population (X multiplied by Rs. 100, trying to get a big number X student population = higher operating money)and also external supporters/donors. Moreover, this school focuses more on results than anything else. The grade 10 (SLC) pass rate record has been really impressive with high percentage of students passing with Distinctions (80% & above).

There were other names of potential beneficiaries thrown around too, but things just did not click. In the end, Bishakha used her wits and logic to convince me that Samata School should be the one to receive funds. Since my fundraising goal is to raise around Rs 20 – 25 K ($250), that amount is not something feasible to start a home stay program, so #2 was out. Moreover, she showed how Return On Investment (ROI) was higher on #3 than #1. Futsal camps cost Rs 2,000 per hour a.k.a. maximum 10 kids benefiting for an hour for Rs 200/hour. However, with an investment of Rs 100/month, a kid can go to Samata School for a month, exponentially better ROI for #3, so could not beat that deal.

Duathlon… registered
Fundraising Beneficiary… decided
Fundraising page.. working on it
Running part (10K)… covered
Biking part (40K)… hold on, I do not have a mountain bike  :/

Buying a new bike just for the Himalayan Rush did not make sense since I’m planning to be out of the country for grad school soon. So I started to ask around if Bicycle stores would sponsor a mountain bike for my Duathlon. Well, it turns out, there are still some awesome people around Kathmandu. Nepal’s oldest bicycle store, Pancha Asta Narayan Cycle (PANC) bikes came in to the rescue. This is where my friends (Adhish particularly) and network/business clients came in to rescue. PANC bike and I have a long/personal history. I bought my first ever cycle back when I was in the 6th grade,  PANC bike in Ason, Kathmandu was exactly where I bought it from.  Tirek Manandhar, the current owner of PANC bikes was more than willing to help me out in my fundraising campaign. (You will be seeing their logo and information quite a bit throughout the training period as a part of our deal). It feels great to be representing a company with a long-history, amazing vision and values.

IMG_4680

Tirek Dai (right) and I

Training is not easy but it has started off really well. I am mixing runs with weights and core body workout. I am having trouble retaining muscle weight, so mixing up lifts, including sprints and increased natural protein intake is helping a bit. 5K+’s at 5 AM are no fun, but man that feeling of accomplishment early in the morning is something that cannot be described, I am loving every bit of it.

I am planning to make the fundraising time-line for only a month, but an effective one-month. Moreover, I will be meeting up with the initiator/founder of Samata School in the coming weeks and get a first-hand pitch on how everything runs, hopefully I will get to visit the school and get to interact with the kids too. So.. as you see, a lot of fun stuff going around here. Right now, I feel like I was back at Coe, helping make a difference every-day in the real world. Stay tuned for more awesome news and updates in the coming weeks.

All I have to say is Be yourself, challenge yourself and be different.

ZAX 869

IMG_4330

2013 – A great teacher

How often do you reflect on life? Do you ever just pause everything you are doing, take a deep breath, take a step back and reflect on stuff that you have been doing? Do you reflect on what went right, what did not and how you want to make things  right? Well, if you don’t you should, and if you already do something called reflecting, does it work out for you?

2013 has been a great teacher for me. I have been relating happiness to stuff that have happened in my life, things I do at work, things I have seen from my travels and have been learning from them all.

993636_10153051127350032_1923220683_n

Paragliding in Pokhara

To begin with, the year started with massive growth at Biruwa, my workplace. We were 5 members in the team at the beginning of the year and now we have around 17 members total. With my business background, watching the business grow has been pretty fascinating. I would be lying to you if I were to tell you that everything is going perfectly at work, its not, and solving the everyday problems as a team has been a thing of beauty. First of all, growth is not an easy process, hiring people is exhausting, figuring out people and seeing if they are a good fit for the company is just as hard as talking to the girl you have a huge crush on, and losing a quality hire is more than heart-breaking.

This year, I got to meet D (name kept secret), one of the smartest and strongest individual I have ever met in my life. Freshly out of her MBA program, she joined Biruwa to make a difference in the entrepreneurial environment in Nepal. To help us through our crazy growth, we needed an operations expert, we knew D was “the” woman for the job; high on life, with tons of energy and enthusiasm she joined our team. Couple weeks into work, she fell really ill. Later on we found out that she had a later stage cancer. However, she was not the type that gave up, D and her family stuck together as a team, after couple chemo sessions and several months of treatment, last week she notified us that she was cancer free for now and was ready to live the life. She has been an inspiration to all who know her. Her attitude and will to survive helped her through it, we have a lot to learn from her, the way she amassed the amount of courage, strength, went through the treatment and kicked cancer in the butt, is unbelievable. One word #Respect.

Moreover, witnessing staff dynamics and ripple effects of unique contribution from individuals staff has been intriguing. I found out people loved Biruwa for its flexibility and work culture, which has been hard to fine tune and keep track of with a bigger team recently, but we are trying to figure it out together. I have been seriously amazed by two of our office assistants Pratap and Pragyan, they are taking a gap year after their A levels from Rato Bangala, but their work ethics and work etiquette has been outstanding. Its hard to believe these guys are only 18 or 19, very mature and professional for their age, I know they have a bright future ahead and they will shine in their undergraduate studies. Other members from the team have been equally impressive as well, a lot of things to look forward to at work in 2014 and a lot of surprises. I have learned more from my team than anything else.

IMG_1542

Team Biruwa

2013 was not the best year with friends, I lost a pretty close friend from college. From what I have learned and witnessed, life is not fair, its not easy, but what you make out of it and the number of times you get up after you fall down is what defines you, in the end its your life and only you can be accountable for what you make out of it. Andrew was and always will be an inspiration to me and a lot of others from the class of 2011. He was one of those simple yet extraordinarily smart kids. He talked about coming to Nepal with a bunch of other very close friends and discovering the himalayas together, now it’ll just be us cursing him for not being with us when we actually go do it. After his loss, a lot of us have made that extra time to get-in touch with good buddies from school, he has brought us closer. Couple other friends are planning on visiting me in Nepal in 2014, definitely something to look forward to.

Ankit, Andrew and Burch

Ankit, Andrew and Burch in Homecoming 2010

2013 has been a year I have worked out consistently and have been in fairly well shape. Workouts and getting in shape has always been an experiment for me. Each individual’s body type is different, and I have not cracked the code to getting ripped for my body type, but I have been in the best shape of my life recently. Cutting down alcohol, eating healthy, mixture of weights, core body, sprints and futsal have worked their magic. Having more friends in the turf to share stories, make fun of and just have a good time is a great stress reliever too.

Current Futsal Squad

Current Futsal Squad

I got the opportunity to travel to more places in Nepal, make more friends, find someone very interesting, raise more money in Kathmandu KORA 2013 and just live the life. 2014 is all about trying out more things.

As of right now my 2014 agenda consists of the following things:

  • Get into an MBA program and hopefully continue working in Nepal
  • Launch a business, any business, get my hands dirty, loop until success ->  {try new things, fail}
  • Work on Small business CSR, more community impact
  • Spend more time with the old man and cousin playing the guitar, maybe have a charity show at the end of 2014
  • Travel to more places in Nepal, witness more hardship, struggle, be inspired, inspire others, help make a difference
  • Learn how to use my GoPro camera and edit cool videos, share with friends outside Nepal, make them jealous and have them come over to Nepal
  • Take more pictures, be a photographer, click special moments
  • Turn into a tree hugger (okay maybe not too practical, at least try to reduce current carbon footprint)
  • Find love, loop until success —>  {Meet someone interesting, trust the individual, fall in love}, rolling over from 2013, I think I am making progress in this
  • find the missing pieces to happiness
  • live life

Well, I hope you have a similar list too, and my best wishes to you for 2014. You get one life, live today (hence today is called present), make best use of it.

-Ankit, signing out from Kathmandu, Nepal

Fender Strad HSS double humbucker, bought with my first ever paycheck at Coe

Football: from the streets to the turf

1382203_10153285556095032_624138961_n

Hosting Futsal Camp for younger underprivileged kids

DNF. DNF.. DNF… Did not finish – my 800 meters record for one of my middle-school pentathlon events. To be honest, I was not a physically active kid during my junior school  at all. Killing bots in Counter-Stike, amassing an army of 200 in Age of Empires II and scoring goals in FIFA the computer game was more of my thing. With my calorie heavy diet of 8 samosas, a bottle of coke  and minimal awareness on proper food and nutrition, the only thing close to football that I was good at was playing FIFA. The virtual game taught me football tactics, formation and most certainly all the basics. However, I literally had nightmares when I was made to play on the real field, with zero confidence and no physical fitness, I dreaded playing football. Its kind of funny comparing myself from 10-15 years ago to now, things have changed so much, now, football has played a huge part in helping me become who I am today.

After my 10th grade (SLC) I had quite tons of free time and somehow started playing football on the street level. Back in the days, the streets of Kathmandu did not have a lot of vehicles, an alleyway or an entrance way to a neighbors house was the best place to grab a game of pickup street football. We created a group of regular players recruiting kids from the local neighborhood. There were couple players from local mom-pops store, couple younger friends living in rented apartments and I had couple of my cousins in the squad too. All of us either played barefoot or wore sandals, we were from different backgrounds, some of us lived in the slums, while some of us had extra apartments that we rented out, some of us went to private schools while some of us went to public schools. Street football was a great teacher on life in different levels, it taught me that no matter what the background of the players was, on the field, everyone was equal and different people have different levels of talent. We did not play to win cups or trophies, we played for fun, without respecting each other, street football was impossible. Sometimes we used to play with a proper football or a circular tube, other times we played with any sort of items from tied up and rolled up rubber bands to layers of old socks. Those were the good old days; we were young, had nothing to worry about and injuries healed within couple days.

Unknowingly, street football was steering me towards a healthier lifestyle. Although I was getting better at the game, I was still slower than the local kids I played with, luckily google was couple years old by then, so being a tech geek I used google extensively on helping me become faster, better and stronger. I started working out more and ate healthier. High-school was all about basket-ball court level football. At Malpi, we had a basketball-court which the students converted to a football court with mini-goal posts. Our games usually started at 8 in the morning until we had to go to classes, if the classes were boring, football would take precedence. My high-school student profile’s first page was an apology letter that I wrote for skipping a bio-class, talk about my dedication to football. Court football was expensive, the concrete took a toll on the lifespan of the football and my shoes, my mom was not too keen on buying me new shoes every couple months. I made tons of friends, scored some glorious goals and learned that fitness and technique were both important in football, most importantly, in a small playground, counter-attack was the deadliest weapon.

9429_273210390031_4409822_n

The quad outside Greene Hall for pickup soccer

By 2007, little Ankit had grown up and was in Coe College, Cedar Rapids (CR), Iowa. I had watched my fair share of international games on the TV, but oh boy did Coe surprise me. Most of us (Nepali students) were used to playing in the big-field with natural grass but Coe had a state-of-the-art artificial turf with the smoothest surface. I personally feel that almost every Nepali student tries out to play for the varsity team, I did too. However, little did I know that people in the west start training from when they were really young. Us Nepali kids are technically gifted, but we have horrible stamina, I found that out the hard-way. After my first day of try-outs, I was out injured for couple months because I lacked proper fitness. Thanks to the athletic training team and google, I slowly got out of it. Instead of varsity, I started to host pick-up soccer regularly. It helped me make tons of new friends. We had around four-five  Nepali players, Brazilian twins Andre & Arthur, couple research students, couple faculty members and new/random players every once in a while. Believe me or not, but I think football had a huge role to play in choosing Business-Econ as my major for college. Wu’s classes were filled with soccer conversation that were used as examples for different econ graphs, got to know Eichhorn without even taking a class with him (although our common interest in Beer and Squash had a huge role to play too). Playing football/soccer at Coe definitely hammered the phrase “Football is not just a game, it is a language”. I saw different levels of talent and gained enormous amount of respect to the dedication college athletes put into their respective sport. I could clearly see what Nepal needed to work on to rank higher on an international level – focus on youth football and college athletics.

Well, college was all about figuring about what I wanted to do next in life. Our academic system taught us to take tests alone, focus more on content rather than the context and completely ignored the most important resource that is essential for success – managing human resources. Somehow I evolved from a not-so-physically-active introvert to an extrovert who loved the outdoors and enjoyed variety of sports. Currently I play futsal on a regular basis with a fantastic group of individuals (more on this later for sure). I am also a working professional now, and I apply football, its team dynamics in my every-day routine while working with teams.

With just a game of futsal, I can figure out who in the team will have problems communicating, I can see who can turn out to be a great leader and most-importantly, who all can work well and closely with other team members. If I could, I would prefer having HR interviews over a game of futsal. In the end, our job/work, is just like football: a team-game.

993069_10153142092840032_417357273_n

Futsal strategy at Work

With time, a lot has changed. Football has helped me keep warm memories of friends who are no longer with us, it has given hope to kids in the streets and most-importantly it brings out our inner-child. Nothing makes me happier than being myself on the field for an hour with some of the best people. Football is not just a sport, it is one of of the best stress relievers and has taught me a lot about life.

Current Futsal Squad

My Current Futsal Squad

View from somewhere in Pharping

Biruwa Hike Club

A lot of things I have done here in Nepal in the last couple years has been a direct result of my goals and visions when I was back at Coe, thats when I realized I was missing out on a lot of things in life. One of the awesome things about being far away from home and living in a small private college is the exposure of awesome people around campus, the change they want to bring and all the positive energy. With tons of “freedom” and a lot of creative people around, the college experience has made me believe that “impossible is nothing”(borrowed this from Nike).

Being in Cedar Rapids, Iowa aka “Middle of nowhere”,  I missed varying landscapes, like waking up everyday with a view of mountain ranges around Kathmandu. Moreover, during our conversations at local bars or over a round of social in our apartments with my buddies, we started pondering on life, how we spent almost a fourth of our lives studying and there was so much remaining to do. Traveling was one of the things that constantly popped up in our conversations.

Fast forward everything to 2012, and things have taken a completely different turn. Since I have been back in Nepal and joined a fantastic team of individuals at Biruwa,  the traveling part of life is going at an awesome speed. One of the ways how traveling kickstarted at Biruwa was by the formation of “Biruwa Hike Club” led by our local expert guide Mr. Sanam Chitrakar. Basically, all the travel enthusiasts at Biruwa decided to go hiking on random Saturdays and we wanted something doable within a day. We agreed on covering outskirts of Kathmandu phase by phase, experiencing local culture and food and getting to know the people around Kathmandu on a totally different level.

Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 12.23.55 PM

approximate route we have covered in the Biruwa Hike Club

This is how our hiking schedule has looked like:

Week 1: Pharping – Bungmati

Week 2: Bungmati – Godavari

Week 3: Godavari – Bhaktapur

Week 4: Bhaktapur – Sundarijal

Week 5: Sundarijal – Budhanilkantha

If you look at the map above, we are around half-way done going counter-clockwise.

The starting points have always been around 15 – 20 kms from Ring-road.

From eating local duck meat to barbecuing at a co-workers place, Biruwa Hike Club has been a fantastic experience. The hikes have been a total stress reliever. Moreover, as we check off each week of hiking, we get a huge sense of accomplishment and a top up on the adventure meter. As a team we have gotten to know each other more on a personal level which has helped us better understand each other. All of this has been possible majorly because of a solid and dedicated team of hikers and an awesome mentor (obviously Sonam Daju) to lead us all the way.

Now, another pretty cool thing about this is that we have started tracking all our routes through a GPS device. All of the tracks are available to download for future reference and are uploaded to openstreetmap.org for free access. Moreover, we work closely with a young team of mappers Kathmandu Living Labs, one of our clients at Biruwa Baluwatar. (They specialize in Open Street Map and are doing all sort of awesome stuff, check out their website or facebook page). So lets say in the future someone wants to travel the same route, they can simply download tracks in their smart phone or GPS device and not get lost.

Finally, all these hikes have been an experience that is not readily available everyday. As we travel through thick jungle, lush rice plantation or walk through a makeshift water canal we have had the time to reflect our lives, witness simplicity of life in the villages and appreciate the little things in life. This has undoubtedly been one of the best ways to experience outskirts of Kathmandu.

Well, that was my part of the story, if you ask the rest of the members of Biruwa Hike Club, I bet they have their own reasons and awesome experience to share.

So basically, if you are feeling low or need to get outdoors, and can make time to travel only for a day, get a bunch of friends together, get on a local bus, travel around 20 kilometers outside your locality and just start walking.

Make time to travel, anyone can make excuses, discover more about yourself and appreciate the little things in life while you travel around.

Champions Pay The Price.

Keep on keeping on.

Ankit SJB Rana

Gorkha and Biruwa

Alright,

So I’ve got a bottle and half of Gorkha beer down, thanks to Biruwa Gyaneshwor for that (Hence, Gorkha and Biruwa). We recently beat them in a friendly futsal match we played against the two different Biruwa offices and apparently we won a case of Gorkha beer.

 

555001_10201271376778157_790994076_n

Right now, I am preparing for GMAT and getting ready for Grad School for fall 2014 but life is still kick-ass! I am taking the whole Grad School thing as a challenge, like getting ready for a 10 K or even a marathon, it is definitely not easy, but I am trying to make it fun and educational.  Quote #1″Life is all about learning from the experiences.” Never forget that, use it in your next interview, it will work, it will impress your interviewer, and if possible get ready with some examples too, you will definitely land your dream job, just make sure the example is relatable though.

So, it is nearly two years since I have been away from Iowa, my second home and the place where I basically “found myself” and I miss it a lot. Those FDC, Sachem and random get togethers with your buddies during college stay with you forever like almost every time I go out, trust me on that one. But lets talk about my experiences in Nepal, its more recent and interesting (hopefully).

Life is never dull here in Kathmandu, from crossing the road to driving in the crazy traffic, you are always aware, and awareness means you are living the life man! If I haven’t stated this already, I work with some fantastic young people at Biruwa, with great vision and enthusiasm. You know how they teach you in your management class about Vision, Mission and Goal of a company and how your personal goals need to align with them to make the most of it, well, after college, I had so much energy and optimism to change the world that working at PFG just did not appeal to me, I didn’t see myself making a difference or being involved in my society in Des Moines. Compare that to being at Biruwa, oh boy, talk about life without limits.

My roles at work vary day in and day out. Life of a wannabe entrepreneur involves putting oneself in different roles and trying new stuffs out. So here is what I’ve accomplished in the last month:

  • Became the Conference Manager of a Power Summit, which the President of Nepal attended, (pretty BadAss, I know), plus got to work with his security team, which made me feel like a special agent
  • Got to network and talk to couple hotshots of the independent hydropower producers of Nepal during the summit
  • Helped out a random dude from Yale who was doing his research on the impact of power (energy) production in the quality of life villagers in rural Nepal
  • Assembled a futsal team from Biruwa Baluwatar to beat Biruwa Gyaneshwor and win a case of Gorkha beer
  • Represented Biruwa on a radio program “The Human Face”, initiated by Saath Nepal that focuses on youth involvement and the change they bring in Nepal
  • Be awesome at Golf and beat my old man at the game
735787_10151569794055800_1796791567_o

Power Summit 2013

1278150_10201906454694121_146521680_o

Showing the boss man how its done

On top of all this, we have had an exciting project going on at Biruwa. We have had a team of mappers who have been mapping out government, health related and educational buildings from November 2012. OpenDRI Nepal aka Kathmandu Living Labs aims to map out entirety of Kathmandu in Open Street Map, an open source mapping platform and run earthquake simulations to be prepared for disaster recovery. The opportunity to implement OSM data in other projects are limitless, disaster recovery is just a small part of it. I play a small role in communicating with individuals from the World Bank Group to update and get the project going, however, the mappers (the real champions) who go about mapping in the field always have the most interesting and captivating story to share with us. Mapping is not only about being at a unique location physically, its about interacting with other humans with different background and trying to relate to them. The activity and effort in Kathmandu was an alpha test in the South Asian region from the World Bank Group. Thanks to the success of this project in Kathmandu, there is a very similar being project launched in Dhaka and most probably in other parts of South Asia too.

Tons of progress going on here in Kathmandu. Our core team has grown from two people in 2011 to four people in 2012 and now there are around 12 of us in 2013.

I think my next blog will be focused on how Biruwa’s team has grown from the founding partners to around 12 individuals in a span of couple years, and how I have seen a startup kick off at full speed.

Before I leave though, I want to re-quote couple lines from the radio-interview “The Human Face”

“If you want to be a good driver and test yourself, streets of Kathmandu is the place to be and if you want to be a true entrepreneur and face challenges everyday, come startup a business in Nepal.”

#ChampionsPayThePrice

Alright, maybe I am not making a lot of sense because of various reasons, but you get the point, do what you love guys, explore, put yourself out there, push yourself, have fun and live your life.

Now, lets try out some Johnnie on the rocks.

Ankit SJB Rana

Thokarpa – Where you get Diamonds while searching for Gold

Stranger – “Hey! Whats your name?”

Me – “My name is Ankit.. pronounced like punk it..”

Stranger - “So where are you from Ankit?”

Me - “I am from Kathmandu, Nepal.. you know, somewhere really close by mount everest, the tallest mountain of the world!”

(or state that Nepal is located somewhere between China and India, which works too 90% of the time)

Friend - “Wow, I know Nepal. It is a beautiful country, you must have climbed Everest then, since it is literally there?”

(Thats a common response from people who have heard of Nepal, some people confuse Nepal with Naples, or somewhere else.. then you start wondering if someone’s geography teacher was slacking somewhere in the Asian chapters)

Me - “Nah, although it was literally there, I have not climbed Everest yet and sadly I haven’t had the chance to travel around Nepal a lot either.”

Well, that conversation is so two thousand and late, but it was a great conversation starter while I was back in Iowa.

I wanted to change all of that, with each conversation like above, the anxiety and the excitement to come back to Nepal and travel around increased exponentially.

After returning to Nepal in late 2011, I have been on a travel frenzy and the odds have been in my favor. I have been all the way to the north near China to Bungee Jump, traveled all the way to the rural far west to deliver medical supplies for a birthing center, traveled down south near the border on a “tanga” and have heat maps all over central Nepal.

Very recently, couple of us from Biruwa and other friends went on a trip to Thokarpa, a village around 2 hours hike from Sukute. There was altogether nine of us, on our super awesome motorbikes. It had been a while since I had taken my baby R15 out on the highway and it felt fantastic to let her rip in high RPMs on the highway.

964134_10201080910718375_518058641_o

After around two hours of motorbiking, we reached our pit stop. At Sukute, we parked our bikes and got ready for a hike to Thokarpa, one of our tour buddy’s relatives village. Since it was monsoon, the gravel road had been washed away by rain. Most of our bikes had racing slick tires on, so we did not want to risk taking our bike up in the hills. We started our hike around 2 PM, a hike which normally lasts an hour for locals, took our “City Kids”  almost 3 hours.

We had a local villager guiding us all the way to the top of a mountain, Thokarpa was located around 1200 meters above sea level. The evening was a blast, we got three local chickens cooked up, and around 4-5 liters of local “Kodo” (One of the finest and purest form of Kodo I have ever tasted). We were up until around 2 AM talking about life, business and our awesome experiences in our business. With all the nutritious food, juice and hilarious conversation, all the exhaustion and pain went away in a jiffy.

Thokarpa was very interesting, a lot of the family had emigrated outside Nepal, but still had houses there. We got an opportunity to visit a local government school which offered classes 1 through 5. Luckily, one of the faculty of the school was our host from the previous night, so we got a very special tour. The infrastructure of the school was like any other public schools in Nepal. Rooftop made from metallic sheets and walls made from stone. However, once we were inside the classroom, it had a lot of personal touch in it. Even my private school’s first grade classroom did not have such a personal feeling. It felt like any student who went to Raktakali School, Thokarpa had some sense of ownership and accountability. It was filled with artwork and vocational items that the student had made themselves. But the most impressive aspect about the school were the faculty involved. They knew they were working on a minimum wage, the teachers were mostly farmers by profession, not that well educated, but they used every ounce of energy in their body to make the curriculum interesting to students.

Since there was construction work going around the village and cranes were involved to make roads, the teachers made a working model of crane to teach students how hydraulics system worked. To make multiple choice questions interesting, they made a circuit board of interchangeable questions so when students selected the right answer, it would blink green and blink red if the answer was incorrect (For a remote village coming up with these ideas, we were seriously impressed). The way they presented us and explained our team how hard they were working to get these students learn creatively was beyond fascinating and very touching.

14462_10201081550614372_482150512_n

Raktakali School in Thokarpa

IMG_2485

Classroom with nepali alphabets

IMG_2482

A model ostrich on the left and a hydraulics (water) crane

IMG_2483

Interchangeable MCQ with circuit board to spice things up

IMG_2484

MCQ circuit board that blinks green and red light

After the tour, we felt like we needed to contribute back to the school and the people who showed us great hospitality and treated with uttermost respect. The school did not have a computer and needed some sort of educational material to show the students what ostriches (or other animals) looked like in real life. Our group decided to contribute the remaining money from our transportation pot around 3000 rupees to buy stationary items for students. Furthermore, we have a friend donating us a used desktop and another group of friends who will wipe everything off the computer and load it with educational materials. We plan to deliver the equipment to the school and help the students get the most out of it. Their creative learning culture is something we definitely want to help continue.

With my travels around Nepal, it has been clear to me that not only is Nepal blessed naturally with awesome terrains but the people here have a big heart too. Our hosts at Thokarpa and the group I went to this awesome place made this trip really special and unforgettable in so many ways.

Check out more pictures of the trip here.

Keep on Keeping on!

-Ankit SJB Rana

511039_1372325302.8389

1 Million for Baitadi

From pushing safa tempos in the middle of Kathmandu to sand-bagging in downtown Cedar Rapids during the crazy flood of 2008, I have done it all. Lets face it, shit happens; predictable or not, disparities exists and life is not fair, but you can make a difference to help make the worst of situations a little better.

I find real human interactions and behaviors unique and beautiful. Not only because it is engaging, but also because it shows me what the world is like from someone else’s perspective or how our lives are completely different, which in return helps me appreciate what I have.

Back when I was in St. Xavier’s we had a mandatory social service class. I think it was Ms. Rachael, one of the American volunteers, who used to take us around Kathmandu and expose our young and inquisitive minds to our community and get us involved. Drawing water from the well at Missionary of Charity to cleaning and feeding the elderly at Pashupati Bridhashram, this class was totally different from other regular classes, but much more satisfying, educational and rewarding on different levels. Fast forward a decade and I was doing similar things back at college. At Coe, my professional writing class raised around $11,000 for the Arch of East Central Iowa. I spent my monday evenings volunteering for Children of Promise, playing games that I used to play when I was a kid. I found out that I had found ways to de-stress, feel great and network with some of the leaders on campus. Throughout my college career, I was able to accomplish a lot not only because I was putting that extra effort or I liked what I was doing but also because I helped out people and apparently people in Iowa returned the favor when I needed them too.

Real Life after college without close college friends and family in a totally new city was very tough. In college you’ve worked hard, worked your way up to the top leadership positions and all of a sudden letting go and starting from scratch was not easy. I did have a life, had a well paying job at Principal Financial Group, a solid apartment, worked out like crazy, but something was clearly missing. Fresh graduates have that feeling of changing the world, making a difference or an immediate impact, we are impatient, and with my “Real-Life” post college job, I felt like I was not doing any of that. For some reason, I found myself constantly searching for happiness. By the end of 2011, I was back in Nepal supposedly to find “Happiness”, explore the mountains and make a difference and do something good.

With reverse culture shock looming around the corner, I consider myself very lucky to be working with the young guns at Biruwa once I was back in Nepal. The bosses, clients and friends at Biruwa helped me stay sane, our visions and goals were aligned, made me feel that I was part of something big and showed me that the entirety of Nepal is not at all as bad as it says in the Newspapers. (check out our experiences at Biruwa here)

While at Biruwa, I have had the opportunity to travel around different parts of Nepal and network with some fantastic and truly inspirational individuals. Rural Nepal and Iowa has a lot of similarities like acres and acres of corn-fields and one of the friendliest and most hospitable people in the world.

During my travels and adventures in Nepal I figured out that activities that helps us connect to the nature like hiking, biking, trekking, witnessing layers and layers of mountains brings tons and tons of feeling of accomplishment. Helping out total strangers, conversations with people from different background and history brought joy in my life and appreciation for what I have. Finally, spending time with my friends, loved ones, family and sharing my experience was like throwing a KnockOut punch to sadness and filled up my happiness meter to max.

Last year around June, we heard about Kathmandu KORA from Raj Dai at Social Tours. Biruwa was a very young company and we had not done any major CSR activity. Since we believed in the cause and the team behind the entire event, we definitely wanted to be a part of it. We reached out to our networks and raised a whopping $750 which crushed our goal of $500. We learned a lot from last years KORA. I had the privilege to go to Rukum and got to experience first hand on how it was like in rural Nepal. How the city-life priority is completely different, how people in outside Kathmandu value their guests and friends, and sadly how they lacked even the most basic infrastructures to prevent unnecessary medical complications. A lot was done last year, and a lot needs to be done.

544530_505298949486013_764015304_n

We are back at it this year. As Biruwa has grown from a team of three to more than ten, we have had the privilege to get more people involved in this awesome cause this year. As of right now we have raised more than $750. It has been a wonderful experience to get our clients and team together, to inform them about Nepal and other activities outside the business world. Moreover, it is good to see local and international people getting involved to help make a difference in Sharmali, Baitadi.

So finally WHY KORA? Why raise 1 Million for Baitadi?

For me..
I get to Bike 50KMs around some pretty fun and challenging terrain around Kathmandu
(connecting with nature, sense of accomplishment.. check)

I get to fundraise for a great cause.. help out people in Sharmali, Baitadi. The locals have already committed funds and labor from their part. They need this birthing center. (click here to find out more)
(help out your countrymen, listen to their story, get to know total strangers… check)

Partake in the entire challenge with friends and family
(get to share an awesome experience with loved ones for FREE!.. check)

Thats my story, but enough about me.. i think its time for your story.. How are you making a difference? Opportunity is knocking at your door, go live it up, do something out of this world, live your life! Find Happiness!

Keep on Keeping on!

Ankit SJB Rana

Goodbye AK-47

It had been around 4 to 5 hours since I have been back from Bandipur, one of the best trips I have been to in Nepal and I get a very random message from Becker stating

“Hey Ankit,

Give me or Burch a call as soon as you get this. He or I need to talk to you soon. Miss you bud.”

I thought Burch, Becker and Klingler were finally coming to Nepal, to visit me, because on my birthday Becker wrote to me stating they were going to come over. They had been talking about coming to Nepal for quite some time. I thought maybe they already worked out the details, holidays and everything and were so excited they wanted to talk to me and confirm if the timeline worked for me or not. I messaged back Burch stating I would call him around 9 AM Kathmandu time.

Normally I go to work around 9:30 AM, but today I had to stop over at Kathmandu Hospital around 8:30 AM to visit our Operations Manager who unfortunately had all of a sudden gotten ill and will most probably have to go through surgery. We talked about how the most important thing right now was her health and assured her not to worry about work. Moreover, I shared my personal story when I underwent an ear surgery and I told her how the healing process is also a mental game, and how much of a difference positive attitude makes during the healing process. I told her how life was never fair, but its all about how we come out and face life and fight to live the next day. I told her how we have to fight everyday to live another day: how in the end – Champions Pay the Price. I knew my five-minute spiel would help her through it, would make her mentally stronger, or at the bare minimum comfort her.

At 9 AM, I arrived at work. I get settled in helping out clients with their needs. Finally, I got the time to call Burch around 9:15 AM. Found out through the phone that Klingler, had committed suicide on Friday, June 14. Burch, Klingler and I were roommates our senior year. To those who knew Klingler, he was from Denver, smart guy working as a master of fun and games at a camp in Boulder, Colorado post graduation.

It still hasn’t sunk in, it will never sink in. How can someone like Andrew, so full of life and energy just give up on it? He wasn’t the type that just gave up. Why would he take his own life?

Sandbagging and helping displaced people during the flood of Iowa in 2008 brought a new opportunity in my life, I got to become a resident assistant at Coe. Maybe I learned a handful of stuff at college through my classes, but res-life and other extra-curricular activities has played an important role in determining who I am and what I have become today.

Life is not always as pretty as a butterfly nor does it always have a happy ending like most of the movies. It is deep, it is crazy, its messed up in so many ways and every day is a constant struggle for survival. The struggle is easy for some and relatively tougher for others. Most of students still think RAs are this evil group of suck up students who want to write up people all the time. However, many do not realize that we are a support system, a buddy that you could go to seek help, someone you could talk to, especially for individuals whose life is not easy as everyone else’s. RAs go through intense and rigorous real-life simulating trainings just to ensure that our friends in college have a go-to person just in case they need someone to talk to. There have been numerous instances when my team and I have saved lives of residents, got stuck in the emergency room at weird hours of the night, clean a drunk resident’s vomit while having to fulfill our student responsibilities, we do it not because we get paid around 36 cents an hour but because we care for other individuals, specially the ones who need and reach out for help. Andrew was an RA for multiple years. He helped out freshmen adjust to the college lifestyle; he performed all the above-mentioned tasks while being a full-time student at college. Andrew knew the game, he knew who to ask for help. It is still confusing why he did not reach out, or maybe our busy post college “REAL LIFE” did not give us enough time to even talk about our problems. It makes me sad, I feel ashamed because, with my trainings I saved life of people who I did not know, but did not even see this coming and could do nothing to prevent Andrew from doing what he did.

During our senior year, Burch, Klingler and I were apartment mates. I came to know Klingler closely for only a year, but we became really good friends after that. We had random socials (drink-a-shot of random alcohol from the freezer) to keep our senior year interesting. He was in the Flunk Day Committee (nicknamed AK-47 for his crazy flunking skills), he played his Ukelele, read a lot of books, wrote interesting papers, drew crazily good sketches, gave awesome tours for admissions and most importantly brought happiness in all of his friend’s life. The last time I saw him was when he moved out of college after graduation and the last time I spoke to him on the phone was before I left for Nepal when Burch and I called him when we were drunk from Sip & Stir. The last time I got in touch with him was when Becker, Burch and Klingler were talking about coming to Nepal.

I am not good at letting go of people who I really care for. Klingler was special to me as he was to most of the class of 2011. This blog is for you, so that we remember you for who you were and for all your positive energy. We will miss you buddy, I still wish we could hike the mountains of Colorado or Nepal together, but I guess that will have to wait. Goodbye AK-47

Ankit, Andrew and Burch

Ankit, Andrew and Burch during our senior year homecoming

 

Miss you always,

ARD

Coffee Farm Tour

It is an early monsoon here in Kathmandu, Nepal. With the majority of the population focused on agriculture, this is the peak time for planting seeds and a lot of our dear citizens are occupied in their fields. At Biruwa Ventures (my workplace) we are going around surveying and visiting different types of farms for a potential new venture.

Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit Alpine Coffee Farm (www.alpinecoffee.com.np), around an hour and half drive from Kathmandu towards Nuwakot. The bike ride was splendid for the most part, apart from some extremely muddy spots, which my street sports bike was definitely not ready for.

My perception of a coffee farm was like the ones we see in the movies and pictures with those perfect landscapes, those that tea farms or vineyards look like, and I was completely mistaken. The entire farm was on one side of a big hill, with steep slope. Mr. Kumud, the business development director, showed us around and gave us a quick coffee farm 101. Going through the farm traveling up and down, jumping from one spot to the other, I have gained an enormous amount respect for the people working in the farms, walking up and down the farm carrying around 20 – 25 kilos of manure and fertilizers from one point to the other is a daunting task, and not something a city kid like me has experienced before.

Overall, it was a day well spent. Learned a lot about the lifecycle of a coffee plant. As I visit more and more farmhouses, I am getting more and more interested in running farms, vineyard or breweries.

Next stop is Chitlang round 2, I will post more updates after I come back from the trip.

Until then, keep on keeping on.

Champions Pay the Price

%d bloggers like this: