In Seva we Trust

Boy Holding 2


It is hard to believe that 3 months have gone by and now it is time to say goodbye to The MagiciansIndia, for now.  During my visit, I performed well over 50 magic shows for more than 5,000 underprivileged children, patients, and elders.  I taught numerous classes in magic, English, and first aid.  Our magic students will meet once a week to practice as a group (led by one of our veteran students).  Additionally, our amazing magician collaborators, Tarun Durga and Peter Theobald, will each teach one class each month.  My other magician friend, Ashish Pandey, will continue performing charity shows for Our Children.  The dots have been connected.  I feel that we accomplished what I set out to do.  I also believe that I am leaving our magic students and the program as a whole in a better place than it was when I arrived.  It would not have been possible without your generosity and support and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Here are some photos from my final weeks in India.  At the end of this post, I have written a reflection.


Juggling Balls

PG JugglingSaying goodbye to the girls was heart-wrenching.  On my final day with them, I taught them how to make juggling balls with rice and balloons.  Many of them are nearing consistency with 3 balls.  As I walked out of Prerana’s doors for the last time, the girls were hanging from every window and balcony in the building shouting, “Bye Ryan Sir, we (will) miss you!”  I choked up and struggled to turn as I reluctantly placed one foot in front of the other towards the train station.  I have fallen in love with those resilient, awe-inspiring girls.


Gujarat Samachan

A surprise photo feature in the Gujarat Samanchar newspaper right before I left. Tata Cancer DancingThis was taken during a show I performed at Tata Cancer Hospital celebrating 50 young patients’ birthdays.  I didn’t even know the newspaper was at the event! The show ended with an all-out dance on the stage with the birthday patients.



As I was preparing for one of my last few shows in Mumbai, I was surprised to see the familiar eager face of Rani in front of me.  She stays at the girls institution I was going to perform at.  After a little convincing, she agreed to perform a rope routine in the show.  I have found that it is always much more intimidating to perform for people I know rather than those I do not know.  I admire Rani’s courage for performing in front of the girls she lives with and she amazed her peers with her skill and poise.


Elder Sister

Meet my elder sister.  After a show with her elderly peers, I was saying goodbyes and this woman kept blessing me by tenderly placing her palm on the crown of my head and referring to me as her brother “bhai.”  What a beautiful person.


Nimesh and Preeti

Our Caring Friends, Nimesh and Preeti.  They have become dear friends of mine and are enthusiastic supporters of Magicians Without Borders.   And to the rest of my family in Mumbai – Bharati and Mukesh, Ravi and Kalyani, and Dhananjay, Jaya, and Mummy, thank you again for welcoming me into your lives and your wonderful homes.  I am going to miss each of you very much!


Gandhi's Room

Gandhi’s room at Mani Bhavan where he always stayed during his frequent visits to Mumbai.  We have so much to learn from Gandhi – whose actions consistently demonstrated what he taught with his words.



The caves at Elephanta island (created around 500 AD) with my friends Preeti and Mamta.  This cave carving depicts the Hindu trinity of Shiva the creator, preserver, and destroyer.  This is the masterpiece of the Elephanta caves and miraculously, it is the only one that has remained completely intact as the others have been destroyed by the Portugese conducting target practice.


Lifting the Taj

Lifting the Taj from its perch – sorry about that Bombay!


Mama Monkey

Family love on Elephanta Island.


Beware of Monkeys

Why are you looking so smug?


Dhobi Gard

Dhobi Ghat – where 5,000 dhobi wallahs soak and scrub thousands of soiled textiles from the far corners of the city.  A drastically different world from the high rise looming above.


Gateway to India

Excerpt about Bombay from Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts:

“The first thing I noticed about Bombay, on that first day, was the smell of the different air.  I could smell it before I saw or heard anything of India, even as I walked along the umbilical corridor that connected the plane to the airport.  I was excited and delighted by it, in the first Bombay minute, escaped from prison and new to the wide world, but I didn’t and couldn’t recognize it.  I know now that it’s the sweet, sweating smell of hope, which is the opposite of hate; and it’s the sour, stifled smell of greed, which is the opposite of love.  It’s the smell of gods, demons, empires, and civilizations in resurrection and decay.  It’s the blue skin-smell of the sea, no matter where you are in the Island City, and the blood-metal smell of machines.  It smells of the stir and sleep and waste of sixty million animals, more than half of them humans and rats.  It smells of heartbreak, and the struggle to live, and of the crucial failures and loves that produce our courage.  It smells of ten thousand restaurants, five thousand temples, shrines, churches, and mosques, and of a hundred bazaars devoted exclusively to perfumes, spices, incense, and freshly cut flowers.  Karla once called it the worst good smell in the world, and she was right.”

Mumbai at Night

I can tell you that from my own experience Gregory David Roberts captured the essence of this wild island city better than any photo, or compilation of words I have seen.  Here is my own take…



Chaotic and dirty, yet
Lively and loving
In my face
In every way
Sometimes to my dismay
Nevertheless, always a lesson to be had

You give beyond your means
Your dedication never falters or despairs

In the land of many Gods
Where guests are treated like God

I am learning to accept your unending generosity
I am inspired by your Seva warriors
I will persevere just as you have

Gandhi has blessed your soil
You have broken free from an oppressive reign
There is still turmoil

May you have peace
Begin within

Where staying for tea is important enough to become late
Where 1.2 billion humans reside
Where immense needs are unmet
Where corruption bleeds to greed
Where resilience prevails

The quality of your life does not depend
On your external reality
But rather your state of mind

India, I beg you to respect the divinity of our mother earth
Cleanliness is a practice with no cost and boundless rewards
India, I urge you to have an open mind
We are all very different, let’s cherish that

Your horns boom endlessly
Your food evokes a flavorful sensuous experience
Your people tirelessly work 7 days a week
For what? No end to the rat race in sight
But you keep up the fight with all your might
For the glimmering hope of a peaceful night
And a happy and healthy tomorrow

Please remember that all we are guaranteed is the present
The present is a present
A gift that is,
Too easy to miss

Feeling lonely when I arrived
Now there does not seem enough time to say my goodbyes
India you have taught me lessons that will last beyond my life
Many of which I sense better than I can articulate

Do not assume
Confide in your breath
Connect the dots

Have faith in others and the universe as a whole
Gratitude is the greatest
Expect nothing, give everything

In Seva we trust
That is a must

* Seva is selfless service to the greater good.
* Namaste literally means “I bow to the divine in you.”




Thank you again for reading.  I will miss writing, but I will be occupied guzzling down the fire hydrant flow of information during medical school.  Thank you for your engaged accompaniment during my adventures over these last two years.  In the future, I look forward to picking up where we have left off.  Be well my friends!

Home Stretch

Life Patterns

Just over two weeks ago, I led a discussion for PhD students and professors at Tata Institute’s Homi Bhaba Center for Science Education.  The topic was science and magic.  Through my years of performing magic, I have found that more often than not, scientists have difficulty accepting magic.  They ask too many questions.  Magic is an art rooted in secrets.  Yet, as a student of science and future physician, I have been taught to question how the world works.  Do these two worlds clash?  I was invited for this discussion by the sister of my friend and former Gonzaga professor, Dr. Haydock.  His sister, also Dr. Haydock, has taught PhD students at this prestigious Mumbai institute for many years.  While we did not necessarily reach any conclusions, I Tata Talkperformed some magic and we shared our perspectives for over 2 hours.  I came away from the discussion thinking this: Science affords us with an informed understanding of how the world works.  Magic extends our preconceived notions of the limitations that exist within our reality.  Therefore, as scientists, I believe that magic invites us to ask Haydock Friendnew questions and to look at the world with a refreshed perspective.  Although I did not have the nerve to say this during the discussion, I also believe it is crucial to recognize that science has its limits and some details are better left to Mother Nature and the universe.  I do not think that our cognitive conscience is capable of thoroughly understanding the complexity of every detail in our world – much of what we once believed to be true has now been disproven and this will continue to be the case.  Thus, I think the question can bring us to a point of balance that teaches us when it is appropriate to question and when it is wisest to accept and embrace.

Meet the Family

Meet my new host family: Dhananjay, Jaya, and Mummy (Dhananjay’s mother).  I am thoroughly enjoying my time with them in their beautiful home.  Dhananjay worked selling calcium carbonate to pharmaceutical companies and he now volunteers full time (6, sometimes 7 days a week) as director of Our Children.  He is a dedicated servant leader.  Jaya is a retired school teacher and a very attentive grandmother to her son’s two daughters who live just outside of Boston.  Mummy is amazing and I really enjoy her company – she reminds me of my wonderful 98 year old grandmother at home.  They both are incredibly sweet and joyful.


It was wonderful having Tom in Mumbai for the last two weeks.  He added an important burst of energy to our program so that I can make the most of this home stretch and wind down my 3 month stint with a bang.  Tom is a dear friend, a mentor, and a source of inspiration to me and many others.  I am grateful for the work we do together and look forward to the adventures and learning that lie ahead.  We are currently in communication with Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention program in the United States.  I am hoping to launch an MWB chapter teaching magic to some of their homeboys and homegirls.  Learning magic fits with Homeboy’s goal of teaching important soft skills for employment and I think teaching magic to them once a month will help me keep my head clear in the midst of medical school in Los Angeles.

Why not Coconut

Urban Cows-2







During Tom’s visit:

May 1 ProgramWe attended Our Children’s annual May 1st Children’s Meet which takes place in what was once Asia’s largest theatre.  Our Children brings 2,200 children from different institutions and orphanages to participate in a dance competition.  They have professional judges select three winners, but really everyone wins.  It is a chance for children to expand their small worlds and meet children from other institutions.  Each child receives a generous gift bag with items ranging from personal hygiene supplies to snacks and toys.  Tom always makes a priority of attending this event and I was thoroughly impressed by the dances and Our Children’s dedication to put on such an event for over 30 consecutive years.  They even provide roundtrip transportation for all 2,200 children.

Camp Teaching

Tom and I recently returned from a 6 day intensive magic camp at the beach with ten ofSponge Goofin' our 14 magic students from Prerana.  Each day involved about 14 hours of being ‘on duty.’  Not only were we teaching magic, but we were constantly playing psychologist evaluating and discussing the personal issues of each girl and how we can best support them in a sensitive and intentional manner.  I was very grateful to have Preeti Iyer’s presence at the camp as she Our Teamis one of the directors at Prerana.  I don’t know how we could have managed without her insights, support, and translating.  At the camp, our students performed 7 magic shows for different institutions brought to the camp by Our Children.  The camp was a beautiful collaboration between Magicians Without Borders, Prerana, and Our Children.  Our magic students made immense progress at the camp – I Pep Talkfeel they transformed into well polished performers, they learned four wonderful new magic routines, and many girls are close to mastering juggling.  Additionally, all 3 of the magicians whom I have networked with came to the camp and taught at different times throughout the week.

Peter Teaching

Priyanka G Magic

Kavita PerformingAs I wind into my final stretch in India, the dots are becoming more connected.  Priyanka, one of our veteran magic students has assumed the role of group leader.  After I leave, she will be responsible for teaching and reviewing previously learned magic with our students each week.  She will send us Priyanka B Performingmonthly progress reports and we will give her a small savings stipend to do this.  My magician friend, Tarun, has agreed to meet with the girls once a month to teach them new material, focusing on magic with ordinary objects.  My other magician friend, Peter, will also be teaching a session about once every month.  The logistics are complicated in Mumbai and the girls stay about 1.5 hours outside of the city.  It is incredible that we have these two dedicated magicians to help us with our mission of entertaining, educating, and empowering the forgotten children of the world.

Tom is enthusiastic about expanding our program in India.  I will be meeting with the DNC Surardirectors of a boy’s orphanage, DNC Surar, where we performed at during Tom’s visit.  We will discuss the possibility of teaching magic to about 10 of their boys.  It is an incredible institution and their boys are bright, well cared for, and enthusiastic.  Before I leave, I will likely be meeting with the Cultural Affairs Officer at the Embassy to explore how we can collaborate as we have done with the embassies in El Salvador and Colombia.  On Sunday, we performed for Caring Friends supporters and are looking forward to visiting and performing for more of their rural NGO’s as I did in Agra, Delhi, and Kashmir.  At that presentation, we were fortunate to have our students, Kavita and Priyanka, perform with us.  This was a new audience for them as it was comprised of highly educated professionals.  Kavita and Priyanka performed and spoke with such poise and confidence that our Caring Friends collaborators were thoroughly inspired and awed.  I am proud of the wonderful young women these girls have become and I am grateful that I have been able to learn magic with them over the past few months.

Home Stretch

It’s the home stretch.  My life is on the verge of a major transition.  In one month I will be seated in my first medical school class during the summer sciences program.  As I reflect on the period of discernment that led me to decide on this 2 year gap before medical school, I remember how risky it felt at the time.  I decided to trust my inner knowing.  What has happened during these last two years is far more than the realization of a dream; it is the actualization of when preparation meets opportunity cultivated by the simple three letter word: “yes.”  There are certain aspects of life that science cannot explain.  The series of events that have led me to where I am now are no exception.  The wisdom of a four hundred year old tree may extend far beyond our understanding of its existence. I have learned to trust my intuition and many times that intuition contradicts the most logical course of action.  Life is short; and at times, logic can hinder the limitless possibilities that exist.  I dare you to say yes.

Aksa beach

Feel Into It

hiking the pass

2 weeks trekking the Annapurna Circuit in the Himalayas of Nepal with my wonderful friends was exactly what my soul needed and craved.  The pure, unfiltered beauty and power of nature fills and humbles my spirit like nothing else.  Being in nature dematerializes my cluttered mind and rematerializes the complex sensuous experience of my surroundings.  Nature enables me to feel into each moment paying attention to the ebb and flow of my energy and how it relates to the universe as a whole.  By feeling into the moment we can become increasingly mindful of the inner world that is so easy to neglect.  Nature helps facilitate this presence within me – what ignites your presence?


Only in Nepal can you hike to 18,000 feet in altitude, walk all day for days on end, and still have a hot meal and a bed each night.  Not a bad life.  I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the sharing.

 jeep departure

Loading the Jeep on Day 1

first steps

The First Steps

the crewThe Crew

meet joe

Meet Joe: Our master planner for the trek who has been traveling the world for the last 7 months.

meet gabe

Meet Gabe: My good friend whom I have known since early elementary school.

meet scott and wendy

Meet Scott and Wendy: They will be getting married in August and decided to quit their jobs and spend this whole year traveling.  They were just coming from spending 3 months in rural Thailand teaching English.

goofy porters

Meet our Porters: Tough, simple, and humorous.

meet trail

Meet the Trail

endless prayer wheelsEndless Prayer Wheels: Throughout the trek, there were long walls of prayer wheels to spin as you pass.

prayer wheelin

Prayer Wheelin’

mini showTea House Mini Magic Show


Goofin’: They say that with a beard comes great responsibility…

wild rock face

Rounded Rock Face

ManangHigh Mountain Town of Manang

high camp

High Camp: A bed and hot food at 16,200 feet

the crew 2

The Crew at High Camp

gabe wendy and i

High Camp Views

throng la summit

Throng La Pass: 17,769 feet, I was told it is the highest point you can hike to without venturing to the realm of mountaineering.  

throng la from belowThrong La Pass from 7,000 vertical feet and 27km below: On the trek, I was consistently blown away by the sheer magnitude of the mountains.  Those peaks on either side of the pass are well over 23,000 feet.

parting waysParting ways in the Mustang Valley: Joe and Gabe continued for a week to the Tibetan Mustang Valley while Wendy, Scott, and I began our journey to Pokhara and then back to Kathmandu.

mustang to tibet

Mustang Valley to Tibet


Pokhara on a Cloudy Day


Pokhara on a Clear Day

Kathmandu Buddhist Stoupa

Buddhist Stoupa in Kathmandu

Satish Family

Satish’s Family: Our dear Gonzaga friend, Satish (not in the picture), is from Kathmandu, Nepal.  His family invited us to their home for a delicious lunch after trekking.


My heart goes out to the Everest climbers who lost their lives in an avalanche.  As we began climbing to Throng La Pass at 4:30 am, we heard an avalanche boom down the peak across the valley below.  Too close to home.  Life is fragile and we must savor it.

This trip provided invaluable space to re-center myself before my final month in India and before I begin medical school in less than two months.  Now back in Mumbai, I am eagerly awaiting Magicians Without Borders Founder and President, Tom Verner, who will be arriving this week.

I will leave you with a quote that I have been reflecting on: “World conditions continue to challenge us to look beyond the status quo for responses to the pain of our times.  We look to powers within as well as powers without.  A new spirituality based social activism is beginning to assert itself.  It stems not from hating what is wrong and trying to fix it, but from loving what could be and making the commitment to bring it forth.” – Marianne Williamson

Feel into it, bit by bit, peel the layers back so that together, we can bring forth what it means to truly be alive.

the pose

Connecting Joy


It’s only been 10 days, but so much has happened – both on the outside and on the inside.  I have visited some of the most amazing places in the world, I have had some fantastic magic shows, but most importantly, I have made many new friendships that will last a lifetime.  I am learning that it’s not about what or where, but instead, it is about how.  I can be in one of the most incredible places in the world, like the Taj Mahal, and feel hollowness amidst the swarms of people passing around me.   Or, I can be in a dark, empty, 10ft. x 10ft. room that sleeps 8 orphan girls on the floor in the conflict ridden region of Kashmir and feel profound joy as we goof and laugh together.  The how that I am referring to is connection.  We are social creatures.  I am continuing to learn that sincere happiness is cultivated from meaningful interactions we share with other beings.  Without such interactions, the most impressive places on this planet can feel empty of light.  However, with such connections, the most mundane setting can be laden with memories that will be cherished forever.

My 10 day tour of Northern India has been awe-inspiring. I have been blessed to meet some of the greatest people in the world over these last 10 days.  I will share my experiences and reflections regarding the amazing work that the NGO’s who have hosted me are doing in Agra, New Delhi, and Kashmir.  I encourage you to visit their websites to learn more (links embedded with their names).


AGRA: Wildlife SOS

WSOS bears-2Wildlife SOS (WSOS) has been featured on a lengthy special by BBC News for good reason.  They have 4 animal rehabilitation centers in India.  I visited their center in Agra, where they house over 240 sloth bears along with other animals.  The sloth bears have been captured by the Kalandar people of India for WSOS elephants2-2many decades for the purpose of street performing as dancing bears.  These bears are beaten, kept on a 4ft. rope, pierced with a large hook in the nose and ears, and forced to dance for street audiences.  The dancing bear has been a long tradition and source of income for the Kalandar people.  Now such abuse is illegal and WSOS has been responsible for peacefully rescuing over 600 bears in the last seven years.  An important aspect of their work is to provide rehabilitation to both the bears and their previous masters. The Kalandar people are not villain-ized for what they do as they do not understand the harm they are causing for the bears and ecosystem.  Instead, WSOS provides education and materials for the Kalandars to start new business ventures such as sewing and small convenient shops.  WSOS has taken into account the complexity of the problem and they have devised a comprehensive and effective solution.  Almost all of the dancing bears in India are now off the streets.  In addition to this, WSOS, rescues elephants, leopards, snakes, monkeys, and other animals from accidents and conflicts with humans.  I stayed in the middle of their wildlife refuge and came face to face with elephants, hyenas, boar, WSOS showmonkeys, sloth bears, antelope, and many other species.  They have all been rescued from dangerous situations.  Kartick, my friend, who is the co-founder of WSOS was not available because he was transporting 20 rescued leopards to one of their centers.  While there, I performed two shows for their numerous animal keepers.  Thank you to Baiju, Arpit, and Prathamesh for your hospitality during my visit.


While in Agra, I visited the Taj Mahal.  It is obviously one of the most incredible structures in the world.  It was built as an emperor’s token of love for his dying wife.  It took 15,000 people 20 years to complete the intricate marble inlay found throughout.  At first, I was inspired by the metaphor the Taj represents for the heart of the Indian people.  My romantic inspiration quickly darkened after learning that after its completion, the emperor ordered that both hands of all 15,000 laborers be cut off at the wrists in order to prevent the construction of any structure that would rival his own.  Now, in my mind, the Taj represents the full spectrum of India.  Yes, there is great talent and dedication amongst the majority of people here in India.  And like those laborers who lost their hands, these dedicated people are regularly suffocated by an intentionally ineffective system that is corrupted by those with greed for power.  It is an overwhelming and often atrocious reality.

WSOS elephants4

On a lighter note, while in Agra, I spent many hours playing with 7 elephants that have been rescued by Wildlife SOS.  Elephants are gentle giants, and although they eat 18 hours a day, they move with inspiring grace and intentionality.

WSOS elephants3-2


NEW DELHI: SRUTI (Society for Rural Urban & Tribal Initiative)

SRUTI connects the dots.  They provide resources (training and financial) via Delhi-2fellowships that are awarded to community leaders in 13 different states of India.  SRUTI’s model is based upon the understanding that those who live in challenged communities are better prepared to address shortcomings than someone from the outside.  Consequently, they support the work of local community leaders who are already doing fabulous work but need an Delhi 2extra push to be most effective.  I love their model because through their networking skills SRUTI is empowering leaders to make huge changes in their own communities.  Consequently, by not getting bogged down in the day-to-day grind, SRUTI can focus on the bigger picture and thus invoke great change in society.  SRUTI was recently featured on a national TV special called “The truth prevails” and were subsequently offered a $160,000 contribution from a major communication company, Reliance.  However, they turned it down because it had strings attached and the conditions would have sacrificed the integrity of their work.

Delhi 3I arrived in Delhi by train at midnight and was greeted with champagne to celebrate my host, Saurabh’s birthday.  Needless to say, Saurabh, his roommate, Vikash, and I had a great time exploring the city during his birthday weekend.  Thank you to Saurabh and Shweta for your generosity and friendship during my time in Delhi.


SRUTI show-2

SRUTI show2-2I performed two shows on behalf of SRUTI that were arranged by two of their fellows in different communities.  One of the shows was in a slum in the north of Delhi.  This slum began when the politicians displaced the current inhabitants from their original dwellings which were near the center of Delhi.  The politicians chose to abolish hutments in that sector and thus displaced thousands of families.  Now, these families, many as large as 15 people, live in government constructed concrete dwellings that are about 10ft. x 10 ft.  Often, the families use the enclosed space to cook and eat, and then they sleep outside as there is not enough space for all members inside.  Consequently, the situation has led many youth to the street life of violence and other negative behaviors.  My show was received with countless whistles, smiles, and laughs.  My time in their community reminded me that we all share something universal in our humanness.  I SRUTI ice creamthink that humans are inherently good.  However, people make poor decisions that harm others and cascade to other bad decisions based on initial pressures from their situational context.  After my show, I ran into one of my favorite whistlers on the street and he whistled me over to his push-cart cooler to gift me with a refreshing ice cream.

 SRUTI show3

KASHMIR: Borderless World Foundation

Kashmir is wild.  Being there felt as if I had time traveled back a few decades.  Kashmir has been sort of a no-man’s land since 1947 when Pakistan separated from India.  There was confusion about what to do with the region of Kashmir due to the divisiveness of the religions of Islam and Hindu.  About 25 years ago, political extremists took advantage of the unsettled border dispute in the form of militant groups.  This has led to extreme violence in the region.  This violence was created by the militant groups to serve their larger mission of gaining resources and control.  Although today, the violence is much less than it has been, it still exists and its potential is ever-present with the heavily armed soldiers posted at every corner.  The people of Kashmir have developed a dehumanized mantra of apathy – they have no country to identify with and this breeds a confusion of goals, identity, and motivation.  The militant groups have capitalized on this confusion and emotional volatility at the cost of many lives.  Commerce stays away from this beautiful, resource rich region due to its instability.  Thus, Kashmir unfortunately takes the experience of being in a developing nation to a new extreme.  Forget about internet.  Electricity is undependable outside of the cities of Srinagar and Jammu.  Clothes are washed in streams outside of homes.  The frigid snow-laden winters halt transportation and the little commerce that exists for 4 months each year.  In the small villages where the orphanages are located, the locals told me I was the only foreigner they had seen in their village.  It is a different world.

BWF beerwah2Borderless World Foundation (BWF) cares for 146 orphan girls at 4 different residences located throughout the region of Kashmir.  Many of these girls are children of militants. In particular, the Muslim region of Kashmir devalues the role of women in society.  At its inception, BWF became the only orphanage in Kashmir that opened its doors to females.  Consequently, militant groups have targeted BWF leaders for kidnappings and assaults as their work is contradictory to the militant mission of establishing power and control through fear.  Although the situation is more stable now than it has been in the past, the people of BWF risk their lives to care for these girls.  That is dedication.

I spent a total of 3 nights in 2 of the different orphanages.  The girls are absolutely BWF beerwahfabulous and some of them are even national award winning photographers.  This is thanks to my friend Nitin who is not only one of the directors of BWF, but is also a well-known professional photographer/filmmaker (2 photos courtesy of Nitin).  He began teaching the girls photography about 4 years ago.  I spent some quality time with the girls during those 3 Nitinnights and taught them some English and a few games to play.  Some of them asked to learn magic – would be great for MWB to return and offer a multi-day magic workshop for some of these wonderful girls.  The seed has been planted.  At the BWF residences, the living situation is very basic, but most importantly, the girls’ needs are being met and they are now safe.  Currently, BWF is working towards the next stage of their mission by guiding the girls to become well-educated, global citizens.  This is an immensely challenging undertaking considering the poor quality of education in the local schools.



Additionally, on April 2nd, BWF hosted their first ever community event which they called “Magic in Kashmir.”  They invited local families, school students, teachers, and even military officials to attend.  My visit prompted this event and it was a complete success.  It brought people together in community and important issues were discussed preceding my two magic shows.  Even an army general attended.  He was enthused about my magic and presence in the community.  In return, I kindly but firmly asked that he do everything in his power for peace.  He seemed to get it.  For me, that was worth the trip in of itself.  Thank you to Nitin and Sheikh for making my time in Kashmir truly unforgettable.


Also, I want to extend my sincere gratitude to Nimesh Bhai and Caring Friends for organizing and sponsoring my trip to these wonderful organizations.  It would not have been possible without your guidance and support.  May this merely be the beginning.


It’s about the how.  There is a difference between travel and tourism and I will choose travel any day.  I love and am grateful for the way in which volunteering for Magicians Without Borders has enabled me to travel.  Although it is nice to see wonderful places like the Taj Mahal, it is even better to spend quality time with the local people learning about their lives and the issues that are important to them while using magic as a means to connect.  I have compassionately sat with and listened to people who are dealing with immense suffering.  I have also shared laughter, magic, and subsequently planted seeds of hope with those same people.  As humans, suffering to some extent is inevitable, but what is most important is how we encounter such difficulties.  I believe magic helps illuminate that.  Time and time again, I am taken aback by the suffering so many endure.  Yet, I am inspired by their profound resilience.

The comforts of home and life in the United States scare me because comfort has a tendency to breed indifference.  It is impossible to be indifferent when you spend time in places like Kashmir.  I have been ruined.  Or maybe I have been saved – time will tell.  What I do know, however, is that I find true happiness in the sincere connections I make with those I meet (not only humans, elephants and other beings included).  The context forms the interaction that leads to connection, but is rather unimportant, because in the end, we all share the universality of wanting to meaningfully connect with each other.  How will you choose to connect?

WSOS elephants

The Tracks of Life

the tracks of life

The only constant is change as it fluidly moves us along the tracks of life.  It’s often more about the journey rather than the destination.  People come and go, day turns to night, and that’s the way it is.  The more we try to grip and control the more it seems to slip from our grasp.  Let the train gracefully take you away, wherever that may be.  Trust the process and let it be.  Maybe cliché, maybe not – whatever is will be and that’s purely up to you.  My train from Mumbai to Agra, where I will visit the Taj Mahal, has just pushed off and may be the culprit of this word purge.

prerana magic

I cannot believe I have already been here for a month.  My time in India is flying.  Teaching has been going wonderfully.  Our magic students are learning some basic sleight of hand and they are eager to learn more – the power of our hands becomes evident as we learn to skillfully make an ordinary pack of cards come alive with magic.  The girls have a big show on April 26th, and my friend, Peter the magician, will meet with them once or twice while I am away to help them prepare.  My English students are learning important vocabulary and eagerly practice the slang phrases I teach them such as “what’s up” when they greet me.  This week, I taught a basic first aid program to the staff and caretakers that work in each of the 4 residences that make up Prerana.  I was grateful to have the help of Mike Collins, our fire chief on Samish Island, who sent me some great powerpoints for basic first aid.  The presentation was really well received first aid trainingand it seemed important as many of the employees had not yet been exposed to performing CPR.  Prerana has requested me to teach a more basic, interactive session to the children.  This is a great way to connect my work with Magicians Without Borders to my career in medicine.


Speaking of medicine, after a 9 month application process, I finally know where I will be attending medical school this fall.  I will study Osteopathic Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, CA.  This was my second choice program and is ranked as the most selective osteopathic medical school in the country.  My first choice was to attend UW, but after my double interview for the TRUST Program, I was not accepted to the program.  Although disappointed by the rejection, I truly feel it is a blessing in disguise.  The UW was my first choice for what might have been the wrong reasons: huge financial savings from in-state tuition and a little more prestige.  I was a strong candidate and it was great to make it to the interview phase – I think the universe was sending me a message by my not getting accepted.   I am much more passionate about osteopathic medicine as I will not only become a fully licensed physician, I will also learn Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, which is soft tissue manipulation.  I will learn to heal with my hands.  And trust me, being a magician, I believe in the power of my hands.

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tata show2During the last month, my hands have delivered about 25 magic shows (with the help of my friends, Ashish the magician and my drummer friend, Kunal) to various charitable organizations throughout the city of Mumbai.  Performing magic is one of my favorite things in the world.  When I look into the faces of my audience in that sacred school show2moment of surprise, I see not only amazement, but I also see dreams being awakened.  I have had people ask me to make more money, to heal them, and to bless them with magic.  Although I do not have special powers other than the skills that I have developed from countless hours of practice, my skills can convince these people that the impossible is possible.   When their lives feel impossible, that glimmer of light, laughter, and hope can make all the difference.  I recently performed at Tata Memorial Hospital which is the largest and best free cancer center in India.  In India, there is health insurance.  Although medical care is significantly less expensive than in the United States, Indian citizens must pay for medical treatment out of pocket and many of their pockets are empty.  People come to Tata for free cancer treatment from all corners of India.  Their treatments often require them to stay in Mumbai for months.  The majority of these patients do not have the resources for a hotel or apartment, and most of them are illiterate.  Not only did they spend nearly all they have to travel to Mumbai, they will also loose months of income in the process, and this is multiplied by two because they need to have someone with them for care.  Many school showpatients at Tata end up on the street during the course of their treatment and street life is not conducive to battling cancer.  Fortunately, there are homes such as Tata House that provide greatly discounted housing for these people and their families.  With that said, there are hundreds of people that either can’t find a place in one of these homes or are not able to pay the very small fee.  It is a complicated situation and my show at Tata House was one of my favorites thus far.

For the past two weeks, I have been staying with a new family, Ravi, Kalyani, and their kalyanicat, Noisy.  They are tons of fun and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with them.  Ravi, with his British-Indian accent has an interesting fact or nugget of insight to share for just about every topic of conversation.  Kalyani has a gentle yet firm when necessary mothering quality to her.  She can get down in the kitchen like no other and she helps run a few group homes that support and mentor girls over 18 who have jobs, but not enough money to pay rent.  Many of these girls formerly lived at Prerana and are now too old to stay in the program.  And as for Noisy, well, her name speaks for herself.  We have grown to have a bitter-sweet fondness for one another despite her initial spite for me due to the fact that I took over her room.

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dharaviLast week, I spent a full day volunteering and learning in Sion Hospital’s health outreach center located in the heart of Dharavi slum, the largest slum in Southeast Asia.  After spending the morning in the mini slum hospital, I was offered to be taken around the slum in order gain a better understanding of the programs in place to serve the dire health needs of the community.  I was walked to and left with a group of volunteers at a different, much smaller outreach center.  They spoke very little English, and there was some confusion.  I was expecting a tour of the community.  They were expecting a magic show.  One of those volunteers had seen me performing at the hospital the previous week and he demanded that I “make miracles” for them.  I had nothing with me other than my cell phone and wallet.  After I accepted the fact that I was not going to get a community tour, we played some games and I did a few less than impressive tricks with my hands and coins from my wallet.  No matter how much I tried, I did not particularly enjoy myself that afternoon.  I consciously realized this impatience from within and tried to let go of the frustration, but it was fruitless.  It was difficult to communicate and they were asking for things I could not provide.  It was easier to accept the change of plans when later that day, I was invited to speak about the healing power of magic to the medical residents and professors at Sion Hospital.  After returning home and sharing this with Ravi, he said “you can’t have expectations in India.”  Maybe he is right.  At times it is wise to not have expectations.  This may have been one of those times.  On the other hand, expectations sion talkguide our ambitions and if we set the bar high enough, they can lead us to incredible places and experiences.  I think there is a balance to be found and that balance lies in flexible expectations and acceptance when things do not go according to plan.  I can articulate this easily.  Putting it into practice, however, is a much greater challenge.

the island city

I am at the beginning of my month-long journey to Agra, Delhi, Kashmir, and Nepal.  I will be doing a healthy mix of performing, sightseeing, and trekking.  In Nepal, I will be hiking the Annapurna circuit with my wonderful friends, Joe, Wendy, Scott, and Gabe.  What more could an adventure-seeker ask for?!  This is it.  I return from India on May 28th and will begin a summer medical school prep program in LA on June 16th.  My two years of wanderlust freedom will soon be in transition to the next chapter of my life.  Becoming a physician has been my aspiration since I was a young boy and I could not be more excited for this next phase to begin.  But not without first making the most of every moment here in India.  It’s time.  My train has come.  I hope to share a seat with you at some point along the tracks.  Enjoy the wild ride that your journey will take you on.  Remember that it is your choice to do so – at least to some extent.  Do well, live well, be well.  Namaste.

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For Your People

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As we embraced each other to part ways, Nimesh grabbed my hand and looked me straight on with his gleaming eyes as he said “Thank you for coming to my country.  Thank you for bringing smiles and laughter to children who normally don’t experience such joy.”   They do not know my secret – I get as much, if not more joy, from those children, than they get from me.  That’s how this world works – it’s about energy.  The more love, passion, and energy we put out, the more we receive in return.  That return is exponential.  It is hard to describe what it feels like to have a crowd of children who come from situations of despair giggling at my silly antics and googling at the magic they see unfolding in my hands.  For those sacred moments, we are one – we understand each other at a profound level as we come together and share something extraordinary despite our differences.

lord harris

deaf school4This is a picture of me attempting to breakdance with some boys after a show at a deaf school.  Most of these students live in Mumbai’s numerous slums.  Since they could not express their excitement with words, we shared that excitement with the expression of dance. Unlike myself, they jumped and flipped with monkey-like control.  That was one of the many sacred moments I have                                                                             been fortunate to share.

this guyI cannot believe it’s only been two weeks since my arrival in India.  Since my last post, I have performed 12 shows, taught 3 English classes, and one magic class.  I also got my first dose of food poisoning, met with my good friend, Vikas, on his Mumbai layover (we played tennis nearly every day during my summer at Clemson doing research with the NSF), and I have met many new friends as well.

The girls I teach English and magic to at Prerana are AMAZING.  It is a dream come true to finally be with them.  They are sweet, dedicated, and eager to learn.  I am so proud of the wonderful young women they are becoming.  I am confident that they will not follow their mothers’ footsteps.  I hope to share some photos soon, but am challenged by strict photo limitations set by Prerana for their security.  Let me assure you, their charm will win you over at first sight.

The shows are going great.  Yesterday, I was accompanied by a wonderful magician, borges homeAshish, whom I met at the magic shop last week.  He has a wonderful heart and is a talented magician and is eager about sharing his time and expertise with Magicians Without Borders.  He will be joining me for a few more shows this week.  On Saturday, Kunal, a professional percussionist will accompany me for two of my shows.  I’m making great connections with truly inspiring people and I am touched by the generosity and talent of the people I meet.

Since my arrival in India, I have been thoroughly impressed with the level of intellect and emotional intelligence within the Indian people.  Even those who hold the most basic jobs seem to possess a gifted and depthful understanding of how the world works.  This observation has left me wondering.

ortho wardLast Wednesday, I spent a full day performing and touring Sion Hospital, which is the first trauma and cancer center accessible when entering the city.  Thus, they receive patients from all over the country and region who cannot receive treatment elsewhere.  I am impressed by the expertise of the physicians and the quality of care that is offered despite the severe lack of resources.  That lack of resources is severe and it exists throughout the country.  Patients sleeping on the dirty floor because there are no hospital beds.  Banana leaves being used to treat burn wounds.  A family of 10 sleeping shoulder to shoulder in a 10ft x 10ft tin or plastic shack. Home of the largest slum in Southeast Asia.  How can it be that in a country where impressive education, intelligence, and wealth exists, there is also such extreme poverty?  Why are there so many needs that are not and cannot be met?

My host mom, Bharati answered my questions without hesitation.  It is the result of overpopulation and a corrupt government.  There are too many people – to put it in perspective: India has 1/3 the landmass of the United States, but it’s population is about 4 times that of the United States at just over 1.2 billion people.   Additionally, those in power strive to maintain that power and keep the bulk of the resources to themselves. Citizens do their part: many individuals make it their life’s work to overcome, or at least minimize these disparities.  There are a plethora of NGO’s, free schools, and free hospitals.  I am inspired by these people – they give endlessly to a flawed system knowing that although they cannot change it, they have the potential to change the lives of those they work with.  Still, so many needs are not met.  The resources too scarce.  The population too large.  The power to concentrated.  The need too immense.  It’s overwhelming and often paralyzing.  It’s hard to accept and it’s in my face every single day.  Despite this, I feel grateful to be doing what I’m doing because the seeds of hope I am planting have the potential of flourishing into vibrant flowers.

deaf schoolMy friend, Nimesh, and I were parting after spending two hours together excitedly planning my upcoming trip to northern India.  Before my 2 week Annapurna Circuit trek in Nepal with my adventuring college friends, I will spend 10 days in Agra (Taj Mahal), New Delhi, and the Kashmir region.  While part of the motive is sightseeing, the driving force is magic.  I will be performing for communities connected with the various NGO’s I met at the conference put on by Caring Friends.  Nimesh is one of the directors of Caring Friends.  He is a busy man in high demand.  Without solicitation, he has offered to not only sponsor but to also organize the logistics of my trip.   Wow!  Like I said, I am touched by the generosity of spirit here in India.

Nimesh is grateful I’m here in his country.  I’m grateful to be here.  There is nothing I would rather be doing with my time right now.  Yes, Nimesh, I’m here for “your people,” who are really Our People.  We share this planet; let’s take care of each other.

deaf school3

Do the Head Bobble

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Do the head Bobble.  It looks a bit like that Ken Griffey, Jr. bobble head they used to give out before the Seattle Mariners game at the Kingdome.  To say the least it can be a bit confusing, as many things are to a westerner like me during his first days in India.  On my first day, I felt out of place and overwhelmed by the newness I was so eager to experience.  They often appeared to be saying no with a bob of their head when they actually meant yes.  Now, a week in, I’m beginning to settle (overcoming the 13.5 hour jetlag) and understand at least a few of the many intricacies of Indian culture and society.

20140227 0224IMG_2133The magic is taking off like wildfire and I could not be more excited.  On my second day, I was already grateful for the opportunity to escape the horns and bustle of Mumbai for a trip to Matheran, about 3 hours Northeast of the city.  I met some of the most wonderful people I have ever met there.  It was a conference for NGO leaders from every corner of India – truly incredible people who do amazing humanitarian work on a VERY large scale. These are the humanitarian leaders of the country.  The group is called Caring Friends and it is comprised of extremely wealthy donors who unite NGOs that do outstanding work.   Some examples –  A doctor who works with malnourished children in hundreds of rural villages; the government has tried to put him in jail multiple times, a couple who practices Gandhian teachings and offers education to thousands of garbage scavengers in the slums, Wildlife SOS rescues elephants and other animals from poachers all over the country, a 26 year old guy who has been working for 10 years in Kashmere to rescue orphan girls from militant groups – he and others now care for about 120 orphan girls; this guy is a legend – he has been kidnapped 17 times and had AK 47s held to his head for his work, the list goes on… This conference was an enriching experience and I witnessed profound faith in action, unmatchable collaborative support networks, and finessed expertise in the leaders’ respective fields. Trying to explain this in words does an injustice.  It was truly an honor to be there on my 3rd day in the country.

They gave me a 15 minute slot to perform in Matheran.  After my performance, I had an20140226 2256IMG_2123 overwhelming amount of invitations to travel to every corner of the country in order to perform for the communities that these wonderful humanitarians serve – all of them offered to pay my expenses.  These 3 months will go fast.  I would love to take them up, but it will be tough because plans are beginning to take off here in Mumbai and I do not want to get spread too thin as the focus of our work is with our students at Prerana.

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20140301 2208IMG_2151The logistics of how I will be spending my time here are coming together incredibly well.  I had the week to get my bearings, and do some visits for birthday parties at orphanages that Our Children collaborates with.  Tomorrow, the games truly begin.  I will be teaching English on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Prerana to two groups of 14 girls – all of whom are daughters of sex workers.  20140301 2325IMG_2177Saturday afternoons, we will have our magic club with our 12 wonderful students – about half of whom are already seasoned performers.  On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I will perform an average of 2 shows/day at various hospitals, orphanages, and non-profits in and outside of the city.  I will also have performances scheduled for the mornings of Tuesdays and Thursdays before I head to Prerana which is in New Bombay (about an hour Northeast of the island city).  All of these shows are being coordinated by our incredible support network, Our Children – they work hard to unite orphanages and NGO’s throughout the city.  And with a couple of phone calls, they can arrange as many shows as I can perform.  Needless to say, I sense that these 3 months are going to fly by.

20140303 1016IMG_2197The leaders at Our Children not only arrange our shows, but they have welcomed me as their own son.  I am filled with gratitude for their warmth and generosity.  I am currently staying with Bharati and Mukesh, who are trustees for Our Children.  Mukesh is a CPA who constantly battles systemic corruption and Bharati helps at his office, is a trustee for Our Children, and manages another trust that gives non-binding loans to underprivileged students.  She has become my mother here and carefully supports and oversees the details of my life as it unfolds  – from my food, to my transportation , to my shows, and even my laundry, she makes sure it always works out.  She rarely lets me lift a finger to help.  I do not know how she does it with all of the other responsibilities she has.  Mukesh and I enjoy walks to a nearby park in the morning and he inspires me with his frequent laughter and thoughtful questions.

20140303 0437IMG_2183With only a week under my belt, I am feeling confident about finding support from the magician community to meet with our magic students on a regular basis.  We are discussing the possibility of hiring one of our students, Kavita, who is now 19 and beyond her time at Prerana to facilitate the club on a weekly basis.  With Kavita’s help, we will still aim to find a magician or two to teach at least once or twice a month to keep the energy up.   Last night, I met with a magician, Peter, who is a childhood friend of Dhiren, whom I met at the Caring Friends conference.  Peter was great – and he already performs magic when he travels all over Asia and Africa trekking and being a professional wildlife photographer among many of his other talents.  He connected with what we do because he already does it!  Peter will be attending a magic class at Prerana in the next two weeks.  Today, I visited Patil’s Magic Shop and shared the idea with Patil, whom contracts shows throughout the city.  From my understanding, Patil runs the professional magic scene here and is familiar with what we do from previous visits by Tom.  Patil was enthusiastic about helping us find some magicians to help us with our mission.  Once again, thank you for your generous support of my work here in India.  I would not be able to do this without you.

20140303 0502IMG_2184A few intriguing bits from India: On the back of every truck are the words “Honk OK Please.”  I have asked many different people about this and no one seems to know why, but it’s there.  And so are the horns.  Everyone honks at everyone, sometimes they even honk at no one.  The food: it’s flavorful and mostly delicious, although they are sometimes pushy about making me eat until I feel like my stomach will explode.  We eat on stainless steel dishes and use our hands for eating utensils; I love that. The driving: it’s absolutely insane, and driving on the left side definitely twists up my brain.  It’s strange to get into the left side of a car and be a passenger.  The dress: women are so elegant in their colorful saris. The greeting (hello and goobye): A smile and “Namaste” as one puts her hands together and bows her head.  Lastly, but probably most importantly, that uniquely difficult and confusing head bobble:

The more head bobbles I receive, the more connected I feel.  While the Indians are busy wagging their heads at me, I am frenetically bobbing my head in every possible direction as I roam the busy streets and am overtaken by the sensory input overload.   One week has passed.  I am adjusting.  Shows are booked.  Classes are arranged.  Magicians have been met.  Cricket has been played.  Food (lots) has been eaten.  Meaningful connections have been made.  I yet to scratch the surface. Magic on – Do the head bobble!

Adventure Time

eagle perch

Welcome back! I’ve missed you.  I hope you like my new website banner thanks to my sister, Breanna for the photos and my good friend, James Walters for the design.  It’s been a good stint back in the states: applying to medical school, appearing on national television, re-learning the violin, connecting with friends and family, and taking in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest (the bald eagle is my spirit animal and that tree is very near my house).  Now, it’s adventure time.


suit time I’m ready – I feel as if the last 7 months have been a big buildup to this very moment.  India has been on mind since I returned from Colombia and it constantly got pushed further back due to the demanding process of applying to medical school.  Now that’s behind me.  Game on.  I will either attend the University of Washington (MD Program) or Western University of Health Sciences (DO) program.  I recently interviewed at UW and am awaiting further information.  I am looking forward to knowing where I will continue my journey to becoming a physician.  I am enthusiastic about dedicating my career to working with medically underserved communities both locally and abroad.

I am filled with gratitude for the generous and enthusiastic support of my fundraising efforts.  Between the Indiegogo campaign and individual contributions, my work for Magicians Without Borders in India has been supported by over 60 different donors contributing a grand total of $3,696.  That is a lot of people and a large sum of money.  Thank you for believing.  I feel so blessed.

Our students in Colombia continue to thrive!! We are grateful to Carlos Lopez who keeps our students learning, engaged, and passionate.  Check out this video he made to showcase what our students have been learning!


PriankaUpon my arrival in India, I will begin weekly magic classes with our students from Prerna whom are daughters of sex workers from the brutal brothels of Mumbai.  Prerna focuses on putting an end to second generation sex trafficking and has found that without intervention, 70% of these girls will go into the sex trade themselves.  We partner with Prerna to intervene with magic.  Also, I am already set up to spend Wednesday afternoons performing in the pediatric ward of Sion Hospital in Mumbai.  Additionally, I will visit Parapeligic Foundation, a rehabilitation center on a weekly basis.   All of this has been planned with the help of the founders of Our Children, a non-profit that we collaborate with that works with children in many orphanages and hospitals throughout Mumbai.  In my spare time, I will frequent Patel’s Magic Shop and attend meetings with the Mumbai Chapter of the International Brotherhood of Magicians in order to make connections with Mumbai magicians.

Not only this, but the founders of Our Children have generously offered to host me during my stay – I will be staying with 4 different families over my 3 month visit.  We are grateful for their generosity and warmth.  I am confident that living with these people who have dedicated the second half of their lives to humanitarian work will add meaningful depth and connections to my time in India.  I am grateful to know that I will have somewhere safe, comfortable, and friendly to return to after long days in the chaos of Mumbai.  It’s also comforting to know that someone will be picking me up at the airport!

I was recently featured in an article by The Jesuit Post – click here to read the article (written by my former Biology Lab Professor).

Thank you for choosing to accompany me while I’m in India.  I look forward to sharing the adventure and learning that await.  I am looking forward to newness.  I have never been anywhere like or near India.  I look forward to learning with our magic students, performing in orphanages and hospitals, making new friends, flavorful Indian food, trekking in Nepal with college friends, and to feeling out of place almost everywhere I go.  New sights, new sounds, new smells, new sensations – a sensory splurge into an unfamiliar world.  This is it. Adventure time.

hawks celebration

Bringing it Together

guajiraaAs I crammed myself into the back of the TransMilenilo bus like a sardine, a guy repping a white t-shirt, pony-tail, and a backpack on his chest with a speaker connected to a microphone began laying down his lyrics to a beat.  Within 30 seconds of this, a well-dressed man interrupted the performance claiming that “the bus was meant to get people from point A to point B, not for delinquents to disrupt the peace.”  At this point, the public on the bus began shouting in support of the hip hop artist.  He began his performance again, only to be disrespectfully interrupted shortly after by the same man.  Again, the public shot down the man and urged the performer to continue.  Then, the pony-tailed hip hopper challenged the man to a rap dual.  To everyone’s astonishment, the well-dressed man pulled a microphone out of nowhere and joined in on the performance.  Absolutely brilliant.  This was by far the best “bus performance” I have ever seen.  These street performers engaged the public in a unique and surprising way and consequently received a great deal of attention, respect, and tips.  They creatively brought two extremes into one cohesive and entertaining performance.

BogsAfter stepping foot on the ground in Bogotá again, I was overcome with a strange sense of familiarity.  It was different.  No, it was the same.  I was different.  I was no longer Rian (Re-Ahn), my Colombian self when I departed, but was returning as Ryan, my Gringo self.  Under the inquisitive observation of my naked eyes, little had changed in the 5 months after my departure from this massive city of 10 million.  However, I felt different – no longer in the Rian groove.  Back again, on behalf of Magicians Without Borders in order to revisit Magic Project that we began with a dream just over a year ago.

bellashow2On my second full day back in the Bogs, Carlos and I made the lengthy trek to our magic club at Bella Flor in Ciudad Bolivar.  The children had no idea I was returning.  As I hid out of sight behind the bookshelf, our magic students trickled into the room.  They were begging Carlos to take them to the hospital to perform.  I smiled.  Carlos began to teach bellashow1them a new trick – awakening the spirits: the students closed their eyes as I made spooky noises from my hidden perch.  Soon after this, we were happily reunited and the kids eagerly began to show me what they had been learning: the egg bag, magic with silks, sleight of hand with cards, clever mind tricks.  Needless to say, I was impressed!!

Our magic club at Bella Flor now has 6 new students.  These students are taught by the veteran students.  Each Monday, the veteran students meet with Carlos for class or to perform at the hospital.  Each Tuesday, the older students meet with the new students to teach them.  It is a wonderful opportunity for the old students to deepen their understanding of magic through teaching and it is great to have the new energy in the club.  Lately, there has been interest from some individual supporters of Bella Flor to hire our magic students to perform at private events for them.  Nothing has materialized yet, as timing and transportation is complicated due to Bella Flor being so far from downtown Bogotá.  I trust it will happen soon, and this will be a big step for our flourishing students.


During my visit, we brought our Bella Flor magic students to the famous magic school of Richard Sarmiento in Bogotá.  This is the same magic school we were bringing our female students to before we ended our program with them.  It is also the most prestigious magic school in all of Latin America and is Colombia’s equivalent to the Magic Castle.  Our Bella Flor students had never been before because it is very far and richards2complicated to get them there.  Richard taught them himself and gave them many wonderful props and lessons.  The kids were in awe – and the class went so well that Richard invited them to return on a monthly basis! The logistics will be complicated, but we are going to do our best to make sure it happens.


halloshowIn addition to teaching magic, I performed a number of shows while there.  Two of which were on Halloween.  One of the Halloween shows I performed was for a foundation that offers services to children and adults with Autism.  My show with them reminded me once again what this is all about.  The environment was chaotic as everyone was excited and dressed up in costumes for Halloween.  During the show, one boy would jump out of his seat every few minutes run up to the stage and then return to his seat just as quickly.  Another boy kept trying to sneak up to get a peek in my magic case.  In the midst of the chaos, there was a lot of laughter, shouting, and clapping.  One girl in particular had a smile that gradually grew throughout the show.  By the end, her smile stretched from ear to ear.  As I was packing up my props to head to my next show, the special education teacher, Laura, came up to me in tears and told me that she had been working with this particular girl for many years and that this was the first time she had ever seen her smile.  That’s magic.


The other driving force for my 3-week return visit to Colombia was to visit Johanna.  It guajirawas so wonderful to see her!  We celebrated our one year anniversary and took a trip to Cabo de la Vela which is located in the state of La Guajira.  La Guajira makes up the northeastern tip of Colombia and is just north of Venezuela.  It is a breathtaking and fascinating place.  A humid dessert meets the Caribbean Sea and is accompanied by the rich Indigenous Wayuu wayuuculture.  The Wayuu way of life is different from the rest of Colombia.  They sleep in hammocks, make shoes from recycled tires and sewn cloth, use goats as economic currency, and have arranged marriages.  Obviously, their culture is much more profound than this laundry list, but it gives you an idea.  The Wayuu people have found a way to live in harmony with modern civilization without losing their tradition.  For example, Michel, the director of the Rancherria we stayed at has a college degree from a Bogotá university in public accounting.  He lived in Bogotá for 5 years, slept in a bed, and got his degree.  Now, back in the La Guajira, he uses his skills to run the family business: a “beach ranch” and restaurant.  He drove us around in their Land Cruiser, used his blackberry smart phone, but he still sleeps in a hammock, wears his recycled tire shoes, and barters using goats as currency.  Amazing.  Johanna and I thoroughly enjoyed our time together and we felt it was important for our relationship.


In addition to magic and Johanna, I visited Dr. Santiago and spent a day with him at his clinic and accompanied him while we recorded a program at the national radio station, 45Caracol.  I also visited the university I taught at and had lunch with some professors and the new language assistants.  Last year, I was the first and only native language assistant at the university.  This year there are three.  Ironically, one girl who is there on behalf of the British Council is living in the exact same apartment that I lived in during the first half of last year!  She came upon it completely independent of any connection to me.  We could not get over the odds that not only did we live in the same apartment, but we taught at the same university.

While in Colombia, I also received some exciting news.  I am officially going to be a doctor!  I have been accepted to Western University of Health Sciences Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Program in Los Angeles, California.  Western U’s DO school is one of the oldest and highest achieving in the country.  This news is a huge weight off my shoulders and it now allows me to be in the driver’s seat of my future career as a physician.  I have overcome the most challenging hurdle to becoming a doctor which is getting accepted to medical school.  I could not have done it by myself and I am deeply grateful to my parents, professors, mentors, and friends who have continuously supported me in the pursuit of my dreams.


I am currently on the plane making hot tracks back to Seattle.  After a month straight of being on the go between medical school interviews and Colombia, I am looking forward to getting back home.  During my 3 weeks back in Colombia, I began to ease back into my role as Rian.  Now, I am going to have to adjust to being Ryan once again.  It feels like a lot of bouncing back and forth between identities.  As I continue to grow and learn I hope to more cohesively meld these two identities into one identity just as those hip hop artists did so masterfully. I will be RiRyan, or more simply, Ryan.



2013-09-13 13.57.04This summer has been about reconnecting with my roots.  Remembering how I came to be the person I am.  It has been challenging at times and peaceful at others.  It’s all about balance, right?  Coming back from having the most incredible year of my life has set the bar ambitiously high for this year.  Yet, I am optimistic about how everything is shaping up.

I am pleased to share that I will be returning to Colombia for 3 weeks on behalf of Magicians Without Borders this October.  I am looking forward to reconnecting with the life I created there.  I am especially looking forward to seeing the Bella Flor children, Carlos, and of course, Johanna.  Although most of my visit will be dedicated to checking up on the progress of the Magic Project, Johanna and I are also planning a short trip to Guajira, the northeast desert Caribbean coastline of Colombia.  Johanna and I are more in love than ever and are doing remarkably well despite the distance.  Knowing that we are going to see each other soon gives us something to look forward to and makes the February end date much less daunting.

Carlos has done an incredible job continuing the project after I left.  Unfortunately, we lost three of our Bella Flor students due to changing class schedules or family problems that prevented them from going to the foundation.  However, Carlos is in the process of selecting five more children to join.  Our veteran magician students will then teach these new students everything they have been learning this past year.  Our budding magicians are eager to pay it forward through their teaching and this absolutely delights me.  Additionally, the club continues to perform at Vista Hermosa Hospital on a regular basis.

The magic club at Findesin has come to a close.  For a magic club to be successful, it requires some level of dedication from the children.  Carlos nor I were seeing much commitment from the girls during the month leading up to my departure.  Carlos remained patient for many months, but was not seeing any changes.  It was a tough decision, but we decided to close the club because our efforts were not being reciprocated by the girls.  We can only do so much as facilitators of this work – the children have to invest in it as well.  For now, we are going to continue focusing our efforts on the Bella Flor growth and are keeping our antennae alert for the opportunity of establishing another club.

In addition to visiting the magic students and performing at the hospital, Carlos and I are working together on putting together some special events.  Some great plans are brewing, but I will hold my tongue (or in this case, typing fingers) for now.

I recently had an article I wrote about my experience published in Gonzaga Magazine.  Click here to read the article.

Please join me in revisiting my experience in Colombia with this brief slide show (produced by Gonzaga Magazine):


I spent most of the summer cranking hard on my medical school applications.  That is why I haven’t written in so long!  I just sent off the last of my secondary applications and am now playing the waiting game for interview invitations.  I am enthusiastic about every school I am applying to (for different reasons) and I am curious to see how my future unfolds.  For the more immediate future, plans are still in full swing for me to spend a few months in India this spring.  My time there will be dedicated to working with and teaching magic to adolescent daughters of sex trade workers in Mumbai.  MWB has been working with these young women intermittently for 3 years and I look forward to being with them for an extended period of time.  I hope to connect with the magician community in Mumbai as I did in Bogotá in order to continue the program in a more sustainable way.  It is very likely that Johanna will be joining me for this and she will spend her time doing medical mission work.

Although it is slowing a little now that summer is winding down, I have been performing a good bit of magic.  We have had some excellent shows this summer and I hope to keep them going through the fall.

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By grinding through all these applications I have reconnected in a refreshing way with the driven individual I am.  Now, after having wrapped up my applications, I am able to reconnect with the incredible people I know and the jaw-dropping beauty of the Pacific Northwest.  Some highlights include hiking to the mystical Mt. Baker, wakeboarding on Lake Whatcom as the sun sets, making a Spokane trip to visit Gonzaga friends and professors, and kayaking to camp on a nearby island.  Getting outside and being present to the world around me has been a reminder of the relative insignificance of my own melodrama.  This melodrama exists solely within the confines of my head and it will continue to come and go as the world does the same.  What is important is to be present, to reconnect.  When I do so, I notice the intentionality of a spider weaving its web or a fly exploring my presence in its habitat.  We are all here to connect in one way or another.

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To reconnect is to connect in a revitalizing way.

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