Audio Recording of Interview
Hari Pyakurel shares his story of fleeing political disturbances and religious oppression in Bhutan during the late 1980s to find shelter in a Nepali refugee camp and eventually resettle in the United States. He describes his cultural adjustments both in Nepal and in the U.S., the difficulties he faced finding work, and his family’s connection to their Hindu religious identity.
Other interviews of this person can be found below:
Narrator: Hari Pyakurel
Location: Columbus, OH
Content Warning: Military violence
Summary: Hari Pyakurel shares his story of fleeing political disturbances and religious oppression in Bhutan during the late 1980s to find shelter in a Nepali refugee camp and eventually resettle in the United States. He describes his cultural adjustments both in Nepal and in the U.S., the difficulties he faced finding work, and his family’s connection to their Hindu religious identity.
Topics: Childhood, conditions back home, cultural adjustment, employment, family, historical context, immigration process, race, religion, violence, education
Section 1: (00:00-12:11)
Childhood, conditions back home, historical context - Talks about conditions in his home country of Bhutan in the late 1980s and early 1990s that prompted his family to seek refuge in Nepal, India because of violence surrounding divisions between Southern and Northern Bhutanese where many southerners were forced to adopt northern customs and religions that brought about military force, torture, and bombings. His entire family fled to Nepal gradually during this period of instability. He vividly recounts the government of Bhutan snatching identifying documents from his family while declaring that they were now non-citizens upon their departure in July 1992.
Conditions back home, cultural adjustment- Speaks about reaching the rainy, muddy Nepal refugee camp and living in a hut with some materials supplied by the UNHCR for the entirety of the village. He shares how living in the camp was difficult and filled with scarcity and deficiency since he was accustomed to gardens full of plenty to eat back in Bhutan which was a stark contrast to the bucket of rice and lentils he ate everyday in Nepal since his family would have had to pay for fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
Education, race, family- Hari talks about schooling within the camp where classes were conducted in outdoor environments under trees and tin roofs until passing the grade 10, after which he went to Biratnagar to finish high school. Further, he details how he completed a Bachelor in Business from Biratnagar Nepal while having to work to pay for tuition and ultimately completed a Masters in Business Studies in 2006 from the same university. He shares how his degrees helped him combat racism in the Nepali communities where his family tried to not say they were from Bhutan since it made employment opportunities hard to find. Ultimately, Hari was able to give money back to his parents and marry a wife to begin his own family in Nepal.
Section 2: (21:11-31:31)
Immigration process - Shares how the opportunity to immigrate to the States came from an American initiative to accept 60,000 Bhutanese Nepali refugees, which he initially thought was a rumor. The journey was long as he recounts flights from Sondra Guddi, Nepal to Kathmandu, then New Delhi to Belgium, and Belgium to the States in Denver, Colorado all while his wife was pregnant.
Cultural adjustment, employment- Talks about feelings of regret, frustration, and depression when coming to the States since he saw that there was unemployment and racism that existed here too. Additionally, Hari did not know how to drive and had a difficult time finding transportation and employment. Ultimately, his family began to feel settled and accustomed to the style of life and the economic systems.
Section 3: (31:32-39:13)
Employment, cultural adjustment - Continues speaking about his journey with finding a job in Colorado Springs, which he notes is not a large city where not many jobs were available. Though, he found a job at Whole Foods Market that paid more money than he or his family were expecting while being a paid interpreter for immigrants. Hari shares how his family moved to Columbus, Ohio in 2014 after his daughter had health issues from the Colorado environment,
Religion, childhood - Discusses how his family is technically Hindu and the rituals his family did in his youth like teaching the spiritual meaning of holy objects like guitars, Bora Bora, and books.