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An illustration adapted from a photo of Som Subedi. Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In 1991, Som Subedi fled Bhutan, a small Himalayan country that famously measures its economic output in units of "gross national happiness." His family was driven out by a series of royal edicts that resulted in the forcible expulsion of one-sixth of the country’s population. He was sent to a refugee camp in Nepal, beginning his almost 20-year odyssey.

"It was crazy," Subedi told Axios from Portland, Oregon, where he now lives, "not having enough to eat, just being under that leaky thatched roof. ... I still feel some of the heat coming into the hut and cold in the winter."

On June 19 of 2008, I came to this country with almost $10 and a plastic bag. And I started my life.
Som Subedi

What life was like:

  • In Nepal, refugees were not permitted to work, but Subedi's parents did so illegally — his dad on a farm and his mom spinning wool for around 30 cents a day — to provide for Subedi and a younger sister who was born in the camp.
  • His younger sister raised chickens so that she could buy books.
  • Subedi’s family tried to return to Bhutan, but in 2006, when the Bush administration announced they would resettle tens of thousands of Bhutanese refugees, Subedi began the long process that would bring him to the United States. "I feel like sometimes I'm one of the most vetted persons on the planet."
  • The financial crisis welcomed Subedi to the U.S. Many in the refugee community could not face the turmoil and committed suicide, Subedi said.

How it is now:

  • Subedi is now married with children, owns a house and a car (a "red hot Mustang"), works in local government and co-founded a sports organization for foreign-born families called Parks for New Portlanders.
  • When asked about the misconceptions Americans have of refugees, Subedi says people tell him that America needs to find more refugees like him. “And I say no. In 2008, nobody knew. I had $10 in my pocket and a plastic bag."

Go deeper

Updated 8 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

10 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.