Tassos Coulaloglou

Tassos Coulaloglou (Collective Campaign for Peace – COCAP): Tassos was born and raised in New Jersey. He attended the University of Wisconsin (UW) and graduated with his BS in Political Science in 2001. Tassos spent one year studying abroad at Utrecht University in Holland while in his final year at UW, After graduation, Tassos moved to Lithuania to become a freelance journalist and teach high-school history and English as a second language. In 2004, he returned to the States to work as a team leader with the League of Conservation's Envirovictory political campaign in Milwaukee. He returned to Eastern Europe the following year and resumed writing before starting graduate school. At the time of his fellowship, Tassos was studying for a Master's degree in International Relations and Diplomacy offered jointly by Leiden University and the Clingendael in Holland. After his fellowship, Tassos wrote: “...now in class, I try to break the Euro/America-centric positions that seem to dominate and ask what the Nepali view would be…this fellowship pushed me to understand a people, to think in their terms."

Day 2: The Hike

03 Jul

If a donkey doesn’t carry it, then it’s a human and often it’s women doing the most back breaking work. Imagine if everything you brought home had to be carried on foot for a whole day first.

If yesterday was a test of nerves, today it was endurance; eleven hours of hiking with expensive sandals that destroyed my feet (I ended up buying a much better pair for $1.25 about eight hours in). It was another scorcher as well, but every time I’d get worn down I’d stop, remove my waterproof boots for hiking, and look around. The countryside in the hills is breathtaking and rejuvenating. Whether it was the ups and downs through the hills, the astounding array of greens from rice patties to pine trees, or the women in their red, green, magenta or pink dress, there was always something to catch your eye.

All along the way, we followed the river which supplies the farmlands and terraced rice paddies. With monsoon season coming, it’s the time of year for planting rice.

Or you could merely focus on the foot and mule traffic: Nepalis (many times kids or elderly women) carrying ridiculously heavy loads on steep hill paths.

Those are our umbrellas in the background to shade us from the heat.

We also passed through dozens of small hamlets tucked into the side of hills or spread along the river in the valleys below.

When we did finally reach Nishi it was a bit anti-climactic. Everyone put down their bags in front of a tiny shop, something we normally did during our rest breaks. I turned to Yogendra and asked how much longer we had until Nishi.

“Last stop on our final destination,” he replied.

Exhausted and in pain, the phrasing confused me.

“So are we here or is this our last stop before Nishi?”

“No, we’re here,” he said with a huge grin.

Why weren’t they running to a bed, I wondered. So I took a seat next to them. Soon the crowd started to gather as they had in all the villages when news spread that foreigners were afoot. They were mostly children, and luckily I have no language barrier with kids, so I started to make friends right away.

I passed out candies and the smiles started to appear instantly. But I was having difficulty reciprocating that warm and fuzzy feeling. My stomach was upset about something and I suspected the river fish we had at lunch. Some of the guys went to wash up before entering the guesthouse/restaurant/convenience store/barn we were staying in. I joined and got a better picture of our Nishi.

Here are the kids smiling and enjoying the candies.

The people around Nishi are ethnic Magars, a Tibeto-Burmese people that represent a little less than 10 percent of the Nepali population. They predominately live in the western and central hills region and like so many of the Nepal’s ethnic groups, they have their own language, traditions, and culture. All of my fellow traveling companions, except Yogendra, are also Magars, which you can tell by their last names (it designates your caste). When you hear about the famous Gurkha soldiers of the British Army, you are mostly talking about the ethnic Magars.

The village of Nishi is situated in a rather large valley among the hills. The actual houses occupy a small portion of the land, with terraced rice paddies taking up most of the space. Once back, we entered our new home. It is a two stories stone house washed in red clay with three windows facing the street on the second floor. The main door leads you down a dark hallway and once through, you find a staircase leading up to the living quarters and kitchen.

Up the stairs you come to a small anteroom with two benches and table. To the right is the kitchen. This consists of a small clay covered rock hearth for cooking. No gas stove here, only wood which means the house almost constantly smells of smoke. When we first passed, you could barely see to the back of the room as the lady of the house was cooking up a smoke storm. Back through another small corridor toward the front of the house and you enter into the guest quarters. There are 4 wooden cots with a thin mat on top. The whole second floor also has covered in red clay, which makes you wonder what exactly constitutes dirty in this context?

Here is the kitchen, with red clay “stove”. Here is the family getting dinner prepared. The camera’s flash lit up the room but really there was only the light from the kerosene lamp.

I put down my bag and pulled out my journal. With no electricity in the village, I only had about 30 minutes left of light. I’m looking forward to the program tomorrow that starts at 10 am. It will be interesting to see how many villagers will show up. The literacy rate in the village is 19.5 percent. I can’t imagine they pay too much attention to politics. Kathmandu seems about as far away as Washington, DC from here. I can see why so many interest groups and political parties are calling for a federal constitution with a decentralized central government. How can you expect to run the country from what really is a world away in Kathmandu? I wonder what the villagers think.

Here Yogendra is getting out of bed. Omkar is in the background not feeling so well.

Posted By Tassos Coulaloglou

Posted Jul 3rd, 2007


  • krishna khadka

    April 12, 2008


    now i am in macau,iam very happy because the photo will b remembering me my hometown so i want to thanks for holeteam,

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