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 5: Back to Baglung

11 Jul

It had rained all night and it didn’t stop until about 6 am when we were supposed to have left. Instead we waited until 7 and the second jeep to take us the final 6 hours to Baglung. I was happy we’d be leaving (the jeeps don’t run if it’s rained too much) but I must say that relief was soon replaced with fear. When our driver started the engine, I looked over and saw him praying. This would not be the last time he called for a divine intervention.

As we waited for our jeep to leave in the morning, this little monkey (bandar in Nepali) kept us company.

At a particularly dangerous spot where another 4X4 had tumbled off the road along a steep curve in the mountain, he got out of the jeep to see if it was passable. When he was convinced (or hopeful) we’d make it, he got back in and again started praying. Let’s just say we had a few gods covered that day. But it wasn’t the most dangerous leg of the journey. Luckily that part was yesterday. One thing I noticed though was how incredibly young our driver looked. So I asked last night one of his buddies, who was along for the ride, how old his friend was.

Omkar, who translated the question to the kid, just started laughing and didn’t translate his reply right away. After some time he said, while still laughing, “He’s 17 and it was his first time taking passengers.”

What could I do but shake my head and smile.

I think that is why Nepal becomes such a spiritual place for people. Beyond the incredible Himalayas and mix of religions and ethnicities, you are always close to death (and the gods). It could be a tire exploding on a mountain road, a slip off a ledge on a trek, a mudslide, or one of the crazy bus rides between cities, but you realize that so much is determined by fate, coincidence or luck, which is usually translated for people as God.

This was the second time our 4X4 broke down and for good. Luckily it wasn’t on a steep or dangerous part of the trip. After a couple hours of sitting around, another jeep came to bring us home.

But I’m writing this and that means I’m safe – for now. I think I’ve come to understand Nepal better in the last few days. Rather than look at my sickness as something that hindered my trip, I think it has actually opened my eyes to a few things that I perhaps would not have fully grasped (like how great mules are that carry mineral water).

Baglung now seems like the developed world, with its electricity, cars, computers and internet. I guess this feeling will last until I go to Kathmandu, when Baglung will become like Nishi. Until then I’ll enjoy the luxuries of Baglung and contemplate further how best to make the Constituent Assembly a relevant and important part of people’s lives in the remote areas of the western hills region.

Posted By Tassos Coulaloglou

Posted Jul 11th, 2007

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