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."

Introducing the Banda

11 Jun

While I was lying in bed, trying to fall asleep, my mind raced in anticipation of the day ahead. I was finally going to Baglung to see my new home for the next couple months.

Talk of a banda (strike) was circulating the day before but by that evening, COCAP director Vijay gave us the all clear. As I finally fell asleep at 2am I could hear the pounding of the rain outside my window. I woke up only a few hours later, one hour before my alarm was to go off, but bright eyed and rearing to go.

I finished my packing, hailed a cab outside my apartment, and was 30 minutes early to the COCAP offices to meet Anil, a volunteer who was accompanying me to the bus stop and who had picked me up from the airport days before.

When the taxi driver dropped me off outside the gates of the offices, there was a four inch deep pond blocking my entrance to the building. With a heavy backpack, my computer bag in front and another bag in my hand, I decided I’d wait outside the gates for Anil. A friendly neighbor insisted on ringing the bell and eventually Anil made his way to the window.

“Hello,” he said.

Namaste (hello),” I answered. “Maybe we go now to the bus.”

“No bus today, Banda,” was his reply.

I couldn’t believe it. He must have the wrong information. That was old news. He obviously didn’t hear that the strike was averted by last minute discussions with the government.

“No, no. No banda today. Vijay said yesterday no banda,” I insisted in my most broken English.

But of course, I was the one with old information. In the time it took to cancel one strike the night before, a new one had sprung up in its wake. I was even lucky to find a taxi driver this morning.

On the way back home, I had to haggle with three cabbies before I finally convinced one to bring me for only two and half times the normal fare. The others wanted four times. I was learning how quickly things change in nepal, especially bandas.

Only a few days before, AP Peace Fellows Jeff and Mark were told an indefinite strike in a district between Kathmandu and their focal point offices in the west meant the roads were closed. But good news came on Sunday. The government and the Maoist were discussing the matter. The 5 day strike was over.

Unfortunately, this is how life works here in Nepal. Strikes are frequent, unannounced and almost instantaneous. According to a recent newspaper editorial, bandas cost Nepalis millions of dollars a year in lost wages and revenue. So is it worth it? Do the political gains outweigh the monetary costs? For the average Nepali, who doesn’t make much to begin with, does having a voice or affecting politics mean more than money? Especially after the political elite have failed them for so long?

Posted By Tassos Coulaloglou

Posted Jun 11th, 2007

1 Comment


    September 20, 2007



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