Mark Koenig

Mark Koenig (Collective Campaign for Peace – COCAP): Mark was born in St. Louis, Missouri. After graduating from the International School of Bern in Switzerland in 2000, he spent one year at Davidson College in North Carolina and then moved on to Johns Hopkins University where he received a bachelor's degree with honors in Political Science in 2004. While studying at Johns Hopkins, Mark completed internships with genomics researcher Craig Venter, US House Representative Chris Van Hollen, and in London with Lady Sylvia Hermon, a Member of Parliament from Northern Ireland. After graduation, Mark moved to Shenzhen, China where he lived for two years teaching English at Shenzhen Senior High School. At the time of his fellowship, Mark was studying at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Boston focusing on post-conflict reconstruction, law and development. After his fellowship, Mark wrote: “I think that perhaps it is my interest in and understanding of community level dynamics and activities that has developed the most while here. The significance of community level interactions and relationships as it pertains to the events that take place on a national level is an intriguing topic that this summer has given me new insight into.”

Lala and Sunkeshari Tharu

26 Aug

LaLa Tharu and his wife Sunkeshari wanted a son, they ended up with 9 daughters. This was one of the first things Lala told me once we met. When my friend and translator Krishna and I arrived at his house many of his girls were running in and out of the house.

While Lala does not hide his disappointment at not having a son, he also does not hide his pride at the way his daughters have grown up. Five daughters have already finished High School and four are married. He has two more daughters in High School and two in middle school. They are all doing well, working hard and making their parents very proud.

Putting 9 daughters through High School is no small feat for a man from a rural village in Nepal and Lala has needed help. Luckily one of his daughters was awarded a scholarship from a NGO doing education support, and Lala himself found a government job.

Government jobs are extremely sought after in Nepal, and very competitive to receive, everyone knows that so the obvious question seemed to be, how did Lala get the job? Lala clearly likes this question and quickly explains that there is a good story behind his current job. Before he tells us the story though Lala insists we accept the traditional hospitality of the Tharu culture. Visitors to a Tharu home are shown hospitality with chili chicken and the local home brewed alcohol. Krishna and I tried to protest, but Sunkeshari is too good of a host to listen to embarrassed guests.

Once are bellies have been warmed by the chili, and our faces glow slightly red from the alcohol, Lala begins to tell us about his job. He is an administrative assistant for a district level irrigation project. He has no experience with irrigation or water projects, and he is a farmer, not an educated man. He was able to secure this job through foresight and opportunism. He received the job through the endorsement of a local politician.

During the local elections Lala had decided to support this candidate. Lala led local initiatives to advocate for this local politician, and when his candidate was successful he was in line for some support. At the end of his story Lala says something that results in both he and Krishna losing themselves in several minutes of laughing. It took a minute before I received a translation of the joke, Lala had said “You have been in Nepal a long time, but if you really want to understand how this country works my story is all you need to hear.” It is about who you know and what you can do for them. I was still curious, so I started asking about politics and which party he supported assuming that his political affiliations had introduced him to the candidate who he supported so effectively. This question brings another smile to Lala’s face, “Politics?” he says, “I do not have time for politics, I have nine daughters to raise.!”

Posted By Mark Koenig

Posted Aug 26th, 2007

1 Comment

  • bijoy

    November 24, 2007


    the district health and family welfare never visited this family, perhaps.. ha ha

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