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Tsunami Hits Inland

November 21, 2005

Deep into the lower hills of Sri Lanka in Galle district, traveling South, along the tea plantation, rubber trees and coconut plants Upali aaiya turns the Japanese SUV to the left. As we pass a highway under construction, road narrows. On the sides we pass recently planted paddy fields. We stop and Mr. Kannagara rolls down his window and mutters something in Sinhala that appeared to be asking for direction. The lady points straight ahead. We drive 200 meters and the mud road forks. We stop again. Upali aaiya asks another villager and turns the vehicle to the right.

The road narrows further. We move 50 meters up the hill. A vehicle approaches from the opposite direction. The mud-road is so small we have to back off to let the other vehicle pass.

We drive up the slope and houses begin to emerge. Road narrows further. Because of the last night’s heavy rain, it looked slippery. We wonder whether the vehicle will pass through a small ditch. Upali aaiya puts on the 4WD. We m…

Sri Lanka Photos

Post Election Unofficial Holiday in Sri Lanka

It’s so boring and everything around here is quiet. Even though today is not a holiday, only a few showed up to work. Many people had gone to their homes far away from Colombo, to vote. Many of the shops are closed and streets usually crowded with people and vehicles are empty. There seemed to be a threat of unstable political situation on immediate aftermath of election but no such activities have been reported. Even the election yesterday was quite peaceful. Matter of fact, this was one of the most peaceful elections in recent memory in Sri Lanka.

Around noon today, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajpakse was declared the winner of the presidential election with a narrow margin with about 50.8 percent over 48.8 percent of Ranil Wickermasingha. The election was awfully close. Secretly, I was routing for Ranil, in the hopes that he might be effective in establishing the peace as he was the one who signed the cease fire agreement in 2002 but ....alas…

Sarvodaya as business:

Sarvodaya is not only…

Election day at the beach

November 17

November 17, 2005

Today’s was the presidential election in the country. This meant half a day off for Sarvodaya workers. But, since many of the workers live out of town and they have gone to their home to cast their vote. Thus, many of the offices were empty and I couldn’t do much. Early in the morning I met with Mr. Emily Anthony of Sarvodaya Economic Empowerment Services (SEEDS). Mr. Anthony walked me through the various activities of SEEDS. The three main activities that SEEDS is involved, in creating economic empowerment, are encouraging collective savings, providing small scale loans (micro-financing), and conducting entrepreneurship development training. The loans start at SLRs. 20,000 ($200) and interest rate is about 22%. I had always thought interest rate for micro-lending was about 6 to 7%, Mr. Anthony told me it ranges to 30 to 40% internationally, including in Bangladesh.

Mr. Anthony told me that SEEDS is attempting to register itself as a finance company but beca…

Meetings at Sarvodaya

It was a good day today little more productive. First thing in the morning I had a meeting with Mrs. Udani Mendis, the Executive Director of Sarvodaya. We discussed about several issues that are important for respective organizations. She was very gracious and took me around the Sarvodaya headquarters to meet other senior staffs. Unfortunately, many were away in the fields and out of offices. She also asked Bandula to give special priority to my needs and I was flattered.

Later, I spent some time with her at Rural Technical Service Unit (RTS), which handles all most all of the constructions activities. These days they are involved in building drinking water systems with three major donors from Europe.

A few things really struck me of Sarvodaya’s operation: First, it seems like what projects Sarvodaya takes on is dictated by donor funding and thus donor interests. I queried why the focus on “the drinking water only”. These RTS is involved in drinking water projects because “donors want t…

In Sri Lanka

7:30 PM, November 15th

November 14th, Day one in Lanka
I arrived in Sri Lanka little after mid-night on the 14th. Mr. Wijayaratne (pronounce Vijayaratna) of Sarvodaya International Unit had come to pick me up with a vehicle and the driver. Sarvodaya headquarter was almost two hours South from the international airport. When we got to the headquarters it was about 2:30 AM. I was put at a guest house by School for Deaf Children. It’s a one story house with two rooms, a living room, a kitchen. The room had two twin sized bed with beautiful green mosquito nets attached to it. It has been a while I had used the mosquito nets. Even though, it’s somewhat humid temperature was at 24 degree centigrade and was raining. Immediately, I slept and woke up only at 11 AM.

Around noon, Mr. Wijayaratne came to pick me up. He mentioned he had ferried twice already. Obviously, I was deep into sleep and I had no clue. But, after that long trip and time difference, I didn’t feel a need for to be too much apol…

In Singapore

8:40 PM
Changi Airport, Singapore

Immigration
As I headed towards the immigration, I was nervous. But, to my surprise I was given visa for 13 days without a single question. For the most part, I have always experienced almost a harassment or humiliation in many of the countries for carrying Nepali (for that matter third world country could be lumped together) passports. Even though, I have entered and existed United States quite a few time, it takes some endurance to get pass the immigration (more difficult is getting a visa at the embassy).

Service
After exiting the immigration and customs, I headed straight to the Singapore Visitor’s Center, where I hoped to get information about visiting the city. At the center, a friendly staff informed me that at the Terminal two there would be a shuttle bus that would take me to the city for free. He gave me a form to fill and directed towards the Skytrain that would take me to the Terminal two.

As soon as I had gotten out of the Visitor’s Center, a …

Night at Singapore Airport

Day2: November 13
10:49 AM (Singapore time)

Changi Airport, Singapore

Six and half hours of flight between Tokyo and Singapore was fine, I endured most of the flight sleeping. The plane landed little past the mid-night here. I had over 22 hours in transit. Most of the stores in airport were closed only with a few openings. The airport looked nice and well-maintained. I had heard of a place where you could sleep at the airport. Actually, it turned out to be fine Hotel.

At the corner of Terminal one, Ambassador Transit Hotel, was still busy with customer. I was told it costs S$ 54 for a block of six hours. I got two blocks for US $70 and headed to the room for a good night’s sleep after 29 hours of travel.

It was nice room with two beds, slept for eight hours, took a long shower and I am here at Pacific Café drinking a café latte, which costs me over S$4.00. At this point, I still have over ten hours and I am contemplating a visit of the City. There is a free tour for transit passenger. Now,…

Long Flight to Sri Lanka

I arrived in Narita airport after a long flight that left Seattle about 11 hours ago. My trip to Sri Lanka actually started early morning yesterday about 6 AM US CST in Madison. On the way, I stopped in Denver and Seattle for a couple of hours and have about two hours in Narita before I continue on to Singapore for today. My next flight for Colombo is after 23 hours, a long layover in Singapore tonight. This flight is too long.

The flight so far has been fine except that I didn’t get a seat by the window. This morning, when I had boarded in Madison, I specifically asked for the window seats and the person at United counter had assured me that he had given me one. The, seat 41F on flights from Denver to Tokyo, I thought was by the window until I boarded huge Boeing 777, which had 3 rows with five seats on the middle row. The seat 41F was not only in the middle row, it was middle of the middle row. Plus, because of the seat arrangement, the little screen in front of row was little to th…

Presenting a paper at the South Asian Conference

For the first time on Friday, I was presenting a paper on an academic conference. I was nervous. Besides presenting, I had to moderate the presentation as a chair of the panel. This responsibility added to the stress. And, the presentation was 8:30 in the Friday morning.

Despite that when the annual South Asian Conference 2005, organized by South Asia Center at University of Wisconsin-Madison began I was not as nervous as I thought I would be. I carried quite well.

My panels consisted of three presenters, Mahendra Lawoti, Li Onesto and myself and it was titled as “Causes, Strategies, and Consequences of the Maoist Insurgency in Nepal”. In the presentation Mahendra dai compared the Maoist movements of Peru, Nepal, and India. He looked at the participation of ethnic groups in each country. Li, well known for reporting from Maoist heartland in late 1990s and her bias towards the Maoists, presented paper on the theoretical aspect of the insurgency. My paper attempted at understanding…

Attacks on the fourth estate.

One of the victims of Maoist insurgency and King’s terrorocracy has been the fourth estate – mass media that flourished under 12 years of democracy in Nepal. From only about two daily broadsheet, one radio station, and one television station, all owned by government, Nepal has witnessed an unprecedented level of media boom. There are several daily broadsheets, news magazines, five nepali television stations, and over 40 radio stations all over the country. The beneficiary, nepali people who have benefited from competitive views, have access to local information, can watch quality television programs, and run their own radio stations. In last several years, lok-geet (folk songs) have become a mainstay (I believe largely due to FMs). But, the plurality of view-points are antithetical to autocratic King and totalitarian Maoists.

Maoists regularly threaten, kidnap and kill journalists and reporters. For Maoists, anyone who writes against their atrocities are “enemy of people”. For King an…

Ever cried for your country?

From Sept 10, 2005 Kathmandu Post.

Ever cried for your country?



By BAN WHI MIN
- Nepalis complain about the caste system and corrupt officers. They openly vent their anger against the government. But have they ever thought about Nepal's real problems? I believe that they have not. I want to say that Nepal's real problems are lack of patriotism among the people and lack of love for one another. This is the conclusion I have reached during my stay. This summer, I did voluntary work from July 5 to July 30 at FHI Ever Vision School, Matatirtha, Kathmandu.
Let me first tell you about my country, Korea. This might help you understand my point.
Just after the Korean War, which claimed lives of more than 5 million Koreans, Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. Without natural resources, Korea had no choice but to desperately struggle for its survival by all means. Under this gloomy situation, Koreans envied other Asian countries like Japan, Taiwan, and Nepal.
Korean governmen…

PHD

I am thinking about possibilities of getting into school for PHD program next Fall. At this point, this is an extremely priliminary thought but I wrote to a professor at Columbia Univeristy, asking whether I could see him when I am in New York coming Friday. Let's see how things go.

In Minneapolis

With Kanhaiya, infront of Teleplan (where Kanhaiya works) on September 2, 2005
Chanhassen, Minnesota

"Democracy didn't work in Nepal" - oh! Really?

Dr. Khagendra Thapa argues on “Why democracy didn’t work in Nepal?” “poorer countries such as Nepal and many others, which have introduced democracy, have sunk into a vicious circle of corruption, injustice, inequitable distribution of wealth and resources.” Dr. Thapa who has a degree from UK, Canda, and US and also teaches at Ferris State University, regularly (if you have been following his writings you would know what I am talking about), discharge venum against all political actors, labeling them corrupt and criminals. He further writes “Corruption, lying, stealing, looting, vandalizing, littering, etc. have become the norms of the Nepali society, even though all these vices used to be non-existent and unheard of in Nepal.

What Dr. Thapa and likes argue are:
1) Nepal became poorer since the introduction of democracy.
2) All political parties and its leaders corrupt
3) Nepal was a peaceful shangrila in pre-1990 period.

Is this true?

One really has to have lived in the Mars for last decad…

King Gyanendra weakening slowly but surely.

Reports coming out of Nepal say that King Gyanendra has cancelled visits to New York to attend annual United Nations General Assembly. Today’s Kantipur, referring to highly placed sources at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, writes both internal and external pressures culminated in cancellation of trip. After three years in power, King Gyanendra finally seems to have felt the heat. As King resorts to autocratic means on the back of extreme conservative elements in Nepal, he is alienating himself from almost every major political and economic actors in Nepal. Mainstream political parties, led by young leaders are openly championing the republican agenda. Recently, CPN (UML) went on the republican march and Nepali Congresss Party by muting its bylaws on the question of monarchy has shown that it no longer considers monarchy as an essential element in Nepal’s polity. Further, the huge mass demonstrations led by leader of civil society have openly challenged the status-quo tilt of major mainst…

Nepal's Development Regions: Creating an Obstacle to national integration ?

When someone asks me where I am from in Nepal, I often get confused. Geographically speaking Tanahun, where I am from, lies in the middle of the country. Thus, I should say I am from central Nepal. But, because Nepal is divided into five development regions and Tanahun comes under Western development region, I internalized Tanahun as being in the West of Nepal.

Today, suddenly a thought emerged, the geographical nomeniculture of development regions, like almost everything in Nepa,l is Kathmandu centric and reflects what state and rulers perceived themselves as. Eventhough Kathmandu is not exactly at the center of Nepal, the development regions are named as though Kathmandu is the center of Nepal. For example, Kathmandu lies in Central Development region and anything east lies in the Eastern region and most of the Nepal is West. By this logic, Nepal has more West than east or center. There are three different variations of West - Western Development Region (Gandaki, Lumbini and Dhaulagi…