Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Because We Visited Bangladesh

When we got on the plane out of Bangladesh in the wee hours of the morning, both Pam and I thanked God that we made it out safely. We found this to be the toughest country we’ve lived in so far, but you know that a challenge can only mean great opportunities for learning and unique experiences.

Some of the things that will remain with us are: the sheer number of people who live here, the constant staring, and the opportunities we had to see and experience village life.

There are people everywhere. In the city there is a constant press of people. Even in the country-side you can never be in a place and not see someone around. In the rare case you are alone there will undoubtedly be someone along within a second or two.

Staring is completely acceptable in Bangladesh. It even gets special mention in the travel book. As one of the few white families in the town we lived in, we were constantly stared at. Often we would be shouted greetings as we passed by, or asked where we had come from by complete strangers on the street. Most times this was fun but sometimes it was very intimidating. In one instance, we were waiting in a train station and a circle of twenty people surrounded us to simply stand and stare. We`re so unaccustomed to staring that it even felt awkward to stare back, but with some practice we could do it too!

Our volunteer work involved visiting a number of rural villages. We met with small groups of men and women who, with the help of CRWRC`s partners, are gaining literacy skills, learning new farming techniques, establishing small savings and loans accounts, and challenging some harmful cultural practices, such as early marriage and dowry. We were in the small town of Birisiri and surrounding villages for ten days. We also visited groups in the Gozni, Jamalpur and Netrakona areas. This was a great chance for all of us to see what life is like in rural Bangladesh. John gathered stories that will be helpful in promoting the work of CRWRC and its partners. Pam helped develop some training modules around the subject of `gender and development`, and gathered some stories about positive changes happening for women and girls.

The children enjoyed seeing (and chasing) the animals (dogs, goats, chickens) and playing with other kids. Sometimes when the adults were meeting we had to ask Simon and Danielle to go far away from the group because they always attracted such a large crowd of children. Playing was not easy without language but we quickly learned that all you really need is a ball to throw around. The kids really enjoyed riding around on motorcycles along dusty roads and narrow paths through the rice paddies.
It is very easy to see the hurdles – cultural, political and environmental - facing the future of this country, but during our stay it was the strength and resilience of the people, and the commitment of those we met who are living and working alongside them, that made a lasting impression.


  1. Hey, welcome back to the other side. We tried to find your village on Google Earth-- nope!

    Did you know about the coup while you were there? Details: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/feb/28/world/fg-bangladesh-mutiny28

    And your home town employer:

    Let us know when we can skype with you again.

    Happy Easter.

  2. your comments about Bangladesh echo those of others who have lived there and loved it, especially the people. So, when you get back to Canada, you will not feel too awkward staring back eh?
    Have a blessed Easter all of you!