Monthly Archives: March 2012

More from the Mymensingh Area 3

Scenes from Mymensingh 2

Bangladesh Facts :
170 million in a country the size of the state of Iowa
The most densely populated country in the world (excluding city states such as Monaco, Singapore and Malta)
Partitioned off as East Pakistan by the Brits after WWII
Gained its own independence from Pakistan in 1971
Diarrhoea the number one killer of children followed by drowning during seasonal flooding.
Cricket is the national sport (while here Bangladesh lost by mere pts during the final match of the Asia cup. It would have been the 1st time Bang won a cup)
All Bangladeshis are offered free education through HS.
A Muslim country
No organizations that just proselytize are welcomed here-no Mormons welcomed here!
Observations:
The roads are the social mecca of this country. Everyone hangs along the rds socializing or just hanging out which makes it difficult to drive through. Seems to be a risky habit. Injuries to “pedestrians are common. In fact on our 1st day here as we were driven to our hotel our driver ran over a motor cyclist.
Looking for a trash receptacle for your snack wrapper or empty pop container? Your standing in it. As my driver kept reminding me..” you’re in Bangladesh” as he motions for me to throw it out the car window.
Biggest natural resources include rice, making bricks out of all the silt and clay that make up this low lying country, and manual labor. They almost seem to go out of their way to do anything the hardest way by solely relying on back breaking labor
The national pastime is staring at any white folks they see, which outside of Dhaka is none.
This place does not offer anything for a tourist. One afternoon ( Bangladesh Independence day) we went to Jaflong in the far north near where we were staying to check out the local tourist trap. It was a gravel and dirt spit along a river that divided India from Bangladesh. We experienced where the wealthy 1% of this country go for a thrill. Indian guards were there to push folks back across the imaginary line. Naturally we all posed for pics standing in India like all the Bangladeshis. After that all the Bangys wanted to take pics of us and standing with us as we were complete freaks to them. In the two weeks of cruising across the NE part of this country we saw only 2 other white folks.
It appears that the only white folks here are representing NGOs for some charitable reason or another (WHO, Care, UNICEF, SOS, etc)

Scenes from the Mymensingh Area of Northern Bangladesh 1

Our daily routine:  Get up at dawn when its the quietest, eat a light breakfast, drive for at least a couple hrs to a different region each day, leave the Toyota SUVs and travel by foot, rickshaw or boat to a remote school site.  Meet with the headmaster and staff (typically about 4-6 folks) talk to them about their school, environmental and flood history, measure the property, and buildings, photograph, sketch figures, then reluctantly oblige in a social moment with some of the most hospitable folks in the world as they serve us tea, questionable water or coconut milk right from the freshly hacked open coconuts, biscuits (cookies), fruit and other things.  We had to sit and take some of it hoping that we wouldn’t get sick!!  My team had numerous very remote sites that we’d have to walk 6-7 km each way under the extreme heat and humidity (90F and 90%).  Get back to our hotel by 6-7 PM, shower off the days sweat, eat spicy yummy food, then back to our air conditioned rooms to type up our daily interview sheets, generate figures and compile photo logs for each of the days sites before you forgot what you did.  Friday is the day off for the local so we took full advantage to catch up on our paper work on those days.  If we were all caught up then perhaps a little sightseeing.  The problem with any sightseeing is that Apparently these folks have been totally isolated from the outside world and haven’t seen white folks.  As a result anywhere we went we drew a crowd around us just staring at us.  Some of my teammates had tattoos which really drew attention.  Got a sense of what it must be to be a celebrity-Not interested!  Must have to be completely insecure or totally vain for that.

Day Three in Dhaka

Here are some pics from today.  Tomorrow we set off to more rural parts of northern Bangladesh to start our scoping of sites for potential schools/cyclone shelters.

 

First full day in Dhaka Bangladesh

Today we attended meetings at the US Embassy, and did some preparations for our work.  I also manged to “misplace” my recently issued Blackberry not even 24 hrs in country.  hmmmmm.  Tomorrow more preparations and Saturday our two teams split off into two different directions to perform our scoping of sites for schools/cyclone shelters.

Ariving in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Earlier today my co-worker and I arrived into Dhaka, Bangladesh after a couple days of flying from Anchorage to Seattle (3 hrs) Seattle to Tokyo (10 hrs) Tko to Bangkok (7 hrs), a 12 hr layover in Bankok, 2.5 hrs to Dhaka.  We are here to assist the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Humanitarian Assistance Progrm.  A new approach for the US Govt to win friends by helping them instead of Bombing folks into submission.  We are here to scope locations for US Govt sponsored schools/cyclone shelters.  We are here for a few days then off to rural parts of the country.  Its a three  wk mission.  Bangladesh is my first muslim country-I’m reminded just before sunset as prayers are broadcast on speakers.  Man I miss beer already!

Ben, Flat Stanley and me

Heres a pic from Saturday at the Balto statue marking the starting point for the 40th Iditarod.  We missed the dogs due to Ben’s nap.  We did the folks in their goofy costumes gearing up for the running of the reindeer.  I’m holding Flat Stanley for my nephew.  I’ll be taking FS to Bangladesh with me next week for a month.