Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh

Your place or mine?

So after all these entries I’ve posted up here, I haven’t really said a thing about what I’m actually doing here in Bangladesh. I’m here with VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas), and I’ll be working under the Indigenous Community Rights programme with one of their partner organisations (Moanghar) as a management advisor for 12 months. I’ll be placed in Rangamati, in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The Hill Tracts have historically been the tribal homelands of various indigenous tribes, that had never been ruled over anyone but their own tribal chiefs until the British lumped them under their rule of the area. After partition, as East Pakisan they were ruled by  (West) Pakisan, and since Bangladeshi independence (1971) they have been ruled over by the Bangladeshi government. None of the tribes share the Bangladeshi culture, religion or language. Each has it’s own culture and language, but most do same the same religion (Buddhism).  Physically they are far more aligned to South East Asia, than South Asia.


The indigenous population are largely marginalized in Bangladeshi society, with a history of government sponsored and supported land grabbing by Bangladeshi settlers, lack of access to education, primary health care etc. It’s a long and sorid tale, of which I still have a long way to go in understanding, but that is the Reader’s Digest version for now.


So the organisation I’m going to be working for is a Buddihst organisation, started by Buddhist monks in the 1960s. It started off as an orphanage and school for indigenous children, and they are looking to increase their management capacity and extend their organisation into a more comprehensive development charity. That’s where I come in… somehow. I’ll be having a meeting with the organisation and VSO in the coming week or two (we’re 2 weeks into our 4 week in-country induction here in Dhaka, before we head out to placement) to nail down the details of my role and objectives etc.


To eeeeventually reference the ‘Your place or mine’ heading… Moanghar have asked me if I’ve like to stay in a private room of the girls dormitory of their complex (from what I’ve heard it’s a pretty big set up they have there) for 1 month, so as to get a better understanding and experience of how they live and work. After which I can choose if I’d like to stay on, or have alternative accommodation found for me outside of their complex, somewhere in Rangamati. So here in lies my dilemma. Do I:


a) Say yes to the private room in dormitory option for 1 month, and run the risk of alternative accommodation never being found and staying on the complex for the duration of my placement (As I say, things don’t happen fast here, and the incentive to find me alternative accommodation might be low as I already have somewhere to stay)


b) Say no to the private room in dorm, to ensure that I will definitely get my preferred, long term preference of alternative accommodation.


Would option B be seen as a snub to their hospitality and might it negatively impact my placement from the get go, and thereby limit my effectiveness within their organisation and the goals VSO are trying to reach?


But option A does go against my natural need for privacy and personal space, which I have been know to be quite fiercely protective of. On a personal level, surely some level of self preservation/protection is important as I’m old enough now not to try kid myself that I would be happy if ‘A’ stretched out to the duration of my placement? If I’m not happy at home*, I won’t be as effective or do as good a job, would I? But then if I’m happy, but I’ve inadvertently offended the organization from the get go, that also impacts my ability to be effective. I’d hate to walk away from this in a years time and question what good I’ve actually here. But maybe that is always a risk anyway when working in international development (I think).


So what should it be, their place or mine? Or am I just making too big a deal of this?


* As you can probably tell from this and the previous post, my home is my sanctuary. I think I can handle pretty much anything  ‘out there’ as long as I have a place to come home to that is a peaceful retreat and where things work MY way. This could be one of the many reasons I am still single…. 



  Amanda wrote @

Doll … if you are meeting with them soon then maybe chat to them about it. Think you will quickly get the gist of what they think. Perhaps they can start putting feelers out for permanent accomodation elsewhere for you …. best of both worlds perhaps. A month might also be a good “transition” – you never know what awaits you in the real Deshi world. And a sanctuary is wherever you can close your door ….

P.S. Is this as a result of having to share accomodation with others for 2 weeks ….. 🙂

  estellevisagie wrote @

Dude, you’re right. My inner control freak needs to LET GO. Perhaps this is indeed a throwback from sharing accommodation with 6 other people. I haven’t done this since like Obz bru!

  chantal wrote @

your updates make for very interesting and amusing reading Estelle!

especially the attached… believe i would be severely challenged… you doing well! x

* As you can probably tell from this and the previous post, my home is my sanctuary. I think I can handle pretty much anything ‘out there’ as long as I have a place to come home to that is a peaceful retreat and where things work MY way. This could be one of the many reasons I am still single….

  Mike Canter wrote @

once visited Moanghar in 92(!)

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