On Wednesday afternoon, BuddhaDatta (the head monk here at Moanoghar) summoned all the residential girls together in front of the girls dormitories to officially introduce me. In total there are about 200 girls in the dorms, from Class 1 to Class 10. Moanoghar provides education up until O level and if students want to progress further they need to go to college to do their A levels. Moanoghar used to teach up to A level, but had to cut this due to cut in funding.
So all the girls were lined up when I arrived, and Bhante (a respectful term used when referring to or talking to a Bhuddist monk) gave a little spiel about me, in Chakma. I’ve done some Bangla classes but the predominate language here is Chakma, of which I understand F all. Every now and then some Bangla and English words crept into his speech, like Management Advisor (which is my official work title), South Africa, England, dual nationality etc. Then it was my turn to say something, with Bhante translating. I tried out a little of my Bangla by saying ‘Ami ektu Bangla boli pari’ (I am able to speak a little Bangla), for which I got a round of applause. (I did later realise I made a grammatical mistake in that sentence, must try harder). Now I need to learn Chakma. Bhante seems to think I’ll easily pick it up in no time. Hmm, unlikely or at least not without a lot of effort on my side. It doesn’t help that he speaks 7 languages: Chakma, Bangla, English, Sinhala (Sri Lankan laguage), Korean, Hindi and Pali. I have suggested that he lowers his expectations of me but he’s having none of it.
I felt a bit like the Queen sitting there being introduced, and I think being here in Bangladesh is the closest I’ll ever come to being royal or famous. Pretty much my every move is observed, commented on and usually laughed about. Memory (who works in the mini hospital next door) thinks my water filter is hysterical. Why on earth would I clean already clean drinking water? I tried to explain that my stomach isn’t used to the local water and I can get sick from it (again, this makes me feel like I’m the damn Queen or something. One couldn’t possibly drink the local water). Memory called other people into my house to look at and laugh at my water filter. But my previous stomach upset is reason alone to put up with the ridicule and insist on filtered water. Besides, I’m getting used to being laughed at or giggled about. My ego will be a very different beast by the time I leave here in a year’s time.
I met the boys yesterday, and several of them tried out their English by asking me some questions and welcoming me. Some of the Class 10 students have asked me to help with their English, but I have no idea how I’ll go about that. There are 105 Class 10 students. I expect I’ll have to manage their expectations, but I’ll have a think about what is possible.
Good news from yesterday. I now have a gas cooker AND a fridge. And as we speak a sink is being installed in the kitchen. This is a very exciting day for me.