Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh

Archive for May, 2009

My life in fruit

I thought I share a little photo of the outside of my house and my fruit trees (if you click on the photo you can see the full size photo to see the full extent of my fruit showing off)

My house

My house

Ok, obviously the fruit trees aren’t mine, but they do keep me in supply of amazing fruit. Talk about shopping locally. I will be very sad when fruit season ends, because that means NO fruit. No fruit imports as people actually (have to) eat seasonally (shock!), so no M&S Peruvian papayas for me here. I make sure to take best advantage while I can.

The kiddies next door found a family of parrots in one of the trees here. One of them is now their family pet. Beakon loves it (pictured with stick) but needs constant reminding that squeezing it too hard might mean the end of the parrot. It’s so cute to watch. 

 

Find of the day

Find of the day

It’s back ON

The water, that is. I am most pleased. My life all of a sudden seems so… easy. I turn on the tap, and water comes out. What a joy.

Absence certainly does make the heart grow fonder.

How not to get your laundry done

Dinner with the students went well last night. Buddhadatta had a word with them before the dinner, advising of correct dinner table etiquette, from an English perspective. i.e. don’t eat as quickly as you possibly can so that you can leave earlier, try to make conversation with the host etc. I don’t think any of them had actually been invited to a dinner before so it was a new experience for them. And they performed beautifully. And I think they had fun. As by way of proof, I present a photo of them smiling for the camera (standard Bangladeshi camera pose is dead pan). Ok, I demanded they smile, but it looks like they mean it. Doesn’t it?

The Dinner

The Dinner

Oh, and note to self: Do not play ‘guess the badeshi’s age’ with the students again. They guessed my age at 40. FORTY. I don’t even know what to say about that. 

It’s been another productive day at work, a presentation for a group from a Japanese NGO who were visiting. And tonight I swing past the laundry I found last week to pick up my clean clothes, before going for dinner at my Executive Director’s house. I’d slightly miscalculated my clothing situation and now desperately require some clean clothes. Actually I desperately required clean clothes a few days ago, but laundry here takes almost a week. So I’ve had to make do. Again, probably not so pretty right now. Important lesson learnt last week at laundry: they don’t do underwear. Shame, another moment where I embarrassed poor Memory (and laundry man) by having to rummage through my laundry bag to remove my knickers. One day I’ll get it right and not embarrass myself/anyone else for like a whole day.

Dinner with O level students

Yesterday Moanoghar received the results for the students who wrote their O level exams 3 months ago. A 60% pass rate, with 2 A+ and 8 A grades. Which might not sound like much, but considering the massive financial/management crisis that this organisation has been though (and is very much still in) I think it’s quite a remarkable achievement (the national pass rate is 70%). Last year’s result was a 49% pass rate, so it’s an amazing improvement in one year. 

So some of the brighter O level student had stayed on here in Moanoghar after their exams to provide some assistance to running the hostel part of the school, looking after children etc. I’ve decided that a Congratulations and Thank You ‘something’ is in order. So I’m hosting a dinner for the said O level students tonight. Ok, I’m not cooking, nor is it actually in my house. But it was my idea and I’m fronting the moola (not that it’s costing much at all). Despite the fact that students still tend to scatter like teenagers at Piet-se-Bos on NYE when the police throw tear gas into the crowd when I approach, I’m going to subject them to an evening with me. What FUN for them.

Work = BUSY. What a sudden turn around. I haven’t been this busy since…um, when? My Accenture days. But not my last few months with The Firm. During that time I did f*ck all. All with the view to ensure my application for voluntary redundancy was successful of course. Which it was. Needless to say no one begged me to stay…

News

There is bad news from the Bangladeshi corner of the world today. Firstly, The Linterna Rechargeable Automaticamente is faulty. Within 2 days of owning such an amazing piece of modern technology, I feel lost and alone without it. Of the two functions I rate most highly (fan and light), one is no longer working (light). Back to candles for a while, until I can get to grips with what my statutory rights are within Bangladesh. Or if I have any at all (doubtful). I want it fixed and/or replaced, or I will have a mind to write a strongly worded letter to the manufacturers of The Linterna Rechargeable Automaticamente… 

Secondly, and on a serious note, Cyclone Aila has very recently hit parts of India and Bangladesh, with the unofficial Bangladeshi death toll currently at 94. And 400, 000 people have been evacuated to shelters and 300, 000 are stranded in coastal areas (according to BBC). I haven’t been affected (just a fair amount of rain over the last few days) and the Hill Tracts are mostly immune to the devastating effects of cyclones because of the hilly topography. I’ve been living in my little Rangamati bubble here , and wasn’t even aware that this level of carnage was going on in this small country. I’d heard that there was a cyclone on the way, but it didn’t really register. I can’t quite get my head around these figures. This country is so vulnerable to natural disasters which impacts  the progress it can make on development issues. There are so many issues that are holding this country back, dealing with periodic cyclones is but one. The people affected will be the poorest of the poor, some of whom who will have lost everything (what little they had) and I’m actually feeling quite emotional about it. Life just isn’t fair sometimes.

Check this out

 

My new BFF

My new BFF

This is a 5-in-1 wonder machine I recently bought in Dhaka. It is a rechargeable:

1. Hurricane lamp

2. Fan

3. Radio 

4. Mosquito repellent device

5. Clock

Ok, the clock isn’t really all that, but the other 4 things certainly are. And it is called….The Linterna Rechargeable Automaticamente. That is its honest to God name, it says so on the box and everything. Power outages now don’t seem that bad anymore. Why didn’t I buy this earlier?

On the water front, the pump is currently in for repairs. Yay. I need to go and fill up my water supplies this morning, except it’s raining right now. Water water everywhere, except where I want it.

So.

Here I am at 34. It’s not so bad. A lot like 33, except with no water.

The main water pump here at Moanoghar is broken. Sob. So I have to collect both my drinking water (which I have to do anyway, pump or no pump) and my cleaning/washing/bathroom/shower water from various taps around the campus. Sob x 1000. I arrived back to this after a revoltingly hot 24 hours (my last night in Dhaka and 9 hour non AC bus trip) on Thursday. I’m just about holding it together, but I’m not sure how much longer I can last. It’s fucking hot, and until you don’t have water coming out of your taps you don’t really realise how IMPORTANT it is to almost everything you do. My respect and admiration for the local women I see carrying metal jugs of water around has exponentially increased. It is hard, hard work. But what can I do, complain to the other people here that also don’t have water coming out of their taps? Like everything, it comes down to cash. Cold hard cash. Which is something this organisation doesn’t have a lot of.

And I know I really shouldn’t complain. There are people out there for whom this would be a life of positive luxury. So I vacillate between feeling sorry for myself and feeling even worse for people who have less. A lot less. Walk a mile in another man’s shoes and all that.

Anyway, so yesterday was a good day, looong but good. We had the Bangladeshi feminist author Selina Hossain here at Moanoghar, along with some other authors (whose names I can’t remember now, must deal with my ‘remembering of people’s names’ issue soon). There were discussions with the children here at Moanoghar, lunch, a boat trip on the Kapai Lake, a visit to a local indigenous politician, visit to a cultural society and dinner with rice wine. All with NO shower in between. Shew. I wasn’t a pretty sight by the time I got home last night.

Schoolgirls in Chakma dress ready to welcome the guests

Schoolgirls in Chakma dress ready to welcome the guests

Group photo with guests (they're in there somewhere)

Group photo with guests(they’re in there somewhere)

P.S. I expect the water (or lack there of) situation to not last toooo much longer.