Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh


Yesterday I was given a Chakma name. It was given to me in an ancient Chakma naming ceremony presided over by the Chakma king (they do have one) in a Buddhist monastery on a misty hill top.


It was given to me in the office, by 3 guys, while we were supposed to be deciding on how to respond to a monitoring report we recently received from a funder.

You pick which ever story you like. I know which one I’d go for.

So my Chakma name is Tara. Which isn’t pronounced like in English, it has a much flatter T sound, with a rolling of the R. Like an Afrikaans person would say the name. Which means Star. I don’t know if they know that my name, Estelle or Stella as I am known here (Estelle is a surprisingly difficult name for people to pronounce here) also means star. I don’t think so*. I think they must genuinely think I am a star. Who wouldn’t. In all languages, I am a star. 

While having tea in the local tea shop after work, I saw my friend’s traditional tattoo. It is his initials in the Chakma script, tattooed on the inside of his lower arm. This is the local style, which these folks have been doing for many moons. I think he might have done it himself. Not sure. Should have taken a photo of it.

Hmm. Maybe I should get myself a tattoo of my Chakma name? Well, first I need to check what the Chakma script for my name looks like. The script uses the Burmese script, but with slight differences. It looks like so:


The Chakma script (bottom) written on a temple wall here

Even since my not-so-mild addition to Miami Ink (have you ever seen the show? It Rocks) I have toyed with the idea of a tattoo. Not verrrry seriously, but I always thought if I ever experience something that is worth remembering forever (even on my future wrinkly 90 year old body) then I should go for it. And my time in the Chittagong Hill Tracts is surely such an experience..


Local tea shop and WiFi hotspot

No, there isn’t really  WiFi in the tea shop. But it is a crazy little place. I’ll take some more (decent) photos. Personally I like the monk with Junior Sopranos’ glasses having a fag while playing on a laptop. And the topless local in a sarong.

Anyhoo, I’ll get back to you with what my name looks like in the script. Then we can decide if I should get it tattoed on my upper arm. Or other suitable location

* Yes, they do know.



  Pam wrote @

Super Star:
A: ONLY get a tat if it’s actually in Miami, in the shop, for NG channel
B: Upper arm is for criminals
C: Tats are for criminals (unless your go for option A)
D: You’re getting old(er) and wrinkle tats are NOT a good look (even if you bathe in bio-oil)
Love sweetness and honey (seriously!)

  estellevisagie wrote @

Sjoe PamPam. Don’t hold back, say what you mean girl… I assume our friendship is over if I get a tat on my wrinkly getting-older-by-the-day arm?

P.S. You know I’ll probably never do it. XOXO (can’t wait for GG to arrive)

  Lorna wrote @

Awwwwwwwwww I miss our miami ink addiction…….Ami James or Chris Nunez…..mmmmmmmmmmmmm or even chris garver!!!!!! xxxx

  estellevisagie wrote @

It was a pretty serious addition wasn’t it. I’ll take Ami, you can have the rest! xx

[…] Estelle Visagie was also in the Hill tracts in Rangamati where she found three lady Buddhist monks and was given a Chakma name. […]

[…] Estelle Visagie was also in the Hill tracts in Rangamati where she found three lady Buddhist monks and was given a Chakma name. […]

[…] Estelle Visagie koa dia tany amin’ny Havoana tao Rangamati izay nifanenany tamina vehivavy bodista telo (nonnes) ka nanomezan’izy ireo azy ny Anarana Chakma. […]

  gurumia wrote @

Dear Estelle Visagie,
I need some of your photo

  celestial dictators wrote @


it is hardly a badge of honor. Spending twelve months with some poor people.

I live in the Middle East lots of poor people, oppressed people. But I don’t wear my time here as a badge of honor.

This is just life.

I think you didn’t learn enough and were a bit of a tourist there.

Keep travelling. Take a year to decide if you want a tat. After a year if you STILL WANT IT. Then you can probably live with it for another 79 years.

Ah poor people. how cool. Get a tat.

think about it.

  Isha Khan wrote @

City girl: My year of ‘madness’ in Bangladesh

  Amsa wrote @

Rangamati shows the stark difference between the real 3rd world and the corporate world. Such experience can make make a real person. Your writing made me feel so, and you have taken the thrashing in great stride ( right word!).

I like your prose, your style – very expressive. I’ve enjoyed reading it. Well, why nt write more about corruptions, prejudices and how to reduce / eliminate some of these, if you can think of some ways.

  indu wrote @

I have read your article on I would like to congratulate you on surviving the toughest journey of your lifetime. I am not sure in which moment you have decided to go for this (volunteering) opportunity but I am glad you did. I am glad because I have seen, lived, experienced the way of living in India. I believe that everyone who has a chance to help should go for it. However, I am a little disappointed with the outcome or May be it is the way the article (CNN) written. With your experience, is all you can say to recommend to others is when someone wants to shake things up? Even though there is a genuine need.
Thank You,

  alex wrote @

tara i’am inspired, great blog wished it was me

  Khan wrote @

Thats a great way u spend your 1 year hope you will understand the point of life…(not drinking it way) ohh and i hope you got some sense of Luxury life in Bangladesh..

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