The meeting with civil society went well yesterday. I think.
Half way through I gave my little spiel. It’s really weird, getting up half way through a meeting (of which, so far, you have only understood about 5 words) to say something. But I *think* it went ok.
Meetings are an interesting phenomenon here in Bangladesh. This isn’t how the meetings in the Hill Tracts tend to go, but this is how Bengali meetings usually shape up:
1. People get paid to attend. The more senior you are, the more you get paid. I think they call it an ‘honorarium’ here. Which according to Wikipedia means ‘a payment made to a person for their services in a volunteer capacity’. Hmm. Right. Ok. So when say, Oxfam, holds a meeting/conference, they pay attendees/delegates. Otherwise no one turns up. Trying to buy people’s interest in your agenda is certainly one way to go…
2. People fall asleep. Alot. There is no skaam (shame) in this. Falling asleep while remaining upright is somewhat of an art form here. In our executive committee, there is a monk that falls asleep EVERY meeting. Good job. Mostly, the big wigs will do as follows: Rock Up. Get paid. Fall asleep. One VSO colleague was part of a panel interview, interviewing someone for a job within their NGO. The executive director turned up, sat down, and fell asleep. For the entire interview. No shame in that.
3. There will be tea. But there won’t be a break for this. Invariably there will be man (never woman), at the back of the room, making tea. For like 50 people. While the meeting is going on. Then the cups and saucers are loaded onto trays, and the poor guy has the job of walking around trying to distribute the tea. Over people’s heads, across tables, under chairs… without spilling, dropping, or making a general mess. It’s always a junior person, who looks a bit terrified of the task at hand. Lots of shaking and clattering of cups and saucers. Tends to wake the ones having a snooze though.
4. There will be biscuits. Again, distributed during the meeting. And usually each person gets their own small packet of biscuits, on their own plate. That is anything up to 50 people opening packets of biscuits. At the same time. At this point, ALL interest in the meeting is lost.
5. They tend to end quickly. When people have had a snooze, been fed and watered, and of course, been paid, they wanna get out of there. Fast. This will usually happen while someone is still talking. People are literally packing up and moving on during someone’s moment with the mike.
Like many thing here (my table manners, my ability to form well structured and grammatically correct sentences. in english) I fear for my meeting etiquette. This stuff rubs off on one. I can almost picture my future self… in a meeting room, demanding a cash payment before nodding off, drooling on my boss’s shoulder then walking out half way through because my tea and biscuits haven’t arrived.