Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh

Archive for August, 2009

Back from Ba-aaah-li

Arrive back in Dhaka yesterday, from an amazing holiday in Bali. Spent way to much money. How much I’m not entirely sure… it was one of those holidays. I’ll delay checking my online banking for a while, and then when I do check it, it will be from behind the couch with my hands over my eyes. I’m a bit scared. 

But I do think I deserved it. All of it. Especially the food. And wine. I’ve already been told in the VSO office here that I’ve picked up weight. Ta. Always nice to hear. 

Not sure when I’ll head back to Rangamati. I feel like a need a bit of a gentle introduction back into things. Maybe a few days here in Dhaka. We’ll see. Obviously getting on the plane to fly back to Bangladesh was clouded with lots of ‘why am I doing this again?’ type questions. I am still struggling with said questions. Will have to pick my motivation up off the floor soon.


I miss Bali


Are you ready to share you culture?

The short answer is no.

The last few days have been taken up by attending a quarterly VSO meeting for the programme area under which I work, Indigenous Community Rights. It was held in another district in the Hill Tracts, Kagrachari. It was a 1 day meeting, but as always there are 8 hour bus trips on either side. So a 1 day meeting, takes 3 days when you include travel time.

After our session, there was a ‘Cultural Exchange Programme’ in the town. Us volunteers actually thought people where kidding when they told us to prepare to ‘share our cultures’. Turns out they weren’t.

We turn up the Programme to discover a fully decorated community centre, complete with stage, band, sound systems, microphones. And a lot of people. Our ‘contributions’ can only be described as embarrassing. In between watching a well rehearsed and prepared cultural programme (poem recitals, traditional songs and dancing), each of us volunteers were called up SEPARATELY to the stage to share our culture. NONE of us expected this. I gave some shocking little speech about South Africa, 1994 democratic elections, Nelson Mandela and hope for the future. Eish. Not sure what the crowd made of it, but I got of the stage as soon as humanely possible. 

The English contingent shared a famous cultural song, called ‘If you’re happy and you know it’….


Clap your hands...


Stamp your feet...

Well, at least that is over with. What they have taken away from our cultural performance can only be guessed at.

I’m in Dhaka now, and leave for Bali on the morrow. Sjoe. Tonight is a party to celebrate 3 volunteers’ birthdays at the Bagha, followed by a party hosted by the US marines. US marines apparently guard US embassies all over the world, and host great parties. Cover charge: men 500 taka. Laides free. Of course.

You eyeballing me boy?


I’m not lost. But I have developed a mild addition to it.

Last weekend I went to Chittagong for the day. First stop Pizza Hut. I don’t even really like Pizza Hut and haven’t been inside one in like forever (15 years maybe?). But its that little bit of ‘home’ so a must in any major city here.

Second stop, Aarong. Which is the FabIndia of Bangladesh. Wonderful shop for house-y things, clothes, shoes etc. And it’s all fair trade and run by the worlds biggest NGO, Brac. Guilt free shopping. What more could a girl ask for.

Third stop, DVD shop. Was looking for season 4 of the Sopranos, but alas no dice. Damn. So picked up season 1 and 2 of Lost. The great thing about not having been a major TV watcher for the last 10 years is that I have a massive back catalogue of good TV series I haven’t seen ANY episodes of. So I can start at the very beginning, and watch to my hearts content.

But Lost has proved a bit addictive. I have finished season 1 and am half way through season 2. In a week and a half. Oops.

And why, if people KNOW there are bad people and monsters in the jungle, do you STILL wonder around on their own? Why? WHY? I guess there wouldn’t be much of a story if they didn’t.

Before I went to Chittagong, it rained, alot. There was a serious amount of water around. Photo below taking from moving bus, so excuse quality.


This is not a lake or river. Just excess water.


Cooking lesson

Today Memory taught me how to make biryani. Impromptu cooking lessons happen here every so often in my kitchen.

So today was biryani, which is a rice based dish. Or at least it is everywhere else in the world. Here in the Hill Tracts, no rice. Its made from some type of pulse. Anyway, delish non the less. And now I know how to make it.


Cooking lesson in action

Stuff happens on the floor here. Memory has no need for tables when cooking. Everyone here still uses traditional wood burning floor stoves, which I must take a photo of soon. Luckily I have a gas hob. 

Knives here are also interesting. I had to procure a ‘floor knife’ for Memory, as my lovely Kuhn Rikon knife is of no use to her. Instead of putting knife to object as us foreigners do, they put object to knife. Not sure if that makes sense. Photo below might make it clearer. Or not.


Why are you taking a photo of me cutting a potato?

Yesterday afternoon I was told today is a public holiday. Some Muslim festival of sorts. Bonus! Promptly followed by lie in this morning.

 At lunch time (during cooking lesson) I found out today is NOT a holiday. Someone told someone who told someone who told everyone in the office yesterday that today is a holiday. Result – office closed for day. No one consulted the calendar to confirm.

Actually to be fair some people did show up even though it was a ‘holiday’ to work for a few hours. But everyone still decided to only work a half day, due to previously assumed holiday status. 

Nice. I like it. 

Anyone for frog?

Had a bit of a wander around the main market of Rangamati yesterday to buy some veggies. Came across some frog on offer. 

The guy has a bag full of live frogs. He pulls two out at a time, bashes them with blunt instrument…



… and then lays them out for display


Ag shame

I haven’t actually eaten any frog yet myself. I have been offered it at my director’s house, but for some reason I couldn’t do it. Just couldn’t eat it. Quite the delicacy here. Apparently. Must man up and try it one day. 


Stuck on repeat

I know I say this a lot … but it’s hot. It’s too hot. Again.

By this juncture of my stay in sunny Bangladesh, I was expecting lashes of rain. So it has rained a bit, and when it rains it rains heavy. But when it doesn’t rain….arghhh.

The air is so humid that you can almost drink it. So while the temperature isn’t all that high (probably 32 degrees today), it’s fucking unpleasant. According to Google it’s 80% humidity here today. I no likey. Energy levels are looooooow. 

VSO = Volunteers Suffering Overseas.

I had not mentally prepared myself to still be sweating (when stationary) in August. I know I’m going to have such fun in Bali, but to be honest my perfect holiday right now would be England in February. Seriously.

Ok fine. I’ll stop moaning now.

It’s all about timing

It’s under two weeks to go before I off to Bali. Excitement is now palpable. At night I dream of drinking cocktails while watching the sun set over the ocean.

Things have hotted up at work. Went through The Plan with the Executive Committee yesterday, and everyone is on board. Yay. And now the real work starts. Holiday to Bali does come at an awkward and inconvenient time work wise though. Now that I can eventually start DOING stuff, I’ll be skipping out the country for 2 weeks.

So next few weeks will be pretty busy (busy? what does THAT feel like?) planning and lining things up for when I get back. My sorjourn will no doubt mess with the momentum that has gathered and I expect I’ll have a bit of a struggle when I get back to re-focus everyone on The Plan.

But what can one do?

Not go to Bali?

… I don’t think so.