Ok, so that wasn’t actually all that bad. The VSO SFG that is. Not perfect, but then if I’m expecting perfection here in Bangladesh I should just give up now. And give up on the rest of world too while I’m at it. But a vast improvement on the previous SFG, where I was ready to slit my wrists with a blunt spoon. I was even mentioned (was it a thank you?) for my ‘constructive feedback’ on the last SFG. But I must say, the volunteers involved in taking our collective moans about the previous SFG really did any amazing job in the little time they were given. And of course, there was the mandatory ‘cultural event’ last night, but only a few volunteers were coerced into performing, and luckily I was not one of them. It’s at these little cultural events where I am again reminded how different the Bangladeshi culture is to my ‘western’ one. People here LOVE performing, and put their heart and soul into it. It really is quite touching.
We didn’t get to see too much of Sirajgonj, but did get to visit some Slum Development Committees (SDC). Which are like citizen’s committees, where slum dwellers have organised themselves into pretty effective lobbying committees. Apparently the one SDC we visited staged a mass sit-in protest in the main road of Sirajgonj to protest that the river banks next to their slum had not had flood defences built (while the rest of the town’s river banks had). Nice to see the little people making the big corrupt people stop lining their own pockets and instead do what they are actually supposed to do. My camera battery has died, but I’ll post some pics up when I’m back in Rangamati. One note though, I was amazed at how clean the slum was. I didn’t see one piece of litter. Hell, the area where I live is far filthier than the slum.
Travelling back to Dhaka there were lots of cattle being transported on the roads, in preparation of Eid ul-Azha. Which is the Festival of Sacrifice in Islam. Remember in the bible when Abraham (or Ibrahim to Muslims) was willing to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God? Well this Eid commemorates that willingness.
Someone here has described it as a mass moo death. Each family (if financially able) buys an animal (sheep, goat, cow etc) and slaughters it on Eid. Then one-third is eaten by immediate family and relatives, one-third is given away to friends, and one-third is donated to the poor. What this equates to is a LOT of slaughtering on Eid in Bangladesh. I’ve heard tales of blood running through the streets. No idea if it really is all that dramatic, but let’s see on Friday/Saturday, which ever day Eid falls on. I’ll be back in Rangamati so I’m not too sure how much moo death will be around, given that it’s only about 50% Muslim. I think it’s probably far worse though in the affluent areas of Dhaka for example, where each family can indeed afford to buy a great big bull to slaughter. An adult bull is a whole lot of animal, with a whole lot of blood in it. Bear in mind the Islamic (halal) method of slaughtering is (amongst other ritual traditions) a sharp knife to the neck cutting the jugular veins and draining the animal of all blood. I do have a bit of a morbid fascination to go and check it out, but if it’s as bad as some people say, I expect my fascination to last a few minutes before quickly being overtaken by revulsion and nausea. But I’ll give it a go.