Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh

Longing for anonymity

I exercised this morning. Please notify the press.

The first spot of exercise I’ve done since I got back from Bali. In August. Shocking. AND I went for a walk last night. My health is good, the weather is fine, there really is no excuse for not exercising. Because, believe me, I’ve used ALL them excuses over the last few months. Due to recent good exercise-deeds, I expect my bed time will be moved significantly forward tonight, and I might even need to take in an afternoon nap.*yawn*

I loved my walk. Or at least the first part of it. There is a section around Rangapani (the village I live in) that takes you the back way into Rangamati proper. With hardly any people along the way. Which is extremely rare for Bangladesh. Usually it’s just people, people, people. Everywhere. But when I hit the town itself (after a short, rocky boat ride across the post-wet-season-only lake) it became a bit unpleasant. Men and boys tend to stop and stare, and women and girls tend to laugh and giggle. Which is fine if I’m out shopping or just trying to get from A to B, but hardly ideal for a ‘get away from it all’ walk.

I’d really like this place a lot more if I was just totally ignored on the streets. Like in London (I do miss my London some days). But here, somehow and usually without fail, the foreigner becomes the main attraction. I really don’t enjoy it. Perhaps this is how famous people feel, with the paparazzi and stalker fans? I do suspect that my time in Bangladesh is closest I’ll ever get to being, or feeling, famous. Because besides all the joy involved in the stopping/staring/laughing/giggling arena, there is also plenty of foreigner-stalking done here in Bangladesh. You’ll usually pick up a ‘tail’ in the market (especially in Dhaka) and they will literally just follow you around all day (or for as long as they can). It’s freaky. A fellow volunteer does this thing where he stops and checks under his shoes, so that the stalkers are forced to then continue walking on ahead of him, then he changes direction to totally lose them/mess with their stalking. I do this thing where I usually just shout at them.

Maybe I should don a full-on burqa one day, to hide my foreign-ness beneath. It might be like wearing an invisible cloak for the day? Tempting.



  Julie wrote @

I do the shouting thing too. And Jo once came up with the idea of wearing a burqa in Newmarket just to see what it felt like not to be stared at in Bangladesh. We should do it now that the weather’s cool.

  estellevisagie wrote @

The burqa seems a popular idea amongst us foreign females! Maybe we should try it one day. Now all I need is a burqa… can you imagine the shopping trip involved?

  Megan wrote @

I had a big rant about this to one of my friends yesterday, after getting followed by some guys on a motorbike. I’ve now learned the Bangla for ‘disturb’, but really I’d like something a bit more rude! Anyway, I sympathise. And I also suggested the burqa idea – she said they’d still know I was bideshi, but would think that I was getting married to a Bengali, and so I’d get even more attention! There’s no way out it seems…

  estellevisagie wrote @

Oh no, the burqa might make it WORSE? Man, no fair. Maybe there really is no way out…Bet you can’t wait for your holiday back home, imagine the joy at being totally ignored by everyone on the street. What a Christmas present.

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