Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Winding Down

Well, not surprisingly we were having some serious internet problems over the past couple of weeks. It seems the internet wires in my building were cut. Who would do this you ask? The competitors, of course. And to think of the millions of dollars Verizon and Comcast waste on advertising and promotions, when in fact all you need is a pair of wire cutters!

It has been another full week of learning, both inside and outside the classroom. This past weekend we visited a large well-established NGO called Proshika (Bangla for training). The complex had a sustainable farm with bee keeping, a full dairy, chickens and a fish hatchery. They also had a small fabrics processing center with all facets from spinning and dying thread to the machine and/or hand weaving. Finished fabrics are then block printed or painted in the traditional fashion. The premise of this organization is to bring village people (no, not of “YMCA” fame) from across Bangladesh to be trained in sustainable and economically feasible cottage industries. The highlight for me was the two village schools run by Proshika that we visited.

Today the American Ambassador visited our school, along with two embassy point people, which assist in arranging Fulbright positions. I’ll tell you, 5 weeks ago I would not have thought I would consider returning to this crazy place, but it is the kind of crazy that once you become accustomed, you grow to love. Mastering the language is a large part of that comfort. Speaking of which I got my best grade so far on this week’s test!!! It was only an 85%, but that is gold to me considering the arduous road of speaking Bangla.

One of our students, a recent graduate of Bryn Mawr College, has contracted Dengue Fever. She has been in the hospital for the past 4 days. With that said, this is the nicest hospital I have ever been in and she is in excellent care. She just needs monitoring and lots of rest. Dengue Fever is contracted by an infected, AKA “rabid” mosquito. She has the first case of Dengue in Dhaka this season. That gives her some serious bragging rights!

My language partner has invited me to her home in Mirapur on Thursday. This is a lovely honor to meet her family and get to know more about her life. I will post pictures on the weekend.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Beautiful Bangladesh

The trip north to Bogra was amazing. The past week I was missing my previous summer in Poland and other comforts of the familiar. I was beginning to think that Bangladesh was a place I would never return, a feeling which I don’t usually have while traveling. The fact of the matter is I don’t like Dhaka, but I love Bangladesh. This is a beautiful country of bountiful nature and kind-hearted people. There are many large cities I avoid when I travel, I just happen to be studying in one of the most crowded cities. Now I know Bangladesh is an absolutely wonderful place!

Now back to the beautiful Bangladeshi countryside. There are not enough adjectives to describe all of the amazing sights of this past weekend, suffice to say it was very National Geographic (yes that will be my adjective of choice). Bangladesh is blessed, and sometimes cursed, with an abundance water making it prime for growing many crops. In the area we traveled there were small plots of rice, banana trees, sugar cane and jute. The abundant fields are interspersed with small man-made holding ponds for washing and gathering drinking water. This is a way of managing and directing all that water into a manageable and useable location. In the short video clip below you can see the countryside as our group travels down the road on a small side trip.
The focus of our Bogra adventure was Bangladesh’s archeological treasures. There are several old ruins in this area. On Friday we visited Pararpur, a 1400 year old Buddhist monastery. Parapur is the largest monastery south of the Himalayas. It was chosen as the secluded educational site for 177 Buddhists monks. The monks lived in small chambers that surrounded the main temple area in the center. Mahashangarh is the ruins of an 8th century temple and town center. You can walk the old city walls for miles. You can see some of the photos on the right.

Of course we ended the trip with another trip to a sari weaving factory in Tangail. These saris were woven on mechanized loom (not electric) similar to a large treadle sewing machine. The patterns were formed by cardboard hole punch cards that the silk thread passed through. The ‘factories’ are the size of a large garage. The people often work 6 days per week. Needless to say, it was enlightening to see where these goods originate.