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Published: October 30th 2010
An Impromptu Stop
One of the most beautiful sights, by the side of the road. Shame i was too ill to fully enjoy it!
As i hurtle into the second half of my 3 months here, i thought a time of reflection on the previous six weeks would be appropriate. So, here follows a list of rules and discoveries that must be followed by anyone coming to Bangladesh. 1. If you want something doing, ask four times. Or do it yourself
This is particularly prevalent if you are working whilst here. At no point in these six weeks at CGS have i asked for something once, and got it straight away. Booking the school minibus is a great example, involving four or five phone calls or visits to the head, being told wildly different timings or reasons why i can't have the minibus, only to discover that it has been booked and will come. At which point i wait downstairs for the bus to come for half an hour, make another phone call, and discover all of this is rubbish and no bus has been booked. Frustrating to say the least. But, this apparent lack of organisation or competence is simply a part of the way of life of Bangladesh, and in order to have a happy time here, my almost fanatical adherance
Nahid and Myself
The Library is my home at school, and Nahid is the most generous person I have met. She looks after me, and makes me laugh!
to timings has had to disappear. 2. The Horn is King
Spend just two minutes on the roads of Bangladesh, or in fact anywhere there may be a car, and you will realise that indicators and careful driving is replaced by the use of the horn. The first time i took a drive in the country, i thought everyone had serious road rage. Instead, the use of the horn is as important to driving in Bangladesh as using your mirrors is at home. Its used as a warning, to say 'I'm overtaking', as a thank-you and numerous other reasons that i still haven't worked out. In such a dog-eat-dog world as driving in Bangladesh, where buses regularly career around blind corners, or drivers pull out without eve a glance, perhaps it is sensible to use both visual and aural warnings. The horn, as with the call to prayer, is an integral sound of Bangladesh. 3. Walking is Fatal
Attempt to walk a short distance from where your car/rickshaw has dropped you off and you will be met with stares and incredulous looks. Apparently, wealthy people do not walk. At all. I have seen people get a
Super poor, with no welfare. But happy.
rickshaw or a car to take them a distance that would be a five minute walk, hey, to make things easier even i do it. Perhaps this is something to do with the driving conditions i described above, the distinct lack of pavements or just the general lack of cleanliness. If you walk, you often will be taking your life in your hands. But the rush of excitement you get from dodging cars is worth it, you can only really see the country and the real people of Bangladesh by walking. Beware of crossing any major roads, or just any road that more than two cars travel on, no pedestrian crossings means no care for walkers! 4. A Little Humour Goes a Long Way
Whether this is with my kids at school, or when bargaining with a rickshaw wallah, employing a smile, a laugh or, if they understand, a good sampling of British wit goes far. Without a sense of humour, my students would have cast me out as a boring and failed teacher. As it is, by self-deprecating, telling jokes or generally just laughing, i have unlocked relationships with these students that i thought would be impossible. Maybe its just because im a foreigner, but i get far more students saying 'Good Morning Sir' with a big smile than other staff, and have managed to bring some of the shier kids out of their comfort zones in my Drama rehearsals. A smile or a joke with a rickshaw wallah, or anyone you meet in the streets will be far more helpful than shouting or sign language! 5. Money is Everything
Perhaps the sadder of my rules, but without money in Bangladesh you are cast out and alone. There is no form of welfare that i can see, and working ridiculously hard is the only way to survive. Seeing children sorting through mountains of rubbish for recyclable materials, or the horribly unlucky disabled people that stand on street corners begging is a heart-wrenching experience. I consider myself very lucky that i have money, and know people in Bangladesh with money, so that i can get around, eat well and have relaxation. Money rules in this country, with it, you can bribe officials, get healthcare, and apparently, even if put in jail, you can live like a king. Corruption, unfortunately, is so common that its a way of life. But when you pay government officials a terrible wage (around £40 a month for a policeman) or don't allow your population to develop, people will have to scam in order to survive. 6. People will Bend Over Backwards for You
The people in Bangladesh are some of the most generous people i have ever met. At school, the teachers are always inviting me for dinner, giving me food, or generally looking after me. On the streets, if a rickshaw wallah attempts to overcharge, the impromptu peoples' court will be put into session, and he will be put in his place. The guards at our apartment block are the most wonderful people, negotiating with the wallahs for the best price, or even helping us to cross the road. As a foreigner i am met with stares, but this is not rude, its simply because foreign (and especially western) tourists are so uncommon. Ask for help, or even look like you need help, and within a few minutes people will be giving you a hand. I will always remember the man who, when i was waiting to be picked up without a phone, offered me his mobile to call whoever i wanted, and stood with me until i was picked up. People here are wonderful, and i will miss their smiles and charm greatly. 7. Enjoy Everything
Good or bad, i try to go through my time here enjoying everything. Whether its the beautiful sights of paddy fields, or a giant traffic jam, without my overbearing optimism, i'd be bored and grumpy. Yes, i get bored when i don't go out and have to stay in on an evening, but as soon as i step out the door to go somewhere, i try to enjoy everything that life throws at me. So far, my most enjoyable experiences have been the impromtu ones brought about by something going wrong.
To summarise, i am loving it here. The country is fantastic, the people are wonderful and kind-hearted and teaching at school is incredibly rewarding. The joy in the faces of some of my students when i arrive at the Drama rehearsals, quickly to be surrounded by them and see them engaged in what i say, is one of the most fantastic parts of my day. Yes, i may gripe and moan about the incompetance of the country and the school, but really, i love it. I could not think of a better way to spend my post-uni days. It is heartbreaking to think of some of the people, especially students, that i will be leaving behind in December. But i can't dwell on that, i still have six weeks of fantastic experiences and wonderful people to meet. Bring it on.
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