Friday, July 19, 2013

By The Hands of Men

So over four weeks ago I began the following blog post:

Things have been busy. I'm in DC now for our predeparture orientation, and I just wrote this entire post only to have it erased by the lobby Internet! This might take me the next few days to write then...I am writing this while waiting for Lizzy to come by so we can see each other a bit before bed. And I am going to be ready for bed pretty freakin' soon...

Being at home was warm and comfortable but fleeting...time went by so fast and there are still people  I have not gotten to see (Morgan and Mikal in particular!). I hope to catch up with Quynh while I am in DC. The people I did get to see I do not feel like I saw enough...I think two more weeks would have more adequately satisfied my home fix, but I will take what I can get!

I have had a great time. I loved spending time with family at my grandad's river home, thrift shopping with my grandma, talking to my mom face to face and enjoying one of our favorite shows together (True Blood!), going to the park with Dad, Yvonne and Ripley, visiting the old high school stomping grounds with Anna, meeting my newest nephew Landon (who is a sweetheart!) and so many other much needed visits with friends and family.

I only wish I had taken more photos! Especially with the parents and grandparents, and at our sleepover. It does not look like I can add photos here using the IPad though, so you might not get any photos from me for a while.

And about two weeks ago I began to update/complete that blog post:

Obviously I never finished that post. I got caught up with orientation, with getting some last minute visits in with DC friends, and with dealing with sudden apprehension about going away. This happens to me before nearly everything I sign up for; I find myself thinking, in the moments before, "Is this really a good idea? Really?" I find myself doing what my sister's husband, John, always does when they get in the car to go away: "For the record, this is a bad idea."

But the flight went smoothly, everything, in fact, has gone fairly smoothly, aside from inevitable illnesses and bouts of homesickness. We are all well taken care of and already have a solid routine. In actuality, my routine here is much better than at home when it comes to having a real schedule. I have a pretty consistent sleep schedule, even if I am not getting enough of it, and very consistent meal times and daily happenings.

So we have been here for a little over two weeks. For those two weeks I have been thinking a lot about what to post here. But it is difficult to decide. What do I focus on? Classes? Food? Field trips? The city itself? Our daily life?

It is funny the things you get used to very quickly and the things that are difficult to get used to. I am used to the looks I attract as a bideshi, an obvious foreigner. We are all uncommonly used to sharing poop stories with each other. I am used to the sounds of a foreign language around me, and am almost used to being that person in the store who can only communicate with an assortment of words and gestures rather that sentences. I am used to washing my rear with a hose, which is actually quite nice.

I am not used to passing on the left. I am not used to not having a car and to not being comfortable roaming about alone, for fear I will get lost and not be able to find my way back.

Apparently I am also not used to managing a whole new life schedule, or attempting to keep in touch with friends and family while also struggling to keep up with language school, making new friends, field trips, and staying healthy. The staying healthy part I have been particularly bad at. I have actually been fairly consistently under the weather ever since we arrived, though I fortunately do not think I have gotten anything particularly serious. I of course had horrendous jet-lag, my first jet-lag ever. I had the stomach rumbles for about a week after I got over jet-lag, and then the day my stomach felt better I woke with a sore throat. It has been about a week and a half since then and I am fairly certain I have developed a sinus infection. I am going to the doctor tomorrow morning with our very wonderful and extremely helpful resident director. The people here are all tremendously friendly and helpful. If it weren't for them I think I'd be feeling a little crazy (crazier)! I have met people from America and from Bangladesh I will never forget and will always appreciate.

But in spite of the sicknesses, which are relatively mild compared to some, I am still absorbing and learning so much, more, I think, than I even realize. If someone asked me what I like best about Bangladesh I would say the people and the colors. I absolutely love hanging out with my language partner, Amrita, who is an absolute sweetheart and is very kind to me, as is her wonderful and welcoming family. I love the colors and the clothing, which are bright and beautiful and comfortable. I love the lushness of the vegetation and the country itself. Dhaka is a city that thrives all on its own; it has a city personality more independent than any other. Its streets are full of people, dogs, goats, cows, and the occasional cat or even elephant (haven't been lucky enough to spot one though). Intermingling and living together, all usually calm, in their own worlds, everyone going about their business, through often impassible traffic and drenching rains, or, conversely, empty hartal days and beating, brutal sun. It is always humid and if you are outside you are always sweating. I love the tiktikis, the tiny lizards, in our apartment, and feel safe under my mosquito net.

If someone were to ask me what I don't like about Bangladesh, or Dhaka rather, it would not be anything against the city, but merely feelings of missing home. Being away from Dominic, not talking to my Mom regularly, not immediately knowing when something happens at home etc. I also must admit that I miss free time and comfortable sleep. The former is lacking just because we are so, so busy (this is our first free weekend). The latter I have been lacking in either due to stomach rumbles or a stuffy nose. I do miss food from home, particularly as I'm sick and would really appreciate some comfort food. I might even give a kidney for a BLT right now. And I miss coffee. But the food I have had at Amrita's home is the best I have had since being here, and it is always fantastic and comforting and makes me feel better. Her mother is an amazing cook.

Everything everywhere is torn down and built up by the hands of men. Often by their bare hands things rise and fall; big buildings and dirt roads, tiny cups of tea and massive Iftar meals. I have watched two old men break bricks into gravel with hammers, taking days to do so, and men tearing down brick buildings with their hands. This massive city, and every massive city, is built by the hands of men; men we often forget to consider. How often do the men who built our houses and offices, our hospitals and schools ever even cross our mind? Our lives are in their hands; they are more important to use than we realize.

I am glad I have finally posted some update that everyone can see. I apologize for being out of touch with most of you but please know that you are all on my mind and in my heart and I am always thinking of things to share with you. If anyone has any particular requests they would like me to write about, please let me know! It is overwhelming for me, trying to decide what to share. There is so, so, so much! The city is vibrant and alive, my schedule is busy, and I have never learned so much in such a short amount of time. I hope only that I can remember half of it.

I have managed to upload a small fraction of the over 400 photos I have taken. I am taking requests for particular photos as well!


A former "palace", now museum

Chilling in the street

Street art

Outside of Dhaka, old architectural beauty

Some beautiful traditional clay-made jewelry from wonderful Amrita!

Chicken biryani and eggplant, courtesy of Orin, Golap, and George

And a beautiful sunset from our apartment building's roof

Until next time, good morning to those in the States, and a happy upcoming Iftar to those in Bangladesh!