Highlights of Bangladesh: Moments that Touched My Heart
I find myself spending a lot of time at airports, in transit, which means I spend a lot of time thinking. I can't help but reflect on the very special moments and experiences I had in Bangladesh.
Hour by hour, my perception of the country changed - my heart grew as I learned more about the real challenges that persist in the country. But as they say, "an ounce of hope is worth a ton of despair" and what I say were moments of hope and a fight for a better life.
Here are some of my highlights or "moments I will never forget and probably tell my grandchildren one day".
Experiencing Local Transport
Taking local transport was both the "most challenging" and "best" experience. The struggle to commute with local transport made me realise what people go through every day. Despite the relatively short distances, challenges such as poor road conditions and congestion (traffic, traffic, traffic) made it exhausting to travel.
By far the most challenging experience was the local buses (where 1 euro could take you from one city to another). The real challenge was first to find the bus, then surviving a tiring journey of heat, dust, mosquitoes and tight spaces. Again, it was an opportunity to learn about the way locals travel.
Perhaps my most enjoyable experience with local transport was the train where a reserved seat gave me the opportunity to sit more comfortable for 6 hours. What I loved most about the train was being able to walk from carriage to carriage and occasionally notice open doors, open windows and cling onto the edge of the train and stick my head outside. Images of green rice field would blur past me and it made me feel... alive.
"Women? That's a generic highlight..." is probably what you're thinking. And you're right, how can one gender be defined as my highlight in Bangladesh?
“When I was 12 years old my family forced me to marry. At that time, I had no idea about marriage.”
Not long after, her husband left her and their son. She hopes that training in the garments sector gives her the opportunity to find a job to support her child.
“I feel like the right time to get married is when you are finically and mentally independent. Other girls and women must be educated first. Education is important. Marriage comes later."
Well, the truth is, most of my time I was visiting the project I met with women. They were the ones who were ready to open up about their story. It was the women who were evidently marginalized and excluded from having their voice heard by others. It was a powerful experience to have informal conversations with a group of women. The feelings of support and strength resonated in their voices.
Weekend in Tea Country
Spending some time away from Dhaka and exploring the lush green hills of Sreemongal was an experience that I will cherish for a long time. It was an opportunity to see another 'face' of the country. Sippin' on tea and slowly walking around the national park was a way to escape the city and find peaceful moments in nature.
Bengali New Year
Lastly, I want to take a moment to wish all my Bengali friends a Happy New Year. শুভ নববর্ষ "Shubho Nabobarsho". There have been so many special moments on this trip and I feel grateful for everyone who has been sharing their Bengali culture, food and language with me - thank you from the bottom of my heart!