I am going to call today our cultural immersion day to make us sound fancy. I am a tad bit scatter brained so I will talk about today and then I will discuss yesterday...
Today we went with Michel and his two boys Mitu and Allemand to their homes. Friday's are holidays in Bangladesh and they are very similar to Sunday's in America. The streets are less crowded and people attend their religious services in their fancy garb. Every other Friday Michel goes to the boy's homes and pays them their salary. He goes home with them because he gives the money to their parents so they do not spend it on small unimportant things. We entered into Allemand's home first. It was a small hut in which half was taken up but a straw bed that was about the size of a queen bed. To be honest, I am unsure of how many people live their but I know a lot of people sleep on the bed and a few people (including the father) sleep on the floor. Surprisingly, there was a fan. I would not be exaggerating if I said half of the community tried to pile into the small hut to see us white (and two women) folk. They just stared and often smiled (It felt like we were human manikins... in both homes). Allemand's neice was probably the funniest baby I have ever seen. This baby posed as soon as the red light came on from the camera and then reached out her hands so she could see the photo. Amazing? I think so. Pictures will follow as soon as I understand how. Everyone was quite friendly and loved their picture being taken. It was extremely nice to finally see where people live. It was poor, yes, but everyone in Allemand's community seemed happy and were living rather than trying to survive. Michel told us the community that Allemand lives in is very protective of each other. Random thought... We have rarely seen young girls on the street... We found out where they are... at home. Today was the first day there were more females than males in an outing.... Back to the community... It was a good experience. We also went by bicycle rickshaw which is always an experience.
On to Mitu... Mitu was a different experience. Mitu, I am told, moves every time Michel visits. Michel thinks his father gambles away their money so they constantly have to move. I had to duck in Mitu's home and there was only space for the bed. Michel was more on edge at Mitu's place because although the community swarmed like at Allemand's, some people were not as friendly. Michel was worried that by having white people in his home made him a target to his community. We didn't stay long. The trips were definitely awesome in terms of cultural immersion and eye opening-ness.
On to the second half of the day...
We went with Shobus to Adventureland. What is Adventureland you ask? It is Dhaka cities amusement park. It is within walking distance of our guesthouse and it provided me with more laughs than I have had all year... combined. First, we went on tea cups, then a "water coaster", then a "Ferris wheel", and bumper cars and a "western train". We played some skeeball in front of a rather large audience... and was asked to get our picture taken with a few Bengals in the process (Kind of celebrity of us I know). I cannot even describe the rides in "" because they were so tiny and not very safe and everyone... I mean everyone... was taking pictures of us. It was a real whiplash in terms of wealth. Everyone in Adventureland was dressed extremely nice and was on the heavier side. Oddly, it seemed as though women had also become more equals to men in Adventureland... I don't know if as the wealth increases so does the equality? Either way... although it was fun, and it was a total joke... It did turn out to be a good cultural learning moment.
Correction... It is Wonderland... I was just informed.
Yesterday we went to a Smiling Sun clinic in Dhaka... It was a really cool experience and I suggest everyone read more about Smiling Sun and how it operates. It is a coalition of 27 NGOs with 323 clinics and also gets funding from USAID and the Bangladesh government. The clinic had a C-section room and was pretty impressive overall... Unfortunately I blacked out while I was there due to a fever and the heat... but I quickly recovered once I got some mango juice and sat down.... Either way... Smiling Sun is cool.
We have mixed our cultures a little... Everyday we try to have a Siesta because the heat truly wears you down... But Bengali people do not Siesta... In fact, they work all day non-stop. Their work ethic is insane, and anyone who says "poor people are lazy, they should just work and then they will get opportunity to further themselves" should come to Bangladesh. These people are dirt poor and work their asses off all day and rarely take a break. Most of them will continue to work harder than I have seen any millionaire or even any middle class American to the day they die and they will never see the wealth they do. For example.. Bicycle Rickshaws... These men bike all day in 90+ degree weather without water bottles toting around up to 500 pounds across miles of city land. A 3 mile rickshaw ride gets these guys 50 taka tops... 75 taka is 1 USD. I literally could not do what these men do and I am halfway done with my college degree. I could go to school forever and it would never help me do what these men do. But I bet, if you gave 100 of these people the opportunities that I had... 98 of them would be able to do it... and out of those 98... 97 of them would have done it better. Yet... I could never do what they do.
I hope the message I am trying to display is getting across here... I know it is a little round a bout and confusing and full of ... but it is how I think?
The message is... These people are amazing. You would be so wrong to ever think you can look at them and feel distinguished or "better". Because, yes the work can be "simple", but you can never call it easy and you could never call them lazy... Most importantly, you can never say they are not deserving of success.
That is my rant for the day.