Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The US of A

I got back to the US yesterday at around 3. My lovely parents drove 3 hours+ to the airport to pick up my suitcase, give me a smaller bag, and take me to get some food. I am spoiled. I then took an hour flight to DC and spent the night at a house. I then woke up early to go to court. I was arrested for protesting AIDS budget cuts that intended to kill 2 million+ people. I am now in the court room cafe writing this blog waiting for my 7pm flight to Boston.

Traveling back from Bangladesh was full of emotions. We got to the airport at 745pm and our flight was changed to leave at 8. We arrived at the desk and the man at the desk upgraded our tickets to buisness class. Let me rewind... We left from the guesthouse and Amina and Michel walked us out. Amina was crying and Michel gave a nice Dutch goodbye with three kisses. We showed up at the airport and Shobuj was there to say bye. He left work early and waited for us an hour at the airport. Luckily he was there ebcause our taxi driver tried to hassle us for more money and beggers started to surround us until Shobuj told everyone to go away. He also showed us to our terminal. I will miss all three of them very much... but I have plans to go back to Bangladesh next year and see them. I want to study water there because A) It is green and gross B) India sucks and either floods them or causes a drought and C) Because I am looking for a reason to go back to see the three amigos.

Anyways... Now I am in America and it is incredibly comfortable. Driving seems very slow and I get impatient. Everything is in excess and it is kind of annoying. Everything is also really expensive.

I will be posting pictures in the next few days. I will also be updating on the writing of the book and plans for Uganda. That is the future of this blog. The major writing will start in September again when I am in Uganda/Rwanda.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

One day left.

I wrote an entire blog, and it was deleted... Boo. Here we go again...

This trip has been crazy. There has been so many emotions that have occurred... I am going to start negative and go positive...

Negative 1- I have been sick this entire trip. When I don't have a fever I have a really bad pneumonia-like cough. When I don't have a cough I am throwing up. I am also very tired. This has not been so fun, but I have developed this attitude of... act now, cough later. So luckily, I have not missed any opportunities because of illness

Negative 2- Our first meetings were with USAID. They were informational and pretty comprehensive. USAID set us up with more contacts. We tried making our own contacts; however, if there is not an initial contact, no one emails you back. Since USAID put us in contact with many of the NGOs we visited, we were given very biased tours. The NGOs were either funded by USAID or looking for funding from USAID, and they all thought we were from USAID. Being seen as a money sign is kryptonite for research. For example, we went to Ad Din hospital in Dhaka. It is said to be one of the best and busiest hospitals in Bangladesh, especially for woman and child health. We went and we got the grand tour and a delicious lunch. It seemed amazing... it was clean and high tech. We came out saying, "Wow, they are amazing". However, when you ask people who have been patients of Ad-Din how it is, they are not so happy. Everyone we have spoken to outside of Ad Din has said that it is horrible. There is a long wait, and it is very expensive. What is worse is that many people say Ad DIn does C-sections when they are not needed to get more money. BRAC said one of their biggest problems in there system is the hospital part because the hospitals are so bad. BRAC is not so perfect either. Their plan for MCHP (Maternal child health program... read about it, it is pretty genius) is innovative, practical, and culturally sensitive. We went to a rural village in which the BRAC MCHP was being implemented. We met with community leaders... we asked the community leaders questions, and the BRAC people who were supposed to translate for us, answered them instead of asking the people... fishy? I think so. Then, the BRAC people and the community leaders had a pretty long debate. We were told by BRAC it was about the terrible hospitals... However, we found out it was actually the community leaders confronting BRAC about the fact that there is not community health worker that BRAC promised. This was disheartening because their program is so genius, yet is not being enacted properly.

Negative 3- Man, woman, child, elderly, mentally cchallenged, physically handicapped, rickshaw driver, store owner, gate guard, school children, taxi driver, waiter, waitress, BRAC, Ad-Din, Smiling Sun, Grameen, anyone you see will look at us and think "money" and then ask for "money". It is hard to constantly be seen as a bank and it wares on you to constantly say no. Giving money to a child who asks for a tip, or an elder who asks for a tip, or a physically handicapped child or a mentally handicapped teen will not save them or even help them, but it does make me feel like an ass. Michel, the owner of the guesthouse, gets very irritated by this issue because he constantly wants to help, but knows he can't (he has already taken 2 kids into his home). He has learned to joke about it to be able to get by. Often, by joking, he gets past being seen as money and is able to get to know the genuine person behind the begging. I have learned that if I don't have a sense of humor, I will not make it by with empathy. I will become a cynical evil person who turns off all empathy. I do not want that, so instead I have learned to laugh. I have learned that if you pretend to be Spanish, and speak really poor Spanish (and sometimes a little French), people will look at you quizically, laugh, no longer ask for money, say bye, and walk away. It is a bullet proof method. Sometimes, we ask for their name, which then also confuses them, but then they will talk to us for a little and forget the money aspect. Money sucks.

Neutral 1- We went on a tour with villagers, and although our tour guide was an arrogant ass, it was a very fun and interesting experience once we learned to ignore him. He showed us a wealthy village and a poor village. The wealthy village would be looked at in disgust by most Americans. Why? Because it is very open and their are bugs and lizards and no AC. However, the houses were big, there was electricity, and the outhouses had plumbing. I realized that in America, "nice homes" are big and really cut off from nature. In Bangladesh nice homes are comfortable, and very open to nature. It is refreshing.

Good 1- Amina broke the news to Shobus about my plans to marry him in the very far away future. He was totally down for it, but said I would have to move to Bangladesh... I told him I would consider (Disclaimer, everyone in this situation is kidding). On a serious note, I have the utmost respect for Shobus. He literally works 24/7 and never ever complains. He supports his entire family both financially and mentally. No problem is ever too big for him and he is my age we found out. He is quite admirable.

Good 2- Tonight is family dinner and also family portrait night with Shobus, Michel, and Amina. We bought a really nice cake and I am excited.

Good 3- Once you get past the money, people here are incredibly strong, genuine, and kind. The strength these people have provides so much hope for their future. I truly believe that once people start to think they deserve certain rights, like a good health system, or fair paying jobs, they will be able to achieve them despite the corruption.

Good 4- There are 398409328 more "goods". Most of them involve the people. Another is the natural beauty this country has. I suggest everyone comes to Bangladesh because although it is not perfect, it is worth it.