Sunday, January 11, 2009

East Bangladesh Trip Part I

Purpose: Three friends and I travelled around Syhlet and Sri Mongol for a few days this week to visit H.'s Syhletti family, see the "sites" (although it's doubtful they're nice enough to warrant that term) and ultimately plan out the Year 8 and 9 five day school field trip in February.

Missionaries abroad are some of the most interesting people I've met. They've travelled a good deal and have endless fascinating stories about their travels. In Bangladesh, missionaries are also some of the most patient people I've met. This blog is about one such missionary.

Chelsea, a companion on this Syhleti adventure, works for Food For the Hungry (FH) and hails from Wisconsin (Yes! Finally! a fellow American for company). Yet this girl has abandoned her rural mid-western habits-except for wearing long underwear under her shalwar in winter- in favour of Bangla living. She lives on Bangla food. She speaks Bangla fluently. She is, in fact, the whitest Bangali I've met.

At the start of our trip we picked her up in Banani an hour late, and all she calmly asked was "who's fault is it?"

H. ducked her head guiltily, as she'd rolled over and went back to sleep after I'd knocked on her door to wake her up that morning.

After picking up Chelsea, our van set off for Syhlet and I thumbed through the Bangladesh Lonely Planet, looking at vague maps and planning our trip timetable. A pain throbs in my forehead as I unsuccessfully attempt to ring tea gardens and guesthouses, all places I need to check out for the upcoming field trip. Predictably, all the numbers are out of service.

"The Bangladesh Lonely Planet is rubbish," Joel mutters several times.

We stop and use a toilet in a family's home alongside the road, as public toilets are virtually non-existent in this country. Joel comes out of the toilet mumbling about Hepatitis, but the muddy-floored toilet winds a 5 out of 10 on my rating scale, as the smell is bearable and there are working electric lights. I step out to find Chelsea easily squatting next to the lady of the house, who's sitting on her haunches plucking a chicken. Predictably, Chelsea has already befriended her.

"Obviously my planning has to be done in person, not over the phone," I note as she straightens up to her full tall height. "we'll have to just show up and hope we find these places."

Chelsea shrugs nonchalantly, "No worries. People in the villages will direct us once we get there."

Deciding to follow her laid back attitude, I follow her back to the van, where I curl up on the seat and sleep for an hour. Sleeps mellows my worries further, and I spend the rest of the trip gazing at the endless honey-coloured fields dotted with cows and brown Bengalis sliding past my van window.

Forgotten is the Lonely Planet.

Chelsea, ever serene, does the same.

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