Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tea Plantation Visit

Last Monday afternoon my students and I visited one of the many tea plantations surrounding Srimongol. The stepped-hills were layered with neat rows of tea bushes; dotted here-and-there were stick-thin Bengali workers harvesting tea with sickles. Their withered skin was dark-almost black- from lives spent bending bending over tea bushes in the tropical sun.

My students and I wandered among the leaves of varying shades of green while a guide told us about the gardens. The tea was harvested then sorted by quality. The leaves were packaged and exported far beyond Asia to westernized parts of the world. The workers labored 12-16 hours for 30 taka a day.

30-THIRTY-taka a day. Forty-five cents. Twenty-five pence.

The journey back to our lodging was sober as my girls pondered this startling information.

"Ms. Baker," reflected one twelve year-old, "they said the workers are told their wages were fair and that if they leave they can't find other jobs. Their whole family has to work to survive."

"Also, those tea laborers don't get an education," I pointed out (I had to since I'm an English teacher).

"Ms. Baker," said my girl earnestly, "I'm going to make people around the world aware of inequalities like this someday. I'm going to write about them someday. Someday, I'm going to change the world by writing."

That, my friends, is an earnest heart who I believe will go out and change the world by writing.

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