Thursday, April 9, 2009

An Afternoon in a Slum

Yesterday as I was cycling through Badda Bazaar slum to my Assemblies of God church, I noticed that they were finally redoing the terrible road. They were only halfway finished smoothing down the dirt and rocks, but already it made a difference and I didn't feel like I was off-roading, even though the narrow street was still filled with onek [a lot] foot traffic and rickshaws.

When I got to the slum compound, which are a few small homes around a central two roomed building for church and school use, I squatted down to chat with a friend, Sheila, who was washing her clothes at the water pump, while I waited for my adult students to show up. As they suffer from chronic late syndrome, a diease genetic to most Bengalis, this turned into quite a long wait.

One woman was cooking rhoti [it's like a moist flour tortill] while trying to quiet her screaming son. I picked up the little boy and he stopped crying, so I took him for a walk and we bought a chocolate bar. The woman thanked me and I asked her if she would teach me to roll rhoti properly. Currently I adore rhoti-it's my staple food- but I've been struggling to master the art of rolling each piece into a perfect circle.

The perfectionist in me wants to be able to roll each piece with the finesse of Bengali women, who flip and roll the dough with easy flicks of their wrists. Watching their hand motions is like watching a dance, a dance I'm determined to master someday.

Finally a student of mine showed up and my cooking lesson ended, but not before the local ladies told me to come back next week for another rhoti rolling lesson.

Still, my English class never took place as my students wanted me to help one man (he's about my age) write a message for the Good Friday service.

While part of me feels so sorry for the conditions these Bengali believers live in, I don't sense that they are unhappy. They have a strong, sincere church and spiritually they are well grounded. Their homes may only be one cramped room, with no running water and undependable electricity, but their families are close-knit and their neighbors friendly. Yesterday I envied the simplicity of their lives and faith.

By the way, two days ago I finished my 90 day Bible reading in 89 days. Two of my students showed me up by reading the whole Bible in jus a month and a half-way to go them!

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