I left my living bubble and ventured to the other side of town-Mohamedpur-yesterday afternoon after a woman's conference. My destination, the home of a couple, one from the Philippines and one from Germany, who have worked with Pakistani refugees at a camp for the past eleven years. Since I arrived at my friends' house a few hours too early for dinner, I went out on a shopping adventure with their daughter, who is one of my students. This eleven year old girl I'll just call by the oh-so-creative pseudonym "Girl." She took me first to Source, a handicrafts project run by the Eastern Mennonite Committee. We had fun digging through the fun homeade paper gifts, like cards and paper lanterns, and fingering the bright fabrics. Girl bought a little box covered in random images of dinosaurs, dancing ballerinas, and fire trucks. She also took a strong disliking to a paper mache bowl decorated with fruit that I wanted. She convinced me not to buy it.
After Source she led me to a bazar so we could look at beads, Girl's obsession. She's my new decorator, since she just made me an anklet and then last week made me a cheerful pair of dangly blue earrings that I adore. Next Girl mentioned she knew where to find fresh mint leaves in the fruit market, so we walked past the symmetrical piles of oranges and apples and the baskets brimming with mangos and litychees. On the way I explained to her how to cut up a star fruit and how they are perfect for neat looking fruit salads.
On the way through the fruit market Girl remarked on how it is so boring for her to shop in Germany (where her Mom is from) because people shop in boring supermarkets.
"That's true," I agreed wholeheartedly, "people push their little carts around and pull boringly packaged products off the shelves. Bazaars here are open air and so colorful!"
"Yeah," she said seriously, "here people are always doing things and so much is going on."
Her attitude was so fresh compared with some foreigners, who tend to view their home countries as superior to underdeveloped Bangladesh.
Next we went into a funky shop filled with oddities that you'd never go looking for, but once you see them you have to have them. Like coconut shell totem heads or huge peacock feather earrings.
By that time it was late and we had to catch a rickshaw back to Girl's in time for dinner. But I couldn't help but love watching Girl morph into yet another person once we stepped back into her home. She does a wonderful job of doing that, of adapting to whatever situation she's in, be it on the street with local kids, at school, or at home. She's like a chameleon, easily slipping between speaking German, Bengali, or English.