Monday, August 2, 2010

Birthday Bangladeshi style

Birthday's at my age are kinda just another day, but not this year. We started the day with our wrap-up meeting at Grameen Headquarters, plus a meeting on Social Business. After that we left for Coffee World and Pizza Corner for a birthday celebration. It was alot of fun, and our translator and friend Russell joined the party. I noticed at one point Russell was gone and I thought he had left the table to take a phone call. A few minutes later he returned with flowers for me.  He is such a sweet guy. Bert, how are you going to top this?

I know I won't forget this birthday. Despite not being with my friends and family back home it was a memorable day.

Sheer panic!

Last week was a whirlwind of a week, even though Tuesday ended up being a day off from Grameen activities. It was however a holy day (and night) in the city of Dhaka and they prayed all night long. We hear the prayers daily through the speakers, as one is very near the hotel. It was difficult to sleep that night and we had to get up early for a trip to Utrail to visit some of Dr. Ahmed’s relatives. They had invited us to their summer home and it was a nice treat to get away from the city.

I could do this every day!

The summer home was very nice and the scenery was beautiful.We traveled one hour by van, then two hours by ferry and then another 20 minutes to our final destination. We enjoyed the serenity, good company and good food during our visit. Later in the afternoon we took a boat ride near the village. This was my third boat ride of the trip, so I am getting to be a pro at getting on and off.

Catching the ferry back was an adventure in itself. We were late to the ferry, getting there around 10 p.m. The ferry was already taking off so they stopped it and there was a three foot jump from the dock to the ferry. The boys jumped it but there was no way all of the women could do it. So the driver said he was going to quickly put the ferry up to the dock and we need to go through the gate.

The problem was that it happened too fast. Dr. Ahmed, her mother in law,  and several of us made it through the gate with only about a foot gate between the dock and the ferry, while the ferry was picking up speed. Three of the group were left on the dock. So they ran after the ferry and jumped over the side which was about a four foot drop onto people who were sitting. You have to realize  that the ferry is five floors and there were about 200 people watching this happen. They were apparently yelling at the ferry to slow down.
We were all fine and it was really funny and exciting. Considering that probably most people on the ferry had not seen many foreigners and here we are jumping onto the boat as it is speeding away, we must have looked crazy.

The Long and Winding Road

This past Saturday we traveled to Sylhet to visit the tea estates and spend the night. As you may know it takes a long time to get from point A to point B in this country. We left Dhaka at 7 a.m. and didn't arrive at our destination until after 2 p.m.  The reason for the long travel times is the roads, traffic, and waits at fill-up stations.

The countryside is beautiful and we saw some monkeys as we were traveling through the Lowacherra National Park Before arriving at the Tea Resort where we were staying we stopped at an orchid estate. The manager said there were approximately 100,000 plants . While not all in bloom, it was still quite beautiful.We stayed in bungelows and after lunch the group took a tour around. I unfortunately got sick on something I ate and stayed behind to rest.

Sunday morning after a slight delay due to van problems, we started our trek toward the Madhabkunda Waterfall. This waterfall is famous in Bangladesh and is popular with busloads of Bangladeshi tourists. It was  raining when we arrived, but nonetheless an awesome sight.
After eating lunch at the resturant at the waterfall, we continued our journey. Our next stop was at a cousins of Shamima who had built a large bungelow on the hillside. It was amazing and the view was awesome. Although you can't see the mountains very well, India is just beyond the mountains. I could sit and looking at this view for days drinking my tea!

One more stop before beginning the long journey home. We got the chance to see a tea processing plant to learn exactly how the tea leaves are made into the tea. It was all very interesting.
I'm not quite sure when we departed our last site, but the trip home was long and grueling. We arrived back at the hotel at 4 a.m. Monday. We knew we would be getting back late, but no one anticipated this later. However it was worth the trip.