2001.02.20Arriving here felt like I arrived in a place that had just finished a war. Immediately I could feel the dank heavy air on my skin, a heavy air full of water and smoke and pollution and mosquito spray. The carpet was coming up at the international airport, everything looked as if it would fall down. Lines of Bangladeshis waited for another flight as we made our way down one hall, then turned down another to finally meet our contact Phil.
There were simply too many new things for me to respond to. i can't recall them all now. The mosquitos were already thick in the building. The conveyor belt for luggage was torn and old, piles of unclaimed luggage lie in wait for someone, my pack was scuffed and dirty despite a promise to put it in a bag by the check-in attendant in San Fransisco. We were hussled through the passport check by phil and his counterpart. Many people stared, but none questioned anything. The same after finally picking up our luggage, with only one lost luggage piece that looked like a pipe-bomb. We went around customs into the thick night, greeted by three other PCVs and divided. we put luggage in an oversized truck and two groups of buses, and driven through the middle of the night, through guards, and fires, and rickshaws, and traffic that seemed to have no rules. In a hotel for one night, another for the next, and in two days, we are off to Mymensingh.
Yesterday was spent mostly inside, with a quick walk around the neighborgood with Melanie and Valerie. lessons on TEFL, a bit about Dhaka, the second round of shots (rabies and japanese encephalytus yesterday), rules, regulations, tea time. Everything ended at the ambassador's house for an American-style BBQ. It was a bit of a non-sequiter - American food in Bangladesh, but we ate and talked and thanked her for her hospitality.
The town still amazes me. There's the beginning of a building across the street where squaters have taken up residence. All that exists are pillars of rebar, which I saw being cut elsewhere by hammer and chisel.
There are not many animals. I have seen a few cows and a dog or two and one sickly looking cat. There are a lot of birds, most of which I hear, but some I've seen are beautiful. there are people everywhere. Many rickshaws, many poor people.
I don't know what to say to them when the little girls grab my arms and hands, begging for food. they tap at my stomache and put their hands to their mouths, speaking an unkown language to me, but what they are saying is abundantly clear. That's the human face right there. And yet all I can do is turn away for now and ignore it. It's a response I never thought I would have, never wanted to have, but don't know what to do. Change will come slowly here.
I am not homesick - so preoccupied with all that is around me. Too much information is headed at me for sentimental reminicing of home. Bangladesh is my home now. There is nothing for me to return to. But I do want to find time to write. I do want to bring a little bit of Bangladesh back to America via the post. I will have spare time soon. I just need to be patient with this process.