2001.08.23

Oh boy, what a week. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down. Even as recently as last night I was thinking I'm a total failure: I can't speak Bangla, my trainees indirectly complain about my teaching techniques and the content, my staff class members indirectly complain about the same things, my counterpart is leaving (the second or third that I've gone through), I dread going to market and having to deal with all the attention, I can't find a Bangla tutor, and I couldn't even buy a proper mishti doi (sweet yoghurt) yesterday. I might as well throw in the towel and just get on out of town...

Well, that's how I feel at times. But I've slept it off, thought about things, and I'm back to normal (relatively). Sometimes it's just a chance conversation that keeps me going. I met three of my female trainees the other night when I was getting water from the well. We talked for quite some time about what life is like in America and the cross cultural differences of skin color. Here, everone wants to be lighter, while in America, everyone goes out for a tan. It's encouraging that they are interested in making their lives better, especially because they are women. Women have such a difficult life here that whenever I meet one who is interested in getting beyond the social restrictions placed on her, I just have to smile.

Everyone was supposed to plant rice the other day, but of course about 5 men did it while 155 watched. I convinced about 30 women to plant at least one bunch of rice and then taught my "thinking outside of the box" lesson the next day, showing them that the women are expected to not plant rice. Many people even think that women can't plant rice and are therefore a burden on society. But I pointed out that, given a chance, people can do anything. One anonymous trainee even proclaimed, "women can do anything!" Great, that's the victory that will keep me here for the week!

I do really enjoy it here most of the time. I'm busy, I'm learning a lot about myself, I'm working hard and am exhausted at the end of the day, but I have such high expectations for myself and my work here. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just trying to survive or actually work here.

I finally finished up a roll of film and have taken it to get developed. It took me quite a long time to use it up. I guess that, and the fact that I haven't been reporting any new oddities about Bangladesh in this journal lately, shows that I haven't been stretching my bounds much lately, hiding in the refuge of the PTI and the little semi-comfort zone that I've carved for myself. Just like in America, I have to push myself to keep from getting in a rut.

Part of this was done for me by the PC office. They have given me an additional assignment to teach at the Marine Academy for the next two or three months, one day per week. I'm still not sure how I feel about it, but I was there today and although it's still an ethical conundrum for me (these are not needy people, but some of the better groomed and educated kids of Bangladesh living in posh conditions), it did clear my mind and get me out of my rut. We'll see how things go huh?

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