Thursday, November 1, 2007


I'm back in Dhaka and since being back I've been having a few too many "terrible, no good very bad days". I've been frustrated that I am still sick (though definitely improving - just a bit too slowly for my liking) - and that work is not going how I expected. And my energy levels have been so low that the smallest of things seem to upset me.

But it only takes a walk down my road to gain some much needed perspective and a reminder that in the scheme of things, my problems are insignificant.

Today as I was walking down my street there was a man, physically unable to walk, who was pencil rolling across the street, yelling for Allah and clutching a bowl for begging. His back was scarred badly, I assume from rolling around on the bitumen road and rickshaws and CNGs were dodging him.

I certainly have nothing to complain about.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I apologise for my entries being so few and far between lately (please see the post below for an explanation). Hopefully in a couple of weeks I will be able to do a proper update and add some more photos.

One thing I did want to share though is how crushed I have been by an event that happened at work lately. To say I've had a hard time settling into work is a major understatement. I totally underestimated how hard it would be to work within a local organisation when I don't speak Bangla and when I have to rely on a few colleagues who have proficient English to guide me through as I learn about the different projects our organisation is running, while at the same time trying to grasp different cultural norms and work styles - and different attitudes to women (particularly young ones such as myself).

One of my colleagues who has been particularly good to me is a man who was fairly high up in our organisation and was the counterpart of the other Australian volunteer working there (we are each assigned a counterpart who we are supposed to work closely with and 'skills transfer' with). I was so jealous of the other Aussie volunteer, as for various reasons, many of which I am not exactly sure, I have had very little contact with my counterpart (~3 hours in 3 months) whereas these two have had a very close working relationship and the Bangladeshi guy has also been conscious of including me when he can, such as getting us both involved in the flood relief and asking my opinion on a couple of things.

To cut a long story short, this guy has been fired so stealing money and food from the flood relief funds, that he was coordinating. As I haven't been at work for a couple of weeks I don't know a lot but apparently ~$200 and a bag of potatoes and rice were missing. I can't help but feel that he has been wrongly accused - or has been made the scapegoat for someone else's mistakes.

The alternative is too hard to think about - that this lovely, kind, intelligent man would knowingly steal from people who have just had their lives devestated by floods.

I guess it's also a harsh reminder that I am living in what is apparently one of the most corrupt countries in the world (the joke is that Bangladesh bribed Nigeria to not have the top position).

Sick of Being Sick…

My body and more particularly my stomach has really been knocked around here in Bangladesh. I was hit with a bad bout of gastro on only day three in the country and although relatively unwell for my first month, was able to attribute it to the different foods and my stomach taking time to adjust. Since early August, however, I have been particularly unwell with various tummy bugs – and haven’t managed a full week of work since then – or to be completely well for more than two days in a row.

The last week and a half have been particularly bad and every time I seem to be getting better a new symptom arises. I have had a number of doctors appointments, tests etc and have gone through our entire dvd collection (including 20 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy – I am so sick of those monologues!) :)

I am weak and I am tired and I am miserable - and thus yesterday, despite having the option of an all expenses paid trip to a fancy hospital in Bangkok, I made the decision to go home to Australia for treatment and recuperation. Luckily, I was meant to be going for a long weekend in a few weeks for my brother’s 21st and have been able to bring that ticket forward.

I do feel a little pathetic about not being able to get myself better here – and incredibly guilty that I am able to go home to Australia and have access to good medical care, when I have not been able to get better here, despite having access to supposedly the best doctors in the country. What about the average Bangladeshi? The only way I can justify this in my own head is that currently I am no good to anyone here – and there is no way I can last another 9 months like this.

One of the lovely things though about being sick (always a silver lining), is that it has really made me appreciate my Australian friends here. I often complain about the “AYAD bubble” – where we all know each others business and spend an awful lot of time together (hard for me when I’m not such a fan of the ‘expat’ lifestyle) but during times like this the support network available has been wonderful. I have had people to accompany me to doctor’s appointments, call doctors in Australia for me, deliver dvd packages to save my sanity, make me soup, call to check up on me, buy me icypoles and lemonade, make me pumpkin, console me, advise me on medical things (yay for having a nurse in the group) and generally take care of me. I am so grateful to everyone and hope I can make it up to them (though hope none of them get this sick).

So I am looking forward to getting home and getting better...and then coming back here fully well and refreshed ready to tackle the next nine months.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I love India!!

I never would have thought that I would be able to say that I went on a relaxing holiday to India - but now I can!!

Luckily for me, the curfews lifted just in time for me to catch my midnight bus to Kolkata (~12 hour trip) a few weeks ago and together with a couple of friends - Elise and Phoebe - set out on a one week adventure, which involved spending time in Kolkata, Bangalore and Allepey - and more nights sleeping on buses and trains then in actual beds!

Highlights of the trip included:
- eating yummy fish without bones!! (I have fish for lunch at work 5 days a week that are really small with really small bones and they are driving me insane! Sometimes we even have goldfish sized fish - eek!)
- spending a full 24 hours on a houseboat in the backwaters of Kerala in Allepey. It was so amazingly nice to feel relatively isolated and was a massive contrast to the chaos of Dhaka and being surrounded by people constantly
- jeans and book shopping in Bangalore - never before have I been able to find so many long pairs of jeans that fit well!
- being able to go out for a beer and buying a new sari in Kolkata

An interesting thing was that I felt so much free-er in India than I do in Bangladesh. It's really difficult to describe - and probably had a lot to do with the types of places we visited (relatively well off) and the fact that I was on holidays. A major difference though was that I was able to communicate much more easily with people in general, due to English being more widely spoken. It made such a difference being able to communicate! (my Bangla is in dire need of improvement).

Another interesting part of my trip was that the visible poverty in Kolkata was far less than I expected the first time I went there (coming from Dhaka) yet was far more visible on my way back, after having spent time in Kerala and Bangalore. Amazing how our perspectives become relative.

Overall I loved India and can't wait to go back there. But I am also happy to be back in Bangladesh and going away made me realise that I am starting to get a lot more settled here.

Will hopefully upload some photos on here soon - it would seem that I currently have a virus on my laptop that has infected my camera - fabulous!!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"Suspicion of being a student"

Things have certainly settled down here and for the last few days we have only had curfews at night - from 10pm/11pm until 6am the following morning - and hopefully they will end soon.

The riots seemed to have ceased, with the major universities being shut down and students sent home (pretty much all students stay on campus).

There has, however, been some interesting reports - such as someone being arrested "on suspicion of being a student", charges being laid against 80 000 people - the majority unnamed - and reports of a group of ~100 'students' (including those who couldn't prove they worked) being rounded up from a particular area (indoors under curfew) and being beaten.

Here's a link to a BBC report on the situation from a few days ago (hope it works) -

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dhaka is in chaos!

We are currently in day three of some major riots in Dhaka, that have spread to other areas of the country. Subsequently, a curfew has been imposed since 8pm last night and I am going a little crazy being housebound – especially as I was home all day yesterday as I was sick. I did just pop out of the house then for about 5 minutes – but the streets were eerily quiet, with only a few shops open and the main road near our house, normally chaotic, was completely empty except for the odd ambulance (they are allowed to move around hence a number of people “hire” them in these situations) and police.

You may have heard in the news at home about the riots so I won’t go into too much details here but what started as students protesting against the army treatment of a student and their presence on campus at Dhaka University, has escalated into a combination of protests against the army backed caretaker government and the lack of democracy - plus hooligans jumping on the bandwagon and joining in the violence. Some strategic places have been targeted by the students such as particular officials houses, but there also seems to be a lot of random hooliganism - for example outside one friend’s workplace yesterday people started throwing rocks at a bus and as passengers started jumping out the windows they set it on fire.

There are a lot of theories and rumours about the bigger picture of what is actually going on. Probably best if I don’t document them on here but will be interesting to see how this all pans out...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Flood Relief

Hi everyone,

Just to let you know some good news in that our organisation has received some funds from our donors and started doing flood relief for people in our project areas that have been affected.

I went along today to see the packages of rice, potatoes, lentils and water purifiers being distributed – and was amazed at how patient and dignified people were.

I also went to visit one of our health clinics in the area. The waiting room was packed full of patients and the clinic was in a semi flooded area.

Here’s a couple of photos: