ok, so this is an epilogue. I’ve been back in Britain now almost three and a half weeks, which have been packed. I’ve got a job working for CAFOD, which is great, my grandmother died, which is awful, and Tottenham are not quite playing to their full potential, which is ugly.
Life in Britain is in many ways just as I remember it, but now I notice the little side shows, the vignettes of life that make Bangladesh so enthralling a lot more. I find Britain ridiculously over-bearing and constrained compared to Bangladesh, and also a lot quieter, but I can cope with the calm. I feel like we are so reserved and acceptant – when I arrived at Heathrow there was a queue of about a thousand people waiting for immigration, but it was an orderly queue, restrained and decent – when I think back to trying to cross the border to India with a few thousand Bangladeshis at Benepole, the comparison is hilarious.
The biggest difference is that everywhere is smoke free, which I don’t approve of at all – this is why – but apparently it makes public places more sociable. And yet when I was in a pub recently, they started to play ‘Lifted‘ by the Lighthouse Family, which I find incredibly anti-social and instantaneously vomit-inducing. In fact I’d rather be forced to eat a packet of Marlboro Reds and then smoke my excrement than listen to the Lighthouse Family. So the world’s gone mad, in pubs anyhow. Continue reading ‘Back in London’
My contract with VSO was for a year, and today I will leave Bangladesh and return to England, bringing this time to a close. And almost certainly this blog, bar a possible epilogue from London. How to surmise a year? I haven’t found religion or myself, but I haven’t really looked. What’s so distracting is Bangladesh; it throws up surprises in every corner and I can’t help but be transfixed by it. Continue reading ‘Shesh in the Desh’
I am going to Nepal for three weeks. So no more blogging until then.
In nearly fifty years of work, VSO has sent tens of thousands of volunteers to placements around the world, and inevitably, there have been accidents and some fatalities. Typically these are road – related, although someone did die of Rabies a few years ago. It’s not something we ever really think about; but at the same time you don’t want to add to the statistic. However, I’m not sure how it would look if ‘fell down a waterfall’ got included in the VSO ‘deaths during service’ book. It might be hard to be sympathetic, and an observer might rather just wonder what a total moron that person must have been.
[This has been cross-posted at Drishtipat here]
Please download the Rickshaw-Development-proposal.pdf
The challenge was to propose an idea which would have the greatest impact on poverty alleviation in Bangladesh. After nine months of living and working in the country as volunteers, my colleague Thomas Wipperman and I realised that the answer was all around us. There are many marginalised groups in Bangladesh; indigenous people, farmers afflicted by the Monga famines, HIV sufferers – but they compromise a tiny minority in a country of over 145 million. When the purpose of intervention is to reach as many people as possible at the lowest end of the social scale, the stand-out constituency is the rickshaw pullers. Rickshaw pullers are the essential cogs in Bangladesh’s machine. And they deserve better.
One of the benefits of VSO is that you can go and work in other areas of the country if a partner NGO has a particular need for some work that you’re able to do for them. It’s similar to a mini-secondment system. And so last month I left Sylhet for two weeks and went to work with some other indigenous community rights NGOs on their IT systems. This normally would be astonishingly boring, except these NGOs are based in the dangerous, treacherous, primitive and absolutely wonderful Chittagong Hill Tracts.