Monday, June 15, 2009

Article here: Does Bangladesh Use Foreign Aid Wisely?

Apropos, coming after my posts of train travel in Bangladesh. It would be great if the Dhaka-Chittagong trains were faster...and even better if the political system was less corrupt.

Friday, June 12, 2009


We had a week off in April, and I decided to stay in Bangladesh to see more of the country. It was the right decision; I'm really glad that's what I did! We spent about half the week in Srimongol, a nature preserve in Syhlet division (famous for its tea plantations), soaking up some fresh air. The other half of the week we spent in Dhaka seeing the sights and eating American food (i.e. real coffee and pizza!).

LB and I traveled around the country by train. It was really comfortable and much less nauseating than the bus, which weaves through traffic at an alarming rate. On Day One we arrived half an hour early to the Chittagong train station, the first people on the train. A man sat down next to us and helped us get into the right seats. Then he asked the usual questions that we answer 15 times a day: What is your country? What is your job?, etc etc. It was 7am and we weren't in the mood. Next question: Do you speak Bengali? We said no. Then he called someone on his cellphone and proceeded to talk about us on the phone in Bengali! We couldn't hold in our laughter and he got up, embarrassed. He sat back down about 10 minutes later when the Koran was being read aloud on the loud speaker and said ascerbically "You know Koran?" Needless to say we did not make a new friend.

Between the chop shop across the street, CNG motors, rickshaw bells, howling dogs, huge trucks, blaring horns, burning garbage and car exhaust, Chittagong is incredibly noisy and polluted. Arriving in Srimongol at our guest house-- about a 20 minute ride past tea plantations and into the "jungle"-- was incredibly refreshing. My lungs ached from the fresh air and my ears were ringing from the quiet! That first night, the power went out, the fan turned off, and my ears were ringing so loud that I couldn't sleep. I actually heard my stomach growl for the first time in months.

Our guest house:

We stayed at the guest house of Christian NGO that does a lot of health work in the area, especially with leprosy. The whole missionary thing was a little awkward, but we're used to it by this point (not the first guesthouse of that type we've been at this year!).

Some shots from the village:

This cow is too skinny.

It was jackfruit season! Jackfruit everywhere, growing out of every corner of the trees.I stole this picture from LB. The guest house didn't have a generator, so we spent a lot of time hanging out by candlelight.

One day we took a tour of the area with a guide. First, we went walking through the nature preserve.
So much bamboo in this country! I showed my pictures to some students, who thought it was hilarious that I took pictures of bamboo. But I've never seen it growing before!
Welcome to the village
The zoom on my camera is pretty good. A monkey munching on jackfruit!

We visited a pineapple plantation:

So many pineapples.
We got to eat some! They were extra small for the season due to lack of rain.
Seriously, jackfruit everywhere.
Pineapple bushes are the best. It looks like someone just set the little pinapple on top.
We walked through a tribal village. . .
A pig! Don't see many of those in this country.
The village school. The boys and girls didn't stand together at recess, or so it seems.
These guys were chasing a rogue cow. They didn't catch it.

Boy games.

LB took a picture of me showing them the picture above.

Tea plantation!

The famous 7 layer tea of Srimongol. An experience.

We got in trouble for taking a picture of the kitchen, as we might deduce the "secret" recipe.

Rubber trees! They look the part, don't they?Little grooves are cut into the trees and the rubber runs down the groove into a cup waiting to collect it.

Last stop was a nice quiet lake.

A boat. The fishermen had just come back in for the day and were relaxing on the edge of the water.
Mangoes. Mmmmm.
Stopped to get some watermelon on the way home. Perfect end to the day.

Next up...train ride to Dhaka!