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So it has ended

Posted by: | 20 augustus 2012 | 6 Comments |

As I am sitting in Dubai Airport waiting for the luxurious A380 to take me to Amsterdam, I feel a bit odd. Like the last two weeks have been odd. Saying goodbye to GBK. Travelling from Parbatipur for Dhaka for the last time. A car is definitely more comfortable then a bus, but not when your driver goes nuts the moment we enter Dhaka. The best thing about the trip was stopping for lunch to say goodbye to a friend. Well at least goodbye for now. I arrived in Dhaka. Settled in the flat, where I would spend almost 2 weeks. Just took me some days to think: Parbatipur? Feels like a dream already.

After arriving in Dhaka I did some sightseeing in Srimongal, a small town in the northeast of Bangladesh. Northeast is the only region VSO is absent. Is it more developed? I don’t know. I do know that Srimongal has the same number of inhabitants as Parbatipur, but it looks way more developed. With multi-stored buildings, guesthouses and hotels being build and even restaurants where you can have a descent evening meal. Srimongal with tea estates, pineapple gardens, jungle forest and lakes. And loads of tea. Raw tea. Not wasted with milk (powder) and 1/5 kg of sugar per cup. Nice!

And then there was Dhaka itself. With coffee and restaurants, with Iftar parties, with empty streets and almost no traffic jam as half the population has left town to celebrate Eid with their family. In Dhaka I finalized with VSO, said goodbye to the staff and I was sincerely thanked for a successful placement. With an official farewell ceremony they do so.
There was also the not very “official” farewell but never the less a farewell -and a very nice one-: the evening with the other VSO volunteers. With chips and wine (!) we watched ourselves in a documentary (I’m not one of those persons that likes to see herself on a big screen) which was quite inspirational: many good things have been done…or are still attempted too. And what a variety of stories!
Just an intro can be seen here:


Off course there was also some shopping. Some enjoying of coffee, some swimming, watching movies and some relaxing in nice hotel in Gulshan. And then the final knock on the door. The car has arrived. I am brought to Dhaka Airport, where another not very efficient and time consuming waiting is needed before we can board the airplane. And here I am: sitting in Dubai.

I could not have asked for a bigger contrast. I’m not sure now Dhaka has taken over the first position in being the world’s most horrible city, if that also means they have the most horrible airport. But compared to all the shine and sparkling here? Everything seems to be build to impress you. People walk around just to impress another. People without orna’s, in short skirts, talking English or Arab (but not Bengali that’s for sure), people that actually buy the ridiculous expensive jewellery, watches and perfumes. Soft music. Gentle placed lights. Floors reflect the commercial on the walls. Spotless. I feel odd. Out of place. I’m glad it’s just a 8 hour stop. I really want to go home now…

These months have been a great experience. Although I could only capture so much in words and pictures, thanks for reading!

under: werken in het buitenland

Goodbye Parbatipur, hello Dhaka

Posted by: | 4 augustus 2012 | 2 Comments |

Just at the end of July the first ever North West Collective was organized. A meeting for all VSO volunteers in the NW to share experiences and explore joint approaches. Rangpur is almost a small city! With ´real´ restaurants to go to for lunch and dinner, that serve okay food and even coffee (besides the availability of peanut butter a true difference between a village (not) and a town (yes). With bigger streets, loads of traffic, many street shops and a sort of rush. And Tajhat palace. A tourist highlight according to the lonely planet and the locals. Well it does have 3 archaeological pieces inside…but also a lovely park surrounding it. Chilling outside with a group consisting of foreigners only, talking in English and Bangladeshi staring at us: yep I feel like a tourist ;)

Meanwhile Ramadan has started. The ‘restaurants’ have curtains hanging in front of the entrance so the devoted fasting Muslims don’t get distracted by the people that do eat and drink inside. Like me, I have found this nice little tea-place where I drink my wake-up tea with milk and sugar (only flavour available) every morning before I enter the office. I really don’t understand how people manage without drinking in this hot weather. Around 5 PM all the extra food prepared by the restaurants is openly displayed, which turns out to be a good selling technique as the hungry buy and buy.  After the prayer that signals the sun has set, everybody disappears in houses and start eating and drinking. That is somewhere around 7 pm. The perfect time for me to go out for a walk. It has cooled down a little bit and I have never seen the streets so empty. Lovely views of sunset also!

special food items prepared during Ramadan

It is August now. Just a few days and I’ll be leaving my town to head to Dhaka for the last time. A bit weird, but my work plan is completed. The final placement report has been made and send to VSO. Everybody is happy. So basically there ain’t much to for me here anymore. I do help GBK with other –important- things like fundraising, booking hotels in France, distributing the research report, drinking tea, reading newspapers and so on. Time to say goodbye to colleagues and acquaintances. Just some packing to do and off we go.  A lovely car ride definitely beats the bus!

under: werken in het buitenland

(yes it was! :) )

Small talk
After all I am in a village where no foreigners come. So people stare. A lot. And I never heard so many different attempts of people trying to get my attention. Categorized by response:
I do listen to: Yanaka, Jennek, Sister, aunti, madam, miss and Maria.
I might listen to: bhalo atjen, hi, salam a leikum, how are you?, what’s your name? and friendly hand waving.
I most certainly ignore: Bideshi!!!, eeeeeeeeey, babe, Oi oi oi oi and someone snapping his fingers. For some reason they are not familiar with whistling..thank god.
Small talk – part two. I am fascinated by sunglasses. It’s the accessory for every (wo)man. Even here. Also here. Small example can be seen below. What a cool kid that is! ;)

After spending the evening at a colleagues house, having dinner and so on I walk back to my home. Take a quick look above, stop walking and look again. What a magnificent sky. Like the amount of stars triples that of home. Reminds me of Egypt where I sat at my balcony in the evening with a coffee and just gazed into the night. No balcony here unfortunately. No real coffee either. Same peace of mind though.

Loads of water around now

And then just when it’s the first time to say goodbye to a friend -which will make my last weeks here a lot more boring- a postcard arrives. With a small thingy called usb stick. One truly (technical) wonder of this world. Containing two serials and a nice movie. Homeland is finished (I’m a little disappointed about the ending, but it does create lots of possibilities for season 2). On to Borgen :)


Two more field trips: agricultural this time (as water is off course very much linked / connected with that). First is the very basic but helpful solution of constructing a collection point (where farmers and whole sellers can meet). The second one is a agricultural fair where varieties of crops are showed. Wait, is that GBK?

Since my work plan is almost finished, other things come up (actually that’s no difference to the other 4 months). Like writing proposals. Gosh where does that remind me of?? Must say that writing proposals for a NGO is a total different but interesting experience. Lots of colours ;) Oeh and the research report I reviewed is finally printed! I was a bit afraid I wouldn’t see it myself before I left, but here it is!

Let’s end this time with some examples of hope:

–          the young rebel girl wearing ‘western clothes’ (no orna!) and still deciding on becoming an fashion designer or judge (girl power)
–          the statement made by Professor Muhammad Yunus (Bangladesh), Archbishop Desmond Tutu (south Africa), Professor Jody Williams (USA) and Dr. Shirin Ebadi (Iran) Statement of Concern on Violence and Discrimination against LGBT People
–          a lot has been written (and shall be written) about the Padma brigde, the world bank and Bangladesh. I’m not even going to comment on that issue, but it is nice to see that some newspapers are not afraid to publish critical drawings.

–          the enthusiasm lingering in youth club members
–          women playing sports! And not just a sport, no football it is :)



Mijn locatie .

under: werken in het buitenland

a whole different ball game

Posted by: | 21 juni 2012 Reageren uitgeschakeld |

Monsoon is here! So far not a lot of heavy rain (beside the occasional storms) but we’re just beginning. At least there is some rain! Accompanied by small temperature drops that is quite nice. It also means an increase of humidity: not so nice. When rain falls everybody leaves the streets immediately to seek shelter in buildings, under the overhang of gas-stations or anything else that will keep you (sort of) dry. Under a van is also a good example. And then we wait. Just sit. And wait. What’s new? ;)

It is a bit difficult though to try to draw attention to water scarcity when water suddenly is abundant everywhere. “Problem solved, no? “ Eh no. Just wait another 6 months and you’ll see…

With six VSO volunteers (3 Bangla and 3 UK) I visited villages affected by climate change & water scarcity in particular. Sitting in the car they call rollercoaster ride. My most used bangla that day: coup gorrom (too hot!). Meetings are held under banana trees. The youth club members answer our questions proudly and show us around. It all makes sense here. And yet there is so much to be done! You wouldn’t tell by the spirit they show.

News and media are strange phenomena here. Almost every subject seems political. Different parties stating completely opposite stories. Impossible to verify what is true and what is not. Why some stories are told and others aren’t. UN, Amnesty International (and many others) criticizing the country. Corruption and other misbehaviour scare investors away. System and people blaming each other. Most people try to ignore such things and continue their lives. Which is not really helping either. But little changes can be noticed here and there. Hopefully they can serve as brave examples. After all it’s all about the willingness – and courage- to change!

Dhaka is exhausting. I am enjoying city life with it’s buzz. The flow that never seems to stop. Even though that means horrible traffic jam, causing me to arrive late and sweaty at my appointment. Dust that makes me cough. And always someone watching you (14 million people in Dhaka and many of them are on the streets). It also means drinking real coffee. Eating luxuries and very expensive food. But so much appreciated. It means very nice company, both Bangladeshi and international. I met some new people and was able to catch up with old friends. I enjoyed the talking, discussions, laughing, joking and answering all issues Bangladesh is facing: it’s not that hard…just some minor changes here and there ;) I love to engage with all of them as well as I love to spend some time alone to let all experiences sink in before I lose my mind. I even like the CNG that guides me through crazy traffic. I like to attend VSO meetings and learn from other’s shared experiences and enthusiasm that (still) lingers around. And I will certainly not forget we danced to celebrate the arrival of the newbies and our achievement so far: surviving the desh ;)

Oh yes -how can I forget- I visited the First conference on harvesting rainwater in Bangladesh!

Euro 2012. All set with chips and refreshments I turned on the radio on 9th of June. Then I tried my TV -just in case- and what a surprise: some Indian channel broadcasts EURO 2012 live!!! That made me very happy. Off course the match itself and the other two that followed after didn’t make me happy at all. After some crying one relief came to mind: next time (2014) I’ll be watching in a pub with friends & beer ;) And maybe by then we have a team that doesn´t lose 3 games in a row. Would be nice.
Well at least I can watch a lot of soccer now :) Not bad after all the cricket.

Mijn locatie .

under: werken in het buitenland

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