A Quick Report From Bangladesh
Bangladesh is amazing. However I’m not exactly thrilled about my body being covered in bed-bug and spider bites. Not all the accomodations have been 5 star
There are 140 million people living in an area the size of Iowa. It’s crazy! So far we’ve had two 8-10 hour days of of driving. The roads are relentlessly populated with people walking, riding, pushing, pulling. My body is very sore from being tossed about the vehicle as our driver lurches at alarming speed from shoulder to shoulder of the road dodging the endless stream of rickshaws, busses, overloaded trucks and people.
Out of 140 million people, half can only read and write their name. 45 percent of the work force are day labourers who work for about a dollar a day. In the rural areas, folks live in tin houses built on bamboo frames and wring out an existence from share-croping and land leasing arangements. Apparently almost all of the land is owned by roughly 10 percent of the population – there is no land ownership among the poor.
But there is alot of energy here. The people themselves are overwhelmingly friendly and hospitable. We get stared at alot, but any small gesture of warm friendliness is immediately returned ten-fold. The people seem quite happy and there is a fond at-easeness among them that is lovely.
Yesterday we visited a small village on the southern coast that was wiped out by a cyclone back in November. The storm brought a 25 foot wall of water that swamped the village at about 9:30 at night – after the sun had gone down. The village itself was decimated and the storm claimed 3000 lives – 17 from this village. We listened to several women speak of having their babies torn from their arms as the waters raged and their bodies were battered and cut open by the sharp edged corregated steel (from the homes) floating in the water. One woman told the most heartbreaking story of watching her husband clinging to a tree with one arm and his child with another as a large beam crushed his arm which released the child and they watched thier child float away into the horrible night.
Obviously, emotions are still pretty raw here. We cried with them and felt priveleged to hear their story. It’s hard to know how to respond. Homes can be replaced, the children cannot. However, homes are not as easily replaced here as back in Canada. There’s no insurance and limited government support. Canadian Foodgrains Bank is starting a food-for-work program here to help rebuild the roads. Other agencies are helping but it is not enough.
An average home here would cost two-thousand dollars to rebuild. A parent earning a dollar a day can’t imagine how that loss will ever be recovered. It’s hard to not think about the fact that the cost of our flights here would make a big difference to the lives of a few families in this place. I feel very conflicted about being here. I pray it will turn into some good otherwise.
Tomorrow we will visit several school feeding programs and a water management (irrigation and diversion) project. Then we return to Dhaka (central Bangladesh) to catch a flight to India on Sunday morning. Unfortunately we have to miss a several hundred thousand person Easter sunrise service in the capital.
Nanci is doing great – no allergy problems yet, which is wonderful. We’re both still a bit jet lagged but expect that to be over by the time it’s time to turn around and go home. Sigh…
love you all – feel free to pass this to whomever.