Sunday, June 3, 2012

Night 1

View Outside My Window

In preparation for my travels, I met a few Bangladeshi students and alumni from my college. Last night, I met the parents of one of these friends. They helped me buy groceries, showed me their beautiful home, and took me out to a wonderful Thai meal. Riding around the city, I got a glimpse of poverty, sighting numerous beggars with a myriad of physical ailments. Maybe I lack compassion, but I have never felt the slightest inkling to give money to beggars in the United States. I expected these emotions to follow me overseas, but seeing a level of poverty nonexistent in the United States, I had greater difficulty dismissing beggars tapping on my car door window. Maybe when I begin my internship with BRAC tomorrow, my contribution to poverty alleviation in Bangladesh will replace any desire to spare change for these beggars. 

Outside of the grocery store, I heard a familiar sound: a song that I had heard played outside of my hotel earlier that day. I turned to my friend’s mother and asked her what type of instrument was being played. She smiled and informed me that no instrument was playing, but the sound was a call to prayer from the nearest mosque. It is a very unique sound, resembling some mix of a horn and a string instrument, but I believe it’s just a vocal chant. Little did I know that this call to prayer occurs multiple times per day, including 4:41 this morning. 
Lychee Fruit

At my friend’s parents’ home, I tried raw lychee fruit, much better than the canned variety I’ve tried in California. For dinner, we shared the following dishes:

Fish Cakes
Mixed Vegetables with Oyster Sauce
Grilled Fish
Chicken with Green Curry

Before ordering, my friend’s father asked if I was sure I had tried and liked Thai food. I told him I had had American Thai food, so it was probably much milder than anything I would be served in Bangladesh. After finishing our meal, I told the family how much I enjoyed the meal even though I found it quite spicy. My friend’s father told me that this meal was actually quite mild for authentic Thai food: apparently a good level for a Midwesterner. That is, until midnight last night. 

Every online resource, personal friend, and piece of literature I used to research Bangladesh warned me about the stomach problems that would ensue. Having a pretty strong stomach, I was stunned to wake up in the middle of the night groaning with pain. It was nothing a little pepto bismol couldn’t handle; I was back to sleep after about an hour and a half. I’m not sure whether the strong winds and thunder, characteristic of monsoon season, or the stomach pains woke me up, but I am starting to really appreciate every small success throughout the day: getting my luggage, having someone at the airport waiting to pick me up, successfully exchanging currencies, meeting a kind family to show me around in Bangladesh, tasting the best mangos and bananas I have ever tasted in my life, and somewhat overcoming my jet lag. 

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