Visit Bangladesh… before the tourists do…
“Visit Bangladesh before the tourists come.”
Wow. Today was such an eye-opening experience. We went to a village about 40 kilometers outside of Dhaka – the capital city.
Driving in Bangladesh is a life-changing experience. Even native Bangalis typically do not drive. If they have the means they will purchase a car and then hire a driver by the day to drive the car! In short, travel by vehicle in Bangladesh is mostly a guessing game governed by horns, luck and close calls. At 70+ kilometers, vehicles come up on bicycle powered ricksaws very quickly and changing lanes into a lane that already has a massive bus or extravagantly decorated truck is tricky. It’s a lot of stop and start and speed and swerve.
The Village Bank
When we arrived at the village, we walked to the bank branch. The countryside is lush and green, beautiful scenery and we weren’t even that far out of the city. It’s quiet in the village with few horns blaring and smog-free air. After about a five minute walk through part of the village we boarded a rickety water taxi to take us across the flooded plain. Followed by another five minute walk, we arrived at a small tin hut with 40+ women packed inside, all chatting and preparing to pay their loans to the center manager and discuss various business-related issues. After the meeting and speaking with some of the women, we were invited by several to go to their homes and see how they make their products.
One woman used the money from the loan to purchase a cow for 17,000 taka and grain for 10,000 taka. She fattened the cow and used the milk from the cow for six months. She then sold the cow for 50,000 taka! Making a 23,000 taka profit. (Special note: 1 US dollar = 70 taka). In addition to paying off loans, women are also able to put money into a savings account and into a life insurance pension plan.
The National Martyrs Memorial
The National Martyrs Memorial is dedicated to the men who lost their lives in the Bangali fight for freedom from Pakistan in 1971. The memorial is large and the grounds are beautiful and well-maintained. However, it was not the memorial that kept our attention. Upon entering the grounds, we were immediately being followed by a large group of teenage boys. This following and staring happens to white foreigners all the time, but rarely is the group aggressive. This group of boys were polite but insistent on having their picture taken with me. So somewhere in Bangladesh, there is a group of boys with a picture of me and them. A little later, we were posing for a group picture and there were Bangali men surrounding our translator (who was taking the picture) to watch the photograph be taken.