Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Salamat Pagi from Bangladesh

Salamat Pagi is how we say “good morning” in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a new country with a very old history. They got their independence from Pakistan in 1971. Before that it was part of India. However, people have been living in the area for thousands of year.

Dhaka is very, very busy. Every workday the roads are unbelievably crowded with cars, trucks, colorful bicycle rickshaws, and motorcycle taxis. The men wear a longhi – a wraparound, full length cloth like they do in Myanmar but the women wear a sari. Some saris are over 20 feet in length but they wrapped around their body and head very beautifully. Most of the saris are colorful with a lot of sparkles.

When we visited the historical sites in Dhaka young people came up to us to greet us in English. One boy about eight dressed in a black suit extended his hand and said in perfect English, “It is a pleasure to meet you.” Other children greeted us in English but seemed very shy. Many people had cell phones that they could use as a camera to take our picture. Still others wanted us to pose with their children so they could take our picture. They were not use to seeing people from the Western Hemisphere so we were the main attraction. They were interested in us but not rude.

Bangladesh is a country of rivers. The rivers come out of the Himalayas and form a huge delta. One day we spent on the Meghna River on a traditional wooded boat. There are many different kinds of boats to ferry people and goods on the river. Our boat was quite big with a covered area where we could sit. One of our guides was Catherine, she has a Christian name because she is a Christian, but most of the people in Bangladesh are Moslem. Our other guide was Ferdous. His wife, Nipa, and their baby, Noel, also came along mainly because Nipa wanted to meet Americans.

We like river travel. We stopped at a village on a sandy island. During the rainy season the river is many, many feet higher so a lot of the islands in the river are covered in water. If it gets too high the people have to move to a higher location.

Water hyacinths float on the rivers. The people rake it onto the beach, dry it and use it for fuel. When we arrived the villagers met us and gave us a tour of their village. They were very friendly and even invited us into their homes. They grow rice and have fish farms along the shore. The river is very important to the people. It is where they bathe, wash their clothes, clean their dishes, water their crops, and fish. The school on the island only goes to 6th grade. School was over when we arrived so we didn’t visit the school but we brought pencils with us. We only had a couple dozen pencils so there was not enough for each child so we gave them to the head man so he could hand them out in the best manner.
Ferdous cooked a delicious lunch of curry chicken, fried fish, mixed vegetables and rice. Most people in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan eat with their fingers. We were glad they brought forks for us because we find it hard to eat with our fingers with out spilling the rice all over. Remember: one-third of the world eats with a fork, one-third eats with chopsticks, and one-third eats with their fingers and they are all doing it correctly according to their culture and tradition.