Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I have officially arrived to my new home in Dhaka, Bangladesh! Thank you to everyone for your continued messages of support, it really does mean the world to me. It's amazing home far anyway I physically am but yet how close I still feel with the incredible technology I have access to. I have full access to high speed Wifi when I am in my apartment. It has been wonderful to be able to Skype with many of you, recieve imessages and emails. This week has been an absolute whirlwind as Laura and I continue to adjust to our new surroundings.

Often times I feel that words utterly fail when attemting to describe what living here is like. Security is a constant concern that we must be mindful of at all times. Ironically there have a been several times this week when I felt more secure wherever I was then everyone  back home in Boston. I first found out about the Marathon bombings while flying over Africa. Laura woke me up in panic trying to expain what was happening. As I started to wake up I thought for sure she accidentally said Boston but meant Dhaka. Unfortunately, she had it correct the first time.

We were briefly able to access the internet on the flight to check in with loved ones. My heart goes out to all the victims, families, survivors and to those having to experience the terror of the situation. It's disturbing how the hatred of a few can inflict such pain upon so many. Fortunately I was reminded by a friend that these circumstances demonstrates how much more good than bad exists in the world. I am grateful to be from a city where this concept is a constant reminder as to why Boston is so strong!

Laura and I made it to Dubai when we learned about the 7.8 Earthquake that disrupted the Middle East. I was safe the entire time and felt no effects from it catostrophic events but thank you for all the concern. The flights were otherwise uneventful (although did take a total of ~18hours of flying time). We were quite comfortable in the accomodations of Emirates, I even ate all of the food! The time change has been a bit more challening. I lost around two nights of sleep form the traveling and was fighting to keep my eyes open while filing out my immigration paperwork. My fatigue may have been a disguised blessing as were driven from the airport to our apartment.

We were welcomed by representatives from the Ak Kahn Trust right at the airport. All of luggage (despite probably weighing the plane down) arrived without issue! Customs did open all of my granola bar boxes... I can only imagine their thoughts of the person who will be eating hundreds of Luna bars and boxes of Ensure... Laura even found a luggage cart to push all ~500lbs of bags!

Once outside of the gate to the van waiting for us, reality started to kick in. Some of the Bengali citizens stand outside the gate just holding on and staring. Their curiuous gazes were hold to divert my eyes away from. Driving in Dhaka is an experience that can be decribed countless times but complelty meaningless until you experience it firsthand. Luckily our driver was excellent and took every safety precaution possible. The anount of people, noise, horns, lack of traffic lines, lacks of lanes, ricksahws, bikes, beggers, buses, poor street conditions and road side reversal is enough to overwhelm anyone. The amount of stimulation outside of the car is exhausting.

We made it to our apartment in one the safest and most becautiful sections of the city. We passed through multiple checkpoints where I think I finally woke up to understand the idea that I'm no longer in Kansas anymore...

Our apartmet is just gorgeous! Laura and I have our own rooms and bathrooms complete with balconies. The living room, kitchen and dining area is quite spacious! There is even a guest room if we can entice any MGHers to visit... As mentioned the internet access is the same at home. I even have air conditioning :-) I have adjusted to the bars on all the windows/balconies and no longer have to worry about falling off of anything haha. There is a pond to the right of my balcony so technically speaking this would be considered waterfront property. The sunsets from my bedroom take your breath away.

We have a helper who comes in the morning and evening to cook us meals and assist with housekeeping. She very friendly and I'm hoping I will be able to communicate with her before I leave. The first day I think I may have trapped her in here with us since I didn't understand we had to let her out- she is very patient with me!

The food is still taking time to adjust to. There is quite a variety of food available here but much of which we have to avoid due to the risks of food poisoning. I've done fairly well with not drinking the tap water with the exception of one incident in Dubai... It can be challenging to remember while brushing teeth or cooking but we are settling into  a routine. My diet now consists of everything spicy (I realize no one at home will believe it but it's true!) Once more... I'm not allowed to have dairy here! I know this is shocking- but I have NOT had any yogurt in six days now... I'm doing okay as Laura introduced me to Nutella; helps to ease the loss.

The office is conveniently located directly across the street from us. We will start lecturing for our first class on Sunday! I'm very excited to begin our lectures as I know these women are so eager to learn.  There have been some security concerns with the political protests but that is all being monitored very closely. The AK Khan trust takes every precaution possible with regard to our safety and I feel very comfortable with trusting their judgement. Laura and I are only out when a driver is with us and usually another escort. We are never out at night and stay locally in our safe area. Our presence is just as new to many of the Bangladesh people as they are to us. The attention we receive from them is usually natural friendly curiosity over our differences. I'm just as mesmerized by them as they are by me.

Driving around Bangladesh has gotten easier for us over the past few days. (Just to clarify we are passengers, and NEVER will be actually driving here.) I've found that by listening to my Ipod I'm able to more effectively separate myself from the chaos outside the vehicle. Finding small coping mechanisms like this are becoming the key to adjusting to life here.

I'm so grateful to have Laura here as my fellow Simmons alumna, co-worker at MGH and most importantly, my friend. The strength that we have been able to find in each other is what is allowing us to find success here. We are able to debrief with each other regularly, discuss goals, coping philosophies and organize plans. The best thing we do together is laugh. We have been doing Zumba daily for our sanity, I can only imagine what the neighbors would say if they could witness it...

There is a pond a block from us with a path around where we try to take daily "mindful" walks. The market is always an adventure as we adjust to the currency. One US dollar equals about 77 "Taka."  Bangladesh is a whole new world that I'm honored to have the chance to fall in love with <3  Namaste.

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