Bangladesh 2010

07JUN2010 I’m currently sitting in the airport in Muscat, Oman. It is a very nice airport, and thankfully, all have been very helpful to me. I discovered only a few days before leaving that CheapOAir changed my reservations such that I was left with a 28-hour layover in Muscat, the thing that I dreaded most, being stuck in an airport for lengthy periods of time. There was no way that I could correct matters, though there was a glimmer of hope yesterday with Lufthansa suggesting that I could be bumped for a day, which would have left me a 4 hour rather than 28-hour layover. Oh well. The trip started in Seattle. The checkout person was German, so we did the entire exchange auf Deutsch. I was pleased to discover that I was also able to fare quite well in the Frankfurt Flughafen, my German ever so slowly improving, though mostly in interpretation, and not inability to communicate. I’ve been able to read two large books so far in my travel, well as study some German and Bengali. I sadly discovered that I left my light yellow rain jacket on the last airplane, but won’t discover until this evening whether it showed up in lost and found. The airport is quite fascinating, and am surprised at the amount of liquor that could be found here, even though it is a strict Muslim country. I’ll probably pick up some frankincense on my way back from Bangladesh. I wish that Betsy was with me. I miss her, even though she seems to be constantly anxious about any sort of imaginable trivia. I’ve seen only a few spooks so far, and most people seem to be dressed in Indian western dress. I am quite surprised at the prevalence of Western culture, and especially English, in remote parts of the world, such as here in Oman.  Watching Muslim and Hindu families come by, seeing people interact and converse, it amazes me that cultural differences are over-emphasized, and how similar the characteristics of all humankind tend to be.
08JUN2010 Finally in BD. Babil got me at the airport, and we went for lunch at a local Bangladeshi restaurant. I’m eating with my hands again! You don’t use a spoon and fork in BD but pick up your food with your hands. It was wonderful to see old friends here in Chabagong, including Steve K, Steve W., Jason & Anna, John Tripura, Poromil, Uttam, Sujan, and the Collins. They make the trip worth it! Please forgive me if I left your name out…
20JUN2010 A 12-day interlude is now noted. I have been quite busy at the hospital and enjoying my interactions. Like before, I have spent much of my free time either talking with friends (of whom are both Americans and Bangladeshis), or reading. A number of books have already been devoured. Several books will not be reported in my website for the sake of Christian charity. Dr. Lattin has also loaned me some old copies of First Things.  I find First Things quite fascinating with a mixture of feelings. About a 1/3 of the articles are delightful and of interest to me. They utilize English at its best, a subject which leaves me rather jealous, because, try as I may, I find it impossible to write well. Every time I re-read what I write, I find grammatical errors, confusing statements, inappropriate use of words, self-manufactured words, and other stupidities. Brother Dennis only points out the most glaring examples. Yet, while reading First Things, I am able to obtain a vicarious joy in the best use of the English language, and the thoughtfulness of the articles. I am less inclined to delight in First Things because of its replete Romish Catholicism, as well as its slightly too liberal stretch of “co-belligerency” to Rome, Eastern Orthodoxy, Judaism, etc. Yet, Neuhaus is a first-class writer and often strikes a chord of agreement with me that I am able to appreciate.  My time is also spent in reflecting on life in general. I miss Betsy tremendously. I do not feel complete without her. I’ve reflected much on the nature of missions, especially missions in a Muslim realm. Modern Western sympathies for Muslim culture and religion seem to lack an appreciation of the working of Muslims when found as the predominant cultural or religious group in a community. This has been seen by me both in BD as well as in Cameroon. It is a religion of slavery, joylessness, oppression. It offers minimal respect for women, disguising the depersonalization and subjugation of the female population all in the name of modesty. Yet, devout Muslim men seem to be the most lustful of all of God’s creatures, and the presence of a Burqua doesn’t quench their lusts. Generalizations tend to betray the large amount of quite decent living and courteous Muslim people that I’ve encountered, who have been most helpful in my travels. Like last time in BD, probably the hardest thing to endure is the persistent beggarliness of all Bangladeshis. It’s hard not to respond to that, though agreements with the mission to not give more than meager gifts to the natives must be observed. A typical BD native seems to view the missionary Christian as the equivalent of “wealth”, and I remain perplexed as to how to personally respond. I sometimes feel that my presence in BD is perhaps more a problem than good for the gospel.
27JUN2010 I have just finished my last day of call and will be wrapping things up this week. Call kept me up both nights, the first to do a D&C, and the next night to answer questions about a patient who decided to go into the dying mode. It is monsoon season, and rain occurs unlike anything in the Northwest. It will rain torrentially for about twenty minutes, and then it will be sunny. Rains occur about 2-3 times a day. I tried going out once in a downpour, with an umbrella and found that I was soaked from head to toe, as the rain falls horizontally with a small wind. You’re always given a minute or so premonition of coming rain, as the wind begins to blow. You don’t see dark storm clouds, just a wind. I’ve now met with all my friends on the hospital compound, and feel like I’ve been able to spend quality time with them. I haven’t taken enough photographs and will need to spend one last day running around with my camera. Nurul (his name sounds more like Noodle as the Bengalis do a different sort of “r”) will be taking me up to Chittagong. Meanwhile, only one thing is on the mind of most Bangladeshis—the World Cup in soccer. Oddly, the nation cheers for only two teams, Argentina and Brazil. It will be tragic when both of those teams lose.
02JULY2010 I’m now sitting at the airport in Chittagong. It’s the first time in ages that I’ve been able to access fast internet (and free, also!!!!). A few Taka and the airport assistant was able to shuttle me through to the head of the line and get me through without a problem. The airport scanner was broken, and so they quickly let me through when I told them that I was a daktar (doctor). The ride to the airport was with Nurul, who drove quite decently, and we arrived in generous time to catch the plane. Although Cameroon roads were the worst I’ve ever encountered, Bangladeshi roads are not exactly super-highways, and more than once, we almost hit a dog, rickshaw, and oncoming bus. I can’t believe that more accidents don’t happen in this country. Later… I’m now in the airport in Muscat, Oman, waiting for my Papa John’s pizza to cook. I happened to be the only white person on the plane from Chittagong to here, and it’s nice to see a few English-speaking people around. Bangladeshi behavior is close to hilarious. They are very pushy in line, always trying to get ahead of anybody else. Once the plane hit the ground, almost immediately, about half the passengers popped their seatbelts and were standing to fetch their overhead items. Strange. Papa Johns was quite good, not greasy, close to what one would eat at home. I ordered the super Papas, since they didn’t have the Arabian Always special. I presume it was halal. The checkout lady was in a black dress, not a full burqua, but had absolutely no personality; no smile, no regard for people, nothing.

Papa Johns in Muscat, Oman

Flowers of Bangladesh

Selling Jackfruit in Chabagong

John and Nimmi with hospital schematic

In the market with Sujan

I now think about the trip summary. I feel that it was a valuable trip, especially being able to meet old friends, and acquire new friends in Malumghat. I was able to give Steve K. free time to work on the design of the new hospital with the architect. I especially enjoyed meeting John M. and his wife Nimmi, who live in North Carolina, though they come from Chennai (formerly Madras) India. What did I forget? 1. Insect repellent. The last four days, the bedbugs came out, and I was covered head to toe. Interestingly, at the same time, I read recently that Abercrombie and Finch was closed in New York City because of bedbugs. Go figure. 2. Flashlight (headlamp) – the lights go out way too frequently, and I have to ride a very bumpy road on my bike at night to get to the hospital when on call. 3. Voltage converter/adapters- the only thing that wouldn’t work was my beard trimmer, but sticking a three-prong plug into the outlets provided tended to put a terrible strain on the plug. It would have been better to have an adapter.
I am considering a return in late January/early February 2011 with Betsy. If we go, I think I will try the oriental route, and maybe stay several days in Bangkok. Jason noted that the town was quite interesting, and fairly modern, worth a visit. We’ll see how the Lord leads.
So, as soon as we arrived home, Betsy and I went out to purchase a new vehicle. Diane needed our RAV4, and we sold it to her since we were considering a pickup. We ended up with a Toyota Tacoma.