hello from bangladesh!
settling into life in gaibandha. still getting used to people driving me around, cooking for me, bringing me tea during meetings, washing my clothes and cleaning my room. not too bad 🙂
even thought this is the beginning of “winter”, the days are warm and humid and the air conditioning works overtime…until the power goes out and the generators kick on! there are 4 students here with me – all are either PhD or MHS students from the school of public health, as well as a professor from hopkins. together, we include: a bangladeshi-born bangladeshi-american, an indian, an american-born indian-american, a chinese citizen studying in the US, and a bangladeshi-born belgian. we spend our days speaking banglish (bangla +english) and talking in indian accents…lapsing into “listen, i am telling, go and do…this thing” whenever we forget what we were saying because we are laughing too hard. (just say that with a strong indian accent and you’ll get it…)
we eat so much. and the food is really good. really. so many different kinds of dahl…i never expected to like eating it for breakfast! fish, vegetables, and, after this month, i think i may take a year off from eating rice as i will probably be made of it by the time i leave – i eat it for every meal. our cook pulls out all the stops…especially when we come home at 9:30 after an exhausting conference call with baltimore. this is after skype failures and our professor (the bangladeshi-born belgian) yells at the senior staff in bangla as we listen to our long-winded colleague in baltimore wax lyrical about the bangladeshi IRB, and then bugs fly into both of my friend’s ears, one after the other, which make her jump up, squeal, run around, and then sit back down at the conference table with her odni (scarf) over her head and a pair of earphones on over that…all while we are both trying to take the minutes of the meeting. welcome to business in bangladesh.
ouside of the busy town, the fields and farms are beautiful. everything is green and untouched by any technology except mobile phones (which every single human being on the planet must have if these extremely poor bangladeshi farmers can pull a phone out of their pockets ever 4 seconds). although the facilities in the hospitals are awful in many places, they really are making strides to try and improve it. the number of NGOs here probably surpasses the bangladeshi population, and you can see this in the stickers on people’s doors, the NGO workers riding motorcycles through the town, and the complex connections and relationships between all of the large public health entities in this county.
i met one of the health ministers during the first two days of my stay here – he was visiting our JiVitA project. quite forward thinking, and one of the only politicians whom I have met or heard speak who is really able to understand the need to maintain the integrity of research and service delivery in separate domains. hopefully more people like him will begin the populate the south asian governments and there will be some real change, because none of this can go on as is.
I’ve been on field visits to see this research study in action for the past few days, and am really impressed with the organization of this research study. 10 years in the making, the checks and balances are quite amazing, and I understand just how compulsive one has to be to make this all work. the dedication and discipline of the field workers to their positions is inspiring.
this weekend I’ll be going to dhaka to meet with a few physicians about my own project. I’ll have more updates to come next week!