Today was one of the days – or perhaps the only day – where this project has brought me to tears. Nothing particularly spectacular happened, it’s just been a culmination of the emotional toll this project has had on both myself and my family.
Just the other day my uncle had made a long distance call to my mother to tell her how much I’m wasting my time here in Bangladesh. “The internet isn’t real life” he pointed out and – therefore – what I’m doing is meaningless. As much as I’d like to villianize my uncle – he’s not the only relative to be saying these kinds of things. And, admittedly, I can’t deny their logic.
Do I officially have a title other than “unemployed”? Nope. Is this project earning me a degree? Nope. Is this project earning me an income? Nope. In a culture that emphasizes titles, degrees, and paychecks (and, admittedly, such emphasis is not exclusive to Bangladesh) what I am doing is meaningless by such standards.
And it’s not like this is something I can simply ignore. In addition to chiding my parents, relatives like my uncle have been progressively leaning on my grandmother in the hopes of making her less helpful. I think my grandmother is starting to feel the strain and – as a result – has been less able to help me. Now even doing basic errands – let alone important project-related work – are now monumental tasks.
The lowest point of the day was when I had a phone call with my mother. My mom has had to make some pretty big sacrifices for me to do this project. Over the phone, she got a bit teary eyed as well as she lamented that all the room, board, and transportation she could help me with back in Toronto is meaningless because she’s powerless to help me here in Dhaka. As she points out:
“It would have been easier for you to do this in a country where you had no family connections.”
This project has taught me a lot about poverty – both the kind of poverty you find in the wallet, but also the kind of poverty you find in some people’s hearts.