As a Muslim, I feel personally ashamed at what happened on September 11th, 2001. I know I shouldn’t be – I wasn’t (nor any Muslim I could possibly personally know) involved in that heinous act.
But Islam emphasizes unity. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Canadian Muslim, Arab Muslim, or a Bangladeshi Muslim. It makes me think: the 9/11 hijackers probably prayed in the direction of Mecca and fasted for Ramadan just like me.
Yet, the first thing that most Muslims around the world did was point out that the perpetrators of 9/11 don’t represent them or Islam. As if distancing ourselves ...
Have To Be Poor To Help The Poor?
If you follow me on Twitter, you already know I'm back in Bangladesh. When I'm Dhaka, I live with my maternal uncle and aunt. Lately, I've been noticing a trend.
Just a few days ago, when I came back home carrying a bunch of groceries, my uncle chastised me saying "you better not have used any donations to pay for those groceries!". In his mind, using donations - however small - for my own food, clothing, or anything that benefits me would be tantamount to stealing.
[caption id="attachment_3748" align="aligncenter" width="499" caption="Toilet paper, antibiotics, soap, and pajamas - not taking a salary from ...
An Open Letter to Invisible Children Supporters
Dear Supporters of Invisible Children,
A lot of you may be confused at all the criticism that Invisible Children (IC) has faced as of late. Perhaps you feel that this criticism is coming from people who fail to understand the mission and nature of IC. Alternatively, perhaps, you may feel that this criticism - while having some merit - has been unfairly blown out of proportion.
What I think needs to be understood is that there is no such thing as black and white. Invisible Children, as an organization, isn't some nefarious evil group robbing people of their money. But, at the ...
These past 14 hours have served as an example of one of the many frustrating challenges a project like this faces.
What many non-Bangla speakers sometimes don’t realize, is that there are many variations of Bangla. There is city Bangla, Bangla used by those who emigrated away from Bangladesh, and rural village Bangla. Each one comes with different accents, meanings, and translations.
This can be a lot of trouble when trying to translate words I’ve heard for the first time in rural villages. This was exactly what happened when a local villager tried to explain to Paul that Cyclone Aila had destroyed many “bhitas”:
In many ways, I relate to this villager a lot. I often throw English words into my Bangla when I don’t know what the Bangla equivalent is. And this villager, while explaining the damage caused by Cyclone Aila, had to throw in “bhita” because he didn’t know the English equivalent.
The problem is that there is no direct English translation for “bhita”. And thus began my 14 hour struggle to find a translation.
The first people I turned to were those from the American-Bangladeshi community. This consists of Americans who originally were born and raised in Bangladesh. To my surprise, many of them told me their Bangla was too poor to properly help with any translation. This includes people who still do business in Bangladesh! I was shocked and surprised.
Those in the American-Bangladeshi community that did try and take a stab at translating each came up with different words. One suggested it means “embankment”, another suggested it meant “landscape” or “property”, someone else suggested it meant “home”, finally one of them suggested it meant “mud hut”. How could one word mean so many different things?
Well it turns out they were all wrong… and right at the same time. Click the jump to find out what the word “bhita” means.
The Dharmarajika Orphanage is home to approximately 500 students – mostly poor children from the Chittagong Hill-Tracts. It is run by the Buddhist community here in Dhaka but it is not home to only Buddhists. All the residents here are too poor to go to afford to school. The Dharmarajika Monastery helps by providing free schooling, food, and room & board for these students and orphans.
Although it’s a life far better than living in the slums, it’s far from luxurious. Lack of running water force residents to use a local green-colored pond instead. Wooden boards and old tables serve as “beds” for these students. The frequent power outages make it near impossible to study. Many use the outages as an opportunity to rest or spend time with friends. Few students, like the one pictured above, struggle to keep studying by candlelight.
Expect to see more about Dharmarajika in the future. In the meantime, there is a album with a lot more photos on Flickr. Not seen in the photo is another student (to the right) – too dim to be seen studying in this candlelight.
I’m a city-boy at heart. I panic if I’m more than a few blocks away from the subway. I’m also used to living in a nuclear family and the hemisphere of relatives that usually come with it (immediate aunts, uncles, and cousins). Since coming to Bangladesh, I’ve had to change some of those conceptions and expand my horizons. My trip to Jamalpour – a rural remote village in Bangladesh – was one such experience for me.
My grandmother on my mother’s side is my last surviving grandparent. In turn, she has only one last surviving sibling – a brother who lives in a rural village not far from where I was doing some work related to my latest YouTube episode. In fact, before I was able to visit that school for working kids – my grandmother insisted that I go see her brother (and his children and grandchildren) first. Time is precious and opportunities like this come up rarely. In my family, no one appreciates that fact more than my grandmother.
Here are some photos I took on that trip. See them after the jump or you can check even more of them out on my Flickr photoset titled “My Trip to Jamalpour”.
In one of my recent videos, I mention that I was in the district of Jamalpour. Part of the reason I was there was because my grandmother was taking me to visit some relatives I never knew I had. While I was there, I was lucky to take a photo of this:
I don’t know about you – but, I for one, found this hilarious. What made it even more hilarious was the fact that door leads to the kitchen and there was cooking going on. They were about to be fed – and so they all lined up in anticipation. Why didn’t Pavlov try his experiment on ducks?
When it came to Cyclone Sidr and disaster relief – I thought I knew it all. I knew I couldn’t help them all. I knew the media would be coming. I knew the local population knew the area better than foreigners. I knew aid work was more than just giving stuff away. I knew things could go wrong. I knew the blankets I was giving away could be used to keep people warm during this cold season.I thought I knew it all….. I was wrong.
In this latest episode I talk about the lessons I had to learn – the ones that were tough for me to learn. I’ve tried to keep this project positive. This episode is an exception to that.
In many ways, I feel that I have the spirit of Notre Dame with me wherever I go in Bangladesh.
Here I was, in the cyclone disaster area, walking along this broken road surrounded by destruction. People all around me had just lost their homes and were waiting in a line hoping to be able to get relief or aid. Then, from the crowd, someone yells at me “NOTRE DAME!”. I turn around and there is this guy sitting on the road smiling at me. He couldn’t speak any English and most likely couldn’t read or write. But he could recognize the famous N-O-T-R-E D-A-M-E anywhere.
Notre Dame has a huge presence in this country. My dad used to go to Notre Dame College in Dhaka. This college was founded by the same Catholic organization that founded my alma mater back in South Bend. They do some amazing work which I hope to feature in an episode sometime in the future. Until then, check out my photos that I took of Notre Dame College Dhaka.
It’s both touching and makes me homesick to be so close – and yet so far – from Notre Dame. Go Irish.
Some kids, like the one on the right, were lucky enough to get one. Others, like the other kid in the photo, were left shivering in the cold. Why is it that I can sometimes forget the faces of the kids that I’ve helped, but manage to never forget the ones I couldn’t?