Tag Archive for 'Dhaka'Page 2 of 6

BREAKING: Tremor Hits Dhaka City (and Beyond)

Yes – I actually felt it. It actually startled me even though it wasn’t anything too serious. It felt like someone was behind me shaking the chair – every part of my body was shaking. Then it stopped.

I actually had a gut feeling/worry as to what it was – so I quickly jotted it down in (of all places) on Twitter so I had the moment logged (how’s that for the importance of twitter?). A few hours later I checked the local headlines to confirm. Unfortunately, I was right.

According to The Daily Star (and confirmed by me in real-time via Twitter) a tremor (measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale) hit Dhaka City just a few minutes shy of 1 am. According to The Daily Star, this quake was felt in places such as Sylhet, Moulvibazar, Sunamganj, Netrakona, Kishoreganj, Mymensingh, Gazipur, Jessore, Rajshahi, Rangpur and Bogra. Oh – and from my bedroom as well.

Update: AFP now has a story about this as well.

Update 2: Voice of America also has a story now and is reporting this tremor was felt in at least 17 districts.

What Would Kathy Do?

Dr. Kathy Ward @ Nari Jibon

Dr. Kathy Ward (University of Southern Illinois – Carbondale) on the roof of the Nari Jibon Project along with those involved with (and helped by) the project.

In this blog, I often mention Dr. Jeffrey Sachs. He was the inspiration that led me to start this project. But, as fate would have it, there has also been another brilliant American professor whose been an inspiration to me since I first heard of her. Her name is Dr. Kathy Ward and she’s a sociology professor at the University of Southern Illinois in Carbondale. I don’t talk about her often enough because… well… a grad student praising one of their favorite professors is just cliché now isn’t it?

But the fact of the matter is that there is a lot to laud about the work Dr. Ward has done here in Bangladesh through her non-profit called the Nari Jibon Project. And while more PR-savvy people in Dhaka seem to be able to market themselves as “the unsung hero of Dhaka” – I got a chance to meet the real McCoy.

All that and more after the jump.

Continue reading ‘What Would Kathy Do?’

Meet Max: The Incredible Psychic Dog


This is Max – my grandmother’s dog. He’s not your average dog though – Max is psychic. I kid you not.

Max is normally an outdoor dog – he hates being indoors. He only comes indoors when he knows there is going to be flooding. I don’t mean to say that he wants to come in when it’s raining or raining heavily. Even in the heaviest rains Max tends to indifferent and hangs outdoors.

But, he seems to know – hours before the first big puddle forms – when the place is going to flood. For the past year, with 100% accuracy, whenever he’s rushed into the house – there’s been flooding around the house just hours later. So, when I woke up this morning and found Max running around indoors, I knew what to expect.

And, low and behold, four hours later:


Oh, I also guess this means I’m trapped indoors for the time being.

Rhetoric, Reading, and Reflection

Me at Nari Jibon

It’s very easy for blogs to be nothing more than words on a screen. It’s especially easy for a blog focused on important issues like global poverty to come off sounding like meaningless rhetoric. Paying it forward! Changing the conversation! These things are meaningless unless there is action, events, and changes attached to them. It’s thanks to Kathy Ward and her non-profit organization (Nari Jibon) that I’ve been able to see first hand the power of the words that I type on my computer screen.

A few months back, my video about the Young Hardworking Poor of Rural Bangladesh got featured on the YouTube.com global website. Thousands of people started looking at my site – some wondering how to get involved. I wrote a quick post and recommended a few places people could go (Nari Jibon being one of them). As much as I’d hoped that someone might be inspired to “pay it forward”, the pragmatist in me didn’t think it very likely.

Boy was I surprised.

That video eventually made its way to Shaina. Shaina is an undergrad at Florida State University. Little did I know that she had checked out my website, found the post about how to get involved, and got in touch with Kathy at Nari Jibon. Shaina came to Bangladesh on her own dime – and like me – is staying in Dhaka with help from her family in Bangladesh. Unlike me, her two month stay in Bangladesh is definitely a two month stay. FSU awaits her back in August.

The day I met Shaina and learned about how she was inspired to come to Bangladesh was also my opportunity to meet Kathy Ward for the first time. Kathy has been reading this blog for the longest time. I think she was reading this blog before there was even a single video up on YouTube. Meeting her was especially significant for me because not only has she been a long time supporter, but she’s also been able to see how this project and how I have changed over time.

It’s friends like Kathy that have made it possible to see how my blog can make a real difference. It’s also friends like Kathy that keep me honest and make sure – no matter how many YouTube honors, website hits, and video views I get – I never forget why I came here and started this project.

[And as a sidenote, there were also a lot of weird coincidences which kept reminding me of Matt during my meeting with Kathy. Kira (the lady in the far right in the picture) used to live in Uganda before coming to Bangladesh. She was delightfully surprised when she found out this blog was expanding to Uganda. And Shaina is from Florida just like Matt. Small world, eh?]

Murphy’s Law: The Sequel


  • Yesterday, I had my glasses started to fall apart due to a lost and missing screw.
  • Earlier today, I dropped my external microphone right onto concrete.
  • And, just a few minutes ago, I accidentally smashed the bathroom door on my middle finger. My finger is has now turned a cartoonish purple and has swelled to almost twice it’s size.

Now, any one of these things could have stopped this project right then and there. But, as luck would have it:

  • I found an optician in Dhaka that was able to repair my glasses – and did so for free.
  • Aside from a scrape, the external microphone seems to be working just fine. VideoMics are tough.
  • And, the real reason I’m typing this blog post is to see how well I can type with a swelled up purple middle finger. So far so good 🙂

So it seems like Murphy’s Law is still in effect – but hey, hopefully I’ll be able to handle whatever else comes my way.

[Update – I just checked the date. That explains everything. Friday the 13th.]

Murphy’s Law

Today was one of those days when I am kind of in awe at the international scope that this project seems to be taking.

Just hours ago, Matt boarded a plane to Uganda. Before heading out, Matt had informed me that a shipment of mosquito nets (PermaNets) donated by Vestergaard-Frandsen hadn’t arrived at his home in Florida. After touching base with a friend at the company, I found out that unfortunately the shipment had been delayed at customs in Geneva. So now I’m looking into having something donated to Matt from Vestergaard-Frandsen’s Kenyan office which could then be shipped to where Matt will be staying in Uganda.

Meanwhile, back here in Dhaka, I’m stuck with this cold, flu, or whatever it is that I have. It doesn’t seem to want to go away. That’s what has been making it hard for me to make new videos. I was, fortunately, able to keep my friend John Green up-to-date about what I’ve been doing though. He was able to make a video about it on his channel which he filmed in his backyard in Indianapolis. If you’ve seen that video than you already know that I’ve been able to spend the money donated by his brother Hank (who lives in Montana).

Those trying to visit uncultured.com earlier today might have noticed the site was dead. I noticed this as well but I wasn’t sure if the problem was on my end – the internet connection I have here in Bangladesh isn’t that great afterall. After checking with a cousin in Ottawa, I realized the site was actually down. So I had to fire off an email to the California-based company that hosts this website. Looks like everything is back to normal now though. Although, that wasn’t the only problem I’ve been having to deal with today.

I also was shocked to find that my savings account had been frozen by my bank back home. I know everything I’ve been doing with my work in Bangladesh (and my bank back home) is 100% legal – so why on Earth would it be frozen? Turns out there is a rule pertaining to how many times you can transfer money to/from your savings account in a given month. The limit seems to be six times. I had always sent any money from PayPal to my savings account before transferring it to checking before withdrawing it. So, unless, I create a different setup – I might bump into this problem again.

So, at the end of the day, my work with this project has in some way, shape, or form involved people or things happening in Geneva, California, Dhaka, Florida, Ottawa, Indianapolis, Kenya, Montana, and my family and bank back home. While that’s really amazing… it’s also a nightmare because Murphy’s Law is apparently internationally scalable.

Paying It Forward

Paying It Forward

“This maybe the day that I finally pay it forward” I said to a group of students just minutes ago. I’m writing this at a desk inside the American International School in Dhaka. I was invited to talk to the students here and, after a very long day, I just finished talking to over 200 students in both classroom and large auditorium settings. The photo above is a one I took after spending about an hour and half talking to a group of high school science students about my work and the work of Dr. Jeffrey Sachs.

It is a strange reversal of roles. It wasn’t long ago that I was a student listening to a man passionate about ending poverty. That man was Dr. Jeffrey Sachs and I was then a grad student at Notre Dame. Fast forward nearly two years – and over 8,000 miles away – and here I am (a passionate guy about ending poverty) talking to a group of students. I got to talk to middle school and high school students of virtually every race, ethnicity, religion, and nationality. It doesn’t get more amazing than that.

It was also the first time in my life I got recognized off YouTube by a stranger. One of the students in the first class I was speaking to asked me if I make videos on YouTube (I was so nervous with my first talk that I entirely forgot to mention that my work involves YouTube). Apparently, this student had searched for Bangladesh on YouTube before his family moved here and found my Christmas Day video. It was surreal. What was even more surreal was how amazed some of the teachers are about my work.

“He’s the only one in the world that’s doing something like this right now!” exclaimed High School Science Teacher Rick Davis to his students. Hopefully, whether it’s by a someone inspired here at AIS Dhaka or somewhere else in the world, I won’t be long before I am not the only one doing a project like this.

(And if anybody at AIS is reading this – why not add me as a friend on facebook?)