Tag Archive for 'Flickr'

YouTube in Bangladesh: It’s Harder Than It Looks

I remember the last time I was in Bangladesh. I was sitting in front of my uncle’s computer and was trying to check my email. I was waiting. And waiting. And waiting…..

Now here I am, a few years later, and I am uploading videos onto YouTube, putting photos on Flickr, and watching TV streaming from back home in Canada. This upgrade in technology is pretty important in terms of Bangladesh’s future economic development. But, although things have improved – it’s still isn’t easy to put a video on YouTube.

I finally finished editing a new episode to put online and have actually been trying to upload it since 10 am on Wednesday. It’s now almost 4 am on Thursday morning and I’m still nowhere done yet. YouTube has a easy upload process – but that really depends on having a fast and reliable internet connection. My upload died with just a few megabytes left – now I have to start all over again.

What surprised me is that I’ve recently found other people in Bangladesh crazy enough to struggle with the difficulties for uploading video from Dhaka to YouTube. SGK Studios is a group of school kids who make videos in their spare time. They have ten videos up on YouTube now. Filmika is another local YouTuber I found as well.

Even if their videos may not be your thing – they’ve definitely put more effort to uploading their work than most people on YouTube. Now, if you excuse me, I think I will go to bed and just pray my video is done uploading by the time I wake up. :-)

This Photo Kills Me

Left in the Cold

My parents always told me I tend to focus on the negative. I had given over 30 blankets on the day this photo was taken (not the 30 I gave with Save the Children – that was another batch of blankets I had bought).

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?

Site Changes, Personal Changes

When I first started this blog, I didn’t have much to show for this project. In fact, the day I wrote my first blog post I was stuck in a relatives’ home because all of Bangladesh was under military curfew.

Since then I have a lot to show: I’ve given away two cases of water during the summer flooding season. I’ve given over fifty mosquito nets (including one long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito net called PermaNet) to rural villagers. I’ve given wind-up flashlights to low-income students trying to study without electricity as well as one to a low-income disaster relief volunteer. I’ve helped to pay for a large group of poor children to have a balanced and healthy meal. And, recently, I’ve distributed 70 blankets (30 of which I did with Save the Children, another 30 with Muslim Aid UK, and 10 I gave out one-on-one) to victims of a Cyclone Sidr.

So it’s about time I tweak the look of the site a bit. Gone is the static photo of my Notre Dame hat and Dr. Jeffrey Sachs’ book. I’m still using that photo – but the main picture on my site now changes randomly every few minutes (you’ll have to reload manually) to shows some of the things I’ve done and interesting people I’ve met. This change also reflects a decision I’ve made.

When I first came to Bangladesh, I thought I would stay here for a couple of months and then go. But since coming here, I’ve kept changing my departure date. September departures became October departures – and so on. I don’t know when exactly I am going to fly home – but I know I will be here in Bangladesh Christmas and the New Year. For the first time in my life – I’ll be spending Christmas and New Years away from both my Mom and Dad.

It’s not easy staying here. There are bugs, germs, and it’s easy to get sick. I’m far from my friends and I am kind of getting homesick. This has also had a cost on my family (in particular my mother who had contracted Dengue Fever during the time she was accompanying me on this project). But, despite all this difficulty, I have a unique opportunity. I’m doing something no one has ever done before (at least in terms of how I’m sharing my experience and work online with others through Flickr, YouTube, and blogging). And I’m helping others while I do it. How many people can say that?

I also want to share a message and inspire others. It’s hard to do that if I’m just uploading old footage and photos from my home in Canada. Hopefully by staying this project can grow and perhaps inspire others.

They Just Don’t Get It: Doing Online Work in an Offline World

In a third world country like Bangladesh, the majority of people have never heard of YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, or Blogs. A lot of the reasons for this are practical: only a small minority of Bangladeshis are rich enough to have internet access (either through a PC or cellphone). Even if you are lucky enough to have an internet connection, that doesn’t mean you’ll be watching the latest viral video. It takes about 30 minutes to 2 hours to download a 3 minute clip from YouTube – even that requires a lot of luck.

What this means for me is that the work I am doing here – because so much of it is online – it can be a very lonely experience. Back home, my friends and family are very supportive of what I’m doing. When an article I write gets frontpaged on NowPublic.com – my parents call me up to congratulate me. When I become one of the five to be nominated for the sxephil spotlight contest (voting is still open by the way), I got a very excited and enthusiastic email from my brother. I get kudos from my friends when they see that my videos on YouTube are getting good feedback and ratings.

Not so for my family here in Bangladesh. Instead of being able share with them the feeling of success that this project has had, I am instead finding myself have to justify what I am doing in the first place. “What you are doing on the computer is not the real world,” berated my uncle (not the military uncle I’ve mentioned in previous posts) earlier this night. And, in Bangladesh, he’s right. There is no such thing as “old media” and “new media”. There nothing “old” about traditional media here. It’s still growing, with new local newspapers and local TV stations (in both Bengali and English) popping up everyday.

The same is true for the way people keep in touch with friends family. If someone in my family here wants to have a conversation with someone – even if its overseas – they will call them up. Or SMS them at most. With the exception of the youngest generation here, the majority of my family here haven’t heard of MSN Messenger, AIM, Facebook, or Skype. “The computer is your one and only friend” one of my older cousins keeps saying to me quite frequently. She herself isn’t computer literate and doesn’t own or use a computer. For someone like her, I can see how what I’m doing is very anti-social. In reality, however, my computer is the lifeline to keep me in touch with my friends and family – and helps me fight off being homesick.

It’s very easy to lose perspective here. Which is why I am so glad that there are kind people out there – strangers that I’ve never met – willing to give me words of encouragement. If you never bothered to write, comment, rate, or somehow show your support – I’d have never known you exist. But you guys have – and for that, I have only one thing to say.

Thank you.

Helping the Cyclone Victims – “If Only I Could” turns into “Finally I Have”

Where would I be if I wasn’t here? There is no where else I would want to be than right here, right now. Too often I’ve witnessed tragedies unfold over the TV screen. Witnessed people who are too poor to fend for themselves die and suffer. I would often curse myself under my breath – “if only” I would say. “If only” I had been there – I could have done something. “If only” I could save just one life – it would be worth it. No more do I have to say “if only”. Now I can say “finally”.

For better or worse I’ve been given a chance to make a difference. That difference starts today. Just minutes a ago a BRAC jeep (BRAC stands for the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee – the world’s largest Non-Government Organization) came and picked up 70 blankets to go to Bagarat (near or in Khulna). “How did you get so many blankets so quickly?” a BRAC director asked me. “I bought them to give away in the first place – I just never expected to have to give them like this” I explained.

70 blankets seems like a lot – but at the same time isn’t.

Uncultured Project - Aid to Bagarat

But, the way I see it – most poor families (even before the Cyclone hit) sleep in the same bed. So, 70 blankets translates to 70 families (and these blankets are big enough for that). So that translates to about 200 to 280 people. That means someone is going to be warm this winter and it cost me me less than a buck a person. Even the iPhone can’t compete for that kind of value (and I’m a huge mac geek).

Just how much 70 blankets actually is dawned upon me when BRAC came to pickup the blankets. They came with an empty jeep – but they still had to stuff them all inside…

BRAC Employee Loads Uncultured Project Blankets for Transport

Here’s a shot of after they managed to squeeze all the blankets in:

All The Blankets Loaded in the BRAC Jeep

The round white tanks are the CNG tanks – the fuel alternative I told you about in an earlier post.

I’m just hours away to the worst affected region in Bangladesh. My aunt warned me that things are so bad there the smell of death is still there. Thanks auntie, that makes me real comfortable going now…

P.S. - For the life of me, I have no idea what magic it takes to make a popular YouTube video. I’m not asking for crying about Britney Spears with a towel on your head popular (that video almost at 13 million views now by the way), but I was hoping my latest video about Dhaka after the Cyclone had featured-on-YouTube-frontpage potential. But it is starting too look like this video will be my lowest viewed video yet. I’m not worried though – especially on a day like today. I now have 200 to 280 more reasons to be thankful I’m here.

The Urban Poor of Dhaka City

There is a new photoset up on my Flickr page called “The Urban Poor of Dhaka City”. These were photos I took about a block from where I live. There is this sidewalk thats been basically turned into a shanty town or slum.

I once had a friend in college who would scoff at my focus on Third World Poverty. “There are homeless in Toronto you know!” he would tell me (Toronto being my hometown). I would just shake my head and tell him he doesn’t understand. Yes, there is homeless in the developed world – but you can’t even begin to compare the two.

Maybe if he saw this in person he’d understand better.

Hungry, Homeless, Young, and Poor

These homeless don’t have the luxury of a soup kitchen.

More photos here.

BREAKING: Bangladesh Censoring/Blocking Access to Google

[This post has been updated – see below after the jump] Bangladesh seems to be apparently blocking access to Google and its related web properties. I noticed this on my own connection about 48 to 72 hours ago. Since then I have been able to get independent confirmation from those using different internet connections. This problem seems to affect Bangladeshis trying to access Google’s services via EDGE, GPRS, and landline based internet connections in both Dhaka and other locations in the country.

More details after the jump along with a way to bypass this blocking. Continue reading ‘BREAKING: Bangladesh Censoring/Blocking Access to Google’