I wish I could say that I love living in Bangladesh and that it was all I had hoped it would be. But I can’t. Over the last three months I have been struggling. I have faced personal challenges as well as professional and cultural ones. Big or small, these challenges have impacted my daily life and I’m unsure how to overcome them.
While I have found things like adjusting to a new concept of ‘time’ in the workplace frustrating, I struggle to know what to do when I see individuals unable to stand up for themselves and simply lower their eyes and bow their head as they are what I’d consider to be, verbally abused. I find haggling everyday to be manageable but I am left speechless at the level of corruption here, especially its presence in international brands. I hate asking ‘koto taka’ and having to stand and wait as they look me up and down and decide how much they think I should pay, then having no choice but to pay it.
I love that Bangladesh is known as being the first country to ban plastic bags and it makes me happy when Bangladeshi’s tell me how proud they are, but they do so as they open the car window and throw plastic bottles and food scraps directly into the lake. Then they turn and ask me to tell them everything I know about climate change. Beggars on the streets of Dhaka are in some of the worst states of health I have ever seen and it will never be something I can get used to, but what makes me really sad are the children. They cut their arms and coming running up to me with bloody scratches and ask for money to buy medicine but I say no and walk away.
Bangladesh a hardship country; I now understand what that actually means.
At first I was afraid to say anything to my friends and family because I felt I would be seen as a failure. I have talked about working and living in a developing country for so long that people wanted to know my dream had come true and I didn’t know how to tell them I was struggling. But once I did they reminded me that it’s ok to struggle because I will learn from the experience and it’s ok not to like something because it gives you the chance to find something you do. And you can’t be called a failure if you went after what you wanted. Perhaps these challenges aren’t even something I must overcome at all. Maybe they are a reminder of just how harsh and complex the world can be; the reality of working in development.
I know a move like this comes with its challenges or low points and I’ve accepted my time here might not be everything I wanted. I just hope I can find my place here – somewhere among the 161,083,804 or so other people.
Featured images of Dhaka, Bangaldesh. Images by Rachel Kurzyp.