Michael P

2 months in
March 23, 2009, 7:18 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I thought the whole learning experience part of this trip would finish when I stepped on the plane to come back home.  Now it seems like it was only the beginning.  Adjusting to life in Bangladesh was by no means easy, but adjusting to life back in America has been much harder.  The past 2 months have been a roller coaster of emotions and it doesn’t seem to really slow down.

I’d read that reentry shock was difficult and now I understand why.  It’s easy to take culture shock and make sense of it.  With culture shock I tried to make sense of the new emotions I was going through.  Without much difficulty I was able to make sense of why I was feeling a certain way and reacting to certain things.  Reentry shock isn’t so.  Most of the time I was depressed/angry/frustrated I didn’t know why.  While in Bangladesh I could say, “I’m tired of this food and there’s too much trash in the streets.”  When I got back home I couldn’t do that because I understand American culture and food and used to not find any of it weird. Without this ability to rationalize my emotions I felt really lost and lonely.  What made things harder is that it’s hard to go to someone and reminisce about Dhaka or share memories.  Besides when my family came to visit me, most of my memories only included me.

I’d heard about how the economy had changed since I left and now I’m starting to experience it first hand.  A few days before I got back I decided I was going to come home, take come classes at the local community college, and get a job.  The whole job part of that hasn’t panned out.  I’ve been trying for two months to get anything and so far nothing has happened.  The college part also hasn’t panned out as well as I was expecting.  For reasons I still can’t really figure out I had difficulty mentally going to a one of my classes and now I’m just down to class on Fridays.  Without a job and class only on Friday I have tons of time on my hands.  All that free time leads to over thinking my situation and making myself feel worse about everything.

Overall I’d say that I don’t enjoy being home.  Life here is unstimulating and boring.  Socializing with my friends isn’t what I remembered it to be.  I miss the sense of adventure and constant learning that was involved in the various cultures that I was in.  Now the highlights of my week are going to Asian food stores and trying to recreate the amazing time I had abroad.   Watching the travel channel and seeing familiar sights just makes me miss what I had and makes me frustrated and depressed with my current situation.  The learning is nowhere close to being over and the adjusting part seems to be nowhere close to finishing.


January 23, 2009, 7:38 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I finally made it back to SFO on monday morning.  I had some ticketing snafus, but nothing $3800 in new tickets booked at the airports(s) can’t fix.  Hopefully this can be settled outside of small claims court, but i’m doubtful.

Being back in America is weird to say the least.  I don’t quite feel like i’m here to live.  I feel like this is another country that i’m visiting. There’s lots of things that i’m not used to having to think about.  When i drove or walked around before i left i didn’t think much about the way that i cross the street or my driving habits.  But not i’m so used to the Bangladeshi street rules that often times i go across the street when cars are coming and they stop for me.  In bangladesh it would be my responsibility to make sure a car didn’t hit me.  But here, everyone is very cautious to make sure they don’t hit me when i’m waiting in the street to let them drive by.  it’s pretty annoying.  The list of driving differences and mistakes that i’ve made so far is endless and i won’t bore you with it.

Besides driving and walking, i’m also having problems finding stuff i want to eat.  I’m so used to bangladeshi and vietnamese food that when i walk into the grocery store nothing really jumps out at me.  I started not craving western food a couple of months ago and i really just want some rice and dal or a big bowl of pho.  I had tacos today, and they were good, but i’d much rather have asian food.

I’ve started developing my film, all 30+ rolls.  So far i’m about 8 rolls in and i’ve gotten some good pictures.  I with i’d brought more color film because those turned out much better than i was expecting.  please excuse the dust and lint on the pictures.  i scanned them in and i’m just doing it quickly to see which ones i like.





Wrapping it all up
January 16, 2009, 9:51 pm
Filed under: travel

So i haven’t written here in a while. I haven’t felt like I’ve had anything important to say, so i haven’t said anything at all. I’ve spent the last 3 weeks traveling. After leaving Dhaka i had 2 nights in KL and 2 weeks in Vietnam.  I like north Vietnam, but south Vietnam is a waste of time.  you might as well spend a week in a mall in southern California.

Now I’m back in KL.  My family has gone back to American (or at least en route).  I have 2 nights here then i go home by way of Tokyo.  People keep asking me if I’m excited to go back home.  To be honest, I’m kind of indifferent and i don’t know how i feel about that.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the past 5 months.  I really had no idea what to expect on this trip.  It turned out to be much more difficult than i expected but to a certain extent i think I’m going to miss that.  For the past 5 months everything has been foreign and confusing to me.  Now I’m going to go back home where i at least understand the language, can read, and have a general understanding of the cultural norms.

My future is slightly uncertain.  I don’t have anything set it stone and i don’t feel like going into my possible options.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my life.  You should go to another country.  It’s pretty fun.


Look who i found at the airport
December 28, 2008, 10:22 pm
Filed under: shopping

img_2866My brother, uncle, and dad arrived last night.  I’m pretty excited to be with them.  We ran around the city today and they got a feel for what the last 3 and a 1/2 months of my life have been like.

Bangladesh is known for having lots of clothing.  Today we went to a tailor to get fitted for suits.   They’re really cheap.

img_2874Lots and lots of decisions to make.

img_2878We were served coffee while we figure out what we wanted.

img_2876Tomorrow is the election and we’re not quite sure how much we’ll be able to move around or how much stuff will be open.  But it’s going to be interesting however you look at it.

Christmas and Stuff
December 27, 2008, 10:00 am
Filed under: culture

I really didn’t know what to expect for Christmas.  I’m not a huge fan of all the Western Christmas tradition of gift giving and Santa and stuff like that.  So i was looking forward to a Christmas that didn’t involved cheesy Holiday music and endless ads for sales at local malls.  On Christmas Eve the Pastor Ayub came by with a cake for everyone at the center to eat.  I was given the honor of cutting the cake and i asked for plates and forks for everyone.  I was kind of confused why I was the only one that got a plate and fork but the Bangladeshi way of eating cake is just to plop it in your right hand and eat it right there.

img_2823The next morning i got up early to go to the PCB land.  It was a white christmas of sorts.  Not snowy, but it was really cold by Bangladeshi standards.  We piled into a Toyota HiAce and made the 1/2 hour trip.  After waiting around for a while we had a Christmas service that was pretty much like what i would expect in America, except for the fact that i was in Bangla.  I stood up and talked about what Christmas is like in America (with the aid of Pastor Ayub translating).  People looked pretty confused.

A while after the service ended we had one of the best meals i’ve had in Bangladesh thus far.  Amazing fish, dal, mutton, misty (sweets), curried vegetables, and of course, rice.

img_2859I’m always amazed that people can make such good food with a couple larges fires and some big aluminum pot things.


Instead of taking the HiAce back, i decided to take the bus back with the students.  We had a nice walk through the rural countryside, then took a loud, two stroke baby taxi, then a super crowded bus.


I moved out of the center on Christmas and into the a hotel that i’ll be staying at with my dad, uncle, and brother.  They’re arriving tonight at 9 pm.  I guess for Christmas i got a hot shower and consistent fast(er) internet.

Also, the election here is heating up.  I went for a walk yesterday and happened on a huge (2-3000 people) rally for the Bangladeshi National Party.  I’m almost as excited for the election here as i was for the election in America.  Bangladeshi has much more at stake than the US did.  Everything goes down on the 29th  and i’ll be explaining more about the election tomorrow.

Chittagong Division Recap
December 22, 2008, 12:11 pm
Filed under: travel | Tags: , , , ,

So i got back to Dhaka this morning at about 5:30 am.  I figured out in Bandarban that i was running low on taka and couldn’t get to an atm unless i went to Cox’s Bazaar or Chittagong City, so i decided to leave.  Then i found a free ride to the main road south to cox’s bazaar then caught two different buses and went all the way south to Teknak, the town where you catch a ferry to go to St. Marin’s Island.  I’ve always wanted to go St. Martin’s Island since i came to Bangladesh.  Now i can say i’ve been there… but i feel no need to go back.  There wasn’t much to do.  But now that i have fast(er) internet i can upload some pictures and explain more stuff.

I had to get a permit to got Bandarban because historically it’s been a more violent part of bangladesh.  Most of the people that live in the hills are part of tribes that also go into india and Myanmar.  Back during the independence war (1970’s)  all the indigenous people sided with Pakistan, so the Bangladeshi govt. still doesn’t like them.  It’s really complicated.  The bottom line was that i had to get permit, but the district commissioners office was closed for the national victory day.  So i spent two days wondering around chittagong.  I ended up walking up a hill and hanging out with some kids for a little while.  This girl had a really cute baby goat.  It’s 2 months old


I finally got to bandarban and hiked around for two days.  I went walking for like 2 hours, got a blister, then took a really weird 4×4 van this back to the resort.


My plan when leaving the resort in Bandarban was the just take another weird 4×4 van back the main town then catch a local bus the main road to cox’s bazaar, but some police helped me find a guy from dhaka that goes to university in London.  He gave me a ride to the main road.  Then took two really uncomfortable buses until 8:30 pm to Teknaf.  Teknaf is a border town that’s like 10 km from Myanmar.  The next morning i got on the boat to St. Martin’s Island.

On the boat to st. martin’s i met a bangladeshi that was born in London.  I was surprised to find anyone that spoke english in this part of the country.  He was going to the island with his older brother and his cousin.  They booked a private tour operator for the trip and i tagged along for the next two days.  There really isn’t much to do on the island itself.  After eating and drinking lots of coconut, trying various types of fish, and taking a couple boat tours around the island we headed back to the mainland.


this was our unofficial guide for the island.  A 10 year old named tarik aziz.  He took us around the maze like paths on the island and we bought him coconuts and all sorts of other treats. I woke up at 6 am from all the chickens and decided to walk on the beach.  I ran into tarik and his friend narikel and watched the guys take in the mornings catch.  Later on, they were selling it off for the day and butchering the fish right on the beach


After 1 day on the island i decided to try to get back to Dhaka.  I got pretty lonely and homesick while traveling alone.  I caught the Baghdad Express (that was seriously the name) in Cox’s Bazaar last night at about 8:30 and got back to dhaka this morning at 5:30 am.

There’s a gallery below with lots more pictures that i’m too lazy to explain.  i need a nap.

December 18, 2008, 4:28 pm
Filed under: travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

So my big plan on this little trip is to get to Bandarban. Its one of the three hill districts on the southeastern border of Bangladesh. I had to stop it chittagong for a day to get some paperwork done before i was allowed to go to bandarban. The problem was that 12/16 was the national victory day (over Pakistan) so all the government offices were closed. At 9 am on 12/17 i got up and made my way to the district commissioner’s office to get my paperwork done so i could catch a bus in the morning to Bandarban. After spending about a half hour getting the paperwork done i went back to my hotel, packed up and made my way to the bus station. 5 minutes after arriving there i found a bus to bandbarban and got off the bus two hours later.
The scenery on the bus ride was really nice. One minute we were down in the rice paddies, then the next moment we were climbing up into the hills.
when i was searching on the internet for things about bandarban i came across this hill resort run by a local guide company. I’m the only foreigner here and the only person staying in a 10 person dorm. So i have an entire huge room to myself for 200 taka a night. The resort is on the side of this big hill the looks over the main river in the area and the valley below. The day i arrived i tried walking down the hill to the river and i was reminded of how little exercise i’ve done over the last 4 months. After getting lost a couple of times i decided to head back up before finding the river. The walk back up was really really difficult. With one leg that is weaker than the other and barely any cardiovascular fitness, it took me a while to get back up.
Today i decided to do some more walking. There’s a bunch of tribal villages on the road that the resort is on, so i decided to walk along the road until i got tired. I walked for about two hours and awkwardly said hi to people as they made baskets and did random work around the villages. I can speak some bangla, but absolutely none of the many tribal languages in the area. So there wasn’t much of a way to communicate with any of the locals. Eventually i started to get a blister on my foot so i caught a local 4×4/bus/jeep thing back to the resort.
Tomorrow i’m planning on actually finding the river and taking a boat into the main Bandarban town. I’m only allowed to stay until 12/20, then its off to Cox’s Bazaar. My internet is super slow, so i’ll probably just upload a bunch more pictures when i get a chance to go to coffee world when i get back to Dhaka.