Michael P

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.



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.


December 15, 2008, 8:24 pm
Filed under: travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

I took a train the the south eastern division of Bangladesh, chittagong. my train was called the mahanagar provati. I was hoping that it would have some sort of colorful history and great story to tell you about, but it just means morning intercity. like most transportation outings, someone decided to practice their english with me and make most of the 7 hour journey pretty awkward. Rafi is a journalist in chittagong and decided to tell me all the stuff i didn’t know about america. Like how after cyclone sidr (a terrible cyclone that killed like 40k people in southern bangladesh) the americans were trying to help the bangladeshis only so they could survey the area so they could take over bangladesha and a make it into it’s own seaport. According to Rafi, having bangladesh as the seaport would be very important for carrying out other military operations in south asia. Then he was criticizing the american democratic system saying that its not fair at all since i don’t get to directly vote for the president’s cabinet.  He wasn’t very keen on admitting that bangladeshi has a messed up government, which is does.   Needless to say, i was kind of frustrated with having to explain that there was no reason for america to invade any country in south asia. After this he proceeded to ask for my email, phone number, and address (like everyone else that talks to me on trains or buses) and insisted that i come see him when i come back to chittagong on my way back to dhaka. I think i’ll pass.
Besides the 7 hours of awkwardness during my train ride, i’m happy to have arrived in chittagong. Dhaka is as flat as a pancake, but chittagong has a few hills. I really like hills. I went walking in some hills for like an hour and a half today, it was really nice.
Tomorrow i have to work out some logistical things before i can make it to my next destination, Bandarban.
Here’s a picture of a hill.

Medical Trip
November 23, 2008, 1:12 pm
Filed under: travel | Tags: , , ,

For the last week i’ve been in Northern Bangladesh working with a medical misison team.  We set up a clininc at the school that i visited way back in september.  We left on saturday at about 3 and made out way up to the town where we were going to be living for the week, Kurigram.  The accomidations were clean.  Pretty sparse rooms, but what do you expect for about 2 dollars a night!

medtrip7What’s missing from this bathroom?


Downtown Kurigram:


We had breakfast and dinner at the “hotel sheraton.”  It was decent.  One confusing this about it was that it’s not a hotel, it’s just a restaurant.


The first two days i worked in our pharmacy.  I helped organize all the pills, helped the doctors find stuff, and pre-packaged the most used pills into little baggies so they could easily give them to the patients.  I got to use one of those nifty pill counters that you always see on news segments on the pharmaceutical industry.


For the last two days i worked in our makeshift ICU.  There’s never been a medical team of any kind in this area, so hundreds if not thousands of people came to see us.   A lot of them had never seen a doctor before and came to get routine stuff looked at.  But there were also a bunch of really sick people.  We had two guys with typhoid fever that i worked with for the last two days.  I could kind of sympathize with how they were feeling because i had a bad reaction to my typhoid vaccine for the last 4 days i was in America.  I had a fever of 103 and couldnt’ really do anything.  I learned how to get blood pressure and do some simple lab tests.  I did a pregnancy test for a girl that had been trying to get pregnant for 5 years.  I say girl because she’s only 18.  I think it’s probably a good thing that it took her 5 years to get pregnant.  Women get married really young here, and especially in rural bangladesh.  I kind of broke the good news to her by say “bhalo” (good) then we had a 40k dollar GE ultrasound laptop so we could show the newly expecting couple the baby.


The orange drink the women have in the picture is our rehidration drink that we made for the typhoid guys.  Its lots of gatorade powder with a bunch of whey protein.  It smelled like a creamsicle.

One of the typhoid guys arrived by boat on a pallate, carried by his family and another was taken here on a rickshaw.  They had been sick for like 3 weeks.

medtrip17 Beside the good news of the typhoid guys getting better and girl getting pregnant, there were also a lot of hard things to watch.  A boy came to us during the 3rd day that had huge growths on both sides of his neck.  After doing some blood work we figured out that he had really advanced lymphoma and that there was nothing we could do.  I watched the father’s eyes as he was told that his son was going to die and there wasn’t anything we could do about it.  Being in Bangladesh can be pretty difficult in terms of the beggars and poverty, but i think this will stick with me more than that.  The look of fear and sadness on his face was unbearable.  His son will die a painful slow death because he will slowly suffocate from his airway closing.  He pleaded with is to take his some back to America, but his son wouldn’t have even survived if he had treatment in America.

Overall it was a good trip.  I like Dhaka, but i like rural Bangladesh even more.  It’s so beautiful and doesn’t have any nearly as much smog, trash, and honking.  And it was nice to do something besides teaching english and sitting around.

vanning around bangladesh
November 5, 2008, 11:42 pm
Filed under: teaching, travel | Tags: , , ,

The last couple of days have been hectic.  My supervisor along with a ton of other people are here for various events.  There is a group of dentists here doing dental work, one group of mostly europeans here seeing the work that is being done by pastor ayub, and my supervisor is here with a smaller group also seeing the work that is being done here.

One of my students got to try out his translating skills for the first time yesterday.  Although most of us could tell that he was simplifying what he was saying, he still did a great job and was very smooth.  The person he was translating for is from the south and used a lot of southern idioms that the student didn’t quite understand.  I had to chip in during those.  But overall it was very encouraging for me to see his improvement and see him putting some of the english he’s learned from me to good use.  Sometimes i feel like i’m not getting through to the students here, but i could tell that sylus wouldn’t have been able to translate nearly as well (if at all) before i got here.


After vising the center we went back to Banani and had Korean food with everyone.  The dentists are a group of koreans-australians so they helped everyone out and ordered a bunch of various korean dishes to try.  It was fun to try new food that wasn’t bangladeshi.


Today we got up early and made our way to Magura.  I made the trek there a couple of weeks ago, but this time we visited a rural house church.  It was about 6 hours each way and included crossing the Padma river each time.


finally we made it back to Dhaka at about 10pm and had dinner at the hotel.  I’m surprised to say, i was cracing dal and rice all afternoon.  So, for dinner i had a big thing of rice, dal, and plane naan.  It was really good dal too, so i was happy.

I’m always astounded at how pretty rural bangladesh is.  Maybe it’s because i’m stuck in the city 75% of the time, but i think its hard to disagree with me that the scenery below is ugly.