Michael P

2 months in
March 23, 2009, 7:18 am
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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
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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.





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.

Very last class
December 13, 2008, 8:52 pm
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So i taught my very last class today. Unfortunately only about half the class was there because some people were away working at a seminar (i think). The class got some money together and bought me a handmade khata from a handicraft store here. It’s like a big piece of black fabric that has hand embroidery all over it. It’s pretty nice.
It’s really weird to think that my time in Bangladesh is coming to a close. There were a lot of times where i thought there was no way i’d ever be sad or miss things about Bangladesh, but i’m definitely going to miss the people that i’ve been living with here at the CRS and my other students. tonight is my second to last night at the CRS (i think) and i’m gathering my things together so that i can move into a guesthouse for a couple of days between when i get back to Dhaka and when the more adventurous members of my family arrive.

train ticket purchasing
December 11, 2008, 5:03 pm
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I went to buy my train ticket to Chittagong today. I’m going to the eastern part of Bangladesh for 10 days on Monday and i heard that you should get your ticket ahead of time. Now i guess that’s not really true because there were lots of people buying their tickets for today.
When i first got to the train station i thought this whole experience was going to be a disaster. Everything was in Bangla and there were tons of people waiting in like 6 different lines. I decided to get in one a got some help from a guy my age who was leaving tonight for Chittagong. Luckily i knew the name of the train i wanted to take (mahanagar provati) and the ticket guy could understand dates in English, so it was a pretty easy experience. I was amazed that they had computers running all the ticket purchasing. I figured buying a ticket would be like going to the post office, which use scales that look like they are from well into the British colonial era.

2nd to last class
December 10, 2008, 8:41 pm
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Today i taught my second to last class. This class has never been easy to teach for me, so i’m kind of happy that i don’t need to worry about what i’m going to teach next anymore. But it is sad to think that all the people that i’ve lived with for the past 3 months will go back to their villages and we’ll probably never see each other again. After class we went on the roof and took a group picture. the first picture had a lot of people closing their eyes and looking the wrong direction, the second one turned out better except for the stupid white guy on the bottom that decided to lay down in front of everyone. I’m not quite sure why he did that. class picture