I have been pondering on this for a few days now… and it’s a kind of bitter sweet thing to have to reflect on,… nevertheless I think it’s a good life lesson and experience to feel the way I do and for Andrew as well as we feel the same about it; I have been trying to find the right words or a quote to start with for days now .. I don’t know if the ones I choose applies well to the depth and complexities of this .. anyways .. this blog post will be a serious one unlike the other posts we’ve done, so bear with me… ❤️
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
We began this journey, with just what we had… plus also, with a lot of hope and with an open mind… This was a place we knew meant a lot to us and though there were some goals we wanted to achieve, we didn’t know what to expect.. really.
The streets of this place, from the moment we landed in Dhaka airport to our trips to the city and slums there, then onward to Cox’s Bazar to visit and see some places and the in between trips and to Chittagong and other areas… yes it’s hard, the people and the extend of poverty is really, truly an eye-opener.
I can only tell you from my experience and from what I have seen and feel. The joy, the thrill, the intensity, the desperation, the need, the compassion, the hope, the worthiness or worthlessness … the goodness, the kindness, the want, much in stark contrast … it’s staggering. Really really is. As Andrew put it, “…at some times, the Black and White of things is so mashed and mixed that all you can see or feel and experience is just the Grey part of it. ..” I get what he’s trying to say … As a comparison it’s like of the photo he took just a few days ago… the stunning beauty of the natures surrounding and the reality of living in poverty just grips you..
He told me even with the picture .. it couldn’t really capture that contrast and contradiction he saw…
I get what he means…
When we go on our drives and in-between trips, on the roads, seeing the day to day lives of the people here, from the locals n tourists to the people in the village, it is as though Life is showing you, teaching you, like reading a book or watching a documentary but in it’s true grit and depth.
It is all very very intense..
Poverty here is extensive… and the need to survive mixed with desperation is hard on the soul.
Lined on the roads as you walk or drive past, few times we have seen persons, sometimes a man, sometimes a woman with just the bit of clothes on their backs, lying there … with all the light and hope lost from their eyes..
The first time I saw this, it rocked me to the very core. At what point did Life or someone lose all hope and love for this man, how did he in any point of his life lost hope in himself? How has society in it’s entirety let him spiral down to such a state where really he was left just a mere shell… void of life, joy, love and hope. ..
Really heartbreaking and makes you suck your breath hard like being given a hard blow to the stomach…
And then by contrast you see too in the villages, just as poor as the next guy, living in shacks made of planks or aluminum sheets with thatched roofs which have been mended and patched numerous times, but yet they had smiles and laughter and hospitality to offer even with whatever little or merely nothing they possessed. Kids jumping, playing, running, or swimming in the ponds with its greenish looking water… moms getting on with their daily chores of hanging the laundry or sweeping the front space of their shack… the road side-seller, be it men or women, crouching to light a fire, with tiny babies or children in tow, to cook the food and snacks they are selling for such little almost nothing amounts … which is for 10taka or 30 and a bit more for a roll of crepè like local food; asking nothing of handouts or donations, and trying their best to make it work to earn money.
Same as the SeaBeach or StreetKids with their plastic sacks scavenging the rubbish that litters the streets or doing or selling bits of trinkets or water and tidbits to the local tourists… Same goes for the Rickshaw drivers some ride past and ask and if you say no, they just ride on, some persist to a point where it’s harassment, following and expecting you to give them business even though you’re doing something as simple as walking to the beach in front.
Then you have the beggars… children as small as a few years old sometimes come up to you and first word and palm out .. “Bakshish” (means money in Bengali). From the wee ones to very old persons, some perfect with arms some without, some can run after you, some paddle or bottom shuffle towards you as they have no legs or limbs injured or deformed… the blind, the healthy looking … comes to you pointing to their mouth or stomach or to whatever afflicts them physically …
Hard hard hard to watch.
Even so, you have those who come up to you with just pleasantries and salutations, content to give a smile or spend some time chatting and getting to know you with the few English words they know or in Bengali which we try to respond and reply with to get the conversation going, and them trying genuinely to communicate without any expectations whatsoever…
Also in contrast is when you give a gift to a Managing Director in charge of Cox branch , like one of the recycled items I make as I sit and make on my spare time, a pencil holder out of a cardboard mixed nuts container, with Jutè string and sea shell and you go to their house and see it placed on their main display shelve with pride, happiness and gratitude …. such contrast right?
As much as you don’t want to, you can’t help but think of the lives they have as compared to what you or I are used to. Our kids* (by means the more “lucky” ones and those in progressive countries I guess) have iPads and the latest games on Playstation or Wii and the kids here are content with just spinning old bicycle tyres … some really work hard at very young ages while the average and well to do kids (even here) complains and whines coz the food is not to their liking…
Also you get same peoples in same situation, just slightly better like the shop sellers etc beating and kicking and chasing these StreetKids away like they are rag dolls. Andrew has come close so many times to losing it with these guys and have many times turned or put out his hand to stop or pulled the kid/s out of the way or stood between them and the people who were picking on them. He just can’t stand watching how they treat these children. Hard.
Even the shop sellers in the proper shops ( not the shack-like set ups) have this mentality of greed and bottom line…. not all, some look out for each other but some wants to hoard your patronage and look at you with disdain and irk when they see you have bought from another shop but not from them. Like fairness, kindness and brotherhood seems lost on their values of doing things.. I hate feeling that is how they are like..
Also when they see you it’s like what (more) can I get out of this foreigner … from the few StreetKids to the shops to religious group and Charity/Volunteer runned establishments…. It’s like whatever is given is never able to satisfy them in gratefulness or sincerity … there are those who do, really there is, don’t get me wrong…. but most you get those who milk it for all it’s worth. … Sigh ..
I get it it’s a hard life for them… but I guess what I’m trying to say is that you can be poor but … there must be some integrity in yourself as a human being … you know what I mean? Sigh….
Example I can give is the shop seller … wants all the business to himself where there are many other shop sellers striving to do the same… bottom line , that is to provide for their families too. And the StreetKids and beggars.. one thing is to work n not beg with a trained face, milking it for what it is worth, one thing is to slog it out and earn an honest living no matter how hard or backbreaking it is… that’s the integrity I mean…
I know some would say how would you know… or how they feel… Well it’s one thing to receive money out of someone else’s sincere help or generosity or charity but another to demand it be given to you and you only ?. , not others…
Bounty and blessings, mercy is for everyone and unity is so important in a society in its entirety especially in a place like this… but it’s like every man for himself type thing and the hardest is from supposedly respected Holy men or persons of some form of authority in establishments like the bribe and extortion, like after being given a large donation but yet instead of being thankful or sincere you backbite the other person who is in the same boat as you in terms of the struggles labeling him or them as not worthy of help or asking the person who’s giving another huge demand that you need met on top of whatever’s been already given… you give 50takas to a kid on the street and he asks for more for the shells he’s given you which he picked from the beach… Or when you give for a certain cause or purpose then a peoples decide to pocket the difference for their own themselves using the given money on them instead of the group
as a whole… pulling face if they can’t get the sum they demand… or you just gave them a huge sum and even with the sum in hand their next breath would be “..you know also… da da this one and another needs .. when and how much can you give? “…Like guys…. seriously…. It hits us hard coz we ourselves don’t have much and pitch very hard for these people to try and facilitate the help for them… yet despite that they try to get more and more and more and milk it and then pull faces … I just don’t get it.
It’s not for adornment or songs of praises that we give or do what we do…. I believe it benefits the giver as well as to those who receive…. but don’t brag when you give, and as much as possible , do good by stealth, or as the saying goes in charity and the likes of it, what the right hand gives the left shouldn’t know….
Same goes for those who receives … if instead of being given whatever little or much as compared to the next person, you complain and demand… Be thankful for your allotment in an imperfect world. Though better circumstances can be imagined, far worse are nearer misses than you probably care to realize.
Why is it that it’s become a blurred line between need, appreciation, thankfulness and sincerity and then tips to become greed, ingratitude and disdain and taking advantage, using your misfortunes to get more out of a person in their giving or pulling faces coz someone gave you something and you crave more and more and more….
Getting knocked down in Life is a given, … looking out for each other in the ties of compassion and love is the way it should be …I hope to see everyone prosper and survive it … no matter how hard life is… with love, hope, sincerity, faith and courage , God willing..
(Added: 3.40pm Oct 5, 2014) *** 💟☑️
I want to balance up this blog post by adding that despite the above mentioned issues we face, there is still that great joy and the feeling and privilege of being humbled by each and every experience we have had be it with the not so pretty side to the ones who are genuine and sincere and really appreciative of the help that has been given…. they accept it with true happiness and joy be it a few Takas, to the bigger amounts that was facilitated to go to them…
The look in their eyes and the big smiles on their faces shows us that they feel that rekindled hope and feeling of self-worth that someone actually cares , in this mad crazy spinning-out-of-control , sometimes hard hard life, that there are people out there in the spirit of brotherhood, in the spirit of true Humanity, through love, care and that even if they are in front of you in the giving part or across oceans sending the help, that someone genuinely cares and thinks of them and I think that’s a truly beautiful thing in itself…. That’s what Life is truly about… helping each other in our journeys ….
~ Liz ❤️
“Love is the only way”.
“There is some kind of a sweet innocence in being human- in not having to be just happy or just sad- in the nature of being able to be both broken and whole, at the same time.”
C. JoyBell C.
“Do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame.”
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough”
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
“The wise do not buy into other people’s perceptions of who they are and what they are capable of. Instead, they bypass a person’s public persona and see who they are in their highest expression. When you see actions taken with integrity, instead of words only”