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El albergue

El albergue

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lovely Day

Friday, July 29

Today has been such a great day!
First, we went to the weekly children's church, where the kids never fail to make me laugh and the songs are so fun to clap along to and join in the motions on.  I am especially amused by one little girl, who is probably a little less than two, who comes to everything.  This little one seems to be fascinated by me and Erika and stares at us constantly.  But she seems to be a tad afraid of our strange appearance.  One week, she was running across the room behind all the other kids from her brother to someone else (she pretty much wanders around all the time, never sitting still for very long, even during church), but when she looked up and realized that she was going to have to run in front of the two of us, she stopped in her tracks, paused for a second with just the faintest hint of concern on her face, then turned right back around and ran back to the safety of her brother's lap, from which protected area she peered gravely over at us in silence.  I got to hold her in my lap today though!....for all of about 30 seconds before she was clambering down, steadfastedly avoiding looking at me the whole time.
Next, we got to go back to the safe house for young girls that we visited last Friday.  This time, instead of 100 skeins of embroidery thread, we arrived with copies of a couple of group photos for all the girls and a couple of ideas for their Dream Books.  First, we had them draw a picture that showed what they wanted to do or be when they grew up - some of the girls show a fair amount of artistics talent, although some are a little more meticulous than others, and turned out some beautiful pages showing themselves as artists, judges, teachers, social workers, and even business women.  A few of the younger ones really weren't sure what they were doing or what they even wanted to be, so I ended up helping a couple of them draw boats and palm trees...who knows, maybe some day they'll own a shipping business?  Then before we ran out of time before lunch, we had the girls all paste the pictures we brought from our friendship bracelet extravaganza the week before onto a second page, and they promised to finish decorating the pages later with stamps and stickers that will spell out what friendship means to them.
We left the girls to enjoy some time with their mothers, who had come for their regular visiting time, and went next door to Auntie Rosemary's house to eat lunch.  She served us a delicious lunch of rice (of a finer quality than normal and usually reserved for special occassions and guests), mixed vegetables (potato, onion, green beans, pumpkin, and some other things I can't name that had all been sauteed together), and curried chicken, then she put us in the bedroom (the one room with air conditioning) to rest.  Soon, she brought us in some ice cream with fresh mango, then left us to take a nap, so graciously leaving us her own bedroom while she and her husband rested on the guestbed in the living room.  Around 3:30, Erika and I thought it might be best not to impose any longer on Auntie and her husband, but when we went out to say goodbye, she asked us to wait a few minutes for tea.  So over tea, we discussed a list of further ideas for the girls' Dream Books, which discussion turned into me typing the list out for her on her laptop, which turned into her showing us pictures of her two daughters who aren't in Bangladesh (Shompa, the oldest, lives in the flat below with her family) and their families, which then turned into us showing her a few pictures of our own.  About 5, we were moving towards leaving again, then asked Auntie if we could take a picture with her first since we were leaving Khulna soon.  So she went downstairs and got her daughter to come take pictures for us, and then we ended up taking a ton of photos because we each had our own camera (three in total), and we tried a couple of different backgrounds, repeating it all a second time because Shompa wanted to switch places with her mother and get some pictures of herself with me and Erika.  About 5:30, ladies started showing up for a meeting with Auntie, so were going to head out, but Shompa invited us downstairs to her family's apartment to have another cup of tea first.
So we moved downstairs, where we were installed in the sitting room, and soon her husband came out to meet us.  After a little bit of that initial awkwardness that nearly always comes when just meeting someone, the four of us were chatting about a range of topics, the conversation becoming even more open over tea and freshly made fries accompanied by a tangy chili sauce.  Both Shompa and her husband were really fun to talk with - they both were obviously educated and knowledgeable about the happenings in the world and had an easy way of maintaining the flow of conversation, something I myself need to work on.  We were all enjoying ourselves, and before we knew it, it was 7 o'clock, Auntie showed up because her meeting was over, and Erika and I were finally put into a rickshaw to head home, leaving them enough time to do their weekly grocery shopping before dinner, which most Bengalis eat around 9 or 10.
As the two of us closed the door to our room, we both agreed that it had been a truly lovely day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Auntie Teresa

Of the seven ladies on staff at the NGO I'm helping out with here, there is one in particular that will always stand out in my mind.  They've all been extremely open and friendly with us two white girls ignorant of Bangla, greeting us with smiles every morning and chattering away at us as we confusedly try to muddle through what they're saying (well, Ruth speaks very good English, so we generally have no problem understanding her), but Auntie Teresa will forever have her own special place in my memories of my time here.  Why?  Well let me tell you a little bit about her.  The oldest of the group (I think), she reminds me of an incredibly sweet grandmother, and yet she's practically the spryest and funniest of the whole group too.  She knows a little bit of English, so sometimes we have little conversations of sorts, although not a whole lot is effectively communicated all the time.  For example, the other day I was trying to ask her if she was going to take us to go print some pictures because Ruth was gone and I thought she had said we'd go with Auntie, but every time I'd try to formulate my question in both English and a mut mixture of English and Bangla, her eyes would light up and she'd reply with something like "Ah yes, Auntie Dolly's house is near mine.  I have three sons; my husband died three years ago." As I kept trying to rephrase my question, she realized that she didn't quite understand what I was attempting to ask, so we just ended up laughing and tossing up our hands in a playful half-shrug.  She's very thorough too, very.  For instance, the two times my pants ripped, she's been the one to sew them back up for me, informing me with a grave little shake of the head that I purchased clothes of very bad quality (which is true, since I'm only here for 6 weeks) as she inspects every inch of seam for potential future tears and runs nearly all of those inches through the sewing machine.  One of my favourite episodes with her though was just two days ago.  While the ladies were out on their lunch breaks and I had the work room all to myself, I decided to do some stretching.  I was near the end of my little repertoire of stretches - I was on the floor with one ankle crossed over the other knee, and that kknee drawn to my chest to streetch the outer hip, when Auntie Teresa walked in.  She observed me for a minute, then with a big grin on her face, she sat down next to me and attempted the same pose.  Pretty soon she was practically rolling on the floor, although I'm not sure whether this had more to do with the fact that she couldn't quite bend herself into position or that she was laughing hysterically.  Later, when all the ladies were back, she even tried to get them all to do the stretch, getting the whole group laughing at themselves and each other.  One last testimony of her fun-loving nature is a wedding video we watched at someone's house when they invited us over for lunch - in almost every shot of Auntie Teresa, she's dancing up a storm, even when no one else is dancing!  But that seems exaclty like her sweet, fun self, always in step with some happy melody that the rest of us just aren't lucky enough to hear.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Of rice and men

I read somewhere a while ago that sumo wrestlers attain their substantil size by eating massive amounts of rice.  They eat other things, of course, but the starch of countless plates full of white rice comprises a large portion of their diet.  And every lunch and dinner, without fail, I find myself thinking of this little fact as I look at the steaming mountain of rice on my plate.  I've always loved rice, and I continue to, despite the fact that I've been eating it twice a day every day for nearly a month already; but I still can't help but think of giant rolls of human flesh jiggling and quivering through the heavy-footed dance of sumo wrestling as I tackle my own personal Mt. Everest of rice.  The problem with this is that I do in fact like rice so much.  Because you see, there's always just a little more rice than I would normally eat in our serving dish (Erika doesn't eat the rice anymore, so I'm alone of this one), so it's just enough to be too much and yet just little enough that the leftovers I would leave look simply ridiculous huddled in the corner of the bowl....meaning that I usually just end up eating it all anyway, sometimes plain, particularly enjoying it when the cook has put a bit of salt in it.  And I even discovered the possibility of dessert rice - sprinkle on a little sugar, and it's great!  You see what I mean??!!  I guess what I'm trying to say is this...if I were staying here in Bangladesh much longer than I am, I wouldn't be surprised if I soon became a fantastic sumo wrestler, and that's the truth.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sailing the streets of Khulna

Saturday, July 23

Since Saturdays are our days off, Erika and I decided to leave our room for a little bit and go to the grocery store - a little adventure.  We got there without incident, wandered the aisles for a little while as we picked up the things we needed, then walked back outside to find it raining.  We beckoned to one of the row of auto drivers waiting for passengers, and he rolled on over.  Now, let me describe to you these autos.  These little vehicles, usually electric, hold more passengers than a rickshaw since they have two back benches that face each other as well as the possibility of space in the front next to the driver, who is perched over what looks to be the front half of a motorcycle.  There is a windshield, back, and roof, but the sides are completely open except for two side panels that close in the back seat and form a sort of small cave.  The sides being open can be somewhat of a nuisance in the rain, so each auto has tarps, shower curtains, plastic sheets, or something of the sort strung up and ready to the unfurled to cover the passengers in back.
So Erika and I stepped through the rain and into our dinged up yellow auto, giving the driver the directions we have been taught and pulling the side tarps shut to keep out the rain as we started off.  The tarps were strung up on a sturdy twine, although they themselves looked a little beaten, as and we held them closed, they snapped and billowed in the winds as we trundled along.  It felt like we were literally sailing through the streets of Khulna, the two of us manning the sails of our little yellow ship, fighting to keep ourselves on course as our sails strained at our fingers.  I peaked through the space between the frame of the auto and the flapping edge of my sial at the people on the side of the road as we passed on by, finding amusement in the fact that they couldn't see me behind the sails of our ship, and imagining them wondering who the navigators might be of such a yellow beauty.  Of course, the likelihood of them ever really wondering that would be...

Our Friday

Saturday, July 23

All the girls crowded around us, excitedly asking to take pictures, both in front of the lense and behind, with us and by themselves.  This was after the interminable group photo session in which we all proudly showed off the friendship bracelets we had made, Auntie Rosemary and her eldest daughter snapping away with the cameras.  It was a lot of fun though, getting to hang out with for a few hours yesterday with the fourteen girls and couple of staff members of another safe house in Khulna.  Erika and I spent a number of hours on Thursday cutting 100 skeins of embroidery thread into two foot-long strands, getting more excited for the next day as we got closer to finishing, even though our wrists were actually beginning to fatigue from all the measuring and cutting.  Our slightly tired wrists were totally worth it too - every girl got to make at least two bracelets, and they still have enough thread left over to make a bunch more.  Although I'm not sure which was more entertainng for them, the bracelets or the pictures.  These girls are the only ones that seem to have a fascination with taking pictures around here either - everyone seems to want to take pictures of all sorts of events and people, no mattter if it might be slightly awkward for them to do so.  For example, there are the teenage boys who took paparazzi-style photos of the two white girls when they couldn't get through the mob wanting to take pictures with us those times when we visited college campuses.  And at events like the conference we went to, someone with a camera seemed to invariably be in the speakers' faces or wandering about during prayer/worship time (they might have been taking official event pictures now that I think of it, but it's hard to tell...).  At one event, some of the speakers who had been assembled on stage even got down during worship to take some pictures of their own.  It's kind of entertaining to me for some reason :)
But Friday was a rather nice day.  We even got to eat lunch with the girls (yay hands!) then were served ice cream with fresh mango at Auntie Rosemary's more next door for dessert (she runs the safe house), where we spent a little while chatting with this incredibly motherly woman who seems to radiate peace and compassion in every interaction, before heading back to our own room to take a delicious two hour nap.  Later this week, Erika and I will go print out some of the pictures we took yesterday with the girls so that next Friday, when we go back, the girls can put them in their Dream Books, a creative project they've started to log memories and dreams, a sort of ongoing and fun form of encouragement.  Erika and I have been thinking up a couple of ideas for fun pages the girls can release their artistic powers on, and we're excited to get to utilize some awesome new scrapbooking-type materials that were recently donated to the home.  It's gonna be fun!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Where we are

As many of you may know, I came to Bangladesh under the auspices of an NGO that has as its goal the rescue, healing, and restoration of women and children in the sex trade.  Erika and I both came to help out under Lisa, who is in the process of starting up a new branch of the program in Khulna, the 3rd largest city in the country. (interesting side note: I heard that Khulna is predicted to be under water by 2020)  This new branch is a safe home for young girls, and when it opens will take in 12 residents.  It was hopefully going to be able to open this August, but a couple of months ago it was decided that it would be better to wait for another year and spend more time preparing.  So there isn't quite as much work for this particular project as Erika and I had been vaguely planning on beforehand, although we did get to put up some fun decorative touches and come up with a couple of possible floor plans for the bedroom and main living area/all purpose room.  So, the two of us have been working mostly with another NGO, in who's guest room we are staying and who's offices are directly below the soon-to-be-opened safe house upstairs.  This NGO also has a heart for women and children affected by the slave trade, but they work mainly on the prevention side, helping poor mothers feed and provide for their babies so that they don't have to sell them to keep them from starving.  They have a feeding program that brings malnourished babies and expectant mothers up to healthy weights, they train local midwives how to properly deliver babies, and they work in conjunction with the government in the administration of vaccinations among the poor.  Currently, they are trying to develop sewing-type projects that they can farm out to mothers in need and then sell in the States, at the same time helping the mothers earn a living wage to keep themselves and their babies out of the sex trade and raising a little to keep the program running.  Over the past two weeks, Erika and I have been getting to know the 6-7 Bengali women who comprise the staff as we have been helping mainly with the design and prep work for the Christmas cards they hand embroider every year as a fundraiser.
The floor with the offices for this NGO (where our room is) is right above a number of schoolrooms that the local church uses to teach two schools - paying students come in the morning, and slum students with scholarships from an organization similar to World Vision come in the afternoon.  So all day, almost every day, the sounds of children laughing, shouting, and reciting lessons in unison forms a continuous happy melody in the background as we work.
Also in our compound is the other half of the schoolrooms in the building immediately adjacent to ours, with the pastor's house upstairs.  In the middle of the grounds is the church, which just last week celebrated the arrival of a new sound system (before I think they only had one or two small speakers).  Walking down the path behind the church, you pass a long building in which several staff live.  One of the families has a small chicken coop out front, and as you walk by, all of their awkward adolescent chickens kind of flop around and make funny, almost-chicken noises.  At the back of the property rises a hostel for boys, providing boys and young men a safe place to stay when they come into the city from the villages for school and whatnot.  Small houses crowd up to the back wall of the compound, and we're sandwiched in on two other sides by the police station and a field that the neighboring Coca Cola factory uses to store empty bottles.  As you walk out the front gate that looks like a red sun rising out of a turquoise sea, you immediately enter the street, across which you see the shipyard, where they saw and chop huge logs into smaller pieces by hand all day and often into the night.  Just behind the shipyard is the river, whose ebb and flow (the ocean and it's tides are very close) are visible by the direction in which the occasional clumps of floating vegetation go by.  If yout want to go downtown, were things are more bustling, you just have to turn right and go on up the street, but if not, you can just stay put and listen to the shh shh shh of saws, the thunk of hatchets, and the jingling bell of a passing rickshaw.

A good day

Sunday, July 17

Today has been a very pleasant day.  Erika and I both had our own projects to work on - she's helping the pastor's wife with some computer work, and I'm cutting paper for Christmas cards - and we got invited to lunch with the pastor's family.  We actually had spaghetti and fresh cucumbers!  The food we normally get is delicious, but it's pretty much the same type of things every day, so a little change-up was welcome.  We even had ice cream for dessert!  And then after lunch the two of us sat and chatter for a while with the wife and daughter over tea/coffee and cake, talking about a range of different things, including the boarding school that she's trying to start up to bring together children of all backgrounds.  Her goal is to instill in them strong moral values and foment relationships that will last through the children's adulthood and professional lives.  Church is going to start soon, at 4:30, so Erika and I have put aside our work for today and are sitting in the sewing room, where the breeze blows through the open windows, bringing the sounds and smells for the street and shipyard right outside and tossing stray strands of hair that have already been loosened by the ceiling fans spinning at full blast.  The staff ladies are sitting in a loose circle on low stools, chatting, laughing, and humming happily as they work on a couple of different embroidery projects they are going to sell (including the Christmas cards).  It's a peaceful, restful moment, and I only wish that I spokle Bengali so that I could join in the friendly conversation rather than just sit on the fringe and only pick up the odd word now and again.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Amazon woman

This morning as we were walking back to the SFC after flyering at another campus, I hit upon the exact word to describe how I feel in comparison with the Bengalis - Amazon.  Yes, that's right, I feel like an Amazon woman here.  It was especially clear when we were on the campus and I was head and shoulders taller than most of the guys (I guess most of the students there were male) as they crowded around our little group clamoring to take a picture with the alien white girls.  Then when we were walking back, I kept having to stoop down a little in order to hear the SFC students as we talked.  This sensation of being bigger than everone somewhat amuses me, but now especially since I have the thought of an Amazon warrior princess stuck in my head every time I stand up next to the natives - it's almost enough to make me beat my chest and give a might war cry before dashing down the street with a spear in hand to do battle with a neighboring tribe...actually, it kind of just makes me giggle.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wednesday, July 13

Today was kind of exciting, kicking off a new round of activities for the next few days.  In the morning, we went out with a few students from the Student Friendship Center (where the two of us valiantly try to teach a conversational English class...on the days that there aren't any strikes going on, of which there have been quite a few in the past week or so)...oh wait, I got distracted...where was I?  Ah yes - so a few of us went out to a local college campus (there they teach grades 11 and 12) to hand out flyers and talk to people, promoting the SFC and the things it has to offer, those things basically being a computer class and a spoken English class (that's us!!!) taught in an open, friendly setting.  Most of the time we were out, I felt like it was just students staring at us two white girls from all sides, although we did actually manage to have a few small conversations with friends and acquaintances of the students we were with.  And of the gazillion flyers we handed out, at least two of them brought some new students into the SFC already!  (I only know this because they joined our English class this afternoon)  So after taking some group pictures on the campus because one of the guys we met really wanted a picture of Erika (who is blonde and blue-eyed), those of us from the SFC got some ta (snack) at a shop nearby (think oniony potatoey goodness wrapped in a fried dough and dipped in a tangy mustard-like sauce) before heading out.  Then skip ahead to late afternoon, and we had an English class that went oh-so-much more smoothly than that first day - Erika led a nice lesson on informal greetings and goodbyes, and there seemed to be a lot of good effort during the practice time.

Now, tomorrow will look much the same as today, I think, as we are going out to a different campus with the students from the SFC again.  But, right after English class, the two of us are going to the opening night of a 4-day youth conference/camp at a local church.  Young adults from their mid-teens to their early 20s are gathering from all around Khulna for a time of fellowship, worship, and growth, and we get to help!  In fact, I somehow ended up as one of the speakers on Saturday.  Oy vey.  I've never given a seminar/speechified like this before in my life!  Let's just say I'm a little nervous.  Tomorrow afternoon, I'll be the crazy white lady wandering the halls of our building and muttering to myself as I try to prepare for this talk (which is on Servant Leadership, by the way).  It just might be a little rough, but I'll definitely be praying to God for help (and maybe deliverance) every step of the way.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

It's monsoon season, baby!

Friday , July 8

This morning, we get to help out a little with the weekly children's ministry, so we figure out last-minute organization of our short object lesson as we stroll through the compound to the chapel with a little bit of sunshine peaking through the ever-present blanket of gray clouds that makes everything look more cheery. That little bit of sunshine though, however bright and happy it may be, somehow adds a heightened level of oppression to the heat and humidity.
We're enjoying ourselves, watching the little kids run around near the end of the program as they play Four Corners, screaming, scrambling and generally running wild.  Outside, the clouds are closing back in over the little cracks that the sun was shining through earlier...
We're back in our room now, and since Fridays and Saturdays are weekend days here in Bangladesh, we now have plenty of time to just relax for a while.  After lunch sometime we'll probably wander out to look around and maybe pick up a movie or two to watch later, but we're not going anywhere right now because it's pouring down like no other outside.  I guess the sunshine earlier was probably a clue to how violent the onslaught would be...
As we take the auto-rickshaw out to the market, the skies are clear again, making it the perfect time to walk around and look at the shops without fear of getting wet.  Hey, we even get to walk part of the way back home!
This constant back and forth is how it just seems to be typically around her this time of year - one moment the skies will look like they're clearing, then the next all the side streets are flooding under some powerful (although usually short) deluge of rain, then the rain stops all of a sudden, just to start back up again later.  There's so much water it seems almost frivolous to me, coming from the dry Central Valley as I do.  I mean, all the moisture I feel collecting on my skin alone could probably irrigate a small field of carrots or something.
And yet through all this crazy back and forth weather, the people of Bangladesh just keep on going as though they weren't experiencing swings in the weather that switch faster than an extremely hormonal woman.  In fact, through it all, the rickshaws keep right on rolling on, perhaps coming out a little soggy on the tail end of one of the longer squalls, but still going.  Hmm...it still seems kind of strange to me, but maybe by the end of my time here I'll get used to it and be able to just keep trekking on, not minding stepping off the sidewalk dry just to end up a little drippy by the time I reach the other side.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A teacher I am not

Monday, July 4, 6 pm

Oy vey.  Erika (my roommate for the next month) and I just got back from our first day of teaching English at the Student Friendship Center to a group of seven college students.  And it was a disaster.  Granted, it was the very first time ever for the both of us to be in that sort of teaching position, and we had absolutely no clue what we were doing, so it seems like it should be ok to say that we are going to be better prepared tomorrow, but when one of the more fluent students ends up taking over the class and basically deciding how things should go and everyone is talking loudly in Bangla for about half of the one and a half hour class time....it's easy to feel a little helpless and inept.  The trouble is that we want to actually help these students improve their oral English abilities (straight up grammar they already know), but neither of us really knows the first thing about making up curriculum and running a classroom.  Luckily, there's another girl staying with us in Khulna for the week who got her MA in Education with an emphasis in Curriculum, so I think we're going to pick her brain for pointers while we still have her around as a resource.  After we sort through a little bit of hopefully helpful internet sites though, we should be a little more ready to actually impart something to these students and build relationships with them rather than watch in mute despair as chaos takes over like it almost did today.

From Dhaka to Khulna

Friday, July 1, 2:30 pm

We're finally on the train from Dhaka to Khulna, swaying back and forth in one of the cars with the high luxury of small air conditioning units plus electric fans hanging more or less solidly over every few rows of seats.  We got up at the ungodly hour of 4:45 this morning so we could make it to our early train, but after waiting for a little while, we found out that our train had been delayed by at least 5 hours...so we shuffled back through the crowd to our car and went home for to catch back up on some of that sleep we had lost.  When we got back to the station, we found out it was going to be at least another hour and a half before our train actually came, so not having enough time to make it worth going home, we plunked down our bags in an empty spot on the platform and proceeded to wait.  It felt like we were waiting forever, the feeling perhaps heightened by our seeming status as oddities on display - seriously, people would stand a mere couple of feet away and just stare at us, forming a sort of perimeter around our tiny group of four girls.  We sat down for a while on our bags, and the staring seemed to lessen somewhat, probably because we weren't at eye level anymore (or in my case, my head wasn't towering above everyone else's like a billboard screaming "Foreigner! Foreigner!").  But then whenever our driver, who was sticking around to make sure we got on the train we were supposed to, started speaking with us to let us know what was going on, the outlying perimeter suddenly closed in like the neck of a drawstring bag, everyone wanting to know what was going on with the group of white girls.

But finally out train came some time after one, and we managed to find our seats and put at least some of our luggage in the too-small overhead racks.  And now as everyone else tries to snooze away the rest of our 10-hour train ride, I sit peering out of perpetually fogged windows at a landscape utterly foreign to that I grew up with.  The vegetation is lush almost beyond belief, with nearly every inch of space covered in green.  It kind of reminds me of a story by Ray Bradbury in his Martian Chronicles that describes Venus as a planet of ceaseless rain (it's monsoon season here in Bangladesh right now, so that kind of fits) and verdant flora that continually grows, engulfing and obliterating anything and everything on land that stays still for more than a minute.  Of course, I doubt the farmers and occassional cow dotting the intermittent expanses of rice paddies are going to disappear into the fields, but maybe if they stayed still long enough in the more jungly parts....

Out in the open

Tuesday, June 28

You know, when I decided to come to Bangaldesh, I knew that I was going to be entering a country and culture very different from my own, but for some reason I didn't quite think about how this might make me personally stand out conspicuously in a crowd.  Sure, I realized I would probably get some funny looks or the like, but the full force of my difference struck me when I was standing in line at the boarding gate for my plane from Dubai to Dhaka.  There were a few families standing in line, but by far the vast majority of the people standing around me were men who looked extremely Bengali.  I felt kind of funny standing among them as the only white girl I could see.  And apparently, the rest of the line thought it was odd that I was there too, because I could feel the quizzical looks directed my way.  As if there was any doubt as to their incredulity, one of the men in front of me finally turned around and asked me if I was really going to Bangladesh in such a tone that it was obvious he thought I was lost and didn't know what line I had somehow mistakenly got myself into.  And now that I'm here in Dhaka, walking through the streets, I realize that not only do I stick out because I'm white and a girl, I quite literally stick out physically in a crowd because I'm at least half a head taller than most of the grown men.  In fact, I feel almost kind of like a beacon or a lighthouse as I walk down the street, looking out over the heads of those passing by with my light brown hair and comparatively fair skin standing out in bright contrast with the hair and faces of those around me.  Well, I guess that just means that there's no hiding in a crowd for me here!