Saturday, Aug 6
Our last couple of days in Khulna were fun a full of a slightly bustling business. It was as though all of a sudden the ladies of the NGO realized that we were leaving soon and there were a number of small projects that we had been helping with that they still wanted our help on. So, although the quiet pace of life never really quickened all that much, Erika and I definitely had something to work on at all hours of the day. We held our last two sessions of English class on Monday and Tuesday too, but we'd kind of already had our "farewell" party the Thursday before, so we had more cultural-type days in which we all shared about American and Bangladeshi holidays and talked about words and expressions that come from animals (ex: crabby or blind as a bat). Those were fun, relaxed classes, with laughter and the sense of friendship filling the air. But Tuesday night came, along with a fun dinner outing with all the ladies for a staff-appreciation night out at the nicest hotel in town (the food was goo, but the funny statues of antelope and a giraffe out front made me chuckle), and we had to pack everything up to leave for Dhaka the next morning. On Wednesday sometime after 10am, we found ourselves waving goodbye to the ladies as we were trundled into an auto with our luggage and headed off to the dock where the boat was waiting that would take us out to meet the sea plane. It was kind of a sad parting, since these ladies had practically been our family for the past month, but it was exciting at the same time because we were facing an array of new activities and places to experience and explore, the sea plane being the first on the list. Neither Erika nor I had ever flown on anything smaller than a commercial airliner before, so as the skis of the plane touched down on the river near us, sending wakes out to the fishermen on the bank bringing in the shrimp in their net and to the crowd of noisily splashing boys waiting to helpfully wedge the plane's anchor into the mud, I felt like a little kid getting all excited for a new ride at the fair. The little 8-seater was cozy, and we felt kind of like a family in a minivan, especially since the pilot was a jolly, fatherly type who frequently turned around to check in with everyone and see how we were doing. Luckily for me, there was no one in the seat right next to me, so I got to spread out and relax a little rather than jam my knees into the seat in front of me for 45 minutes, allowing me to enjoy even more the landscape passing by below. Almost our entire way was over countryside, which actually looked almost more like giant water dishes held together by intertwining roads and pathways rather than actual land - that makes sense though, when you consider that practically the entire country of Bangladesh is a river basin, with strong emphasis on the word river.
That was all about 72 hours ago, though, and after the plane landed, we were back in Dhaka, the capitol of Bangladesh. It's a little warmer, smoggier, and more crowded than Khulna, but it's also more developed (and a whole lot bigger) and boasts such amenities as ice cream shops, Pizza Hut, and the like. Erika and I even got to go to Pizza Hut on Thursday and get some real pizza that actually tasted like it would back home (we had tried something called pizza in Khulna and been sorely disappointed). During that afternoon, we went to a tutoring center for slum girls with another American who goes once a week to help them with their English and just love on them, and after a few fun-filled hours of singing, dancing, playing games, and listening to stories along with the 12 amazingly sweet girls who go every day (apparently Thursdays are their "fun days"), the three of us went out to pizza. We weren't sure how things were going to work out, because Ramadan started on Tuesday (I think), and even though we don't observe this month-long religious holiday with daily fasts, it's not exactly polite to eat and drink in public until everyone else is allowed to as well around sunset. We got to the restaurant around 6 (yes, Pizza Hut is actually more of a restaurant outside the US), and the tables were filling up with large groups all nicely dressed waiting for the fast to end as they hung out, the younger groups laughing uproariously almost continuously as they enjoyed themselves. I felt slightly awkward as we started to eat and drink while everyone else was obviously still waiting, but they were all too involved in their separate groups to pay us much attention, which was a relief - it would have been aweful to feel as though we were tormenting them with the sight of our food. It was interesting though to watch how they ended their fast - everyone was served a very small glass of water and a date, which they left untouched for quite some time. Our waiter even smilingly offered us dates, asking us if we wanted to try them. Erika and I accepted, finding the little dried fruits to be quite tasty. Finally, about 6:30, the waiters started bringing out the pizzas for everyone, serving giant slices onto the plates of all the hungry fasters. It would have been interesting to stay and see how things progressed, but we were done, so we headed back to our respective lodgings. Then yesterday was Friday, which is like Sunday back home, so after church in the morning, we went to the American club to eat lunch and hang out with some friends. We had been planning on going swimming at the pool there after lunch, but monsoon season struck again, so we stayed inside and just talked for a long time. It was a good Sabbath, nice and relaxing - it even included a trip to the bookstore! (always a treat for me)