Home again

Less than seven days after we left, we are home again. It has been an amazing week. We have all learned and experienced so much. Below are some reflections from Charlotte, aged 16, who came with us as part of her preparations to study medicine:

First day in Bangladesh:  The first things that hit me about Bangladesh were the heat and the smell, it is very hot there.

We were greeted at the airport with flowers (first time I’ve ever been given flowers) by two lovely men who couldn’t do enough to help and were so pleased to be able to welcome us to Bangladesh!

We were driving back to the flat when the other stuff started to sink in. As we were coming into land I was quite happy because I saw loads of trees, and I don’t like going places where there aren’t green plants, but everything is covered in dust. You can tell when you breathe, it’s everywhere.

This evening we were trying to get to a shop to buy some water when the hardest thing to cope with happened. We were in the car and there are all these people, some children, even some mothers with babies, weaving in and out of the dangerous traffic trying to sell things, or beg. It’s really hard when they’re all crowding round tapping on the window and you can’t just hand them all money but it’s very hard to ignore.

Also, the noise. It appears to be compulsory to sound your horn constantly when driving, so I will be getting no sleep tonight.

Talking of sleep, we’re going to the slum for the first time tomorrow so I’m going to rest to make sure I can cope”

Monday: We looked round the slum properly today and it was not what I expected at all. Although the houses are tiny and there’s a huge number of people living in one room; there’s sewage everywhere; there’s no private space and no clean water the sense of community is astonishing. Everyone looks out for each other and helps out. We were shown into someone’s house and while Jo and Saffia talked about midwives in the slum I made friends with four lovely girls (aged 14, 14, 15 and 23) and two young boys (both aged 4) who were so kind and friendly. I didn’t need to speak their language to get along with them and as I was leaving they all hugged me.

Then we went back to the clinic and I learnt how to take someone’s blood pressure using a stethoscope (which is absurdly difficult) so now I understand what the numbers mean!

Then we had lunch at the ARBAN Bangladesh office again and sorted clothes, but all the staff want to do is host us and offer us food and many cups of tea which we don’t need or want, but bless them.

Tuesday: Today we handed out the pencil cases, that Olveston Primary school generously donated, to children in the two schools in the slum.

People normally say that we’re lucky to be able to go to school and we should be grateful, and actually it’s true. Now I complain as much as anyone about the amount of homework and the teachers and the lessons and that probably won’t change, but at least I’ll be appreciating it more. Every time I sit on a chair, at a table and look at the teacher using the computer to write on the interactive white board, in a classroom with huge windows and space to walk around, with enough pens and paper to last, I’ll remember that I’m lucky.

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