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It was some of the hardest construction work I've ever done and I've never sweated so much - a combination of hard work and humidity
In October 2013, Troy Everett, head teacher of Building and Construction, Civil Engineering, Surveying and Mapping at TAFE Illawarra, volunteered to help with the construction of new toilets in a remote village in one of the world's poorest countries. What he encountered there left him "changed forever". Following are excerpts from his journal.
The food has been quite good. There's rice with every dish and they also have different types of curried vegetables and Dahl. Breakfast is my favourite as it's usually this dish called roti; fantastically spiced potato and onion with a wrap type bread, freshly cooked over a stone.
On the job site about two feet of water had infiltrated the excavation. Luckily the banks had held, with the added support of bamboo props. We started bailing out the water. Timing on the next stage was critical, as we needed to get the next ring on and grouted into place so that it was watertight. It was some of the hardest construction work I've ever done and I've never sweated so much - a combination of hard work and humidity.
We decided to work late. There was a Hindu festival the next day and no-one's supposed to work. The equivalent of our Christmas so it's quite a big deal. In Bangladesh there are about 80% Muslims but up north here there are a lot more Hindus.
After work we trudged back to the compound and enjoyed a shower before we met at Agit's house then walked into Bencali. There we negotiated a rickshaw ride to a nearby village. The ride was incredible with rickshaws, bikes and overloaded trucks in both directions making an interesting game of dodge. Have to admit I was holding on tight and had more than a few scary moments. At every hill, the person on the back had to jump off and push. It was so serene in the rural areas, with moonlight across rivers and rice fields. It's hard to believe I'm really here.
After riding through a few side streets we went into a building where there was a lot of doof-doof music. Like a rave party but with that distinctive Bollywood horn type sound. Inside there was a light show, shining onto the statues of the Hindu deities - mainly Shiva but also some weird looking girls with hairy eyebrows and even one with a Freddie Mercury mo. It was pretty funky to be playing this music and the disco lights shining on their gods. I don't think Jesus would stand for anything like this.
We then hopped on the rickshaws again and went to another place. This time we were treated like VIPs. It's really strange to have thousands of bewildered eyes staring at you. Some come up and just want to touch you. This time the statues were really shiny and the second was quite gruesome with a four-armed woman killing a big muscly grey guy. There was also a half man half elephant dude watching on. The statues were made from raw materials out of the ground, a good effort because they looked incredibly real. After the festival they throw all the statues into the river and they go back to the earth. Nice one, I like it.
They're really into their gods here. Nearly every residence has a shrine of some sort and often you can be walking through the bush and come across a random mini temple or shrine. Even the toilets we're building have to be facing a certain way. They think it's bad karma to expose your bum in the direction of their deities who live in the east. True story.
I found a stall that had a mini bronze statue of the weird looking god in the hall. I thought it might look good in the travel cabinet at home. After this we made tracks and went back to Apu and Agit's home for a late supper. It was nice, I feel an affinity with Agit. He is a very wise older guy who oozes charisma, reminds me a lot of Imran Khan. I had a feeling he and I were going to get along well.