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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.
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