Digging to Bangladesh

Chapter 3 of 5

Inside another rave type religious show, a lot of young guys were dancing crazily to the music, really going off

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.

13 October 2013

The next morning we saw that the workers had covered the worksite in tarps. They were a very mixed bunch of people. An older guy was a bricklayer and his skills were very good. The rest were mainly young guys who were very hard workers. They loved asking us questions and often picked flowers for us. Guys here are quite affectionate with each other. They often hold hands while walking, something I could never imagine on Aussie building sites.

Work was delayed again because of another heavy downpour. To keep the workers busy we moved some of the rings undercover so they could render them. We also got them drilling perforations through the pipes we had for the trenches.

Tom and Agit turned up and they were happy with what we'd done. We had some 'cha' - morning tea consisting of a warm sweet drink and a few biscuits.

What happened next was quite strange. Agit and I sat face to face and all the villagers were around us in an almost perfect circle. Agit Roy is very well respected here and very interested in what I had to say. I told him how we could adapt rainwater tanks to do what we were doing. He loved the idea.

We finished up a little earlier so a few of us headed down to the river for a swim and a kick of Eamon's football. After a cold shower, Tom and Apu invited us out for the last night of the Hindu festival.

This time we caught a small three-wheeled vehicle with a cattle-like tray, which we crammed onto with a local family of 12. It was a fast, scary ride and I worried we'd tip if we swerved too fast or if a wheel dropped off.

We arrived at a large town with people everywhere who were just captivated by us. Some came up and politely asked questions mainly about where we're from, if we liked the festival and, strangely, what our fathers' names were.

Inside another rave type religious show, a lot of young guys were dancing crazily to the music, really going off. I danced a bit for Dan's camera and before I knew it, I was dragged into the frenzied crowd. I had a little dance but then fought my way out, as I was conscious of getting robbed. Apu also stepped in like a bouncer and got a few over-enthusiastic Bangladeshis off me.

There was nothing malicious in any of this. If anything it was the opposite. Even walking through the markets after the light show, many just wanted to touch you or walk next to you and pretend they were with you.

In the markets we tried some of the local cuisine. A really sweet, deep-fried pretzel shaped snack covered in honey - probably their equivalent of KFC. We also tried 'pan' which is a cone made out of a weird leaf filled with herbs and nuts. You chew it like cud for about ten minutes and then spit it out. You then swirl this paste-covered stem on your gums to freshen the taste. At first the flavours were full on, but I must admit left a good aftertaste.

We went down to the markets and I bought some fruit before we did another dash home on the buggy of death. I noticed that all the buses had the paint scratched off the sides and dings everywhere. Particularly alarming when there are heaps of people riding on the roof.

Back at Bencali, Apu wanted to take us on two motorbikes to another massive party at the border of India (which is only 65km away). We were tempted, but didn't go. I sensed it was just too dangerous.

It was good to collapse into bed. Throughout the night, the power kicks on and off continuously, so the lights blink on and off, and you can hear the fans constantly starting up and stopping again.

There are many scary moments here. The living is quite tough. The work is extremely challenging. But I am absolutely loving it. I've never felt so alive.

  • Read Chapter 1 here.
  • Read Chapter 2 here.
  • Read Chapter 4 here.
  • Read Chapter 5 here.