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It was amazing, everyone was so festive and welcoming. Young
people were dancing and throwing coloured water at each other. They
asked to throw some on me
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 rain was flogging down. Predictably, the sites were full of
water. We went to a tea house (the equivalent of a bar). The tea was
really good, just served in a small glass with chunks of something in
it. Outside we could see various animals getting ready to be
slaughtered. Even though I'm a meat eater, I didn't like seeing it. A
goat was hanging from a balcony on the Main Street, being skinned.
We headed down to the timber shop to see how the form work timber was
going, but it wasn't ready. To be honest, there's a bit of laziness in
the Bangladeshi culture, especially prevalent in the holiday season.
The women of the house barely leave the compound and have never been
more than 30km from this house, but they are all very happy and proud
of their lives. I was interested that the Hindu population has a caste
system similar to India but not to the same extent. It was also
interesting to know that under the caste system your last name
identifies your social and societal standing.
In the evening, we went to Apu's house as it was a special occasion.
His daughter was eating rice for the first time, something that's
celebrated by the whole family. It was really nice to be there and the
look on the baby's face was quite funny as she tasted the rice.
Heartbreakingly, the rain is still coming down, now with thunder and
lightning. Not sure what we can do tomorrow and I dread to see what
the jobsites look like. Just have to keep waiting and be ready to work
as soon as the weather clears. So very frustrating.
I have never, EVER, encountered rain like we had here last night. It
was deafening, and the violent storm lasted for six hours. There was a
cyclone the intensity of Katrina just 100km away in India.
The power was out from about midnight and on top of this, Dan started
spewing about 1am and continued well into the morning. Luckily I've
been ok so far but I've been vigilant with what I eat, and scrubbing
my hands before any meals.
Tom, Dan, Phoebe and I inspected the sites and the news wasn't good.
Not only were they under water, but one corner of the footing had
failed under the added hydrostatic pressure from the weather.
We decided to start constructing the form work for the toilet block
roofs. It was a good call as we got a lot done and it generated some
Later we saw the procession of the Puri - the statues from the Hindu
festival. Dan had gone on an errand so Phoebe, Tom and I started
running over to the main road. Incredibly, the whole procession
stopped so we could join in. Along the way there was a lot of drum
beating, dancing, and up the front there were people holding two
smoking terracotta urns. Soon Phoebe and I were escorted to the front
of the procession to lead the event to the river. It was a great
honour and I can't believe the feeling – I felt like a pop star.
We eventually made it to the river. It was amazing, everyone was so
festive and welcoming. Young people were dancing and throwing coloured
water at each other. They asked to throw some on me.
So my white shirt turned multi-coloured, plus my face and arms. But I
was really enjoying it. Tom and I also got dragged into praying and
dancing in front of the gods, which was incredible. What a vibe. I
think I've actually found a country of dancers worse than me!
It was touching how many people were coming up and shaking hands.
Some kids were coming up and hugging. Men were coming up and leading
me around by the hand. It felt kind of weird walking around holding
hands with dudes but to them it's normal. Homosexuality is forbidden
here and they don't even like you talking or joking about it.