Digging to Bangladesh

Chapter 4 of 5

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.

14 October 2013

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.

15 October 2013

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 positivity again.

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.

  • Read Chapter 1 here.
  • Read Chapter 2 here.
  • Read Chapter 3 here.
  • Read Chapter 5 here.
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