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All the locals just stopped and gawked at us, almost in a
trance, as we walked past. Many had never seen a white person before
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.
Today was the first day of work and Dan and I were keen to see the
building sites and get started.
The rest of the guys were all a real mixture and enjoyed a good laugh
and stir. It seems construction crews have a similar dynamic the world
over. Each of us had to introduce ourselves and there was a lot of
stirring going on between the Bangladeshis and a few little jokes
aimed at us, which was fine.
We then visited the first of the two sites. The project was
experimenting with two different types of construction methods for the
septic tank component, one brick and the other precast concrete.
Things were going pretty well as we rotated the digging. We had to go
really deep in one area; over six feet and we knew there were going to
be issues with the water table.
Sure enough once we got to about four feet, water started trickling
in from the sides and we had the added concern that the side banks
would collapse. And right underneath the toilet and washroom.
It was messy hard work and we had to make a decision as to whether to
dig right down, bail out the water and try and get the first ring in place.
Dan and I could see that the locals were a bit self-conscious so we
tried to complement what they did and make suggestions rather than
dictate how things needed to be done. A form of diplomacy, I suppose.
We were all exhausted and it was only the first working day here. I
have to say that Phoebe and Tom earned a lot of respect from me in how
they work. Phoebe did a lot of digging and tried to spur the locals
into working hard. Difficult to achieve with the gender attitudes
here. They also made many crude jokes about her. I was impressed with
how she handled it.
After work Tom invited us to go for a swim at the river. We were
extremely dirty and tired. We walked through a couple of small
villages to get there. All the locals just stopped and gawked at us,
almost in a trance, as we walked past. Many had never seen a white
person before. I really enjoyed seeing how agriculturally intelligent
they are. It's a massive part of their life.
The river was beautiful and as the sun started to set there were all
these strange colours in the sky. The flow of the river was quite
strong so the thing to do was to lie flat in some shallow water and
dig your fingers into the sand to hang on. The river was well over 100
It gets dark very quickly here so on the way back we had to follow
the track via mobile phone light. A bit hairy as we did spot a few
snakes slithering past and there are cobras in the area that can be deadly.
But it was incredible to look out over the rice fields and see all
the fireflies putting on a light show.
Even though the showers are cold it was good to have one and get to bed.