August 1, 2013 #6 Update
Hello one and all! No mosh kar.
Ramadan, is a sacred time for the Moslems numbering 89% in the country. They are called to prayer 5X a day with a loud chant which sounds like a siren coming over a loud speaker from the Mosques. Dhaka is the “city of Mosques”. Imagine the impact of this chanting resonating into the Sisters’ chapel and blending with their melodious Bangla singing. They take this in stride. To us, it is quite the ecumenical experience.
In between retreats we had the opportunity to visit a “near-by” parish where the Sisters teach. We needed to go through the city of Dhaka a 20 min. trip which can take as much as 1 ½ hrs to 4 hrs, one way, because of the traffic. 60 million people populate the city alone. Every imaginable vehicle is negotiating the road from double deck buses to wheelchairs.
Rickshaw drivers outnumber every other vehicle. Both young and old men drive a rickshaw, a common, very hard, very dangerous and very low paying occupation. Drivers must have nerves of steel. Rush hour traffic in the States, takes on a whole new meaning. Poverty abounds everywhere. Most of the people work very, very hard with no relief for them and very limited resources.
In contrast to the congestion of the city, we also traveled to the countryside which was a delightful trip passing through many market places along the way. While in the countryside, we visited the little village of Golla, where many of the Sisters grew up. We needed to take a short boat ride across the river to get to the village. A young boy was steering the boat and an older one bailing out the water. We enjoyed a bit of adventure standing in the boat and commented how this was a good way to practice BALANCE, the theme of the retreat. This river is used for all purposes: swimming, bathing, washing hair, brushing teeth, watering cattle and bathing cattle. It is a very communal watering hole. Most every family has a cow or two, or goats tied up near their home and some chickens running free. These animals form their daily livelihood.
Another parish we visited in the village was Hashnabad and Holy Rosary Parish where the Sisters teach. This parish was built in 1777 and is still serving a large population of Catholics, who in the country of Bangladesh are less than .03% of the population. The Sisters do excellent educational ministry helping young students to overcome poverty. Many of the students are Moslem whose families chose to have them educated in the Catholic schools because of the quality of the education.
On a lighter side:
Three little kittens and twin calves were born prior to our coming to Bangladesh. We regularly check on the development of these precious little creatures. We enjoy watching the little kittens frolic and play with each other and see how nurturing the mother cat is with them. Now they are venturing out of their safe box and curiously exploring the world around them. Any possibility of sneaking one or two kittens through customs?
We have been told you can not gain weight on Bangladesh food. We beg to differ. The food is plentiful here and very good from mild to very spicy. Rice is served two times a day, every day, definitely no fast food, though they did serve hotdogs twice totally for our benefit. We preferred the food of the country. Food is always fresh, either from the Sisters’ garden or the market. Much care and hospitality is served with every meal.
On one of our trips to the countryside, Sister Jacqueline traveled with us and took the opportunity to give us a language lesson in Bangla. (See our photo of the 2 Jacquelines, to the left). She is a very good teacher, her students (us), on the other hand, are more limited. Like a good teacher, she encourages us to keep using the limited phrases we know. One phrase we have the most opportunity to use is: dhonnobad – thank you. Our limited Bangla consists of: no moshkar – hello; bedi – good bye; kemen acho – how are you; bhalo – fine; na – no; achcha – yes. As we stumble with the pronunciation, the people just smile politely or laugh. As you see, we will not be writing you in Bangla anytime soon.
So dear family and friends, we send you a few thoughts, musings and experiences of our visit to Bangladesh. Still doing our work, preaching and teaching. They are loving the retreats! Until the next update…
Remembering you fondly,
Nicki and Jackie