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The following is a guest post from AUA Mosaic Fellowship recipient Adam Kruse. Adam is currently volunteering in Bangladesh through The Advocacy Project during the summer of 2012. To find an amazing volunteer opportunity, search the AUA Directory of Recommended Organizations© today.
The stares never stop coming and I feel the full effects of my being different. I am the only white person in my “suburb”, which is saying something considering there are probably a couple of million people living in Mirpur, Bangladesh. Over all, I love this place! It’s been one of the most challenging environments I’ve encountered; it’s a constant invasion of the senses. It’s hot, loud, and has a smell I like to think of as ripe fruit… a little too ripe sometimes.
There isn’t much to make me feel at home. In the first weeks it felt like walking on the moon, now it just feels like living in a foreign country. Sometimes I feel comfortable and at peace with this way of life. I’ve found that feeling comfortable only comes after taking some amount of risk. Trusting someone for no other reason than having a good feeling about them has been the only way I’ve been so successful in cultivating friendships. I normally ignore the constant bombardments of people yelling “ehell o” and “how er yo” as I walk down the street, but as soon as I make the exception and respond I’m an instant “brother” and invited in for tea or food. I’m the proud friend of a blacksmith at the market, the “peace keeper” of the local slum, and the owner of a garment factory. It pays to be open to new possibilities in this country, in life, always.
Yesterday I visited an island with another fellow from the Advocacy Project. It was the start of Eid so the islanders were celebrating. They practice a mixture of Sufi Islam and their native religion of the island. The whole experience combined is pretty bizarre, even for an Anthropology major. I feel asleep with men in trances chanting a couple of feet away from the tomb we slept next to. When the men weren’t in a trance they were like any of the other men I’ve met here, Normal.
I arrived in Barisal, Bangladesh this week to work with BERDO’s micro-credit groups. I’m profiling a few stakeholders and looking into developing a project proposal to expand the potential beneficiaries. There are currently 409 beneficiaries; I’ll be looking into ways to expand that particular program to 3000 benefactors. The groups I work with are predominantly women’s groups. They meat concerning the loans and also meat to discus health issues, personal issues, and resolve disputes within the community. I’ve been living in Dhaka, Bangladesh for the past month so the fresh air and relative silence Barisal has to offer is a welcomed relief.