We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
The following is a post from AUA Mosaic Fellowship recipient Anina Tweed. Anina is currently volunteering in Bangladesh during the summer of 2012. To find an amazing volunteer opportunity, search the AUA Directory of Recommended Organizations© today.
After today, I am confident that pictures and camera phone videos of me now grace the Facebook pages of at least fifty Bengalis. Today marked our first outing to Patenga Beach, less of a beach really and more of a colorfully decrepit rocky shoreline carnival. The entire place was packed, teaming with Bengalis in their best and brightest. Little food stalls and vendors lined the water’s edge, sadly skeletal little horses wandered around for kids to ride on, popcorn, peanut and cotton candy vendors hawked their goods, little colorful wooden “ferris wheels” were swung around by sweaty men, swing sets and four wheel quads were set up for entertainment. It was a truly Bengali dreamland, walking the fine line between wonderful, colorful, dirty and chaotic as only Bangladesh can do.
Of course our entire time there was marked by throngs of what we like to think of as our fans and admirers, but are really just Bengalis who have probably never seen a white person before, let alone a group of six. Any time we dared to stand still for longer than five seconds we were instantly engulfed and surrounded, at least five camera phones in our faces. Parents literally forced their children to take pictures with us, fights broke out as food vendors tried to clear out the mass of people we brought with us into their stall, and countless men tried to talk to us. We relented on two accounts and took a picture with what turned out to be a very frightened little boy and then again with an enthusiastic group of young girls. The entire experience was bizarre and overwhelming but in the most magical, eclectic and memorable way. I couldn’t help but laugh at the men’s bewildered faces as I took out my camera and started filming them right back. At the end of our trip, the police ushered us into their tent, offered us ice cold water, “made friendship” with us and… also took out their camera phones to partake in every Bengali’s favorite activity: filming the white girls.