We made it to Bangladesh. I traveled almost 40 hours to get here from Greenville, SC to Dhaka. I am very tired. Very. Tired.
From the moment we entered the gate of the Istanbul airport bound for this foreign land, it became very obvious that we’re not anywhere familiar anymore. The women were all wearing the Salwar Kameez, and the men certainly noticed that we weren’t.
I’ve only ever traveled to Western countries. And even in poorer places I’ve been, I guess something about it all has still made me feel myself. In Mexico a few years ago, I spent time in the rural mountains with people who lived in caves yet somehow, I still felt like me. The cultures I have been in are wildly friendly and accepting, and that suits my outgoing personality.
But I have to be honest, since being here, I feel completely outside of myself and any notion of a comfort zone.
We stick out like a sore thumb even when we’ve made efforts to wear our Salwar Kameez and cover up appropriately. People stare. I even made up a term when we arrived this morning…owl-necking. People staring so much that their heads literally turn farther than what seems possible just to keep looking at you. And it feels really weird to be a spectacle. (posing for a picture certainly didn’t help that spectacle-ness.)
We went on a walk around a lake near this part of town after a briefing on the culture and language today, and I spent the majority of it on the brink of tears.
I feel foreign to myself right now. I can’t seem to figure out what the balance is between the natural me and the culturally cognisant foreigner. I kinda fell to pieces when we got back to our rooms.
It feels foreign to be aware of just how foreign I actually am here.
Bangladesh is 85% Muslim, and in this culture, women don’t really engage people they don’t know. They are reserved and quiet until you know them well. The men do most all of the shopping, and so when our team ventured into a really fascinating market, it was even more obvious that we were out of place.
We were definitely the objects of staring and catcalls. I felt completely weird without any appropriate response beyond silence and ignoring some very un-ignorable behaviors. I feel so beyond myself that I don’t quite know how to behave here. It feels like nothing about this personality fits this place.
This culture of people is reserved and quiet. It’s not acceptable as a woman to be gregarious or touchy feely. That’s not who I am…and I don’t know who I’m supposed to be in this place where all that I am doesn’t quite fit.
I’ve been in plenty of different cultures before, but none like this at all. I’m so far out of my element that I can’t quite get my bearings. They told me it’s ok…that this is normal. But nothing about myself feels normal right now.
I guess sometimes an adventure can be an uncomfortable thing.
Sometimes going somewhere may mean that it takes even ourselves a bit to catch up.
Tomorrow we are going to a slum community where Food for the Hungry has been investing for several years. They just recently turned over the running of the school and programs there to the locals. I’m hoping that faces like these will put me at ease.
They just played the call to prayer. It’s beautiful. It echos through the entire city. And while it’s not the belief system that I’m a part of, or a culture that I understand or feel comfortable in right now, I know that there’s something about this place that the Lord will use to change me forever.
*any awesome photo here is from our amazing and talented humanitarian photographer, Esther Havens. Also, to read more stories from my new friends on our team, go HERE and you’ll have a list of each person and web address.