This past month we have had the opportunity to enjoy a short holiday in Sreemongol, an area in Bangladesh known for tea gardens and lemon groves. This break from work was refreshing and fun for the both of us as we had the chance to enjoy the beautiful landscape of Bangladesh.

Quotes 6On the first day a guide took us to the rainforest where we were able to hike through dried up river bends and spot many different animals including three different types of monkeys and many varieties of large spiders. We also enjoyed the quiet moments during our trip, like the sound of silence in the middle of a valley surrounded by tea gardens; this is something that we rarely experience in Bangladesh because it is one of the world’s most densely populated countries and has some of the world’s worst traffic.

On our second day we enjoyed a scenic drive out to another tea garden that had a beautiful lake in the middle. Here it felt like we were back in Ontario looking out to one of the thousands of lakes that are a familiar sight. We really enjoyed our excursions where we were able to take many photos and learning more about the wildlife and vegetation of this area.

The guest house we stayed at was nice and homey, and our room even had a small balcony where we could sit and listen to a tranquil stream below us every night before going to sleep. At the end of our short trip we were able to bring back freshly picked lemons, some of Bangladesh’s national tea, and rejuvenated spirits from being able to enjoy the beauty of creation.

| MIND |
One of the new hobbies that I have been able to delve into here in Bangladesh is reading. Although this was something that I have done on and off for many years, it was during our orientation that we were asked to reflect on some of our dreams and things that we were hoping to accomplish over the next three years. It was then that I decided to intentionally pursue reading, and so far this has worked out quite well. With most evenings spent at home I have been able to read several books already, ranging from fiction, non-fiction and even on marriage.

The books that have impacted me most are those that focus on the history of India and Bangladesh told through the perspective of everyday people. Although these have been fictional books, they have brought to light many of the challenges that these countries have persevered through and currently deal with.

A pivotal era in Bangladesh’s history is the events surrounding its liberation in 1971, and I would like to share a few excerpts from the book Invisible Lines, which documents the experience from different perspectives this has helped me better grasp the context here.

This first excerpt is a reflection that recounts the atrocities of war. The protagonist’s house was attacked by several soldiers from the Pakistani army and her mother was assaulted, raped and eventually became insane from the lasting trauma.

But soon we heard that the Pakistan Army was conducting raids nearby and that they were on the lookout for freedom fighters. They could attack our house any day… ‘Yes, ten soldiers came, they attacked our house at night. Huge, fierce-looking giants… They shot dead the gatekeeper and the gardener and… Then they gagged me and … tied us to the pillars.’
(Ruby Zaman, Invisible Lines, 100).

The second excerpt describes the struggles that many young men dealt with as they fought to preserve their mother tongue, culture, and for independence from Pakistan. One of the characters was severely injured during the fighting and consequently lost the ability to walk properly. Despite being recognized as a hero, he was unable to continue to fight.

Shafiq looked at the other freedom fighters. They were all there with a single aim – to free their motherland… As they waited, some of the student-turned-freedom fighters became restless. They were hungry and thirsty, and the rain and leeches were making them uncomfortable. ‘Forget such things as hunger and thirst. Concentrate on your target!’ Major Haider hissed as he saw them fidgeting… They held their breaths; they crouched and squatted for another hour.
(Ruby Zaman, Invisible Lines, 179).

Quotes 7Lastly, this is the perspective of the main protagonist who was a woman born into privilege that fled Bangladesh, never wanting to return due to the trauma she carried after the war. Despite this, she recognized that a part of her would always be at home in Bangladesh. Even without ever having visited Chittagong, I can just picture the house that she describes, and through this book I have deepened my appreciation as to the complex dynamics that still play out today.

There was part of her that did not belong [in England], a part that was distinctly Bengali, despite everything. There were times she would get a sudden urge to go back to her hilltop house in Chittagong, to hear the noisy crickets and the hummingbirds, to touch the green grass of her lawn and smell the jasmine
(Ruby Zaman, Invisible Lines, 303).

Quotes 8Invisible Lines was a fascinating read as it intricately intertwined the lives of several people as they experienced the events around Bangladesh’s Liberation War, providing an insightful emotional picture of what happened here. It has been through books like this, through talking with our colleagues, and through continuing to explore different areas of the country that we have been growing in our understanding of the history and its ongoing impact.

As I’ve been reading more about Bangladesh, I catch myself nodding my head as I relate to familiar details about family meals or intricate descriptions of cityscapes. It has been a real gift to engage with a book on the pages that I read and through my daily interactions that are now more enlightened.

I would like to challenge my family and friends, if reading is something that you have been putting off, I would encourage you to make the time for it! I didn’t realize what I was missing until I intentionally carved the time out to read, and now it is a rejuvenating way to spend my time.

We have an enjoyable time with Erin’s parents as they visit us in November
2. Bangladesh would experience rejuvenation as it continues to experience nationwide disruptions from unresolved issue stemming back to the Liberation War
3. MCCB continues to transition well has there are many changes in how we approach our work on the horizon

Erin (and Nishant)

PHOTOS:Picture Banner 11
Check out the full album at: October 2014


Hiking through the dried up river beds of the Sreemongol rainforest while unsuccessfully trying to avoid leeches, we were privy to capture the sounds of some of its inhabitants on video.

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