"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mehndi Memories

The travel bug is biting me again. Lately I've been dreaming of another big adventure. The news of a fire in a Dhaka, Bangladesh slum just about a mile from where my brother and sister-in-law lived reminded me it's already been two years since my last trip somewhere faraway. As I read the reports of the fire, my memories of that trip came flooding back to me. I was there exactly two years ago this week. Sometimes it almost doesn't seem real that I was there, and other times I remember things like it was yesterday. It hardly seems possible that in the midst of such a chaotic, upside down year that I was able to pull it together enough to make it happen. If you're wondering what took me to Bangladesh, I wrote about it here and here

Last night I looked through this photo album I made of the trip. Looking at the pictures brought so many sounds and smells of Bangladesh back to me, and a strong craving for some delicious, sweet tea! I could almost taste the flat bread that was served with nearly every meal, and I really wanted some hard boiled eggs like the ones we had each morning in Srimongal. Why did they taste so much better there than they do at home? Everything tasted better there, as you can see by this picture of me loaded down with my daily supply of sightseeing snacks. It's funny to think that I was worried about not being able to eat while I was there. If it weren't for all the walking and profuse sweating I did, I would have come home at least ten pounds heavier!
Travel to foreign places and exposure to cultures and traditions that are different from mine is exciting, but it also helps me appreciate the everyday things I take for granted, like sour cream and onion Pringles and Sprite. Their ready availability at home makes me immune to the simple pleasure they can bring. Finding them across the world delighted me and made me savor every delicious bite. But I think what I like the most about traveling is how it connects me to the world. There's nothing like seeing how other people live, even those in one of the poorest countries in the world, to remind me how similar we all are. Whether someone is a poor rickshaw driver living with their family in a slum, a wealthy business owner, or just an average middle class American like me, we all treasure the same things--family, friends, security, love and companionship. 
This picture I took of a young village girl is framed and hanging in my home. I often look at her face and wonder what she looks like now, and what her life holds in store for her. Not long ago I mused out loud to Mike about what her life will be like. He said she'll never have anything. I disagree. Look at those eyes, see the sparkle and the happiness in them? She may not have anything by my standards, but that doesn't mean her life is less than mine in any way. Her world and her future will be vastly different than mine, but that doesn't mean that she won't be just as happy and fulfilled in her life as I will be. I don't know this girl's name, and I never will, but every day I look into her eyes and am reminded that every life is important, and every person deserves basic human dignity and respect. That's a realization I don't think I could have ever fully understood without traveling to Bangladesh, and a lesson that I'll always remember and be forever grateful for. 


  1. She is so beautiful! I love what you had to say about all you learned on this trip.

  2. This girl is so beautiful. I think you are probably right -- that if she still has that spark in her eyes and that smile, she will find what is right for her. Indeed, dignity and respect should be a given. I'm not sure that's always the case; I hope it is for her.

    This post reminded me that one can travel and feel like they're not all that far from home -- certainly it's that way in Europe, where apart from seeing lovely things that aren't in my town and struggling with language (sometimes) it isn't all that different. You've experienced 'different' and it is very beautiful.


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