Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas from Dhaka, Bangladesh!

Assalamaleykum! After a week of Internet heartbreak, one after the other, I am finally posting again with the help of my wonderfully fabulous host sister, Sumaita. :)
In short, this week has been filled with eye-opening experiences at every turn. On the first day here, we got to meet our Bangladeshi counterparts, and met some of the staff working at Scholastica. The next day, we checked in again, did plenty of group activities, and geared up to meet some Madrassa students. When we met the Madrassa students, it was slightly awkward at first, because the US kids weren't very accomodated to separating themselves by gender, but the meeting ended with nearly everyone exchanging "Facebook names"! 
Later this week, we went and visited one of the poorest slums in Dhaka. I personally had never seen a level of poverty even close to that. Child labor, overcrowding, and sanitation are all major issues in the slums. But we visited a solution: an organisation called JAAGO. It is an education facility in the heart of the slums, that has made a major impact in the hearts of the children, who once said they dreamed of being rickshaw drivers, now hope to be engineers. I cried more than once on that day, it was pretty emotional for all the US kids. I drew a peace sign (meaning victory here) and  passed it around for everyone to sign. We left our names, and a thankyou in English and Bengali.
Later that day, I got pretty sick from food poisoning. Half the kids have been ill on this trip, so it was only a matter of time. The slums were so intense for everyone, and about 4 kids got sick just on the trip home. My host family is like a real family to me. My host mother stood in my doorway all night to see if I would need her assistance. I spent all of yesterday watching Pirates of the Carribean with Raida (Sumaita) and her friend Tashvia, a huge Kurt Cobain fan. <3
I am feeling better enough to embark on the three day boat trip, thank god. I will not be able to post again, but I want everyone to know I'm missing them, and every day feels overwhelming in how honored I am to be on this trip, meeting the fabulous indivuals who increase my faith in humanity in even their smallest actions.
Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, December 19, 2011

This Post Was Typed Right to Left in Dubai, UAE

Oh, the things we do for free Wifi... Anyways, I'm not so sure how the format of this post will end up looking, but I'm doing my best. The picture was taken on our flight from Frankfurt to Dubai. The service was incredible, and they gave us so much food! And, it was so incredible to look up on the ceiling, find myself seeing stars.  :)
I'm so excited to get to Dhaka .Stopping in Dubai was extremely interesting, though. The culture is already very different from Minneapolis. The airport has praying rooms, and a halal McDonalds. I had a veggie burger, which had chickpeas and green peas in it. Hopefully I'll catch some zs on the way to Dhaka, I'm hella exhausted. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pre-Departure D.C. Conference

   Holy Guacamole. Okay then.
   We spent the good portion of our day - from 10am to 5pm - in a conference at the Holiday Inn. We covered tons of topics: our creed, group safety, culture shock, Bangladeshi history, the works. Everyone is bonding super quickly, it's quite remarkable.  We had a speaker from the U.S. Department of State come and talk to us about what it means to be an "ambassador". The kids here are extremely motivated, and everyone is anxious to board the flight to Frankfurt, Germany.
    One of the most incredible things that happened today occurred over lunch in a separate conference room, with about 12 kids, from the Midwest, East and West Coasts.  We talked about the attitudes of our culture towards climate change, and the environment, and our interviewer wanted to know specifically how it varied from region to region. We talked about commercialism, about Minneapolis ranking high on the "greenest cities" list, and we talked about the stigma of being called "hippies" or "hipsters".  It was really eye-opening. I'm learning a lot, to say the least.
    Here are some pictures of the day: 

 Signing the group creed.
 Chardonnay chillin' on the carpet.
The AYLs playing a quick game of "Ninja".

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Adventure Begins - Washington D.C.

"Lucky is believing you're lucky."
~Tennessee Williams

   I'm a little bit exhausted after today, but too excited to sleep.
   It's still sinking in that tomorrow, I'll be heading off to Frankfurt, Dubai, and landing eventually in Dhaka.  In Dhaka, we'll be learning about Bangladeshi culture, and studying climate change. Upon my return to Minneapolis, I'll be completing a social action awareness project, which will hopefully start conversations and encourage people to think with a global perspective.
    The day started off with a bittersweet goodbye to my family, whom I'm already missing a lot.  The students got through security without a hitch, and boarded the plane just fine. I met a man from Angola, sitting in the seat next to mine. Wouldn't you know? He'd heard Mohammed Yunus speak in Angola while working with an NGO there.  (The Bangladesh exchangers will be meeting Mr. Yunus, the founder of the Grameen bank and micro-financing, and a 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner. )
    The Minnesota crew heading on this trip is really cool, like, frickin' GROOVY, and we're getting acquainted with the fabulous students from NY and San Francisco.  The NY kids graced us with a dance number from West Side Story.  Everyone played a massive, 30-person "oboe-shanotentoten" game.  Tomorrow, we'll be spending 10am-5pm in a conference room, and then we'll embark on our next leg of the trip. Bonding is a definite must.
    I feel so lucky to be able to take part in this trip. It's still very surreal. Hopefully, once I'm in Bangladesh, I'll be able to access the internet and update things for my loved ones 12 hours behind. I've been abroad before, but my horizons haven't ever spanned further than Italy. I have a feeling that I'll be experiencing a jolt/shock like never before.