WorldTeach volunteer Kathrine Moore has finally arrived in Bangladesh to begin a year of teaching. In the short time she has been there, Kathrine has already been inspired by the women she has met. Check out how Kathrine' s adjusting to life in Bangladesh and just how inspiring these women truly are.
I have thought about writing a blog post for the last couple of weeks. In fact, I have already written one post that I never did decide was worthy of being read. Now that I am officially in my new home of Chittagong, Bangladesh and I have given myself a couple of days to adjust, I feel I had better get started. I have had a difficult time beginning this blog, as I am unsure where this experience will take me. I still feel like I know very little about this country and this new (to me) community. That said, I do want my friends and my family to have an understanding of my journey, so I should probably get to writing. Please bear in mind that as I have come to this country with little knowledge, my perspective is still developing and will continue to develop throughout the year.
I have come to realize that it would have been impossible to prepare for my arrival in Chittagong. A small example of this is that upon arrival in my apartment I found two large cockroaches (over 2 inches each!) dead on the ground. I realized as I gingerly and with great disgust picked one up that I had never even seen a cockroach in person. A greater example of just how vastly my environment has changed can be portrayed through a description of the streets—they are like nothing I have ever seen and are teeming with people. I see more people when I walk a ¼ of a mile in this city than I would walking multiple miles in Seattle (clearly this is not a real statistic, but I think it is true!). Not only am I overwhelmed by everyone staring as I walk by them, but I also must be extremely careful while walking. There is so much to see, rickshaws, CNGs (motorized rickshaws), buses, cars, pedestrians, and more that I am sure I am yet to notice. Despite all this stimulation, while I walk I often find myself looking straight ahead like a zombie. Sometimes this tactic is to avoid running into something, being run-over, or sadly sometimes it is to avoid looking at the beggars following me as I continue walking. The poverty is overwhelming in a way I have never seen and I must admit that if I did not have a (mostly) quiet apartment in which I can retreat, I don’t know how I would be able to live here. Indeed, the city is so different than anything I have ever experienced that last night I said, “I can’t imagine living here” before remembering that I actually do.
My experience at the Asian University for Women has been such a special one thus far. We have had the good fortune of being asked to attend an Institute for Women in Public Service at AUW. There are about 40 young women attending the institute and my fellow volunteers and I are acting as note takers. After some beautiful speeches about the importance of women in leadership given by the Honorable Minister Chowdhury (of Bangladesh) and Dr. Rangita de Silva, the floor was opened for questions. I was astounded at the caliber of questions and the eloquence with which these students spoke. Today has been no less of a treat. Ten women shared their stories of how they came to be at AUW, their vision for the future, challenges they will face, and how they will combat these challenges. Their stories of struggle, of support, of sisterhood, of dreaming and of strength were incredibly inspiring. Just one example of a woman's story is paraphrased here:
I am from Afghanistan. When the Taliban regime first came, we moved to Iran and then Pakistan. We moved back to Afghanistan in 2001. When I first moved there, I was a shy and not confident person. I didn’t have a specific goal in my life. My father used to tell me that he could see something in me and that I would do something good for the world. This was my inspiration. After coming to AUW, I began to see Afghanistan in a completely different way. The problems are all interconnected. The two problems I am most interested in are the education system and the rights of women. I think the problems are related. I don’t think the education program is helpful—you study, but you don’t really learn and cannot apply it. I know that many people have attempted this work and there will be a lot of challenges. A woman who speaks for the rights of other women has a very challenging job and duty. I am seeing a lot of women doing this work and it is very inspiring.
Each narrative shared told the unique quest of one woman working hard to become educated, so that she may go home and create positive change in her community.
I am sure that I will learn more than I ever realized possible from these women and I cannot wait to begin my work with them. Unfortunately, classes do not start until September. Until then, I will have to start finding my way around the streets of Chittagong…