You probably can recall that old video game, Frogger, with the pixelated frog trying to cross the stream by jumping from lily pad to lily pad while avoiding different disasters. I feel like that game signifies a lot of our time here in Bangladesh.
As Hill said today, there is nothing more exhilarating than sitting in the front of our van as we drive through the traffic of Dhaka. Negotiating the streets is like a game of frogger for everyone involved. Between cars, vans, buses, bicycles, motorcycles, CGNs, Rickshaws, and pedestrians; everyone is playing some sort of frogger to get through the streets. Where there are three lanes in the street the cars end up making it six lanes as everyone tries to squeeze into any space possible. Just watching someone cross the street is terrifying, although Shamir says that no one has actually been hit crossing the street.
Frogger also appears to be the game of politics. Every time you take one step towards crossing the stream, something appears so you have to return to shore. That is relationship between the government, BNP, and the protesters. Each time it appears that the situation has calmed down, someone does something stupid that reheats up the conflict. For example, the government arrested the spokesperson for the BNP in front of the press club in Dhaka. Just when it looks like things are dying down, then you decide to arrest some high profile person?? Well of course that led to five cars and two buses being torched. Our group is still safe and we are able to make our meetings. At this point it is more of just pure annoyance and exhaustion over hearing the latest news.
Frogger also involves some quick thinking and reflexes. The TEEAL team showed some quick thinking today when we decided to visit the Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University after a recommendation from our morning meeting at KGF. Luckily Shamir knew someone at the University that volunteered with his NGO and they introduced us to meet with Dr. Sekender Ali who runs the university archive and has developed an online database of PhD and Master’s theses form five different agricultural universities. The database is very impressive and if anyone is interested in it, please feel free to check it out: http://www.daatj.net. The meeting went very well and we introduced him, a student assistant, and a fellow Professor to the program. They all seemed very interested in acquiring it. The university does not have access to journals and with slow internet speeds it is often challenging for the students to conduct adequate research.
After speaking with some of the students at the university it became very clear that they could really benefit from TEEAL. Unfortunately the library is not equipped with computers.
However, the students were much more interested in connecting TEEAL to the main computer network so they could access the program from their rooms and offices. It appears that TEEAL is going to be popular here in Bangladesh as a resource for students and faculty.
Of course, the last aspect of frogger is when you actually get to cross the stream and end up on the other side. However, are you the same frog that first started off or have you changed? Today after visiting Sher-e-Bengala Agriculture University we were able to go to an international trade show. It was fascinating to see the different products that are imported and what people in Bangladesh are buying. I loved looking at the advertisements and trying to see how US or European brands were changed to fit this market. Although it might be the same item it has still shifted to meet the needs and challenges of this current market.
Unfortunately, I can’t relate everything we did today back to frogger. However, we were able to have two other meetings. This morning we visited the library at the BARC campus to see how they operated. We were able to see their old TEEAL set and asked the librarians some questions regarding usage of the library and TEEAL. Unfortunately with increased digitization of articles and books, many of the librarians feel ill prepared to help students and are starting to see a drastic decline in the number of students, faculty, and researchers who come to visit the library. Only about 5 people a day usually visit and often this is less. They need to find ways to entice people to come back to utilize the research available. While they seem to have plenty of books they lack journal access which is extremely important to scientific study since most of the current research is first published in these journals. Hopefully through TEEAL and offering trainings on TEEAL and scientific research and writing the librarians can start to feel more empowered and offer more opportunities as a research center.
Our second meeting of the day was with the Krishi Gobeshona Foundation which provides grants fro agricultural research. They already have a partnership with IP CALS, however, we wanted to meet with them to explain more about TEEAL in order to see how we can better appeal to universities and research institutes they assist. They were able to help us think a lot about how to appeal to researchers. Many people are now focused solely on internet based research. We really need to focus on the fact that TEEAL as an offline system offers faster PDF downloads and provides more local research and journal access they can’t find online. KGF was also very interested in publishing the research they sponsor on TEEAL. The more local research we have the better. We want to make sure that we are appealing to the needs of the researchers and students here in Bangladesh. Additionally by offering local research from Africa and South Asia we are hoping to build connections between different professors and researchers who might then be able to collaborate on projects.
Tomorrow we are to Dhaka University and then hopefully the National Museum. Fingers crossed that the travel blockade ends soon so we can visit BAU this weekend and Chittagong next week.