Our last day in Mymensingh was fairly uneventful due to the protests we spent the day at the hotel composing some of our thoughts for the TEEAL presentation and thinking through what we wanted to include in our report.
We were able to spend some time in the city and explore the different side streets with fruit vendors and chicken sellers. The team was struck by the vast economic differences in society and the stark contrast outside of Dhaka. While in the Gulshan neighborhood of Dhaka it is harder to see the difference in the economic classes. We are surrounded by the more wealth in the neighborhood with fancy cars, gated houses, and security; going outside of the city we are able to see more of the poverty that is the life of many people in Bangladesh. Despite huge leaps in development, there are still people living in tin shacks and begging on the streets to survive. Often times our team members are torn apart as children approach us to ask for a few takkas to eat. Our trip outside the city was a nice reminder that our project still has a long way to develop in order to truly affect the majority of lives in the country.
We were also struck by how religious the people are outside of the city. Cities in general tend to be more liberal. With ex-pats, embassy staff, and business people from around the world there is definitely more freedom in the choice of dress and lifestyle in the cities. However, I was surprised to see just how religious Mymensingh was even though it was just a few hours from Dhaka. Most of the women on the street wore headscarves and many more than in Dhaka wore the burka. Its a reminder that religion plays a large part in developing nations.
On the way home tonight we stopped at one of Shamir’s friend’s house. His father is a professor at BAU and we were able to ask him some questions about his work, research, and opinions of the University. The entire family was incredibly nice to us and went out of their way to provide an amazing dinner. They brought out oranges, Bacul fruit (a special fruit developed at BAU), five different types of cakes, samosas, roti, pankora, plum pudding, and soup. There was so much food and it was all delicious. The professor liked to brag that it was homemade by his daughter and wife and we made sure to frequently praise the cooking. I really wanted the recipe for the soup, that was something I would love to back back at Cornell! It was nice to end our trip on a sweet note of hospitality in Mimensingh.
One the way out of town in order to avoid any major issues with the continuing political unrest, Shamir printed out signs and taped them to the van that read “Press” so we all got to be part of the international press team. Our team is definitely coming back from Bangladesh with some very interesting experiences.