A Hubble Bubble and the Genocide

Today the TEEAL team was able to meet with officials involved in the major changes occurring with higher education within the country. Recently the World Bank has agreed to fund the Higher Education Quality Enhancement project which aims at making universities in Bangladesh internationally competitive and to help bring new resources to public universities.

Street in Dhaka
Street in Dhaka

One of the major phases of this project through the University Grants Commission is to expand the wireless internet connection for all public university campuses and to build a digital library for all students and faculty to access. Currently this online digital library has 30,000 e-books and 3,000 journal articles from 11 major publishers. They are looking to expand fiber optics to all universities within the next 6 months and to link all campuses to one network to make it easier for students to access the digital library.

Of course this may seem then that TEEAL would prove to be obsolete as an innovative source of information for university students and faculty.  However, we argue that even with a wireless connection, often in rural areas where most agriculture universities are located, there will be very slow connections and downloads of articles will be a lot faster using TEEAL. We also have access to some publishers the digital library does not.  Furthermore, during our meeting with Dr. Hossain from the UGC, he stated that they were looking for additional resources for the agricultural students; so this could be a perfect way to supplement the digital library. Based on our meeting, what we will more than likely do is to give the UGC their own TEEAL set and train the digital librarians on the system so they can help refer universities to TEEAL if they call looking for additional resources.

Street food vendors in Dhaka
Street food vendors in Dhaka

Following this meeting we met with the Deputy Secretary of the Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project. He was able to give us some more details about the project, such as they were ending World Bank funding in 2018 and were not sure how they would continue to fund the digital library past this date. They also seemed interested in helping us form a relationship with the digital library as an alternative resource for universities.  They are more than willing to discuss being a partner in our endeavor and help us connect to more universities. I think both the meetings were very successful and that Chandra will be sure to follow up with them shortly regarding progress forward.

Following our meetings we made our way to the national museum to learn more about the historical and cultural background of Bangladesh. On our way to the museum we were able to explore more of the downtown area of Dhaka.  We started to see how crowded the city could be.  In these areas there is often just one small street meant for cars, rickshaws, CNGs, pedestrians, and street vendors. Everything is so tightly packed together and I truly admire our drivers for being able to find ways through and around people.  It was nice to get this small dose of crowded Dhaka, with the protests continuing it won’t be safe for us to visit old Dhaka. However, I can picture old Dhaka to be very similar to what we saw today; old buildings that now hold countless shops, street vendors with makeshift stalls, and the ever present press of people as they come and go among the old memories and new trials that make up the lifeblood of every city.

Rickshaws on a street in Dhaka
Rickshaws on a street in Dhaka
TEEAL Team as we enter the National Museum
TEEAL Team as we enter the National Museum

The museum was very nice with a lot of different artifacts from around Bangladesh throughout it’s entire history.  I was actually really surprised at the condition of some of the artifacts.

Calvin, Chandra, and Hill at the National Museum
Calvin, Chandra, and Hill at the National Museum

There were temple statues from the 8th century that appeared to be in almost perfect condition.  I know that in many developing nations museums and the preservation of national artifacts often comes in dead last for funding allocation when it is competing against education, food security, infrastructure, and technology. There are stories of the National Museum of Egypt being in shambles in the early 1900s with mummies and artifacts just piled in basement rooms. With no catalog of the objects in the museum, this led to the theft of priceless national treasuries from Egypt. That being said I am unsure what the basement of the Dhaka museum looks like but the visitor sections I felt were well put together.

Poster for the Abiden exhibit at the museum
Poster for the Abiden exhibit at the museum

We were able to explore the agriculture, life, textiles, animals, and plants of Bangladesh along with viewing historic artifacts from the culture of the country. Probably my favorite name for an object was an old clay pipe from the 5th century that they called a hubble bubble.

Of course the museum also focused a lot on the recent struggles of Bangladesh, especially in regards to their Liberation War in 1971 against then East Pakistan.  I was very impressed with the displays dedicated to this time period.  The rooms were filled with large copies of news articles and headlines, letters from leaders, pictures form the press and more personal snapshots taken by citizens during the events. There was a lot about this time period that I had no idea about.  I knew before coming to Bangladesh that they had once been part of India until the partition and then were part of Pakistan as East Pakistan, and were able to gain their independence in 1971.  However, what I was shocked to see was the brutal genocide that occurred during the war by the East Pakistani army and its Militias.  The genocide began on March 26, 1971 when West Pakistan launched Operation searchlight to suppress Bengali protest for self-determination. It is estimated that between 30,000 to 3,000,000 were killed and around 200,000-400,000 Bengali women were raped in a systematic campaign.

It was shocking to see the images of the dead and maimed laying in the streets of Dhaka.  In one corner were large picutres of mass graves filled with skulls .  They also put together a memorial for the systematic murder of the intellectuals a the University of Dhaka that occured at the start and end of the campaign. The US at the time released that was posted in the exhibit that read “It was the most incredible, calculated thing since the days of the Nazis in Poland.” What was amazing to me and extremly diappointing was to hear that “Genocide” was used by US officials in Bangladesh to describe the events and yet Nixon and Kissinger chose to downplay the events to protest West Pakistan interests. As a student of human rights and as one who studied the Holocaust intensely, I found the exhibit disturbing and upsetting on a very personal level. I felt anger that the US could have sided during the war with West Pakistan and that yet again the phrase of “Never More” uttered at the end of the holocaust again was a lie that is constantly perpetrated by world leaders. To this day it is hard to prove that event such of this can be considered Genocide as described by international law; however Truth and Justice Commissions are still being held against those that perpetrated the violence, especially Bengalis that assisted the militias in the attacks.

TEEAL Team leaving the museum
TEEAL Team leaving the museum

With this sobering display the last one we visited at the museum everyone was looking for  little happiness.  We decided the best thing was to do some final souvenir shopping for ourselves and our friends.  We were able to walk to a shopping complex to buy some items.  Of course on the way Calvin, our superstar sandman, was asked for pictures. Calvin and Hill will be in a ton of photos around Dhaka by the end of our stay here! Tomorrow we plan to spend the day finalizing our marketing plan and hoping to work on our presentation. I can’t believe our trip is almost over!

TEEAL Team at the Shawrma House for lunch
TEEAL Team at the Shawrma House for lunch
Prime Minister's House
Prime Minister’s House

Continuing Protests and the Eating of Sweets: The two sides to our adventures in Bangladesh

Today the team spent a majority of the day at the hotel as a working day for our project and a chance to catch up on some things now that we had steady access to the internet being back in Dhaka. It was nice to work on the balcony of the hotel and soak in some much needed sun before we head back to Ithaca, which according to the internet is only about 2 degrees.

Of course being in Bangladesh, one can’t keep working all the time without a break.  We decided to spend the afternoon on a rickshaw exploring some more of Gulshan and visiting a park.  It was nice to walk around and observe some of the daily life in Dhaka. Of course the night ended with us buying some sweets, the desserts here are probably some of our favorites!

Of course the political situation here in Bangladesh is becoming increasingly intense.  Today they found makeshift bombs at the University of Dhaka and the foreign affairs advisor to opposition leader was shot as he was leaving her office in Gulshan. The atmosphere is becoming increasingly oppressive. The government is refusing to allow a space for democratic protest and because of this frustration levels are high for everyone.  With power constantly alternating between the two parties whenever one is in power they will do everything possible to limit the other.  However, this is not the way to strengthen democratic governments. The Awarmi League, the current government refused to step down from power and set up a neutral caretaker to handle the elections. This automatically gave them the ability to rig the elections and caused the opposing parties to refuse to participate.  If the government had originally followed procedures I feel like most of this situation could have been avoided.

Of course the practice of protesting is hurting no one but the average citizen who can now no longer go to work.  Based on a UN survey, the country losses about 0.3% of GDP each day the protests continue. The textile industry has already been begging for the protests and blockade to end because they are loosing so much profit and can’t gt supplies or ship orders. Some are saying that they may need to shut down if this continues.

As the situation continues it is always touch and go for us and our meetings. We just meet every morning to see how the situation is and if it is safe for us to travel. Fingers crossed that we can make our last two meetings tomorrow!

Our time as part of the “Press”

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.

Our "Press" van.
Our “Press” van.

“Does this mean we can’t go to India??!!!”

Today we were able to visit the Bangladesh Agricultural University and meet with the Vice Chancellor.

Shamir, Hill, and Calvin at BAU
Shamir, Hill, and Calvin at BAU

BAU is the main agriculture university in Bangladesh and is home to 44 departments with 548 professors and 5,887 students. Graduates from University number 40,378 and the PhD students and professors have completed 1,036 research projects. The focus on the university is on applied research which will be nice for TEEAL to be involved in researchers that have a direct impact on farming practices.  One of the main criticisms of the program is that it focuses on the higher divisions of society with intellectuals and there is little evidence that this system has led to changes in the developing farming industry.

The Vice Chancellor seemed very interested in receiving a TEEAL set, they currently have access to about 3,000 online journals through Indiajournal.com, AGORA, and HINARI. However, they are still missing some of the more famous publishers and their journals.

Amanda, Hill, and Calvin at BAU
Amanda, Hill, and Calvin at BAU

The VC is also interested in bringing more digital and online resources to the library and although TEEAL is offline it offers some of the attractions of online research. The main concern of the administration is the cost of the system.  Despite the fact that they are getting the system for free, the update cost at $650 seems a little out of their budget range. We explained that holding trainings could reduce this cost however they seemed at times confused about what everything would entail.  Our team highly suggests that during future meetings TEEAL designs a power-point to be used to explain the system. This way if anyone is uncomfortable with English reading tends to be easier for them than interpreting the various accents and speeds at which we talk.

It appears that with limited internet access, intermittent power outages, and a small computer lab with internet access that having a resource like TEEAL would be beneficial for the campus.

TEEAL Team visiting the BAU library.
TEEAL Team visiting the BAU library.

We were able to see their network server room and meet with the main ITC administrator who seemed positive that the set would work well on the system and could be added through the server with little technological difficulty.

Part of the BAU campus includes two research centers.  However, these centers are not connected to the main BAU network. I would recommend that there are separate meetings held with these institutions.

BAU server room
BAU server room

I would also recommend separate trainings for them. I am nervous that hosting only a few trainings in Bangladesh limits the positioning of TEEAL. If we want to promote this we need to hold more trainings. It takes work to infiltrate a country efficiently with a new program and only focusing on 4-6 institutions might limit our impact; especially since trainings are constrained to 35 people max and many rural places might not be able to send representatives for the specific trainings. We will have to discuss more of this as a team in order to figure out how marketing could make up for limited trainings.

Exploring the greenhouses at BAU
Exploring the greenhouses at BAU

After our meetings we were able to explore some more of the campus including the germplasma lab which is the largest in South Asia and the second largest in the world. It was an outdoor facility with various plants, trees, and shrubs from different countries.  The scientists conduct research on the plants and often will look into genetics and splicing in order to develop superior crop and tree varieties.  Shamir also introduced us to more of his friends that volunteer with his NGO.  It was great to talk with some students and get to know what they study and their perceptions of the university.

Selfie at BAU, TEEAL Team and BAU students
Selfie at BAU, TEEAL Team and BAU students

We got to play cricket, which was a first for all of us.  I think Hill and Shamir were definitely the star players.  Additionally, we were able to watch the interdepartmental faculty handball tournament championship game.  Animal Husbandry beat Agricultural Engineering to defend their title as Faculty Handball champions. Maybe at Cornell we should look into CIPA or CIIFAD handball tournament, faculty vs. students?

TEEAL Team at BAU. From back right to front right:  Calvin, Hill, Shamir,  and Amanda.
TEEAL Team at BAU. From back right to front right: Calvin, Hill, Shamir, and Amanda.
Germplasma fields at BAU
Germplasma fields at BAU
Rice fields at BAU
Rice fields at BAU
Touring the germplasma
Touring the germplasma
TEEAL cricket team
TEEAL cricket team
Calvin playing cricket
Calvin playing cricket
Shamir showing Hill how to play cricket
Shamir showing Hill how to play cricket
Hill playing cricket
Hill playing cricket

The evening at the campus ended with a walk around the grounds talking about future plans and the studies with Shamir’s friends. We also got to try some chai and winter cakes that we ate while sitting on the train tracks that run through campus.  I think that was one of the best experiences of the entire trip. We finally were able to slow down and enjoy the company of some incredible people while taking time to enjoy the simple things we often take for granted in the United States.  It is rare to sit with friends and drink tea and coffee without planning events or trying to network, in Bangladesh the culture seems to foster close relationships based on true friendship and companionship.

TEEAL Team at BAU
TEEAL Team at BAU

Unfortunately the day ended with reports of a student strike in Dhaka and 17 other districts as well as a continued blockade. This ruins our plans to go hiking in the mountains at the border to India, and ends all hope of our possible visit to India this time around. We will have to see how the day goes tomorrow but we are bracing ourselves to stay in the hotel and leave for Dhaka when it gets dark to avoid the protesters.

Sunset at the BAU
Sunset at the BAU

Goats on a Roof

When you travel do you ever run into something really strange that makes you want to do a double take? That is what goats on the roof was for me.  That strange occurrence where you can’t exactly be sure if that is what you are really seeing and yet at the same time it feels completely normal.  Nothing out of the ordinary, just drove past and was like, “Hey there is a goat on that roof.” It makes sense knowing that many people often participate in rooftop farming; and yet it was unreal actually seeing a live goat staring at you from a roof as you drove by.  This brings up lots of question for me. For one, why do I find incidents like this strange? How can I make an impact in international development when I enter a country to help as a complete stranger? How do I appear walking down the street; am I someone else’s goat on a roof?

As the team travelled today from Dhaka to Mymensingh district to visit the Bangladesh Agricultural University I mulled over these questions. The trip is about 3-5 hours depending on traffic so we left very early in the morning in order to avoid any possible trouble with the ongoing blockade. It was nice to be able to travel a little out of the capital in order to explore the country more and understand how more rural universities operate.

As soon as we entered Mymensingh I fell in love with the city.

Mymensingh
Mymensingh

It reminded me a lot of parts of Freetown and Cairo. Small streets with mainly rickshaws, motorcycles, and CNGs operating. Little shops covered all open sidewalk space and despite the few precious inches of walking room vendors set up more tiny street stalls and food carts. The constant sound of honking, yelling, and bicycle bells filled the air and I loved every second.  It’s that feeling when you get somewhere that tells you that you belong there.  When looking at colleges, everyone always says that you will know you belong on a campus. I never felt that way about a place until Cairo. When I got to Caro it felt like I belonged there.  There have been a few other cities where it felt like I fit, like I was part of that place; Copenhagen, Stockholm, Istanbul, Kisumu, Krakow; and now Mymensingh.

This afternoon we decided to visit a museum that contained the works of Zainul Abedin.

Zainul Abedin Museum
Zainul Abedin Museum

He was an artist from the 1930s until the 1970s and his sketches of the famine in the 1940s were viewed worldwide and he is considered the father of Bangladeshi Art. His sketches were very beautiful and it he included plenty of different perspectives and variety of angles in his work. The grounds surrounding the museum were gorgeous as well with gardens and flower patches scattered around and flower trellises hanging off the front arches.

TEEAL Team at the Abedin Museum from left to right Joy, Calvin, Chnadra, Shamir, and Hill
TEEAL Team at the Abedin Museum from left to right Joy, Calvin, Chnadra, Shamir, and Hill

Following the museum we decided it would be interesting to take a boat ride on the Brahmaputra river.

Brahmaputra
Brahmaputra

This is one of the three major rivers in South Asia and is truly a life force in the region for agriculture.  In the middle of the river is a large sand barge that has been claimed as farming land by a variety of different people. This farming would not be possible in the sandy soil without the water from the nearby river. It was peaceful to float down the river and watch as other groups of students relaxed in the sinking afternoon sun.  As someone who has always lived close to water I don’t think I could go for very long with seeing a lake or a river, it just seems to have a calming effect on one’s disposition.

Boats on the Brahmaputra
Boats on the Brahmaputra
Brahmaputra
Brahmaputra
TEEAL Team on the Brahmaputra. From Back left to front right: Joy, Chandra, Calvin, Amanda, and Hill.
TEEAL Team on the Brahmaputra. From Back left to front right: Joy, Chandra, Calvin, Amanda, and Hill.
TEEAL Team selfie on the Brahmaputra. From left to right: Shamir, Calvin, Hill, and Amanda
TEEAL Team selfie on the Brahmaputra. From left to right: Shamir, Calvin, Hill, and Amanda

As we docked on the sand barge we found what Hill has termed “Farm of Cuteness.” He was very accurate in that name, there were baby goats, sheep, and chicks that were just begging to be oohhed and awed over. Hill even got to hold one of the baby goats.

Hill and his new found spirit animal.
Hill and his new found spirit animal.

However, we quickly stopped all notions of him bringing it back to CIPA.  After exploring past the farm we vised a Krishna temple.  I was shocked at the warm reception we received. The priests greeted us and provided us with a small snack of a dried milk sweet cake, apples, and oranges.  One of the practitioners that spoke fairly decent English was more than willing to explain the practices of the temple and the challenges they had communicating with the city.

Farm on the sand barge.
Farm on the sand barge.
Farm on the sand barge.
Farm on the sand barge.
Farm on the sand barge
Farm on the sand barge
Exploring the sand barge
Exploring the sand barge
Boats on the Brahmaputra view from the sand barge
Boats on the Brahmaputra view from the sand barge
Exploring the sand barge. From back left to front right: Calvin, Amanda, Chandra, and Joy.
Exploring the sand barge. From back left to front right: Calvin, Amanda, Chandra, and Joy.

Before heading to dinner the team decided to explore the BAU campus before our meeting with the Vice Chancellor in the morning.

BAU Student Union
BAU Student Union

While there, Calvin proved to be the star of the show as students asked to get pictures with him. However, myself and Hill also got to star in some of our own photos.

Amanda with some students from the BAU
Amanda with some students from the BAU

After meeting up with some of Shamir’s friends we were able to walk through the gorgeous botanical gardens on campus that are used for research purposes by the faculty and students.

Memorial at BAU
Memorial at BAU
Memorial to students who fought for the use of Bengali as the national language.
Memorial to students who fought for the use of Bengali as the national language.
Botanical Gardens at the BAU
Botanical Gardens at the BAU
TEEAL Team at the botanical gardens at the BAU
TEEAL Team at the botanical gardens at the BAU
Botanical Gardens at the BAU
Botanical Gardens at the BAU

As the day ended, I think the answers to my questions I had asked myself at the start were beginning to form. Despite past travels, each new destination for me will be unique and bring about challenges in and of itself.  Just because I have travelled to developing countries before doesn’t necessarily mean that I have the experience needed for a new culture. I need to keep my mind open and be willing to learn new things.  Going into development work I need to rely more on local contexts. Instead of immediately finding fault in a practice I need to take the time to understand what is happening and to look at the consequences that can come to a local community from development.  It is a challenge and will involve constant innovation and reflection but it is necessary for sustainable development.

Going Digital

In today’s world it is difficult to go anywhere and not see someone with a cellphone.  Technology has grown exponentially. While some places had trouble even getting landline phones everyone there now has cellphones and can call or text relatives half way across the world. Of course with the growth of cellphones also comes the growth of smartphones and internet usage.  In Bangladesh, about 33.43 million people are using the internet, according to the Bangladesh Business News. This is about 21% of the population; a huge increase since 2013 when only about 7% was using the internet.

University at Dhaka
University of Dhaka

This increase in the internet is leading more students and younger faculty member to conduct a majority of their research online and many libraries are unable to compete with the attraction of readily accessible information.  However, today we were able to meet with the University of Dhaka and the librarian there has accomplished some terrific things.

Univeristy at Dhaka (4)
University of Dhaka

To begin with, the library does not offer print journals but instead has subscribed to JSTOR and publishes all University of Dhaka journal online.  Additionally, they are members of the Digital Library Consortium in Bangladesh which grants them access to 26,000 e-books. The library is also mainly buying e-books thanks to a World Bank grant, and is working on digitizing all their manuscripts and student theses.  Of course this project has taken time and they are still having issues with their online search system and have not been able to effectively categorize their online journals in their system.  However, this initiative is very impressive.

University at Dhaka (2)
University of Dhaka

This move to online resources is the next step for many libraries in order to become relevant again for the students. Libraries need to work on their websites, offer online catalogs, e-books, and journal articles along with other digital resources. A lot of this has to come from the fact that libraries can no longer handle the increase of students attending college.  The library at the University of Dhaka was built for 600 students and yet their are 35,000 that attend the university. The computer labs do not allow public access and don’t provide printing.  Often most students enjoy working on their own laptops in order to be able to save articles and research. It is often easier to research on one’s own rather than go into the library.  However, management of online databases and the advertising of digitized resources can make libraries increasingly relevant for students.

team at univeristy of Dhaka
TEEAL Team at the University of Dhaka

Due to the advancements of the University of Dhaka, it is unlikely that TEEAL would be of much benefit for them. While it may be nice to access the TEEAL journal articles from one’s computer on campus; TEEAL would not be accessible at their houses, and since internet access tends to be reliable in the city it is unclear they would need to use it on campus when they have access to JSTOR. However, I think it might be worthwhile to still pursue this venue; especially due to the trainings TEEAL provides. Many undergraduates and some Master students don’t have the opportunity to conduct research since most classes are based on exams rather than papers.  TEEAL trainings on scientific writing, publishing, and research might be of great use for the students.

University at Dhaka (3)
University of Dhaka
Amanda and th gum
Amanda passing out gum

After our meeting we were able to explore the campus more and met with some faculty.  I was surprised at how gorgeous the buildings were, many of which were built under British occupation of the country.  As we walked around we also made some friends as I stopped to pass out some gum to some children.  I need to remember to carry more gum.

Street in Dhaka
Street vendors in Dhaka

After our meeting we were able to spend some time shopping. We visited two different venues. One was a shopping center near Dhaka that appeared to be used by relatively many different people. The second was a giant shopping mall. I must admit I am always shocked entering malls in developing countries because they are huge! The mall in Dhaka was 8 floors with countless stores.  Bright signs and advertisements were everywhere and instead of the passive store clerks in the states, everyone was out in the walkways trying to entice you to enter.  Of course, malls like these are mainly only accessible to the middle class and a majority of the people I saw there tended to be younger. However, this is a good sign for the upward income mobility that appears to be occurring in Bangladesh; especially since this is only the second largest mall in Dhaka.

team at mall food court
TEEAL team at the food court in the Dhaka Mall. From left to right: Chandra, Calvin, Hill, Shamir, and Joy

I think everyone enjoyed the afternoon of shopping and we all got to buy some items from Bangladesh, Hill even bought his own tailored suit (very fancy!!) For lunch we went to the top floor of the mall which is a giant food court where many people gathered with friends to talk and enjoy a meal.  I think we all enjoyed the shawarmas there.

Tomorrow being a religious day in Bangladesh the offices will be closed.  This will give the team the perfect time to catch up on some work and perhaps get to visit the National Museum (keeping my fingers crossed for that)!

Frogger

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.

Sher e Bangla (2)
Sher-e-Bangla University

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.

research fields at Ag university Dhaka
Sher-e-Bangla University
team at the agiculture university dhaka
TEEAL Team at Sher-e-Bangla
team at Sher e Bangla
TEEAL Team at Sher-E-Bangla

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.

research fields at Ag university Dhaka (2)
Sher-e-Bangla University

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.

Sher e Bangla
Sher-e-Bangla University
posters at ag university Dhaka
Student Election posters at Sher-e-Bangla

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.

team at the trade fair
TEEAL Team at the International Trade Fair. From left to right: Joy, Chandra, Hill, Amanda, and Calvin.

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.

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BARC Library
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Shamir and the TEEAL set at the BARC Library
team at the BARC library
TEEAL team at the BARC library

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.

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Chandra and Calvin at BARC Library with TEEAL poster in the background
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Vintage TEEAL posters at the BARC library
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Calvin and the TEEAL set at the BARC library
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TEEAL poster at the BARC library
BARC library (2)
BARC publications that we are hoping to add to TEEAL
team at KGF
TEEAL team at a meeting with KGF

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.

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TEEAL team at BARC library

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.