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
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“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

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.

Bringing Peace and Agricultural Resources…TEEAL can do it all!!!

So it appears that we don’t have to visit opposition leader Zia today to plead our case to end the protests. Luckily the protests have calmed down and we were able to visit some parts of the city and get to our morning meeting. Though we were prepared to fight for our SMART trip; even if it involved some tough diplomatic relations!

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Traffic in Dhaka

It was nice to be able to get out into the city today.  It’s difficult in our current neighborhood to get the true feel for Dhaka.  Being out in the traffic with horns blaring and getting to see another area of the city was nice. Again, I was struck with how similar developing nations appear. While each place may have it’s own unique flavor with different clothing, food, billboard advertisements, and automobiles; each place can also be identified through the ever present construction, congestion, the street stalls with food and tea, and the tin shacks that crowd narrow streets and train tracks.

When looking at Bangladesh’s development, Joy compares it to India about ten years ago. Development has helped to lift many out of poverty and increasing incomes has brought new businesses, higher level of education, and increased technology use.  However, there are still about 63 million people that still live in poverty and there are challenges for further growth including internal migration into cities which has led to increasing urban poverty, competitive international trade environment, and environmental impacts. This is why the blockade is detrimental to Bangladesh; it limits travel for the everyday worker who needs to get through the city to their jobs. Everyday that the blockade continues, more revenue is lost.  This is why it is challenging to support the opposition. Even though they make a case about fair elections, in the end they are damaging Bangladesh’s development which they claim to support.

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BARC Offices

Our meeting today was focused on agricultural development within the country. We were able to meet with Bangladesh Agriculture Institute (BARI) and Bangladesh Agriculture Research Counsel (BARC). Both of these groups work to bring together researchers, scientists, and institutions to address the most pressing agricultural concerns.  Between the two groups they consist of 2,000 researchers and scientists and 13 research centers throughout Bangladesh.

BARC has had a past TEEAL set at their main library in Dhaka for the past few years. However, they were never able to get the 2011 update to work and they lost contact with the TEEAL office.  This brings up one of the main challenges with TEEAL and issues with communications between the TEEAL staff and the institutions utilizing the program. With TEEAL sets placed in over 400 institutions it becomes a challenge to ensure that each one is being updated and receiving trainings.  This is where the consultants fro the Sathguru Foundation and ITOCA come into play to ensure that all the institutions are being adequately served.  However, this is still a large task for anyone to achieve.

BARC does have students and researchers who come in to use the TEEAL set at the main library and they appreciate that the download time for articles is often quicker than over the internet. However, they are having challenges to attract researchers to come into the library to conduct research. Most researchers and scientists prefer to use internet from their homes or offices versus coming into the main library to utilize databases such as TEEAL.  This brings up a second challenge for TEEAL and how to promote it’s use in an increasing internet reliant world.  The main computer specialist mentioned that if researchers could log into TEEAL via remote access through the BARC network of computers that would be more helpful. Unfortunately due to licensing agreements with publishers this is not allowed. It might also be more efficient for BARC and BARI to have only one set at the main location that the other research centers can access via their hared network. This way, they don’t have to install 13 separate TEEAL sets, buy the updates for each of the 13 and then go around to install the updates as well. This would allow for much easier maintenance. This has been a request of other institutions in Africa and it is something that will have to be investigated. Perhaps if one of the major publishers agree it will be easier to convince the rest.

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BARC Offices

Both BARC and BARI wanted us to install the TEEAL set immediately. It was nice to see their enthusiasm for the program. The computer specialist stated that this program was also much easier to use than other databases they had. The next step after sending them a new TEEAL set will be establishing trainings.  Everyone at the meeting seemed very responsive to this idea. They currently host about 3-4 trainings a year themselves and were more than happy to have us host one, and pledged to host others in the future on TEEAL. One of the major suggestions I have for these trainings is to see include the use of AGORA as well. Since it sounds like from our discussions a majority of researchers find it more comfortable to utilize internet resources from their own offices or homes, using AGORA might be more beneficial for them.

A great aspect of this meeting was that both BARC and BARI are more than willing to send us copies of their own research, including their journal they publish. This will be a great addition to the South Asian research sections for TEEAL and really help to foster international engagement among researchers and scientists.

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TEEAL Team at BARC Meeting

It appears that our team will really have to focus on the biggest concern of bringing the researchers to the library and how to advertise TEEAL as a worthwhile resource in order to have people travel to use it.  We did discover that the most pressing research topic currently in Bangladesh is climate change and the focus on different crop variations in order to continue to grow rice in floods or to grow potatoes and maize in different climate conditions.  Perhaps looking at the amount of research TEEAL contains on this topic we can utilize that as an incentive to promote its use.  We will have to brainstorm more about this challenge.

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Parliament Building
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Parliament Building

Following our meeting we were able to stop and see the parliament building which was surprisingly a really modern architectural design and it was gorgeous. It appeared to me to be a combination of part fort and part avante garde architectural wing for an art museum. We also made some friends who wanted to take their picture with us. After we stopped by the Prime Minister’s Office which was a beautiful white house surrounded by a painted black and gold fence and immaculate lawns and gardens.  Very impressive, but also a stark contrast to the beggars sitting across the road; as is most government buildings in countries. They are built to give off this sense of power and wealth for the country, while ignoring the problems close by.  It is no different in DC, where people seem to live in a bubble of politics while students in the city are placed in failing school systems.

TEEAL team and the parliament building
TEEAL Team in front of the Parliament Building. From left to right: Shamire, Calvin, Chandra, Joy, Amanda, and Hill.

Lunch was delicious as we decided to sample some of the local cuisine. We ended up ordering a fixed menu to serve six people but ended up with enough food to serve probably 7 or 8 people. There were so many dishes I lost track of what I was eating. But suffice it to say we sufficiently stuffed ourselves to make dinner an impossibility.   This evening we were able to visit a store called Aarong which was full of handicraft items made in Bangladesh.  It is run by the BARC and they pay fair wages to all the artisans that produce the items.  It was nice to see the different crafts and buy a few items of family, friends, and of course ourselves.

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TEEAL team on the streets of Dhaka

Overall, the day was very nice and we were extremely excited to be able to leave the hotel.  However, among arrests of opposition leaders and continuing protests and the blockade we will continue to take each day as it comes.  Of course we always have the option of visiting Madame Zia.