I don’t want to leave Bangladesh
So. I am feeling very weird. I am in the Dhaka airport. And anyone who has talked to me much about travelling knows that I generally love air travel and airlines and even airports (though not necessarily airport security procedures, but I guess that’s another story and nobody does). I like the fact that they represent a state of transition and motion and statelessness and integration, a state which I wish could be found more commonly outside of them. But the point is. I am not happy to be here.
Not due to any unpleasantries with the airport (though the announcement system is just an irritating guy who walks around yelling names), but rather due to the fact that I am really happy to be in Bangladesh. Sure, I have been on what in Bangladeshi terms was a super luxury cruise for the last few days (in which I came face to face with a wild Bengal tiger in the wilderness. I mean. What the fuck. But more on that in another post), but most of the time I have spent here has revolved around the amazing friendliness of the Bangladeshi people. This trip has almost certainly changed my perception of myself and the world more than any trip I have taken besides my very first few, to Latin America when I was 14, and my first experiments with overseas living at 19 and 20. It isn’t really because of the sites, but more a product of some of the most genuinely helpful friendly people I have ever met. Be it the political elite I met on my luxury tour, or less privileged chai wallah’s in the street, everyone has been more helpful than I have ever seen anywhere. Sometimes it is overwhelming, as Bangladeshis have a very different sense of privacy than we do, so pretty much every moment spent outside will be in some kind of social interaction, but it is also amazing.
One thing of note is that Bangladesh has finally made me realise a little bit of how absurd it is that I can afford to fly halfway around the world to have a 15 day trip through this country. Or, more realistically, the fact that anyone can afford it. I live a pretty simple life by the standards of the United States, and that is what allows me to bankroll most of my travels, but that isn’t something that means I deserve the life I have. Rather, it shows that we are all far too wealthy and powerful. I have met so many passionate travellers in Bangladesh who have managed, despite the fact that the process of getting a visa to most western countries (and even neighbors on the subcontinent) is exponentially more difficult than with a US/EU passport, to do quite a bit of travelling. But still. For the first time, I feel a bit weird or uncomfortable about my ability to rocket at a cruising speed of 550 ground miles per hour from Dhaka to Dubai to New York City with emirates service making it such a cushy experience. I am also a little bit uncomfortable with the luxuries and excesses I will be immersed in when I get home, whereas normally after a trip I am craving them (though that is not to say I am not excited for New York Pizza.)
The Pride that Bangladeshis have for their country, be they “wage earners” abroad, generally referred to in the Western and Arab press as “migrant labourers,” is stunning. The commitment to pluralism is stunning, in all but the tiniest villages you can find substantial Hindu or other religious minorities, and they are generally always fully integrated into village life, with the children playing together without much of any judgment. It is quite possible that I have never been to a more proud country. Lebanon would be up there. Latin America is up there too, but much of that pride is in being Latino/a, rather than being from a particular nation-state. What is also cool about Bangladesh is that, while there is this pride, there is also not much of the general brutish attitude that seems to come with nationalism. They sometimes refer to themselves as “India,” not in a political sense but in the way that we call this part of the world the Indian Subcontinent. Despite a few territorial disputes with the Indians, there are generally good relations, both between Indians living in Bangladesh and their neighbors and between the national governments. Comparing both this diplomacy and religious pluralism to that of Pakistan, which committed what is widely considered an act of genocide (assisted by the United States) in 1971 against the Bangladeshi/Eastern Pakistani people when Eastern Pakistan seceded and created the modern state of Bangladesh, is quite stunning.
Bangladesh is on the up and up. While there are still substantial issues facing the country, such as a lack of reliable energy supplies (important for a country who’s economy is generally driven by technology intensive fabric mills) and bureaucracy, it is clear just from interacting with the youth of the country that there are quite a few opportunities on the horizon, not only through leaving the country, but within the Bangladeshi borders. And this, frankly, makes me feel so good inside I have nothing more to say. I love Bangladesh. It will be in my heart forever. And despite my love of New York, and the fact that my visa expires in 5 hours. I am genuinely hesitant to step onto the plane.