Three months of reality - My Family Travels

George Bernand Shaw once wrote, “the reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.” Up until the summer of 2008, when I visited Bangladesh after 8 years, I would have never been able to truly understand or relate to this quote.

 When we finally arrived, it was another two-hour car ride from the airport with no air-conditioning.  It was sweltering in that car; and if you opened the window, dust, teeming crowds and the constant blaring of horns assaulted you. Picture Times Square at rush hour and multiply it by 10 and you would have an idea of what we were driving through. Bangladesh is over populated and poor. I saw people on the streets with no homes, sleeping on sidewalks, digging through trash and coming up to cars begging for money. Sometimes it was too much for me and I closed my eyes.

 As we settled in, I went through things I couldn’t even imagine back home. Cockroaches flew at me while I used the bathroom, rats scampered out of holes in the walls and ran across my room, and I stayed in a village without plumbing. Used to electricity, running water, cable TV and air conditioning, things like this just didn’t work for me.  It was very difficult for me to adjust at first; but either you had to try and fit in or it was hop on a plane and jet back home. Well, the second option was not open after spending $1500 on a plane ticket.  I was stuck for a whole summer there, so I had to grin and bear it and try to enjoy myself.

 When my attitude changed, I found myself enjoying things more and the trappings of modern society did not seem to matter after a while. The highlight of the trip was spending a few days away from the city in my mother’s village, which is surround by water and lush green forests. Where the city was overcrowded and dirty, the village was remote and clean.  It felt like I stepped back in time. I was able to swim, canoe and even fish in pristine water.  Food was brought fresh everyday and it tasted terrific. After a while, indoor plumbing and electricity didn’t even matter anymore.

 Bangladesh started to creep into my soul. I was able enjoy a different way of life and get back in touch with my roots.  My Bengali started to improve and I realized that the world is a big place, with diverse cultures and exposure to it can be a very positive thing – only if you have the right attitude.

 My trip to Bangladesh changed me as a person.  I no longer wanted to shun my roots and the culture, which my parents always tried desperately to expose me to.  I was speaking more Bengali and watching more Indian shows when I came back home – something that I never did before the trip.  I learned that when things get tough, there is always someone out there doing worse then me. My journey didn’t end when I reached Bangladesh, going through new experiences, struggles, and immersing myself in a completely new environment. That was the real journey, one that I’ll never forget.  Most of all, I also realized how lucky I was to be in America where there is so much opportunity to succeed in life – and I’m not going to squander it.

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