I have been having a wonderful time, and every hour seems quite packed. I do not think I can attempt to sum up everything that has happened in the past couple of days, so I will just share a summary of today, which was an amazing and thought-provoking day.
I was very grateful to have the opportunity to join Dr. Daniel and Rajib on a trip out to the Field today. We left early, the Projahnmo drivers being more punctual than any I've yet encountered, and took off on the highway out of the city of Sylhet. We passed fruit markets and brick factories, fields and fields of grain, fancy mosques and dilapidated school buildings. We swerved around cows and buses, around children and long-bearded men, out of the way baby taxis, and into the other lane. I sat with my nose glued to the window, trying hard to think of good questions to ask and constantly being distracted by some new fascinating sight. I saw huge fishing nets and small children placing concrete blocks into straight lines. I saw a few women covered head to toe and women not wearing headscarves hurrying along the roadside. I saw road signs signaling "people crossing" where the crowd was so dense that people were practically leaning on our mini bus. I saw houses on islands down skinny paths, and ducks that look similar to the ones that swim in our pond in New York. I saw children in school uniforms and a herd of water buffalo. It was cool in the airconditioning, but steamy outside.
We got out of the mini bus when we reached a road that was too skinny and I followed Rajib into a rickshaw. Dr. Daniel rode on the back of a motorcycle, but I gather that that would be inappropriate for me. The rickshaw ride was awesome. Our driver kept up a running commentary, over which Rajib answered my questions and sometimes tried to explain things. For example, we kept driving over mats covered in grain that were strewn across the road. Rajib explained that the roads are the best place to dry things, and when I asked if people minded their things being run over, he just gave me a look. Why would people put things in the road without expecting them to be runover?
We arrived at a small compound surrounded by squared off sections of wetland. We crossed the most precarious bridge made of a single thin bamboo trunk supported by several triangle supports that were equally flimsy. It did the job however, and I managed to do it without slipping. I felt very self conscious though because a rather large crowd had gathered. Rajib explained that normally not this many people hung around the house all day, they were just curiuos about me. Everyone had beautiful big brown eyes, and when I smiled would smile enthusiastically back at me.
I was welcomed into the home, and met the CHW who was attending the mother and baby inside. I also got to meet the the mother-in-law who had delivered the baby in that very room. This was a 3-day check-in, which I was allowed to watch. Dr. Daniel and Rajib translated for me, but it was very hard to ask the questions I wanted to because they were men and there were other men present, which means that the woman would be very embarassed and/or not tell the truth. I did little but watch and say thank you many many times. I felt quite overwhelmed by all the hospitality and kindness.
We rickshawed our way back down the winding path, and got back into the mini bus. We drove a bit more and arrived at a second home. In this house I had the incredible privilage to talk (through Dr. Daniel) to three midwives who have attended thousands of births. None of them can read, and they do not ask to be paid. It was again hard to ask some of the questions that I really wanted to ask, but it was really just amazing to hear a little about their lives and what they do.
On the way to lunch we made a detour to the edge of a big river. Dr. Daniel said, look, that is India! The border gaurds looked lazily up at us, and Rajib pointed out that the boats each have a flag showing which country they are from. He said that during festivals, which are often, the border becomes lax because so many people have family right on the other side.
We ate lunch at one of the two field offices in the region where there is also a school run by Shimantik, the NGO that is one of the three main organizations working on the Projahnmo project. The ride home was beautiful and long, and I think we were all a little relieved to get out of the mini bus after such a bumpy ride. Tomorrow, I will attend the end of the CHW training, and then maybe get a chance to go out around the city. If I can, I will try and upload some photos for you, though they do not show just how stunning this country and its people are.