Back in 2011
We've Nearly Made It
Hello and Welcome!
AS OF AUGUST 2016 A BLONDE BENGALI WIFE AS MOVED TO ITS NEW HOME ON MY WEBSITE AT http://www.writerightediting.co.uk/
HOPE TO SEE YOU OVER THERE!
Where you will learn everything you
need to know about the progress of A Blonde Bengali Wife, the travel
book I've written about my love-affair with the fabulous country of
It's a blog about Bangladesh, about Bhola, and about fiction
and creative writing in general...
A Blonde Bengali Wife:
First published in September 2010 and launched in October 2010.
Reprinted and re-launched in November 2015 as an eBook available from Amazon UK/.com
#1 Amazon Bestseller
Follow it on Twitter @AnneHamilton7 and @Anne_ABBW and Goodreads
Monday, 13 December 2010
Back in 2011
Thursday, 2 December 2010
Simon slept through his first transatlantic flight, has yawned through his first meeting with Santa Claus, and even decided to sleep in a cot for a week before deciding this was a mistake... And we're missing the big freeze in Scotland.
Some nice reviews on Amazon:
If you've read the book, please feel free to add your own! The more copies sold, the more royalties for Bhola's Children - so dare I suggest it as a perfect Christmsa gift???
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
The people flocked in in their hundreds (well, a wonderfully affirming 68, not all of whom I knew) and stayed beyond the wine and canapes. The venue was great, the books arrived in time for a long, snaking queue for signings and the attentiveness (other than from Simon who slept from beginning to end) of the audience to the readings and Jacqui's explanation about Bhola suggested that the evening justified a night away from the telly. Best of all, I didn't fall flat on my face or say anything completely stupid (I don't think).
So, a big thank you to everyone who made it such a success - Neil & Caroline for their respective roles as compere and bar girl!! Ruth for seeing to the food, Julie & my mum for doing stuff that needed doing and Jacqui for the exhibition, the photographs and the 'speech'. Jacqui Dunbar is a friend and great photographer, who joined me on one of my longer visits to Bangladesh and was equally won over by both Bhola and the rest of the country; watch out for her photographic work - or hire her to take your pics! She provided the photos for the book cover too.
It's a very positive start to sales and ongoing publicity and - most surprisingly of all - it was fun...
Monday, 15 November 2010
The detail is in the preface to A Blonde Bengali Wife, but put simply Dinah fell in love with the country and the people in exactly the way I had done. More so, she was totally inspired by the work Ali was doing on the island of Bhola, and came home with the plan to set up a charity to support him. Thus was born Bhola's Children and a lifelong relationship between us and them.
Still no sign of a publisher - but did it matter now?
Well, some more excellent rejections ('great book but we've just taken on one about a female cyclist in Sierra Leone' or 'if only the author was famous we'd snap it up' and - my personal favourite - 'there's just not enough sex or violence. Can she jazz it up a bit?') when I met, purely by chance Zetta Brown of LL-Publications who heard an outline of the story and asked to see the manusript in full. She liked it, she offered a contract. And finally...
it's been a very long journey but the diary which became a book which was instrumental in establishing a charity has its formal LAUNCH TODAY. More details tomorrow!
Sunday, 14 November 2010
I went back to Bangladesh. When my flatmate of the time, a few weeks after my return to a job in Edinburgh, casually remembered that someone calling herself a literary agent had called in my absence and said I should phone back - who, when it was said flatmate wasn't sure, oh dear, was it important..?
Dinah Wiener, a very experienced and successful literary agent in London eventually took a risk on the book. 'It's not very commercial and I have doubts I'll ever manage to sell it,' was what she said, 'but I do feel passionate about it and it makes me want to go to Bangladesh.'
And go to Bangladesh she did.
PS The book launch is tomorrow. The books, the focal point of the event, the things I am meant to be signing in front of a huge and enthusiastic audience(!) are somewhere in transit in courier-land. Is this an omen?
Friday, 12 November 2010
Fast forward to the present and yes, the reporter and photographer from the Evening News, duly interviewed me. And simon. And my mother. No idea what the two (very nice) people thought of the chaos, or if/when there will be a story.
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
Whilst the book was sent direct from the publishers to the reviewers on the big nationals, we have been concentrating on the local papers and magazines. The technique has been more along the lines of throwing darts at a board and aiming at reporters who prefer the heart-warming to the car-crash in the vain hope that 'the book which inspired a charity' angle will catch someones eye.
We've had several responses from interested journalists and whilst I doubt - realist or pessimist? - they'll actually become a story it will be interesting research! Interview with the Evening News tomorrow...
Friday, 5 November 2010
The jury is still out on that one! Simon is now nearly 12 weeks old and a giant baby, a definite endorsement of on-demand breast milk even if his mother is also going to be a giant trying to eat enough to keep up with him...
The book launch is in ten days time and the preparations are slowly falling (literally) into place. This is due solely to the work of The Committee, my friends who were the slowest in thinking up excuses why they couldn't/shouldn't/wouldn't be able to listen to my desperate pleas for help in setting up the event. I couldn't offer them much in return but - being three of the best women ever (or cheap dates the lot of them) - a couple of slices of cake and a cuddle of the baby was enough!
So, Juliet (press releases), Caroline (along with the lovely Neil, venue and event organiser) and Ruth (food) - thankyou, thank you, thank you.
Wednesday, 3 November 2010
Suddenly there is an announcement over the tannoy system, which Munnu translates as my having to leave. We say a flurry of goodbyes—tearful in my case—and I load up my bags.
“But I don’t want to go,” I whine like child. “I want to stay here and take tea and go shopping with Hasina and on tours with you and sit in the SCI office and fill in evaluation forms and make Christine come back and…”
“Anne. You must go.” Munnu propels me forward. “Also you must return soon.”
At a sign that says “Departures. Passengers Only” we face a serious security guard who wants to check my papers. He asks Munnu a couple of questions, grunts doubtfully and waves us both along.
“What did you say to him?”
“I tell him my blonde Bengali wife departs the country leaving me behind her,” he grins. “He says I may come to the gate and wave to you.”
Suddenly it is time to go, and I load Munnu down with messages for everyone I can think of. There is so much to say, and yet there is nothing. I take a step forward, and then one back. I suddenly think of something I have been meaning to ask Munnu for weeks, and I must know before I go.
“Munnu,” I say. “What is calculus?”
He looks puzzled. “Calculus? I do not know. Why do you ask?”
“You must know.” I persist. “You’ve told me a lot of stories and in many of them you start by saying, ‘when I was in calculus…’ Is it something in college?”
He looks at me for a moment, and then laughs out loud. “Not calculus,” he explains. “Cadet class. I say ‘when I am in cadet class.’ It is a school that gives good education and also trains men for the Army. My mother sent me there, but I do not wish to be a military person. Cadet class,” he repeats. “Make sure this is correct in your travelling diary.”
“Yes, my diary,” I say. “I will send it to you. But how should I finish it? What will I say so people know how I feel about Bangladesh?”
“Anne. Long ago in Khalia you tell me that you come to Bangladesh because you want to have your story to tell. Yes? And now you have this story.”
I nod, touched that he remembers.
“So already you will have written everything. You just be simple.”
Since he is right, it is only fitting that I give Munnu the last words.
He thinks carefully: “Say: I said goodbye, I got in the airplane, and went home. The End,” he advises.
And this is what I do.
It wasn't really the end, it still isn't, as this blog and the book both signify. But it was the beginning of another long journey in which the diary became the book, begat a charity and is the basis for my ongoing 'life' in Bangladesh which has involved eight or nine visits to date - the next one with a baby???
So here starts another chapter...
Monday, 1 November 2010
“What exactly is a mangrove?” I ask Munnu. “And are they always littoral?”
“Trees,” he answers comprehensively. “I do not know what littoral means.”
The inner forest is largely impenetrable by all but the tiniest vessels and the waterways are saltwater swamp, clogged with leaves and fallen trees. The Sunderbans are a UNESCO World Heritage site and a haven for birds and wildlife: humming birds to birds of prey, wild deer, monkeys, and every hour on the hour one of the boys pop up to say that he has definitely seen a
Hiron Point, the most southerly point of the Sunderbans, is at least eight hours away by boat and so far beyond our capabilities. As it is, we barely penetrate the edges of the forest, yet even here the sheer variety of trees is immense. They come almost to the edge of the water (hence the term “littoral”), are stopped only by a slip of muddy beach, smooth and slippery and home to crocodiles during the rainy season.
At this point, a real writer writing a real journal would be able to list the trees, a brief but interesting description of their origins, lifespan and uses, possibly with footnotes and references to learned works. I groan out loud.
“Anne. What is the problem?” Munnu wakes up to ask me.
“I cannot name the trees. I don’t recognise any of them.”
“I help,” he turns his chair to the side, puts his bare feet up on the rusting red rail and makes a scientific observation. “Tall thin trees,” he suggests, “with big green leaves. Others with small leaves. Short, fat trees like a bush…Anne. Why do you not write this down?”
“Because you don’t know the names either,” I object.
“Yes. There—” he waves at a palm tree. “That is palm tree. And here, maybe this is...err...willow tree?”
Sailing through the waters of the Sunderbans, on a vessel that looked like a pink four poster bed,with Munnu and the 'boat crew' was one of the highlights of the trip to Bangladesh: tranquil, beautiful and balmy (and, at times, barmy). There was probably already an element of nostalgia too; it also meant that I couldn't put off the return home for too much longer...
Saturday, 30 October 2010
Sunday, 24 October 2010
More details as we go along, but in the meantime, I'll get back to finishing the story of the book. Tomorrow that is, Internet signal permitting from the depths of Suffolk where Simon and I are staying for some serious baby-worship from family and friends!
*if you haven't received one but would like to come, please leave a comment here - if I already know your email addressit's a baby-brain induced oversight
Friday, 22 October 2010
Friday, 15 October 2010
buy it on
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
“Meat for the freezer—in case there is not enough to share from the slaughtering tomorrow.” Hasina marches towards the stall.
It is like seeing a road accident. The meat is hanging from canopy hooks attached to rusty scaffolding, and carcasses crowd the front of the stall like an obstacle course and passing by without getting a slap in the eye from a swaying piece of mutton flank is a laudable feat. Bloody off-cuts—skin, bone, offal, hairy ears, and glassy eyes—litter the floor. Hasina directs this dismemberment and supervises its stuffing into a jumbo-sized polythene bag or six.
It is heaven for the fat flies taking first pick of the goodies. Some settle on the hanging meat, valiantly swatted by a young boy with a witches’ broom, but the majority indulge in an uninterrupted gastronomic experience feasting on the cut pieces, crawling languidly over the diced meat destined for the Hoque family deep freeze like a holiday maker at an all-inclusive resort who cannot resist temptation.
Three fine specimens have been so gluttonous as to die mid-mouthful and are gamely gouged out and flicked away before the butcher slings the meat into a bag. Let’s revise that: two of them are gouged and flicked, the third I’m sure is now somewhere in a 5kg bag ready to be marinated in yoghurt, herbs and spices, and roasted on the barbecue. Luckily, I don’t have time to be sick. I am too morbidly fascinated by the hand of the man brandishing the knife. He has the tips of three fingers completely missing.
Eid is a real family occasion, one I was lucky to spend with my adopted family, the Hoques, in Dhaka where we flew from house to house greeting and eating... Everyone kills (or buys) a goat or a cow and shares it amongst themselves, their relatives and anyone in need. The sentiment is great but the public slaughter is not for the faint-hearted...
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
I love this place. Love it. Like a ciné film, my mind runs through my adventures, my travels, my new friends, my horrors, and I realise for the first time since my arrival, I am truly at home in Bangladesh. I feel almost comfortable here. On this day, the 16th February, I have, in effect, fallen in love.
“Oh, would you ever listen to yourself? Cop on and stop being a sentimental old twit.” I mutter out loud, grin to myself in the darkness, and dream spiritual dreams of fried eggs and roti.
Needless to say, in the morning, my moment of truth, of peace, of contentment is but a memory. I awake scratching frantically. My left shoulder, arm and entire back are covered in raised, angry, red lumps already irritated by my scraping nails and brewing horrible, infectious pus. Where there are miniscule gaps, the skin is black and blue with tender bruising from too many jostling rickshaws and buses.
Awkwardly I shower, and then cover myself with every cream, unguent, spray, and liquid I can find, swallow double the recommended dose of antihistamine, and pray for a plague of locusts or whatever is the appropriate member of the food chain to descend on the entire mosquito world.
It was that moment when it all came together: the place, the people, the work, the travelling, and I had one of those rare moments when I was exactly where I wanted to be. It was then that I knew I wanted to maintain a long term relationship with Bangladesh - and to let people at home see this 'other side' of the country, the bit where life goes on despite (or even in the midst of) flood, famine and monsoon aadn most of all, rather than being different, human beings are much the same, with similar concerns and challenges and joys, the world over.... too simplistic? I never knew it would end in a book and, more importatnly, that the book would inspire a charity.
Saturday, 9 October 2010
Finally - well, the launch of Simon always had to take priority - the publication date for A Blonde Bengali Wife is less than a week away!
The first event is on 15 October and that is the cyber launch. It's an all-day blog event where people can stop by and post comments/questions about me and the book--and I'll answer them. The owner of the blog will pick one person who made a comment to win a prize which will be a copy of the book.
This event starts at 2pm our time so I'll make my first "appearance" as soon as it starts and will keep checking in throughout the day. So please visit the site, join me there. leave a comment or ask a question - and offer some plain old moral support!
Visit the blog now for an idea of how this works. Be sure to read the blog post and the comments that follow....
Look forward to 'seeing' you there...
Friday, 8 October 2010
“He says that yesterday there was a kidnapping. Ten Bengali men are taken from their microbus. Two are found unharmed. The others are mostly still missing.”
“One is dead….” Observing the soldier’s garrotting motions, there is no need to ask how death occurred. “…And one injured.”
Munnu, pained at my insistence, finally yields. “His fingers and toes are no more attached to him,” he admits delicately.
Chittagong suddenly looks very inviting, so inviting I think we should go straight there. I have an abrupt urge for a large, bustling city with a pleasant waterfront and access to a tropical beach. A place that is safely in the opposite direction and full of people who will want to stare at me, perhaps even stroke my hair and ask me to marry them. What they will not want are my body parts as souvenirs.
I open my mouth to demand immediate expatriation to civilisation, and stop. The tableau of rolling hills, winding roads, the dazzle of the sun turning the ripples in the water silver, that early morning slant of light promising a glorious day, is the most perfect image I have ever seen.
Naively, I refuse to believe that anything bad will happen to me here.
Stubbornly, I refuse to waste the opportunity to drink in more of this Nirvana.
Politically, I refuse to give in to terrorist threat.
And, fatalistically, I refuse to give up on my mantra: regret the things you do, not the things you don’t do.
Clearly I wasn't kidnapped, murdered or anything else but scared out of my wits for a couple of days, which was incongruous with the beautiful surroundings, and not helped by the fact I was staying in an underground room and over-stayed my welcome by a nerve-racking 24 hours... Rangmati is also memorable as being the place where Munnu and I forged a firm friendship that has survived years and miles since. If there is a hero in the book, it is Munnu.
Sunday, 3 October 2010
Saturday, 2 October 2010
Friday, 1 October 2010
If ever there was a ready-made title for a book, then this had to be it. The furthest thing from a true Bengali wife - I had (have) neither the poise, the behind-the-scenes determination or the flair for homemaking - but the honorary title stuck; everyone knew I was trying hard.
Saturday, 11 September 2010
The first few days... were a blur. I was suddenly alone in a country where I could do nothing...
You might remember a few posts back when I was referring to my arrival in Dhaka as a novice and was way out of my comfort zone. Well, here I am again with Simon blindly figuring out the eating, dressing and changing routine and most of all trying to communicate with somone who looks blankly back at me - and then screams. At least no Bangladeshi ever did that.
4 weeks into Bangladesh I was settling in, things were becoming familiar. No doubt Simon is hoping something similar is about to click this time!
Next time: back to Bangladesh. Oh, and some news about publication.
Monday, 23 August 2010
Simon was born on 15 August, timely at D-Day+3 and giving his father time to travel 3000 miles to make the big event. The baby took a while to make his grand entrance before arriving waving (his hand on his head) but as I've kept saying, childbirth is like a pilot landing a plane: don't matter how s/he gets that plane down as long as it lands safely...
I'll get back to the story of A Blonde Bengali Wife whilst he is sleeping... so bear with me for a few days!
Thursday, 12 August 2010
So I should clarify: I am talking a real, live, human boy baby here whose due date is today. It seems that I've been so obscure that people who haven't seen the sumo-wrestler sized bump I'm currently sporting think I'm referring to ABBW the book. Nope! Little person imminent. Book trailing (not far) behind.
So, I'm off to dunk a pineapple into some raspberry leaf tea and waddle up and down the stairs a lot. Any other suggestions gratefully received!
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
In the centre of the room, raised on an oval pedestal is the operating table, a tattered couch covered in black plastic. Above this, swinging from a long metal chain is a bright, white light, and to the right is a table and shelves littered with intriguing bits of medical equipment.
I search for words, try to imagine even minor surgery taking place here, wonder about sterility, the lighting, and marvel over the lack of gleaming surfaces and fancy gadgets.
“You find this a strange place, Mrs Anne,” says Dr Musa. “It is to you, like something from the Charles Dickens. I hear European doctors say this.”
“It is fascinating,” I say. I long to poke around, sniff the stoppered bottles of anaesthetic, and take out the polished tools of incision. “Absolutely fascinating. I would love to watch you work here,” I tell him, smothering the inner voice that tells me that I am no better than the wealthy Victorians gawping around Bedlam. “What surgery do you do?”
Dr Musa shrugs. “Whatever is needed. Yesterday I remove an appendix, last week a ruptured spleen. I mend broken legs and arms here. For big operations, on maybe the heart or liver, the patient must go to Dhaka, sometimes to Bangalore. My clinic is simple.”
With time to spare before patients arrive, Dr Musa reaches onto the top of a skinny wardrobe and pulls down a crinkled carrier bag.
“Now, Mrs Anne, I test you,” he announces happily. He peers into the bag like Santa Claus into his sack and pulls out a strip of tablets, tossing them onto the desk in front of me. “What is this medicine?” He sits back, his arms folded.
We run through his limited supply of antihistamines, antibiotics, and antacids. That I manage to sound like a competent pharmacologist pleases him greatly.
“Good. You become my intern,” he tells me. “SCI leaves you here to assist in my operating theatre. We start with general surgery now. Okay?” The look on my face compels him to roar with laughter. “I am teasing you, Mrs Anne.”
I sit back in relief. For a second there, I had visions of performing a quick appendectomy before bedtime.
(ABBW Ch 16)
Way over in the west of the country only a few miles from the Indian border, my next home was a local health centre. The task here was to encourage local health care providers - doctors, dentists, opticians and pharmacists - to donate a few hours of free care per month to the poorest communities, people who could not afford to pay for consultation or medicine. Hundreds of eyes were tested, teeth pulled and drugs dispensed. Families arrived en masse for check-ups; they made a day of it with a picnic, their curiousity aroused by SCI Jessore Unit who shamelessly advertised the added novelty of a pale foreigner to look at...
And by the end of the placement, this same pale foreigner had received the gift of an old man's tooth as a souvenir and her first proposal of undying love.
It was time for a quick exit back to Dhaka.
Monday, 9 August 2010
When Jennifer Lightfoot’s granddad won her a dream holiday in the local newspaper, she was unbearable:
“You’ll never guess where we’re going,” she crowed. “You’ll never guess because it’s really erotic –” (she was ten; she probably meant exotic. But given her later career choices, maybe not).
She gave me a clue as the Mini-Traveller pulled off with the whole family squashed in, goggle-eyed. “It begins with H and ends in N,” she yelled. “Ha-ha! I bet you’ll never go anywhere I can’t guess…”
Twenty years on, Jennifer Lightfoot can eat her sunhat.
If I invited her to swim at the longest sea beach in the world, to trek rare tigers amidst the earth’s largest mangrove forests, to refresh her taste buds beside verdant, rolling tea gardens and to watch the sun rise and set at the same most southerly point, would she even know which country she was in? Even if I mentioned the names: Cox’s Bazaar, Sunderbans National Park, Srimangal and Kuakata, would she ever, ever guess this tropical location?
Reaching from the River Ganges in the Bay of Bengal right up to the foothills of the Himalayas, Bangladesh is not the well-trodden destination of its Indian and Nepalese neighbours. Yet in winter it is far more than a country of violent monsoon, immense poverty and squat toilets. 140 million friendly and hospitable people in a space the size of England and Wales might not make for a restful or secluded holiday, but escape the dusty clamour of the capital city Dhaka – where a bicycle rickshaw ride costs less than a bar of (imported) chocolate – and the villages are a rustic dream. You won’t find the eighth wonder of the world or even a chain of luxury hotels, but the traditions, the vibrant landscape, and the welcome are priceless substitutes. The locals follow you with delight; constantly asking “what is your good name? Your good country?”, and women receive more proposals than a planning officers in-tray (and most of them more courteous).
A culture shock. An experience. And don’t go if you dislike eating rice.
Best of all? You won’t run into the grown-up Jennifer Lightfoot and her brood of Jennifer Juniors. I never did discover whether her week was in Hunstanton or Heaven, but she wouldn’t have found this gem. As an old tourist board slogan in the Parjatan office says: Come to Bangladesh before the tourists do.
Sunday, 8 August 2010
“So we wait now for our tools,” he finishes, leading us to the school steps and motioning us to sit.
“Digging,” mumbles Christine. She speaks up. “Suez said we would be digging.”
A delicate silence ensues whilst the brothers look at oneanother, clearly hoping the other will speak first..
“Well?” demands Christine. “Is Suez right?”
Bachchu and Munnu both nod slowly.
“What kind of digging?” I pray for a little light weeding.
“We make flat the Khalia school playing field,” Munnu states with endearing honesty.
“We...are going to level the field?” asks Christine slowly, examining the lines and dips that form a parody of a mountainous rural map.
“Yes. We make it smooth enough for the Bangladesh cricket team,” beams Bachchu. “It takes maybe five days.”
Vague thoughts of shiny JCBs, turf rolling machines, and fluorescent-striped donkey jackets dart through my mind.
“Bloody hell,” says Christine. “We’ll be rolling rocks like The Flintstones.”
150km away from the capital (a six hour trip via road and river) Rajoir District branch of the charity SCI hosted our first volunteer 'Work Camp'and was a free-fall experience into the delights and the traumas of rural Bangladesh: lack of water, electricity and privacy had to be off-set against the peace, the green fields and the friendships-in-waiting.
Working boots off, we ate rice, drank tea, hit the arsenic problem head on, ate rice, drank tea, shopped for Private Ladies Things, ate rice, drank tea and one afternoon we even did something that no nice Bengali girl would ever do. Then we had some rice and drank some tea...
|Khalia Tea Shop|
|All mod-cons are overrated! This scrubbed up well and so did we.|
Saturday, 7 August 2010
Friday, 6 August 2010
“Christine from Australia.” Rehana says by way of introduction. “Anne from Ireland. You sleep here.” She points to the bed in which I lie, and I obligingly move over to one side. Before Christine or I can say anything, my friend Shahardot, who is lugging two suitcases, launches a huge square canvas bag into the room. He points at me in recognition, laughs for old time’s sake, and demands money from Christine.
With Rehana watching avidly, Christine changes into the long johns that contrast nicely with my oversized purple T-shirt. She opens her canvas bag and from its depths, and like a modern Mary Poppins, she shakes out a full-sized duvet and pillow. We lie down side by side and make the desultory small talk of strangers who have just climbed into bed together.
“Must be a bit like an arranged marriage, this,” says Christine.
“Well, they said Bangladesh would be an experience,” I add. “I don’t know about you, but this is the first time I’ve slept with someone three minutes after meeting them.”
The first few days in Dhaka were a blur. I was suddenly alone in a country where I could do nothing for myself. It was like being a toddler again: I couldn't read Bangla script and I barely spoke the language. I tied myself up in knots trying to dress in the traditional salwar kameez and I spilt food everywhere because I was eating curry and rice by hand. Much good I was going to be as a volunteer worker in a developing country!
Then two things happened: I met Christine, a fellow volunteer - wise, experienced, laid-back, the complete opposite of me - and we both got sent to a little place called Khalia. There wasn't much scope for a music teacher(Christine) or a public health advisor (me) there but a great deal of opportunity for digging, painting and 'cultural exchange'...
That's when I knew a travel diary was just crying out to be written.
You can subscribe to it by sending an email to subscribe(at)ll-publications.com or learn more by going to http://www.ll-publications.com/newsletter.html
Thursday, 5 August 2010
“Bangla, na,” I apologise, bemoaning my half-hearted efforts with Bengali tapes and a phrasebook. We attempt to communicate in sign language since the only English phrase the policeman can repeat frequently and with a serious smile is unconstructive in the circumstances:
“I love you,” he announces, arms akimbo. “I love you.”
“Thank you,” I say. “But do you love me enough to take me home with you? You see, I don’t know where I’m going, where I am staying, who is going to meet me, what I will be doing, or indeed, with whom I will be doing it.”
Gently, he moves me to a quieter spot where more people can easily watch me. Minutes grind past. Then. . .
After years of working in Child Protection services and with a MSc in Epidemiology languishing somewhere in a drawer, I was hunting for a new challenge. Seeing a tiny advert for Voluntary Service International (VSI) made me apply to volunteer in Asia/Africa/Latin America and soon I was looking for this country called Bangladesh (in)famous for poverty, floods and devastation.
Ashamed at my ignorance about a country of 140 million people, I found it hidden at the bottom of India, poking into the Bay of Bengal even though it used to be East Pakistan. I learned the capital was Dhaka, the currency was taka, language Bengali and the population mostly Muslim. I hunted for a guidebook, packed a rucksack and on a snowy, frosty New Years Eve headed into Dublin airport and right out of my comfort zone.
Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Over the next few posts, and without becoming a total Bangla-bore (I promise) I'll tell the story of the journey so far and where we're going next.
Oh, and as for anyone curious to know where the baby comes in, well even at D-Day Minus 9 the jury's still out on whether that's another story.
But for now, back to where it all began...
Monday, 2 August 2010
For Anne Hamilton, a three month winter programme of travel and “cultural exchange” in a country where the English language, fair hair and a rice allergy are all rare in the extreme was always going to be interesting, challenging and frustrating. What they didn’t tell Anne was that it would also be sunny, funny and the start of a love affair with this unexplored area of Southeast Asia.
A Blonde Bengali Wife shows the lives beyond the poverty, monsoons and diarrhoea of Bangladesh and charts a vibrant and fascinating place where one minute Anne is levelling a school playing field “fit for the national cricket team,” cobbling together a sparkly outfit for a formal wedding the next.
Along with Anne are the essential ingredients for survival: a travel-savvy Australian sidekick, a heaven-sent adopted family, and a short, dark, and handsome boy-next-door.
During her adventures zipping among the dusty clamour of the capital Dhaka, the longest sea beach in the world at Cox’s Bazaar, verdant Sylhet tea gardens, and the voluntary health projects of distant villages, Anne amasses a lot of friends, stories...and even a husband?
A Blonde Bengali Wife is the “unexpected travelogue” that reads like a comedy of manners to tell the other side of the story of Bangladesh.
Sunday, 1 August 2010
Just get on and do it, feel the fear, stop thinking, and
WRITE THAT FIRST BLOG POST
So here it is. And now I'm going away to lay down in a darkened room - always supposing this appears on the page when I press Send...