Thursday, July 22
I am almost back in the United States. What a year it has been. To begin to describe the Fulbright journey is to begin a novel of my personal and professional growth. As I sit here in the Edinburgh airport waiting for my flight to New York, I leave Bangladesh free as bird. Not that Bangladesh ever caged me. It was my frightened, insecure ego that kept me confined. But Fulbright and Bangladesh gave enough space to spread my wings and discover a world of endless possibilities--a world available to me if I climbed out of that shell and believed.
My heart still aches for Bangladesh: for the work that finally came together, for the friends who stole my heart, for the passion of such a congested place. I passed through Kolkata on my home, stepping into memories where the paagli didi journey began--I know I'll be back in Bangladesh at some point. My first visit to India effected me enough that I went back. Then when Bengal touched my heart, I came back again. I've proven that when I care about a place, I manage to find a way back.
So here is the end of my Fulbright experience in Bangladesh. I recommend Fulbright (or any similar scholarship) to any young person wanting a challenge. It has been the most rewarding experience in my life (though young, I've had plenty of amazing experiences). As for Bangladesh: when people ask the trite question, "What is Bangladesh like?" My answer is always "intense and beautiful." South Asia is just raw and real, that's what's beautiful. To paraphrase a metaphor by poet Andrea Gibson, Bangladesh is a knife that carves holes in your soul so beauty can make its way inside.
Endless thanks to those who were a part of this odyssey, both in Bangladesh and abroad. The shape of the journey depends on the company, and your company enveloped me in love. So love is all I experienced.
If anyone is interested in learning more about women's empowerment, Bangladesh or the Fulbright scholarship, please email me at amanda dot ferrandino (at) gmail dot com.
Tuesday, June 22
I think I officially became Bangladeshi today. I was christened in the monsoon rain on a rickshaw wearing a sari going to my center in Old Dhaka, holding three-kgs of mishti and directing the rickshaw-wallah where to go because he was lost. Once at the center, sitting with the women, gossiping and laughing, and singing Bangla songs. And the day ended with faluda and friends.
Oh how I'll miss this crazy place.
Saturday, May 29
Wednesday, May 26
15.) Bargaining for clothes (well, I'll miss Saba and Dola bargaining FOR me).14.) You can mix and match every color/pattern/neon and it will somehow look good.
13.) It is completely normal to have a live-in maid with breakfast ready when you wake up.
12.) Wearing bindis/teeps (definitely NOT the orna).
11.) Every day is Thanksgiving: tons of food laid out on the table in 20 different bowls and everyone shares.
10.) Really good dhal (lentils), tomato bhorta (mash) and faluda (indescribable).
9.) You go out with only 2 friends then you wind up with 20 somewhere on a roof with spontaneous singing.
8.) Mango and litchi season (my sweet tooth believes this is heaven).
7.) Strangers call each other mama (uncle), apu (sister), bondhu (friend).
6.) The soothing voice of the muezzin's adhan (call-to-prayer) from the mosjid on Road 6/A.
5.) Each and every meeting/visit/class begins with cha (tea) and mishti (sweets).
4.) Dhanmondi Lake, 'Kamala Buli's ship house,' and our Road 4/A Chomotkar Basha.
3.) Everyone takes off their shoes as often as possible.
2.) Saba, Dola, Abdul, Fahim, Emy, Diya, Parvez, Sayaka, Kyungai, Hia, Dipali, Lucy, Pappa, Shilpi, Zahir, Eva, Regina, Feline, Liza, Bokul, Runa, Jaganmoy, Nayeem, Sujan, Emi, Rumi, Sam, Saad, Sara, Rahib, Samdina, Nupur, Pakhi ... did I mention Saba?
1.) Simply: the Bang's rawness.
Sunday, May 23
I've been lucky enough to live with and befriend all sorts of musicians, artists and theatre folk here in Bangladesh. Bengalis are romantics at heart, so their art is of the most expressive and dramatic in South Asia. A friend pointed out that in South Asia, the most business oriented nations have little art or literature (i.e. Gujrat). While Bengal has given birth to the most distinguished minds of art and intellect for centuries. Kolkata was (though arguably still is) the center of progressive art and theatre for decades. Bangladeshi theatre, music and art share many of the same traits: the vivid colors, the eccentric dramatics, the impassioned words and the fervid performances. These photos and video do not do justice to the grandeur of Bengali art.
Dhaka University Boishaki masks--even rickshaws are this colorful
performance at Shilpakola Theatre
(choreographed by my roommate Dola, written by my friend Bokul, performed by my friends' theatre group, Prachyonat)