While we head back to the school for lunch, we ran into a student of Susan’s. Susan stops her to ask if she is taking another class. The girl responds, sure, then says, “Oh no, I’m heading back to the UK this Saturday.” Susan responds, “Well, you must pay for your classes.” The girl responds she did; Susan corrects her by saying that she only paid the registration fee. The girl promises to come tomorrow. As we walk away, Susan vents saying, “No offense, but this happens a lot with foreigners. They leave without paying. It is very hard to get a hold of you because your life here is temporary.” That pissed me off, that foreigners are giving this reputation.
Back at the school, myself, the principal and the five English teachers ate lunch – a typical Bengali lunch: bhat, dal, aloo, dim (rice, dal – a lentil soup to pour over rice, potato, egg). It was delicious and perfect. I listened to them all talking in Bangla, excited for when I can understand and converse with them. I think spending this extra time with Bangladeshis will be advantageous to my language skills.
After lunch, I left and bought three new salwar kameezes: bright purple and yellow (a mix of my mother and grandmother J ), a baby blue and white that needs tailoring, and a tourquiose and navy. There are so many colors and styles to wear! As I walk down the muddy streets (thank God for Tevas), each rickshaw driver stops to see if I need a ride. After I’m done, I go to a stand to buy mangoes and oranges. About 7 beggars approach me: women with disfigured faces and bodies carrying sleeping, naked babies, old Muslim men in wheelchairs, little children either half dressed or wearing grimy clothes too big for their underfed bodies. I give the change of my fruit to the man in the wheelchair because he was the closest then I bolted into a nearby rickshaw.
First off, if you have seen Slumdog Millionaire, they did an accurate portrayl of begging cartels. A handful of men will take children and the destitute from off the street and send them out to beg. Whatever they make, they hand over to the men in power. This was told to me in India and Bangladesh by locals. But, how do you know? “You just ignore it.” I ignore it. Me, who was well fed during lunch, who heads back to her nice little apartment, arms full of shopping and grocery bags. But, there’s a line from my favourite poem: “Never feeling more greedy than when handing dollars to the needy” (“Dive” by Andrea Gibson). Giving them 10tk (14 cents) feels more greedy because I just spent 3300tk ($50) on pretty little outfits.
It’s an upsetting conundrum, that’s all I can say.