Bangladesh Part 2

Apni Kemon Achen? Ami Khub Bhalo Achi. That is a typical Bangladeshi greeting asking “how are you,” and responding “very good.” And very good is just how I feel. This week was amazing because I finally got to see more of Bangladesh than just the capital city of Dhaka, where I stay. We traveled to Shylet, which is in the north, where Bangladeshi tea is grown. There are beautiful green tea gardens in some places for as far as the eye can see. Then where the land is not cultivated there are beautiful rainforests. After staying in Dhaka for a month it felt like the greenest place on earth.

While in Shylet the CLS group went to visit many tea gardens and also went on a hike in the rainforest. The rainforest was amazing. Some of the plants were so interesting. One of them, called “touch me not,” would wilt and look dead if you tapped its leaves, then if you took your hand away it would spring right back up perfectly unharmed. There were also beautiful flowers and streams. Although we learned to be careful of the numerous streams because they were full of leeches, and some of our instructors ended up with leeches on them.

Bangladesh is beautiful and interesting with all the variety of things you can do from hikes in the rainforest to five hour long Dhaka city traffic jams. I’m excited to see how the rest of my summer goes.

Bhalo Theko!

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Greetings from Bangladesh! By Audrey Ferguson

Greetings from Bangladesh! I’ve been enjoying Dhaka for the past month. It’s the monsoon season here and the weather is wonderfully unpredictable. Today as I was walking home from the tailor I got caught in a downpour so I’m now spending my evening drying out my new salwar kameez (a dress-like outfit).

I’m visiting with the State Department Critical Language Scholarship program, so everyday I spend my day learning Bangla at the International University Bangladesh. I know that my Bangla is getting better when I can carry on conversations with people I meet at the store or in the market. Everyone has been very nice and excited about speaking Bangla with me. As soon as someone realizes that I know the language they become curious about why I’m here and start asking me all about who I am and why I’m here.

The streets, the markets and the sidewalks are all so busy and full of people. With rickshaws, pedestrians, cars, buses and CNGs sharing the streets every adventure in the city is exciting and full of traffic jams.

Everything is fun and exciting. Bangladesh is truly amazing.

Bhalo Thekben! (Stay Well!)

Traveling to Turkiye (Turkey) ~By Lela Ross

The Grand Bazaar with its winding corridors packed with merchants selling Turkish rugs, jewelry, copper, gold, furniture, clothing, and almost anything imaginable… The Spice Bazaar filled with an aroma so exquisite from the vast variety of herbs, spices, and desserts that I am able to reminisce about it distinctly four years later… Hagia Sophia, a beautiful representation of architectural design from the Byzantine Empire… The Sultan Ahmet (Blue) Mosque complete with towering minarets and blue tiles, overlooking the Sea of Marmara… Topkapi Palace with quaint courtyards and gardens and marvelous mosaics on each wall of the interior… The Izmir Clock Tower, a breathtaking landmark overlooking the Aegean Sea…

Ephesus, a retrospective view of ancient civilizations through the preserved ruins. The path that led me off the well-traveled roads of Turkey and further immersed me into a culture so fascinating and an experience so unique. I spent a month each for three summers in a global crossroad where the historical presence of the Middle East blends with Western influence.

I traveled with my mother, whose homeland is this truly remarkable country where I was not only able to experience these historical sites mentioned above, but also witness the culture through her eyes. Destinations included Istanbul, Izmir, and Kusadasi.

I was intrigued by these cities, each complete with markets selling fresh produce and Turkish tea as well as outdoor cafes, restaurants, and vendors selling grilled corn, pickles, roasted pistachios, and pumpkin seeds. The sea gleamed in the rays of the sun from the cloudless sky as ferries, yachts, and sailboats passed by the shores. Horse and carriages cruised through streets lined with palm trees and fragrant flowers. Rich Turkish instrumentals from the latest pop songs supplemented the upbeat atmosphere. Whirling dervishes captivated my attention as they spun for nearly twenty minutes, perfectly in synch with traditional Turkish music.

Wherever I went, I was able to practice speaking Turkish with locals who were eager to help me improve my language skills. I cherish every moment that I was able to spend in this hospitable culture, where the kindness of the people truly complete the beauty of Turkey.

~Lela Ross

St. Maarten/St. Martin

Challenge: St. Maarten is split into two sides, read about the history and culture.

From the port I took a taxi downtown for $3. The terrible downpour turned to sun shortly after I got there. Most of the taxi’s dropped passengers off near the courthouse, which was also where you could go to hail one for a ride or tour. Many of them stood with signs offering tours calling out to passersby in the courtyard area.

The streets were lined with everything from clothing and jewelry stores (with exquisite jewels just as in St. Thomas) to a church and casino. Store owners/workers stood by the entrance of their businesses greeting and calling people to come inside. While looking for gifts to bring home I noticed that all prices were listed in both dollars and guilders; I also found a unique souvenir I just had to get- a peacock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The downtown area appeared to be divided into two sections. From the beach to the middle of downtown seemed to be geared toward tourists  with the shop owners/employees standing at their doors and independent sellers approaching people on the beachfront to sell visors, handbags, and other items.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The further that you got from the beach the fewer tourists there were. The area quickly changed from heavy tourist traffic and tons of trendy vibrant stores to one that resembled more of an industrial area with banks and businesses. St. Maarten residents appeared to be in the middle of a workday, dressed in business attire quickly traveling between businesses. In comparison to the lively crowded beach area, this part of downtown could have been considered deserted with the exception of people getting in and out of cars and taxis or quickly walking from one place to another. As I rounded the corner by the bank a mural caught my eye by the bus stop.

 

 

While in the “tourist” section of downtown, I came upon a unique looking store Guavaberry Emporium where I learned about the cultural and historical significance of the Guavaberry in St. Martin.                                                                                                

 

 

St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

Upon arriving in St. Thomas I was shocked by the intense heat and passing rain. I learned that “island time” was one hour ahead of “ship time”. One of the island residents joked that we should be on their time because they don’t change their clocks back and forth.

Jewelry stores with the most beautiful stones/jewels and uniquely designed pieces lined the streets by the port. To get to the aquarium we boarded a taxi that was part truck and part “trolly”. The front driver’s area was identical to the front of a large pick-up truck while the back was open rows of seating without doors or seat belts.

As we drove at a fast pace (despite speed limits as low as 10MPH) through the steep, narrow, winding roads I immediately noticed the familiar shopping options such as Wendy’s, Payless, K-Mart, Midas, Office Depot, and Foot Locker.

 

 

 

 

I also noticed the many churches and that all of the children walking home from school wore uniforms. While some of the stores and homes on the island appeared to be quite old and in need of repair, there were also massive, gorgeous homes and a gated golf course.

Coral World Ocean Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun Fact: Iguana’s could be seen not just at the aquarium, but also on the sides of the road.

Next up was “Magens Bay,” a mile-long beach considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world.

CoCo Cay, Bahamas

CoCo Cay is a beautiful private island. Because the ship was too large to reach the island (due to the local geography), we boarded smaller “sea taxis” which took us from the ship to the shore. With the exception of the local Bahamians, who come to sell goods or rent beach equipment, cruise guests are the only people on the island. Seeing that the island lacked housing, I was curious to know where the local employees resided.

Food for Thought: A great article has been written discussing the avoidance of actual port cities by cruise lines. This is something to think about, how much are you really learning about the people and culture of a place when you have little to no contact by only visiting private beaches and islands? Why is this a current trend by some cruise lines? How might tourists come to have distorted views of life and culture in the places they visit because of this trend?

Day 1 All Aboard!

One of the most exiting aspects of the cruise was meeting the ship employees whose home countries/regions were listed on their name tags. Throughout the trip I had the pleasure of meeting staff members from South Africa, Estonia, Turkey, Jamaica, Indonesia, and India just to name a few. One of my most memorable experiences was meeting Betty, a spa employee whose parents came from Kenya & Oman. As we spoke, I found that she had grown up in many countries, attending international schools throughout her life and had at one point been fluent in many languages. We had lively exchanges of the differences amongst countries with regards to food cultivation and consumption practices, child rearing, and the degrees of stress associated with daily life. The first night ended with an “Around the World” parade, put on by cruise staff.