The last time I was in Bangladesh was several years ago. I remember certain things, but not others. I remember the traffic in Dhaka crawling. It took an hour to get anywhere. I remember that staring is socially acceptable, so whether I was sitting in a van or eating at a restaurant, a crowd of people gathered, just to watch. I remember that the electricity periodically went out, and that the garment factory across the street had a generator so the girls could keep sewing. I remember jumping from a stoop to the back of a pickup because it was the rainy season and the water was about 2 1/2 feet high in a courtyard. I remember riding on an overcrowded ferry to a village in the countryside, where I slept under a tin roof that had holes which looked like stars. I remember that to get my passport checked in the airport that there was no queue, but simply men pushing their way to the desk. I remember accidently eating a hot pepper in a dish, thinking it was a green bean, and ruining a lovely meal with delicacies like thin fried leaves.
One of the things that stands out most in my mind was being in a village with a buyer from The Body Shop in the UK. The women sat down to hear her tell the story of Anita Roddick (the founder of The Body Shop).
Here's how it went.
"There was once a woman with a child. Her husband left her." All the women sigh. They can understand. Except that Anita's husband actually left to go trekking for a year or something, so he didn't really leave her, but the buyer never said that.
"She needed to find a way to make a living, to support her child. So she decided she wanted to start a business. She went to the bank, but the bank would not give her a loan." Again, the women nod. They know the bank won't give loans to women.
"So she went to a friend, and the friend gave her a loan." This, too, makes lots of sense to the women. A good friend will help.
"And she started The Body Shop and is now a millionaire with hundreds of stores." At this point, I'm thinking how the story that came across is colored dramatically, as the women think she's been left, couldn't make a living, and now is rich. The buyer didn't tell about the part where her husband comes back after a year because he's only been trekking.
Then, the buyer started pulling out the samples for the women--small bottles of soaps, hand lotions, and foot creams. Foot creams! In Bangladesh, one does not touch one's feet. So, as she handed them out, she gave the translator elaborate names like Lemon Froufou Foot Cream to be used at night. I heard him translate everything as "Soap," "Lotion," "Lotion," "Soap," "Lotion."
Still no word on the visa, and in typical developing world fashion, when I called the embassy today, the woman at the desk said coming tomorrow was not a good idea, because they didn't know yet whether they'd be open or not. This at 3 pm!
This just in: I can see tracking info on my passport in FedEx and it should be in my office first thing tomorrow morning. Hooray! Now I can sleep tonight and head back to the airport tomorrow without a loop through the DC embassy.