I am writing from central Bangladesh. i am having some great experiences although i am not sure i would come back to this country for another visit! For the past few days there has been a general transportation strike (that covers the whole country!) so there are no busses, no boats, no trains, and i think no airplanes. it was called by the government so that the very popular opposition party (who expected 2 million people to converge on the capital to protest) can not mobilize its supporters to show how much the people of this country want to change the government -- that's how things work here. in the meantime, this transportation strike is a pain in the ass for everyone and the people are pissed at the government for using such tactics. more problems are likely as a result of this kind of undemocratic, low-grade warfare.
In the meantime, I am catching up on a few things and meeting locals to talk to and to visit with in their homes. they are most insistent that i visit and meet their families, that i eat with them even after i have had my own meals and am nearly bursting at the seams. my Bengali is coming along and people are surprised at what i have picked up in the week that i have been in this country. however, i think people would be surprised and delighted at any level and any attempt of the local language because it is very rare to see a foreign person around here and for thenm then to try to communicate in their Bengali language.
still, i feel regular frustration at not being able to communicate the most basic of my needs. although, it is having to answer the same questions twenty times a day that has been the key to my language development (and my mental fatigue). in this morning's meditation, i was able to see where it is that i come undone in this way and feel the need to get away from all Bengalis, which i might add, is a near impossibility. of course, they are just curious and they don't know that i am asked the same set of questions with nearly every interaction. in some places, i was told that I am the only "foreigner" to have ever visited. I'll write more sometime about the stare-factor and the challenge of being still when there are twenty five people standing around you wondering what planet i have dropped in from and why i am here, in this place or in their village. in these situations, i often am asking myself similar questions.
I just got back from a stint in the Sunderbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world. It turns out that, as you remember, one of the main reasons I came to Bangladesh was to experience a gathering of local fishing peoples that happens really far into the forest but alas, the information that i got from a couple of sources prior to my trip was wrong and the gathering had finished just before my arrival into the country. about that, my arrival into the country was a complete fiasco that is worthy of a short story and I'll try to put something up on my blog about that in the next week.
I spent several days with the Bauls, the wandering minstrels, of this part of Asia. That will probably be one of the brightest lights from this visit. It was amazing and I made some great sound recordings and shared some rich interactions.
Basically, I have been spending most of my time with the working peoples: the sand quarriers along the rivers, the people who unload the sea vessels of wheat, barefoot, shin deep in the ship's hold of Ukranian grain, carrying jute bags full on their heads, up bouncing wooden planks to the docks, to be transported throughout the country, for one or two dollars a day. i have been searching out folk musicians, recording music, being sick, doing my laundry, trying to get from one place to another, always in a state of partial exhaustion, breathing the fumes of excitement and anxiety, chasing the idea of living a full life, remembering that in doing this, it doesn't matter where i am but that the doing of this and having this realization is the real challenge and objective of my experience here. it's just that being here is the kick in the ass for me to take the first few steps out onto the high wire that is my life. for some reason, this is what i must do. for some reason, this is my act in this crazy circus i am currently travelling with!