Tag Archives: boats

Why some call me Burcu Bhai

*July 9, 2011

On the mainland right outside of EFH each day, a sizable group of men gather to play football (that’s soccer for my American friends out there) right around sunset. Some of the players are from EFH and others come from around the char. In a weird way, I kind of envy them. More than merely just watching sports, I love participating, even though I may not be very good. I’ve thought about tossing the ball around with them several times, but each time, chose to stay away, reasoning it would be weird to socially insert myself this way. I continued watching and cheering from the dock of the boat.

However, today, I was watching the daily game on the grass with several workers from EFH and behind us, a scene started to unfold. A boat landed, several dozen men got out, and instead of the boat gliding away like usual, all of the men circled it and worked to lift it out of the water and onto the mainland. They chanted as they pushed, drawing attention from everyone surrounding them. I commented how I wish I had brought my camera. One of my colleagues, Hasib Bhai, had come ready – he flipped out his camera phone and started capturing the spirited event, jokingly stating that I had failed as a bideshi and that he wouldn’t share the footage.

I felt odd as a spectator when those I was watching were working so hard. I voiced this uneasiness, too, telling Hasib Bhai how I wish I could help the men. He said, half-teasingly, “Go. Do it. Go and help them.” I thought, a football game is one thing, but collective effort is another.

So I joined in and Hasib Bhai ended up sharing the footage with me. After the push, I got several big, appreciative smiles from some of the men, if not for my actual power, then just for my effort. I think my mom and dad will think it’s funny that my colleagues ended up calling me “Burcu Bhai” for several days after this.*

*Note: The footage is from a camera phone, so you may want to adjust the volume as you’re watching.

Just something fun! Here’s a recap…

  • Minute 0:20: Heated debate about boat-sliding strategy.
  • Minute 0:50: A bit of an awkward moment. All the men are probably thinking, “Umm, what?” or “Did that just happen?”
  • Minute 1:09: Kind words from Hasib Bhai, warning me to be careful because the boat will be slippery.
  • Minute 1:55: Subtle (or maybe not so subtle?) recruitment of men from one side of the boat, to mine.

*FYI- Although this might be a little late in the game, ‘Bhai’ is generally a term used to reference other men in a respective manner, while ‘Apa’ is used in the same way for women.


Filed under EFH, Field, Hospitals

Chars, Collection and Communication

*July 3, 2011

I sit on a bed, observing the satellite clinic. A paramedic, donning a worn white coat, sits at one of the longer sides of a rectangular table. One edge of the table is filled with medicine – various small tablets, pills, packages and boxes. The patient records, notebooks, lie in front of her. To her direct right, there is a chair for the community members to sit and tell her their grievances. Listening, she measures their blood pressure or temperature, or talks to them, and prescribes medicine.

The FCMs surround the table. One sits directly behind the patient, helping voice her precise health condition. The house itself is one of the FCMs’. I can’t help but notice an empty white bag, not far from where I am, hung on a bamboo support for the dwelling. “World Food Programme” is printed on its side with huge blue letters, followed by a picture of the Japanese flag. The family had received a ration of rice, as a “gift from the people of Japan.” What a striking situation, to get to see the receiving side.

This is my second day observing the chars and first day of official data collection on this island called Shirajbeg. Sareeta Apa and I will conduct interviews with the FCM, the paramedic, and the paramedic assistant on this char. We’ll also hold a focus group discussion with community members who attend the health meeting, lead and given by the FCM.

Shirajbeg is one of the closer chars to the mainland. It took us about half an hour to get here by boat.

The boat that we take to travel from char to char!

Yesterday, we visited Bozradiarkhata, where we tested some of our survey tools before starting to collect data. It was also on this char that I paid a visit to one of Friendship’s vocational training centers, where women learn how to weave and earn a living doing so, creating beautiful cloth.

Friendship's Weaving Center

Shirajbeg is younger than Bozradiarkhata. It’s sandier and the vegetation is shorter across the island.

Houses in the distance!

Char bank

The house we’re in has all the components of what you would envision would come with a makeshift settlement: hard-pressed dirt floors, a thatched roof and sides of reeds. The hut is small, and it’s clearly leaky during monsoon. Sides of the house are wet from the rain, with buckets strewn about to catch drips of water.

There is a growing line of waiting patients circling the house, all women, facing the heat to visit the satellite clinic (which costs 5 taka, or less than 0.07 cents). The scene is incredibly colorful. Each woman wears bright, catching colors in their saris. (I’ll really miss this about Bangladesh.) I also notice that all of the women come with at least one baby, which they casually carry at the hip. The babies are mostly undressed, except for a rope that they wear at the belly to ward off evil or malign influences. One by one, they sit in front of the paramedic, some to talk about contraception and others to get medicine for their babies. I can tell some of the children have watery eyes from fever, but almost all of the kids around me are incredibly underweight. They seem delicate; I’ve never seen bone on bone like this before.

I have also never been in a place where I am so constantly aware of different components of my identity – white, Turkish, woman, unmarried, Muslim. I have limited communication with the char communities, but they ascertain my status on some of these things pretty well nevertheless. And I’m proud to say I have mastered several key Bangla phrases, so why not use them as much as I can, no matter how ridiculous I may sound? In addition to the Bangla, I communicate in other ways, like yesterday, when a pre-teen girl and I winked back and forth for about three hours. Later today, I met the young daughter of a doctor on EFH. I drew for her a smile on a napkin, and she returned the gesture. What can I say? Like many overly naïve and idealistic travelers have uttered before me, the language of winks and smiles proves universal.

Smiles, smiles


Filed under FCMs, Field, Satellite clinic