**I was on the field from June 29th-July 8th and had little internet juice to upload information, but still (feebly) tried to capture my experiences by writing. I will post retroactive blog posts from my time in the field every day for the next 5 days. Enjoy 🙂
My incorporation into Dhaka and office life has been going smoothly over the past week, mostly because of the warmth and liveliness of my colleagues. Lately, they’ve started inviting me to have snacks with them in a small snack shop downstairs, a sweet retreat in the stretch of morning work hours where they talk, poke fun, and fill me in on Bangla culture. During these sweet retreats, I’ve re-realized partially the reason I connect so well with the people here is because their warmth is one that is all in all very familiar. Though the vernacular is not the same, Turkish dialogue shares many identical tones and gestures of conversation. In fact, some things are so similar that at times I can replace the Bangla with my own native tongue, cross-check and find that I am right on par with my guess of what the conversation’s about.
Acclimation to Dhaka life has also been trouble-free. Just the other day, I made my first river crossing in a city, when the street in front of the language school completely flooded after an hour of heavy monsoon rain. I tried waiting with some friends, got tired of waiting, and waded in knee-high water to find a rickshaw to take me back across town. Welcome to Bangladesh!
As an intern, I’ve been lucky enough to participate and observe some strategic planning meetings for Friendship over the past few days, which has helped me to better understand the composition, values and direction of the organization. The last week has also been a period of refining my internship role and desired results, with joint meetings with my mentors, Sareeta, an MPH, and Dr. Naheed, who works with health services offered at EFH, the boat hospital in service currently in Chilmari (Made a Google map of my hang-out locations. Email me if you want to see it in detail!)
As a result of the conversations, my mentors and I have decided that for the sake of sustainability and actual utilization of my work, I will be working on evaluation and data collection around our community-based health services. Additionally, I’ll help create community-level monitoring tools for our satellite clinics, rather than completing a research project on health-seeking behaviors, which may be needed but not immediately relevant for the organization. I’m extremely happy at this turn of events because it ensures that I will serve a meaningful purpose over the next few months and the output of my time here won’t just end up sitting as a file on an office computer. A lot of what I’ll be doing will still be research-based, but I will also be meeting with a myriad of stakeholders that make our community-based health services what they are – health program leaders at the head office, paramedics, FCMs (our version of Community Health Workers), paramedic assistants and regional supervisors – so that we create our tools with the feedback of relevant experts and the communities themselves.
I know I have so much to learn over the next few months, and indeed I think I’ll actually be learning a lot about how to learn. What’s great is that I think Friendship will be learning and capacity-building right along with me; it’s my humble goal to leave Friendship at least a smidgen better than I found it.
I also started to take Bangla classes at HEED Language Centre (link under “Bangladesh Info”), but chose to sit out for this month, as I’ll be in and out of Dhaka with trips to the field. I would recommend this center in Banani to anyone wanting to learn Bangla as my first few classes were great.
I will be leaving for the field for a while tomorrow! Wish me luck!