Walking 800Km! (Camino De Santiago)

In Bangladesh, less than 31% of women have a secondary school education and around 45% are illiterate.

I first met Monita in 2017 whilst I was living in Northern Bangladesh as a community worker. Due to Monita being so kind and welcoming we became fast friends. We travelled around rural communities delivering health and social workshops. We created the workshops together whilst Monita also taught me Bangla so we could be as effective team as possible.

40853360_1564043829473832_r.jpeg                                                         Monita and I delivering a workshop on women’s health 

Since I left Bangladesh Monita has carried on this great work and continues to work as a school tutor to support her mother and younger siblings. Monita has recently passed all her exams and has applied to university to become a nurse. But this costs money that she does not have.

40853360_1564043922993043_r.jpeg                                            Monita leading a workshop on her own after I left Bangladesh

So…I will be walking 800km along the Camino De Santiago from 21st August to 25th September 2019 to raise money for Monita’s Nursing Degree. The degree costs around £1500 and any money raised above this target will go towards food and shelter for her mother and younger siblings who are dependent on Monita. If you want to help, no matter how big or small, please follow this link https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-monita-become-a-nurse-for-her-community

Thank You!

40853360_1564044120327552_r.jpeg                                                                         Monita demonstrating how to do CPR 

Bangladesh In 35mm + A Magazine Feature!

Having lived in Bangladesh for four months one of the things I was most excited about when I returned home was to get all my films developed (and seeing my family..).  I am very happy to finally share the images with you which have been featured on Huck Magazine. Hit the Link to see the article!

 

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A Bangladesh Travelogue

I have spent the last 3 days putting together a video of my time in Bangladesh, and then holding back the tears every time my laptop decided to restart itself (at least 10 times!) but here it is, I hope you enjoy it and it gives a small glimpse into the amazing landscapes and people you’ll find in Bangladesh:

 

Bangladesh Travel Summary

After almost 4 months my time travelling and working as a community worker in Bangladesh has come to an end. I have met friends for life and am already planning my return to the complicated yet beautiful country.

Coming back to the UK has provided some shocks; my first warm shower in over 3 months, not sleeping underneath a mosquito net or using a squat toilet and eating with cutlery!  Although I oddly miss using a squat toilet..

To put my experience into perspective I have put together some facts and figures:

-Flip-Flops Lost: 3 

-Weight Lost: 1 Stone

-Hospital Stays: 1

-Rickshaw Rides: 70

-Homemade Monopoly Boards: 1

-Mice Found in Bedroom: 3

-Power Cuts: 200

-Tea Breaks: 300+

-Average Temperature: 28 Degree’s

I am currently in the process of putting together a video documenting my time and developing 7 rolls of 35mm film, but for now, here are my favourite digital photos I shot during my time in the must-see country:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Being Detained by Immigration Police

The day I’ve been dreading finally arrived- flying back home to the UK. I have fallen in love with the culture of Bangladesh and have made some great friends who I am very sad to be leaving behind. But I do believe once one adventure ends the next one begins and I will definitely return to Bangladesh in the future.

So after saying long goodbyes me and the rest of my team headed for the airport. We arrived 2 hours early and checked our bags in no problem. The airport wasn’t too busy and we were all looking forward to spending our leftover change on some snacks for the 14 hour journey.

The distance between Heathrow and Dhaka airport.

We headed through immigration thinking we would be there for a matter of seconds while they stamped our passports. But when I handed mine over it became very clear very quickly there was a problem. The guard called over 3 other guards and there was a lot of discussion.  Without saying anything in English they then escorted our whole group to a room filled with more guards. After 5 minutes an english-speaking police officer arrived to explain we had outstayed our visa’s. This was a complete shock to us as our visa’s said they expired on the day we were leaving. It turns out you have to leave before that date, not on it. The next shock came when they demanded 58,000 taka (around $700). Having exchanged all our money back to english pounds and packed it in our suitcases we had no money on us.

After explaining this they said they would ask their boss if they could either lower the fine or let it go. After an anxious 5 minute wait the guard came back and in perfect english said ‘No mercy’. We quickly made the decision to call our colleague who had dropped us off at the airport to come back. After half an hour we managed to meet up with him, and he had been in contact with our NGO who said they would pay the fine on our behalf as it was their mistake. But another problem was that half the money they provided was english pounds so we had to race to get it exchanged as they refused to accept pounds.

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Exchanging the money 

After what felt like a lifetime the money was exchanged, handed over and documents were filed. But we now had only 20 minutes till our flight, so after this catastrophe we were then escorted by police onto the plane- lets just say we got some very odd/suspicious looks from the other passengers. Thankfully the rest of the journey was less eventful and we landed safely in London…

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Bangladesh Travel Diary: Riding Motorcycles to India

I’m currently here living in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. Follow me over on Instagram (@madisonbeachphotos) and here on this blog to keep updated with my adventures exploring this beautiful country..

As with a lot of things in life it’s not what you know it’s who you know. Since living in Bangladesh I have already met some brilliant people and made some great friends. And recently two of my friends, Dipo and Bunty, offered to show me and my work friends the beautiful Bangladesh landscape in a whole new way; by motorcycle.

It was great to experience the country in the way locals do, all whilst rocking some very fashionable face masks to avoid our faces being caked in dust.

Dipo and Bunty wanted to surprise us with where we were going; it was an hours ride along roads, through forests and up mountains. And boy, was the view worth the numb bum…

After a small climb we reached the summit, we overlooked a stunning, winding river. After numerous group photos we made our way down to the river. One side of the riverbank was Bangladesh and the other, India. It was heavily policed by border guards but they were all very friendly and smiley and didn’t mind us wandering along the border.

As the sun began to hide behind the mountains we boarded the bikes again and watched the sun set as we rode back through the fields and villages home.

Bangladesh Travel Diary: A Most Perfect Morning

I’m currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. Follow me over on Instagram (@madisonbeachphotos) and here on this blog to keep updated with my adventures exploring this beautiful country..

Yesterday morning was one I couldn’t imagine going better. It started with a boat ride along our local river followed by a rickshaw journey into the hills of the India/Bangladesh border. We walked for miles through green, luscious forests climbing up muddy paths to get the best views (and group photos).

We then visited a church on top of a hill overlooking a long river and the Indian mountains. At the top of the hill (small mountain) we found the churches’ Peace Room, a room precariously perched on the edge where church visitors can take rest after climbing the hill and look down at the light-blue winding river. The room is normally only allowed to be used by church goers but after a couple of phone calls a super friendly local ran up the hill to open it for us. It was a great time to sit down and reflect on what we have achieved as a team in Bangladesh (including our lovely police escorts who live and travel with us). It was also the perfect bird viewing platform- we spotted two eagles and a hawk.

The Peace Room:

Visiting beautiful churches and taking photos of mountains is thirsty work so we headed to the nearest tea shack. Once again the Bangladeshi’s showed how great they are at hospitality, moving the tables and chairs so we could all sit together and watch the randomly placed small tv in the corner of the room. There was about 10 other people dotted around, all watching this tiny tv, in a tea shack in the middle of nowhere on the Indian border. They were watching a slapstick comedy and everybody was in stitches. It was so lovely to see no matter how rural the village, the communities always create space for everyone to gather and enjoy each others company.

After tea (or cha as it’s known locally) we jumped back in the rickshaw and went back to my favourite place of all: The China Clay Hills. As they stretch as far as you can see we explored different lakes to the last time we were there. Our adventuring took us to the top of a rocky hill which provided us with the most stunning views. But reality hit us hard when we realised we had to get down from this rocky, unstable hill wearing our much loved yet rather-useless-in-this-situation flip flops. Long story short, the whole team ended up holding hands in a chain, slipping and sliding our way down. We ended up at the bottom of the hill sweaty and sunburnt but with our bellys hurting from laughing so much. No matter where you are there is always an adventure around the corner in Bangladesh..

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Living with a Tribe

I’m currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. Follow me over on Instagram (@madisonbeachphotos) and here on this blog to keep updated with the ups and downs of living in such a beautiful yet challenging country..

For the last 3 months I have been living and working with members of the Garo tribe. Mainly residing in Northern Bangladesh and following the Christian faith the Garo are an extremely welcoming and friendly tribe living in the 21st century. Over the last few months I have got to know members of the tribe and this week I was lucky enough to be invited to visit the Garo Cultural Academy of Bangladesh.

The Garo cultural academy:

A scale model of a Garo traditional tree-house which would house an entire family:

The tribe’s roots date back to 400BC and although they are extremely proud of their past and traditions such as the mothers name being passed on and the man living in the wife’s home, they have adapted to fit-in with modern Bangladesh wearing modern clothes, using new technology and getting jobs outside of agriculture. The tribe also get special privileges from the government to honour their past, they have different property laws and although alcohol is illegal in Bangladesh for everyone, the Garo community are allowed to both make and drink alcohol. Having got friendly with the tribe these special privileges have been extended to us..the vodka is 65% alcohol and the rice wine goes off after a day as it’s so strong and fresh- it had led to some interesting nights of bonding with my team mates!

Four members of my team are Garo and have treated us to Garo food (not for the faint hearted-very spicy) and traditional dances in full Garo outfits (a lot of feathers and colour). The community is incredibly strong and everyone looks out for one another. I am very privileged to have experienced their culture first hand and been invited to their homes to meet their Families. No matter what we are doing; going for walks, leading workshops or drinking tea at the market my diverse team made up of Muslim’s, Hindu’s and Christian’s along with the Garo rival members are always having fun, planning adventures and taking way too many group photos…

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Finding Paradise

I’m currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. Follow me over on Instagram (@madisonbeachphotos) and here on this blog to keep updated with the ups and downs of living in such a beautiful yet challenging country..

Growing up I never thought paradise could be found at school; as much I value education hugely I spent most of my days at school waiting for the bell to ring to signal it was the end of the day.

But here in Bangladesh I had the privilege of being invited to visit a prestigious boarding school on the edge of the Indian border. Usually outsiders are never allowed in- your child has to go to the school for you to be allowed a visitors pass. But one of my Bangladeshi team members parents run the school and invited us to visit.

It was an hour long rickshaw journey and short boat trip to reach the walled gardens of the school. Students take turns and great pride in guarding the entrance. We were let in by a boy no older than 12.

We then had a guided tour around the grounds. It was a beauty I have never seen before, I felt like I was on a film set of a children’s film. Students in uniform were enjoying the sun and playing games around the campus. They have 700 students who live and study on sight surrounded by palm tree’s and rivers. They also have their own snack shop, clinic and guests houses.

We were the invited in for snacks at the headmasters living quarters. It reminded me of holiday homes in Spain. It is the most luxury I have seen since coming to Bangladesh two months ago, but the headmaster was nothing but welcoming and humble.

Near the school we had heard there are beautiful, cinematic clay hills. So on the way back we took a detour- and boy was it worth it.

The hills go on for miles creating another film set-like landscape. Group photos were a plenty as we tried not to fall in. I have never seen colours like it; pink clay, orange dust and teal water.

As we stood at the top of the hills, to the South we could look across Bangladesh’s green fields and forests while to the north we could see hundreds of mountains stretching into India. A day I won’t ever forget.

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Being Ill in a 3rd World Country 

I’m currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. Follow me over on Instagram (@madisonbeachphotos) and here on this blog to keep updated with the ups and downs of living in such a beautiful yet challenging country..

Coming to Bangladesh we expected that the new food and climate would at some point make us ill; nothing some sleep and antibiotics wouldn’t cure. But none of us predicted what happened at the end of October. On the very same day 5 members of the team including myself starting feeling odd but couldn’t put our finger on what was wrong. Then slowly but surely one by one we became worse; diarrhoea, sickness, nausea and headaches.

We first made a trip to our local village clinic. Despite obviously having the same problem the doctor prescribed us all with different medicines. A quick google afterwards showed that half our medicines didn’t relate at all to our symptoms. Something you have to be careful with as a foreigner, as our insurance pays for all the medicine they will prescribe as much as possible.

Over the coming days the group quickly declined and the decision was made to go to Dhaka. As we were so ill the organiser of the transport said we would go the ‘quick’ route. He failed to mention this included an incredibly painfully bumpy 10km rickshaw journey and that the rickshaw journey would end at the edge of a river where we would have to board a boat. To say we were unprepared to be in public boarding a boat was an understatement. We were all in pyjamas, wearing socks with flip-flops clinging to pillows and blankets. Thankfully the wobbly boat journey was a short one and there was just a short wait for our van to arrive the other side.

Despite being assured that the ‘quick’ route would take just 4 hours, 7 hours later we were stuck in traffic nowhere near Dhaka. Although light relief was provided when Hannah, sleeping at back of the van, sat up having had a life epiphany, unfortunately her joy was short lived when she had to grab a sick bag.

Hannah pre-epiphany

We arrived at the Hospital 10 hours after setting off. As the main hospital was now closed we had to go to A&E. We explained our symptoms were all the same and started at the same time but things appeared to get lost in translation. Along with two other team members I was hastily put in a hospital bed while the remaining two members were escorted upstairs to a waiting room. It was all a bit surreal, ironically my roommate from the village, Emily, was put in the bed next to me; we managed to keep each other sane as they put us on drips.

Halfway through the receiving the drips a women was wheeled into the ward. It became very clear very quickly why she was there: she was giving birth. At home I can’t even watch the end of One Born Every Minute and yet here I was 3 metres away from a women giving birth with just a curtain between us.

By the time I had finished the drip there was a healthy baby boy in the corner of the room being weighed by the nurses.

Not looking my best but celebrating the birth of a healthy baby amongst the chaos

After 4 hours the 3 of us on drips were all discharged and given medicine to deal with our symptoms, it turns out the doctors here aren’t very keen on spending time working out the diagnosis they just give you the medicine. It took me two more visits and an overnight stay in the hospital to get a diagnosis. They found an infection in my blood, most likely caused by food poisoning. We then spent 3 long days in a compound in Dhaka starting our various courses of antibiotics, resting and eating. We are now very happy to be back in north Bangladesh in the village we call home surrounded by beautiful landscapes and reunited with our team. Hopefully the next time any of us will be in Dhaka will be when we’re flying home.

It wasn’t all bad at the hospital..