Bangladesh Travel Diary: Eating Bangla Style 

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 adventures and challenges faced when living Asia.. 

One of the biggest cultural differences to  the UK is the food. Bangladeshi’s eat rice for every meal of the day and often don’t feel full until they’ve eaten rice. 

As a fan of rice I wasn’t apprehensive about my new diet but after two months I can confidently say I am now 80% rice. And here in Bangladesh the only dessert we have been served is rice pudding! As an owner of a very sweet tooth this has been the hardest thing to adjust to food wise, I am especially missing cheesecake. 

Delivering first aid training.

We have been working incredibly hard delivering important workshops to those living in rural Bangladesh. As these communities are often cut off from main cities these workshops provide the residents with vital information about health and social issues affecting their villages. So yesterday after a long days work and planning for future projects in our community we decided to have a Bangla Style BBQ to celebrate our hard work so far. 

It was a brilliant experience as I got to cook and see first hand how the meat is killed (!) and prepared. I think it’s incredibly important to avoid burying your head in the sand when it comes to where your food comes from. 

I got to peel potatoes and make the roti (round flatbread) although our resident chef tried to subtly fix all my attempts. 

We ended up pouring a bit too much fuel on the fire; it was more reminiscent of a bonfire than a BBQ. We had a long wait for it to die down so we didn’t loose our eyebrows turning the chicken. But we did end up with a delicious meal of chicken, garlic potatoes and roti under the night sky filled with stars. There was no rice in sight and we all went to bed full! Although I did look forward to rice for breakfast.. 

Bangladesh Travel Diary: My Very First Bangladeshi Wedding! 

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 adventures and challenges faced when living Asia..

We were very lucky to be invited to our very first Bangladeshi wedding. A friend of one of our Bangladesh-based team members was getting married and we were invited to the reception.

We were a bit like deers caught in headlights given just 24 hours notice. Us girls scrambled to wash our nicest shalwar kameez and the boys were trying to get the creases out their smartest shirts with no iron available.

On the way we rushed to the market to buy a gift, unsure of what you buy for a Bangladesh wedding we went with buying the stereotypical wedding gift of crockery.
One slight problem- the market path was muddy. By the time we had bought the gift my feet and flip-flops were caked in mud, not quite the first impression I was going for.
We were quite worried that it would look weird; 6 (very pale) foreigners turning up to a wedding of people we have never met. We thought we would stick out like sore thumbs. But it turns out an extra 6 people didn’t make a difference considering there were 1200 people invited! And even more people had turned up. The invites are done by invitation and word of mouth. The wedding was based in the fields surrounding the couples house.

The first marquee

There were several marquees, the first one you sit under waiting for your turn to enter the house and meet the bride. She was very beautiful and surrounded by her female family members, managing a small smile at all the guests, although she was sitting down for so long she must have had a very numb bum. As it was so busy we didn’t stay too long and headed for the best marquee.. the food. It was incredible, although we aren’t meant to eat food cooked for us by people other than our chefs we got into the wedding spirit and devoured rice, chicken and beef.

You can see our fear of imminent food poisoning..

We stayed for a while exchanging what little Bangla we know but decided to head home and let the people who actually know the couple enjoy the night. Overall I am glad and very grateful at how welcoming everybody was and that we got to experience the wedding reception. It’s a lot to get your head around as it was an arranged marriage and the couple have only been speaking on the phone for 2 months before getting married yesterday. I can’t even comprehend marrying someone I’ve only known 2 months. But that it why experiencing different cultures first hand is great-going to the wedding dispelled a lot of myths in my head and has made me curious to learn more.

Not all fun and games. We came home to a mouse in our room so have created this DIY mousetrap. Update: this was last night, there is no mouse in the trap and all our snacks have been taken.

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Roadtrip Views 

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 adventures and challenges faced when living Asia.. 

We recently took a trip to the nearest big city. It turned into a long trip as we were stuck in traffic for what felt like a lifetime. But it gave plenty of opportunity to look out the window and photograph the people who use these busy, unfinished roads everyday..

As the tallest member of the team I get first dibs on the back seat

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Riverside Hikes 

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 adventures and challenges faced when  living Asia.. 

Bangladesh is home to the worlds longest natural beach; the Coxs Bazaar. As I am currently based in landlocked Northern Bangladesh I haven’t had a chance to visit the Beach yet. But here in the north we are spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful rivers. 

The Team

After a hard days work the teams’ favourite way to unwind is a sunset walk or hike along the edge of one of the many rivers. Unlike most rivers in England the rivers here don’t have a footpath, you can either walk along the sand or in the river itself- whilst being careful of the quicksand! We have almost lost 5 flip-flops and a team member to quicksand. 

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Reaching the Indian Border 

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

For the past 48 hours we have have been in the centre of a unexpected tropical storm. To keep safe we stayed in our rooms due the high winds and non-stop heavy rain was causing coconuts and branches to fall from trees. The storm also caused a power cut for the whole town and all the surrounding villages so we have been living in the dark using candles for light. But thankfully this morning we woke up to blaring sunshine drying out the sodden ground and the electricity was back on  so we can charge our phones and write some blogs! 

Before the storm hit I had one of the best days in Bangladesh yet. It started off with a very bumpy hour long rickshaw journey to the far north of Bangladesh. We jumped out and headed to a school which the NGO we’re working for funds. They had asked to meet us while we are here in Bangladesh and put on a great welcome with all the kids running out the classroom when they saw us. We played loads of games with them, received a lot high-fives and gave out snacks before bidding farewell. 

We then headed further north towards a wooded area. We weaved our way through truly beautiful paths which guided us through forests and incredibly clear streams. And after a stunning 30 minute walk we reached what we were there for: the Indian border. 

Police on the Indian-Bangladesh Border

The border is made up of mountains, trees and white flags showing there’s no conflict between the two countries. Nowadays the word ‘border’ often conjures up negative connotations but here the border was nothing but a calm green landscape with no one around apart from two houses and the odd farmer. 

We stayed as long as we could in the midday heat before heading back to the rickshaws waiting for us with the snacks we accidentally left behind. On the way back we had to cross a stream. We all slid our flip-flops off and made the short 3 metre journey across- apart from our police escorts who were weighed down by the their big leather boots. But rather than inelegantly sitting down in the mud to take them off, they asked for piggy backs..  

My laughter soon turned to concern as I noticed a leech had made my leg home. Without thinking I grabbed it and tried to pull it off but it dug in further and further. After a couple of minutes I managed to pull it off along with a bit of blood. Luckily it looked worse than it was as the pain soon wore off and I forgot all about it. And anyway it was all worth it for the view.. 

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Getting Complacent 

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

We have been living in Bangladesh for well over a month now and complacency has begun to creep in. We all feel really safe in the town we are based in and we always see familiar faces on our day trips around the local villages.

A community workshop

Eating with our hands no longer feels odd and I actually look forward to eating rice everyday. Same with wearing a scarf, it’s now second nature to grab a scarf and my water bottle on the way out my room.

A cow that wandered into our garden a few days ago and hasn’t left since

But last week we realised we have to stop taking things for granted. One morning, before heading off to lead workshops, my roommate fainted in the bathroom. Luckily she managed to unlock the door as she was fainting. We later found out it was due to a lack of iron in her blood the effects of an infected insect bite. She is now on a cycle of antibiotics and recovering with lots of rest. It was a stark reminder our bodies aren’t used to the carb-heavy diet and insect bites can cause serious complications.
A few times a week we visit our local market to buy fruit, fizzy drinks and snacks that slightly resemble the ones we’re used to back home. Another team member was over the moon to bag herself the last bottle of Sprite being kept in the shops fridge. But her joy was short lived when she opened the bottle back at home and didn’t hear a fizz. She was sold plain, still water that had been poured into the Sprite bottle. And just to rub salt into the wound the local water here makes us sick so she can’t even drink it.

The culprit

One of our favourite hobbies is shopping around the market for fabric, designing new outfits and then taking them to our onsite tailor. But this week everything got so lost in translation that I have ended up with a brown-leafed patterned top, with a pocket, buttons and a collar that I didn’t ask for. The outcome is so bad that the baggy top I intended to wear around the compound and relax in is now too embarrassing to even wear as a pyjama top.

My new traditional dresses

My newly recovered roommate showing off the fashion disaster

But as with all things in Bangladesh there is always something positive around the corner; I have now received two really nice dresses from the tailor and my roommate recovered enough to join us at a workshop-the best one we’ve ever done. And this week is due to be a great one including a visit to the Indian border.

Bangladesh Travel Diary: ‘Is That a Mouse?’

I am currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. I am also having fun documenting all our travels and adventures, follow my blog to keep updated with the ups and downs of living in such a beautiful yet challenging country..

Living out here in rural Bangladesh there is never a dull moment. Especially when you live surrounded by cows, goats, pigs, dogs, chickens and cats. 

Despite being in denial for a long time me and my roommates have finally admitted that not only do we have a mouse in our room, it is also eating all our snacks during the night then pooping on my roommates clothes. We have never seen said mouse but have heard it scurrying around during the day, until the other night..

I awoke at 5am to what sounded like one of my roommates walking around in coat. But no, the noise was coming from a (supposedly) empty plastic bag hanging of the end of my bed. I froze-still wondering what on earth could be in there until it dawned on me, that bloody mouse. I lay in bed until I though it was an appropriate time to wake up my roommate to remove the mouse. As much as I don’t have a phobia of mice I’m not touching one. After listening to it trying to escape for 45 minutes I woke up my roommate at 5.45am. 

But I had made an amateur mistake. By using a torch to get out my bed the mouse used the light to find a way out the bag so I woke everyone up to look in an empty bag filled with mouse droppings. Long story short that was 4 days ago, we have not seen it since but it still eats all our snacks. 

Our compound cat called ‘Angel’, ironically named as she is Satan in disguise-we’re hoping she will take care of the mouse.

As cute as they are, baby animals always cause the biggest distractions. Deep into brainstorming for a youth group workshop we were interrupted by a baby goat walking into our training room crying for its mum. After trying and failing to usher it out, it was getting more and more distressed. So we had to pick it up, carry it like a baby and walk around the village looking for its mum. We managed to reunite them in what was just another normal day in Bangladesh. 

Angel’s kitten who follows my roommates Emily’s feet 24/7

The animal troubles don’t stop when we deliver the workshops either, hiding from the rain we had to deliver our latest workshop in the front porch of a very generous woman’s house. Halfway through I felt something nibbling my thighs -a goat. I then moved out the goats way only to have to duck out the way of their 7 pet pigeons flying ridiculously close to my head. But as much as the animals hinder rather than help we wouldn’t have it any other way. .

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Makeshift Monopoly and Police Escorts 

I am currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. I am also having fun documenting all our travels and adventures, follow my blog to keep updated with the ups and downs of living in such a beautiful yet challenging country..

The last few weeks have all been leading up to us hitting the ground running with our community workshops. On Friday we delivered our first workshops based on health and social issues within the area. They went very smoothly and were received really well by the local youth. 

Leading a workshop

We have been working extremely hard 6 days a week every week,but there is also time for exploring the area, letting our hair down and enjoying ourselves..

As most of my friends back home will testify I am no fashionista. But along with the rest of the team I really enjoyed browsing the market for fabrics, designing our own clothes and then taking these designs to our onsite tailors. Already having a blue and red traditional Bangladesh dress I have opted for some green fabric for a dress, a brown leafed patterned fabric to make a top and I finished of my purchases with a very bold choice. A red and black Jackson Pollock-like abstract fabric. I have no idea how my designs will come to life, they are currently in the tailors’ trusted hands, but I will keep you updated. 

During the week we were invited to watch the cup-final of a local football tournament. Weighed down with our cameras, lots of water and snacks we headed out on the half an hour walk to the pitch. As it was a local tournament we weren’t expecting too many people. But it turns out the whole male population of the village came out in support of the youngsters playing. 

Although I’ve watched many football matches this was a very unique experience. We sat quite literally on the dug-out sidelines hoping not to get hit the face by a ball or stray foot. The pitch was slightly wonky and the crowd moved around the pitch in sync with the sun so they didn’t get too hot. 

Considering it was an important cup final the referee was very relaxed when it came to regulation football kit. One team had their own yellow kit (except one guy who forgot his and played in green) and the other played in the Barcelona home kit. Sitting at boot level it was also very noticeable how few players wore shin pads. But all this being said the atmosphere was great and everyone enthusiastically cheered every time a goal was scored. 
Due to being foreigners and (most likely) our police escort more people were watching us than the game so we headed home at half time. 

We returned home to find the housekeepings’ team answer to our bed bug problem: just put the mattresses on the roof for a bit.

To keep us occupied in the evenings we have focused all our creative energy into making a personalised Bangladesh-style monopoly board. The chance cards include buying new fabric after getting caught in the rain and having to use a squat toilet due to just too much spicy rice. With a storm expected to roll in we are all looking forward to playing our makeshift monopoly. 

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Adapting to the Flooding 

I am currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. I am also having fun documenting all our travels and adventures, follow my blog to keep updated with the ups and downs of living in such a beautiful yet challenging country..

We arrived a month ago into Bangladesh just as it was getting to grips with the flooding that has devastated so many areas of South East Asia. Since arriving it has always been in our minds to contribute to the relief effort but our focus has had to be on the job we are here for. 

But on Saturday, our first day off in a long time, our plans came to fruition. Surrounded by bags, dried dal, hydration sachets and rice we began packing. It only took a couple of hours to get hundreds of bags packed. 

On Sunday we awoke to hundreds of people lining up outside our compound to collect a bag for them and their family. Although it doesn’t come close to solving the flooding crisis it does contribute to those affected staying healthy as they begin to rebuild their homes and businesses. 

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Organised Chaos 

I am currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of  community workers. I am also having fun documenting all our travels and adventures, follow my blog to keep updated with the ups and downs of living in such a beautiful yet challenging country..

                    Organised Chaos 

Here in Bangladesh it is currently Durga Puja, a Hindu festival taking place over four nights. Although only around 9% of Bangladesh’s population is Hindu all faiths are invited to join in with the celebrations. 

So on Thursday night we all got dressed up in our traditional dresses and headed for the festival. The festival takes place in all the temples along the main road in the centre of the district. Hundreds of people from all the nearby villages came to celebrate and worked their way along the temples. 

The first temple we went to was showing a Hindi film, we got escorted to the main seating area, only problem being this was women only, so the only boy in our group had to stand outside with a police escort. After trying to pick out some words we’ve learnt while watching the film and avoiding a mass of mosquitoes we decided to walk along the colourfully lit road and discover another temple. 

We were attracted to one with bright lights, live music and dancers. As we approached to see if there was a spare seat one of the organisers made everybody move of a bench so we could sit down, very embarrassing. Then if anyone obstructed our view of the dancing he escorted them out. The music was brilliant, if a little out of time, but very enthusiastic and the dancers were in a trance-like state worshipping their god. It was an excellent experience although there was no need for us to be made last-minute guests of honour just because we’re foreigners. 

After having some night-time tea at the market we headed back. But we arrived home to darkness, the festival was using so much electricity it had used all of the surrounding villages supply. Our generator couldn’t even power a single lightbulb. So we showered and brushed our teeth in darkness and went to bed listening to the blaring Hindi beats not too far away. It had been great to see a different side to the villages at night and everyone enjoying themselves. 
This weekend the compound I’m staying in is hosting the annual general meeting of the NGO I am working for. With lots of important people arriving a culture show was organised to welcome them. We were very honoured to also be invited. Starting at 6pm we headed over at 5.50pm to get good seats. No need, we were the first to arrive-seems like everyone knew something we didn’t. The show started promptly at 7pm (Turns out this is known as Bangla time-no one ever arrives on time or acknowledges their lateness). But it was worth the wait, we were treated to traditional singing, dancing and an epic keyboard/flute duet. Everyone was dressed in their traditional tribal clothes and headdresses. And it was great for me personally as some of the young people I’ve been working with were taking part. 

After the show we had dinner and headed to bed for some much needed rest, it’s been a fully-packed couple of days. And the one thing I have been struggling with here in Bangladesh is getting up for breakfast at 8am everyday, I am often the last of my group to stagger into the dining hall. So with my (very comfy) festive pj’s on and having not even looked in the mirror the next morning I headed out for breakfast. As I entered the room and lifted my head I realised we had been joined by 5 of the NGO’s leaders who were all sat with us, dressed as smartly as you can in 30 degree heat. Thankfully as I left my room I had grabbed a scarf and thrown it round my neck so I would’t be considered disrespectful, I was still woefully underdressed. With the leaders appetites much bigger than ours there wasn’t a lot of food left, turns out my roommate came up with a genius plan. All was revealed when we got back to our room, she had stored a couple of roti (delicious flatbread) in her scarf, our mid-morning snack was sorted.