Back in the UK & Photographing Brighton Pier

When I was first told about reverse culture shock I naively thought I would be immune because I ‘ve traveled so much before.   But here I am back in the UK missing using a squat toilet and eating rice 3 times a day. Maybe it’s because for the first time I was based in the same place for an extensive amount of time and became completely immersed in the culture and felt fully at home.

Too try and break out of my culture shock I headed to my hometown of Brighton with my Olympus MJU and a roll of Agfa 35mm film. As a camera it can  be temperamental as it has no manual features whatsoever but for a day of wandering and photographing it was perfect.

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How to Prepare for Travelling in a Developing Country

Since moving back to the UK from Bangladesh lots of people have asked me what its like to live and travel in a developing country. So I thought I’d put together a handy little guide of tips and tricks I learnt during my time.

1.Have realistic expectations

Doing some research is a great way to set some realistic expectations and get excited for the country your visiting. For me hygiene is the biggest cause of concern, so before flying out to Bangladesh I made sure I prepared myself for having to use squat toilets  that are often found outside.

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2. Learn the Language 

Don’t assume people will speak English, especially if you are visiting rural areas in a developing country. I have never had an ear for languages but having daily language lessons really helped me get my head around bengali and got me out of some tough situations including getting detained by immigration! It is also a great way of making connections with locals.

3.  Be Wary of Food

Trying new food is one of my favourite things to do when i’m travelling. BUT this is also one of the most common causes of illness when in a foreign country. Although its hard, avoiding street food can be a great help in avoiding food poisoning  along with making sure you only eat food that has been peeled or cooked.

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4.Be Money Conscious 

When your in a developing country your money will often go further than at home. For example, in Bangladesh buying tea and cake for my whole team (10 people) came to $1.34. But when things are cheaper than at home don’t let the locals hear your surprise/happiness at the price, this can often cause offence and the price to rise next time your at the market!

5.Prepare for the Worst

The likelihood of anything bad happening is so slim and shouldn’t worry you, but do be prepared. From having a first aid kit with you to knowing the embassy number and having travel insurance. When it comes to reviewing your best travel options I have found reviews.com really helpful especially their travel insurance guides reviews.com/travel-insurance/   .

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Reviews.com top 4 travel insurance’s

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 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: 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..