Bangladesh – February 14, 2013, Valentine’s day – Kushtia
Deni Goes to the Doctor
As most of you know, I was quite ill for several months before this trip. But things were under control, all was well, and off we went. I was feeling fine for a week and then the combination of lack of sleep, stress, and the dust/air pollution here got to me. I started the whole runny nose/cough cycle all over again. I still had some of the cough medication, which I used. And I have nasal spray that works like a champ. But after the cough stuff was gone, things went to hell in a hand basket. I was getting only four hours of sleep because I was coughing so much. So, yesterday, Alo took me to the doctor. This was quite a production. First she called her brother who works for a pharmaceutical company in Dhaka. He called two of his sales guys who work out of Kushtia. At 2:30 pm yesterday my rescue squad (pharma guys one and two), turned up in an actual car. Off we went to the hospital. From there on I felt like a five year-old who hasn’t a clue about what’s going on, but trusts that the adults do. We arrived at the best hospital in town. I don’t think it’s very old, but it’s already showing signs of having been rode hard and put away wet. The waiting rooms were crammed with families. After a very short wait, I was ushered in to see the doc. It was a little disconcerting ‘cause the pharma guys were lined up against the wall watching and listening. Then they left and it was just Alo, the doc, and me. He listened to my chest and took my blood pressure and temperature. He didn’t take a health history, although we did discuss the meds I had been taking for cough (Alo’s brother is trying to locate some of it in Dhaka – it’s a dandy little item) and my nasal spray. The doc told me what he would probably prescribe, but first I needed some tests. I had a blood test, chest x-ray, and an EKG!!! These are the same tests my doc gave me in Canby. Pharma guy one allowed that had I been a Bangladeshi I would not have had all those tests. But I was an American, and they were going to take good care of me. The equipment was bare bones, but the staff seemed to know what they were doing. My rescue squad ushered me from procedure to procedure, while all the folks in the waiting room watched my every move. I was the strangest thing they’d seen in a long while, apparently. After the tests were done, Alo, phrama guy one, and I returned to the school. We bid good-bye with much thanks to pharma guy one. Alo explained that pharma guy 2 was waiting for the doc to write up his report and the prescriptions, and then pharma guy 2 would bring me my meds. And so it came to pass. A couple of hours later here came pharma guy two with the report, multiple meds, and my x-ray!!! Guess what this all cost me? Absolutely nothing!! The pharmaceutical company footed the bill. I tried to pay and was told that it was what they wanted to do to show their respect and appreciation to us. It was so very sweet – they seemed to take it for a matter of course that this is what you do for guests. Everyone we’ve met so far is just overwhelmingly grateful that we have come to their country to help and to make friends.
And speaking of making friends – a man we met on the street who lived for six years in Boston and has a US passport has invited us to go to a festival at the university tomorrow. It’ to honor Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of education. I’m going to wear my new shalwar kameez, I think.
Many other celebrations are happening. Today is Valentine’s Day. As we greeted the children as they came to a school this morning, many of them presented us roses or glads. Sunday will be Sport Day at the school. Sack races, tests of balance, foot races – that sort of thing. The girls have been practicing walking with bottles of water balanced on their heads. Today the little ones were practicing running. Alo describes them as marbles because they sort of careen around all over the place. They are just too darn cute.
Over the last three days we’ve had a lot of activities and taken on more responsibilities here at the school. One of the newest teachers quit without notice over the weekend. She’s a trained pharmacist who hadn’t found a job in her field so took the teaching job in the interim as a one year commitment. So Monday we filled in doing some music and reading activities for one of the senior classes. Yesterday we took over three of the classes. Today it was made more permanent with a shift of duties with another teacher. I’m teaching science and agriculture to 6th and 7th graders and straight agriculture to 8th graders. The 8th graders will have a national exam at the end of the year on agriculture. So it’s a separate subject for them. These senior students all speak, read, and write good English. So having a teacher that doesn’t also speak Bangla works fine for them. It would not work with the younger students. We’ve done activities with 3rd through 5th graders. And most of them need help in understanding our English. We’re having to quickly assess what the students have already studied and what’s in the curriculum. In 6th grade there’s a total lack of agriculture books and there’s not a spare science book for us to use. It’s a brand new national curriculum and the government has not completed distribution of the books. Alo tells us the books are available online. She’s had a local print shop photocopy the books she’s got. So I’ll have to find them and print out the parts we need.
We’re finding a lot of resources among the students in the classes. In 7th and 8th grade there’s a student in each class that has a grandfather that has a farm. The remaining students are city kids. In 6th grade Ariyan grew up in the UK. He’s had a Western primary education. So he’s done the simple activities like growing a bean seed in the class. The rest of the students have not. So we’re starting the hands on activity by growing something. Then we’ll arrange for a farm visit and maybe a fisheries visit. I have many farm pictures with me, including pictures of Bangladesh farms I took when I was here in September. So we at least have those as a start. For the science we’re going to concentrate on plant morphology so learning about plants in science will go along with learning about growing plants in agriculture. I’ve started a journal of what we’re covering so we can give it to the regular science teacher when we leave so she has an idea of what we’ve covered.
We’ve had a chance to review some of the text books in use. These are all new. The English textbooks which go up through grade 5 are very good. There are varied activities and a lot of engaging material. They are much better than what we experienced in senior foreign language classes when we were in school. The texts even highlight the pronunciation differences between Bangla and English and give some simple exercises and chants like we’ve been doing. The problem is the local teachers aren’t native English speakers. So they are not using correct English pronunciation themselves. The promised audio and visual materials to go along with the texts are not yet available. So I’ve proposed that Deni and I record the short pronunciation differences section in each of the texts in our native English. Then Alo will have the recordings to help her teachers after we’ve gone.
The senior social studies, science, and agriculture texts are pretty hopeless. They were originally written in Bangla at a level about two grades too high. Then they were translated into “Banglish”. There are many errors in both spelling and grammar. A few of the sections are written well. Many sections are academic gibberish. For the 8th grade students this is material they will be tested on in their national exams at the end of the school year. So we’re forced to have them memorize the material that will show up on the test. All of the senior students are amazingly fast at memorizing material just by copying it in their copy books. By now they’ve had years of practice. We’re trying to supplement the material with a deeper understanding beyond the memorization. We’ll see how it works out by the time we leave.
We had our second after school session with the senior students yesterday. First we had one of the students tell us about his experiences living in Saudi Arabia. His family just returned to Bangladesh this last year. So he’s a new student in the school. Riboi brought some pictures of his home and surroundings there. Riboi has been very quiet and reluctant to speak up to this point. But we were able to draw him out some in this sharing session. We showed pictures of our safari with Jay and Ian in Kenya and Tanzania. The kids really like this. Then I did a short demo of using Google and Wikipedia to get information from the Internet. A couple of the kids have Internet access at home. Most do not. If they show an interest we’ll pursue Internet exploration some more. For starters and a finale we sing songs. All of the kids, young and older, really like ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It’ with the motions of clapping hands, stomping feet, and shouting Hurray! So I’m now leading it in their morning assembly where the younger kids can also begin learning it.
What remains is to schedule Deni in some regular activities with the intermediate level students of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade that involve movement, creative dramatics, and reading aloud. At this level the students still need some prompting in Bangla to understand conversational English. So this would be supplemental activity that reinforces the activities with natively spoken English.
Tomorrow it’s Hindu festivities. Saturday morning at 9:30 we’ve invited the senior students to Skype with Jay. Sunday is Sports Day. The practice sessions for the races have been intense. Deni even tried balancing a water bottle on her head today during practice. It’s clear she’s going to have to purchase some ribbon to affix the bottle to her head. She has no hope of keeping it upright. Maisha and Fatima are very good at it. I’ll join the sack races. Hopefully my old back won’t suffer. But the kids really like us to participate.
We’re having a good time. Deni’s finally getting more sleep so she can shake off her respiratory affliction. The invitations to attend adult get togethers keep rolling in. Next week we’ll be attending a wedding. We’re already getting booked for meetings with some of the university staff. Many of the parents are university lecturers, professors, or administrators. We meet some of them when they drop off their child at school. The kids arrive mostly in rickshaws, some are on the back of a motorbike. And a couple of them arrive in a passenger car. Plus there are the two SunUp “school buses”. It’s such a treat to be able to experience this.