DHAKA, BANGLADESH – october 28th to november 10th, 2014
Who would have thought that visiting the least developed country on my tour roster would find me not only riding in rickshaws, CNGs, visiting an old town, and ensuring I was always fully clothed and conservatively covered before leaving the house, but also dancing the night away at an expat Halloween bash, dining in beautiful restaurants serving anything from Indian to Thai to Mediterranean, swimming in the pool at the American Club, helping my good friend/host throw a surprise birthday party, having a music jam on the rooftop overlooking the city at night where we would later film the music video, and, last but not least, meeting an incredible, incredible man. (Yep, he warrants saying “incredible” twice.)
Never would I have imagined this range of experiences and beautiful unfoldings prior to arriving in Dhaka.
Still processing it all.
So, where to begin? Let’s start with the obvious cultural difference:
(1) CLOTHING – Okay, to be perfectly honest, I felt, physically, kind of disgusting for the better part of my stay in Dhaka. I was sweating constantly having to wear so many layers of loose fitting clothing and scarves just to walk outside. The attire was necessary to respect their cultural customs for women. I had no reservations about paying this respect, but at the same time I had a strong distaste for the fact that it IS a custom for all women there.
(2) “A WESTERNER” – There is no mistaking that I am a westerner in a country like Bangladesh. The proof was in the stares. Actually, I noticed this even in Japan, too, but I think people there tended to be a bit more conditioned into self-awareness by making a point to not stare too long so as not to appear rude (my assertion) – influenced by a sort of ‘culture of politeness’ that I experienced there. But in Dhaka, once someone started staring, I feel like their gaze kept intensifying until I actually left their sight. I experienced this from both men and women, and mostly interpreted it as curiosity. I never felt unsafe in these moments or while walking around Dhaka. I found local people, generally, to be very kind. The only other obvious difference in interaction was with regard to cost of goods and services. Much like in Thailand, because they knew I was a westerner they would always try to overcharge me for everything from rickshaw rides to fruits and vegetables.
(3) FOOD AND HEALTH – This feels miraculous to say that I never once came down with any sort of stomach bug or sickness while in Dhaka. I am still in disbelief about this, but feel really thankful for it! I think this could be attributed to a few things: first, I take a greens powder in water every morning upon waking, then I take 3 digestive enzyme capsules with breakfast and other vitamins. Lastly, during most of my time in Dhaka, I was staying in my friend’s apartment so I was able to COOK! I went to the supermarket about every other day and made dishes like dal, chana masala, and fried rice. These dishes were very easy to find spices for in Dhaka! I think eating at home more than out on the town also kept my digestive tract happy and healthy.
(4) MUSIC VIDEO SHOOT – My good friend and stellar dancer from Seattle, Ty Alexander Cheng, is currently on a year residency in Dhaka as the lighting technician and designer for the American International School. He agreed to be a part of my project, graciously hosted me, and gave of his time to welcome me into his community there. On my last full day in Dhaka, we went up to the apartment rooftop to film material for the making of “Music of HumanKind.” It was such a beautiful experience and I am thrilled to be able to include Ty’s powerful dancing and presence in the video.
(5) OH, HELLO, LOVE – I feel Love as a very expansive, shared experience across my relationships of all expressions. In Dhaka, I felt a lot of Love: Love in the form of connection with my inner contentment, in the form of making new friends, and in deepening my current friendship with Ty. Oh, yes, and perhaps most potently through an unexpected romantic connection with an incredible man. In reminiscing, I think it is both the strangest and loveliest feeling all at once, to connect so briefly yet with such depth. It was SO hard to leave on my last morning. On the plane, I played some music and gazed out the window, feeling the pull of something beautiful and new. As the plane ascended into the clouds, tears trickled down my cheeks from under my shades. I was sad, but smiled deeply, feeling so grateful, amazed, and appreciative. I shared such a short period of time with this man, but it was so joyful and centering to Be together. We spent the better part of my second week reminiscing about shared childhood experiences, from music artists to video games – so nostalgic and so much fun! We also shared in some live music jams. This lovely man plays guitar, cajon, and sings beautifully. I feel so blessed to have met him. He inspires me to bask in the unknown, in the mystery, and in the magic of living with an open heart.
Two weeks felt far too short, though had I stayed a week or two longer, I’m sure the departure would have been just as challenging. The feeling brings up a great opportunity to practice non attachment. I remind myself every day that I am the constant amidst such a rapidly changing travel landscape. But, still, there is such an immense beauty in the desire to stay in touch – to continue to cultivate connections with those people who, after miraculously waltzing into our lives, seem as though they’ve always been there. In these situations, the desire is not from a place of lack but from a place of pure joy, intrigue, and discovery. Or maybe it’s a magnetism that goes beyond words. I’m not sure. Instead of trying to utilize more words to ponder it, I’ll just stop here and let it be a part of the mystery…
I feel very grateful.
Onto the Next:
Country #5 is Finland.
Thanks for reading!