Before we joined the Foreign Service, I didn’t know very much about Bangladesh. Thanks to my background in public health, I knew there was a problem with cholera which the international aid community tried to solved by drilling wells, only to give everyone arsenic poisoning. I knew they had a big garment industry with dubious labor laws, and I’d heard about the terrible Rana Plaza factory collapse.
All of which is to say that I hadn’t heard many good things about Bangladesh.
Then we got the bid list and the real “research” began. I started reading about Bangladesh, looking at expat blogs from Dhaka, scouring the post reports, and trying to get as much information as I could.
While all the information seems to agree that the traffic is horrid, the air pollution is really bad, it’s very hot and humid all year long, and the mosquitoes are terrible (wow, I’m really talking this up, aren’t I?), everyone also agrees on a lot of positive aspects about Bangladesh and life in Dhaka. More specifically:
- The food is amazing. I love Indian food, tropical fruit, desserts, and fish. It sounds like they have a lot of all three.
- The expat community is friendly and supportive. I’ve heard this is a post where you have to make your own fun, and everyone we’ve talked to mentions the good morale at post. We’re excited to make new friends!
- Regional travel opportunities! Bhutan is only a 50 minute plane ride away. We can easily travel to Nepal, Thailand, and any number of other places. Our friends might not want to visit us in Dhaka, but how about we meet up in Phuket?!
- We’re not in the Peace Corps anymore. Gone are the days of showering once a week, muddy outhouses, eating dirty potatoes, and drawing water from a well. Thank you, God.
- Athena gets to come with us! There were a lot of posts on the bid list to which we couldn’t or wouldn’t have brought Athena. If Nate had been assigned to one of those posts, Athena and I would have stayed behind. Dhaka isn’t ideal from a dog-exercise standpoint, but, hey, at least she’s coming with us.
- There’s a local branch of Hash House Harriers. Much to my chagrin, we are runners. Running is a portable sport that we can do just about anywhere, and it’s nice to know there’s a large group of like-minded people in Dhaka already!
Nate went to an event at the Bangladeshi embassy a few days ago, and he came home so excited for our post there. He talked about how friendly, welcoming, and enthusiastic everyone was, and I wish I could have gone too.
Maybe we’re naive for being giddy and excited. But I’ve played the role of the jaded, angry expat and, frankly, it sucks. It really sucks. We are approaching Dhaka with our eyes wide open, knowing the challenges and difficulties that we will face, but focusing more on the opportunities that living there will present.
And we will make it awesome.