Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My First Day at Jiva

I woke up in the middle of the night from a thunderstorm louder than any I’d ever heard before. The rain coming down sounded as heavy as a waterfall. Monsoon season.

After breakfast, Boubol and I were picked up by a car and taken to the Jiva office. It is everything a tropical, rural workplace should be. It has a bright, dreamy feel with large wooden doors open to small porches that look out to trees and lakes. All the facilities are fittingly outdated and worn and fans keep the air’s water from settling.

I was introduced to every staff member, around 50 in total, and every person’s title and place in the project. So many names and so many nods.

I was called down to the courtyard to get on the back of a motorcycle to go to the field site. The ride was scary enough to make any American mother scream in horror. I loved it.

We whipped through the small town and made a right onto slivers of dirt paths between vast rice patties. We parked in front of a school and around 20 kids came out and followed me at a distance. I played a game with them where I would abruptly stop and turn around to look at them. The first time I did this I thought they were going to scream with fright but when they saw my large smile they knew it was a game and giggled for the rest of my trip.

I followed field workers into little tin huts to check on pregnant women and their multivitamin intake. The huts had no light and were tiny and beyond cramped. But they were covered in scraps of fabric to add color. The women were very shy and their heads were covered with scarves. I almost stepped on a chicken and I screamed. They all thought this very funny.

I took a sip of water and offered my bottle to one of the workers. “No no, it’s Ramadan!” I’m a douche.

On the way back, on the motorcycle, we got caught in a traffic jam. A man saw me, gaped, and then shook his companion’s attention. The companion was confused and didn’t know where to look. I felt like saying “He’s saying look at me. Because I have less melanin than you and all that implies.” I should learn that in Bangla.

I came back and took part in a meeting during which I suggested something the group hadn’t thought of yet. Boboul was pleased with me but the rest of them (men), did not seem to hear me. I think it’s more because of my lower rank than because of my gender. Time and my pushy nature will tell.

I took dinner, had some tea, hung up some scarves on the wall and am now writing on the computer in the dark because the power went out.

Asalam Walaikum,


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