I can still remember getting off the plane. As I went through the opening of the airplane, an intense heat hit me and I was automatically overwhelmed by the smells of my new world. With sweat already dripping from my face, I tried hard to adjust my nose to the inevitable. It was a mixture of farm animals, trash truck, mixed with exotic food cooking. My nose still turns up thinking of that first moment. To top it off, I was scared to death.
Inside the airport, my fear continued as I entered a very hot, very crowded, very chaotic atmosphere. Lines? What are Lines? I would soon discover that nobody believed in lines here. The noise was terrible. Babies crying, airport workers yelling, people frantically trying to hold their place in those invisible lines. There was pushing and shoving, lots and lots of staring and men going through my suitcase and touching my stuff. Ugh!
Finally, when we left the airport, my family and I, and there seemed to be a crowd that followed us. I'm sure we were a sight. Nobody cared whether we had name brand clothes or if our hair was fixed just right. However, we stood out, my little sister and I. Golden hair, blue eyes, fair skin... everyone wanted to stare or reach out for a touch. Beggar children swarmed us for a coin. Dirty, shirtless (even some of the girls), barefoot... I remember big white smiles on dirty faces. Overwhelmed with all that surrounded me, I didn't have compassion for their circumstances yet. My eleven (almost twelve) year old mind was too busy trying to comprehend what exactly my parents had gotten me into and the fact that they expected me to live HERE! I was in Bangladesh.
When I was in third grade my parents surrendered their hearts to missions. I was already a pastor's kid, born while my dad was in seminary, there was never a day I didn't know who God was. Yet, this was new. Afterall, I was happy in my house, with my church and school and all my neighborhood friends. I didn't really comprehend what this "surrendering to missions" meant. Due to some medical issues I had (they discovered I had scoliosis and I had to wear a brace) and problems with getting visas into the country, we didn't leave until I was in the 6th grade. I had had two years to adjust to moving overseas. There were days I was excited and days I was scared to death. However, nothing prepared me for what I discovered when I stepped off that plane for the first time.
I did learn to adjust and even love parts of my life there. Although I will not lie, it is a hard country to live in as a foreigner, especially a teenage, blond hair girl. I only lived there three years, for I went off to school, in Bangkok Thailand when I was in the 9th grade. My parents then transferred there, themselves. But in those three years I experienced many adventures, and discovered many new things.
I thought I would share a few of them with you.
1. I remember the first time I rode in a Rickshaw. That is the carriage looking thing on the back of a bicycle. I hung on for dear life as the Bengali man swerved through traffic. I told you they don't believe in lines in this country. Same thing goes for the roads. Everyone seems to be constantly fighting for a place to go forward, even the cows that wonder the streets!!! I would eventually ride this new form of transportation everywhere and learned to relax, but it certainly was a RIDE!
2. We ate with out hands. Now at my house we had silverware and my mom continued to teach me manners to the best of her ability. But when we went out, you were required to eat with your right hand only (the left hand is considered unclean). Rice and curry (a soup like gravy with meat in it most of the time). I wasn't a huge fan of the dish and found myself eating rice A LOT. Good thing I loved rice. I remember the first time I ate out with Bengali people. After they were finished eating everyone would burp or belch and with no apologies. My eyes went straight to my mom, remembering my manners. However, there it is considered a sign that the meal was good.
3. I walked a pole bridge to cross a rice field, in order to get to a village. I remember feeling like I was in the circus, balancing my way across, afraid of falling into the water filled fields below. At the village we had goat curry. (I ate rice.) For some reason, this was one of the village visits I remember the most. Not because anything out of the ordinary happened, but the grateful smiles just have always stayed with me. There were beautiful children and babies playing. I might have remembered them, for later a hurricane would hit the coast of Bangladesh, where this village was located. I always wondered about them...
4. Lizards. I am not a huge fan of reptiles. I'm not usually scared of frogs and lizards, but I really don't want to touch them either. Snakes, however, that is a whole another story. Anyway, overseas they have these little lizards called "Tick tickies" (not sure if that is how to spell it, but that is how it is pronounced). they crawl all over the walls. In fact, you do not want to get rid of them for they kill the mosquitoes, flies and spiders that are a headache especially in third world countries. I got to where I was happy to see one in my room, if it meant I wasn't going to have mosquito bites all over me.
One night, however, I woke up startled to a thump on my pillow. Scared to death, I quickly turned on the light and found one the little guys on my pillow. It was a few nights before I was able to rest peacefully without thinking about "raining lizards."
5. The stares. I think the hardest part was being stared at all the time, by EVERYONE. I know I stood out. Many had never seen gold hair and wanted only to have a touch. I remember one time being told that my hair looked like it held magic powers because it shined. Funny! Yet, they were a country of people that was mostly poverished, in search of a little magic to see them through. I use to pretend, as the people stared that I was a celebrity and that is why people were so interested in me. I guess the imagination helps us get through circumstances beyond our control. I learned to live with the staring, but the touching I hated and was something even my imagination couldn't help me with.
I have many more memories to share. I've enjoyed this little ride down memory lane. I will continue on in the next post. Unfortunately, I have to get back to my reality of today. I hear the kids starting to stir. Thanks for joining me, hope I didn't bore you. Why am I traveling down this particular road of memories at this time? Well, I'll let you know that pretty soon too.
Have a great weekend!