ENCHANTÉ’S TRAVEL ALBUM – BANGLADESH


 

We entered Bangladesh airspace on New Year’s day of 1980 for a four-year World Bank posting assignment, with son David (4 1/2) and daughter Samantha ( 2 1/2).  From the air, the territory looked like water all over. The Biman Airways pilot came from his cockpit in his white robe, kneeled down, and bowed toward Mecca for his morning prayer. We hoped the first officer would keep the shaking aircraft steady.

Flying over land-rice field after rice field

Flying over, we saw rice field after rice field and more water.

Approach to Dhaka
Approach to Dhaka airport

The outskirts of Dhaka looked like an extensive garden. But when we landed, all hell broke loose: hordes of Bangladeshi young men offering their services. Our first experience with an overpopulated country where everybody is fighting for a dime (or Taka, the Bangladeshi money). Fortunately, World Bank staff had come to receive us and guide us through diplomatic immigration while our suitcases were loaded on a huge heap outside on an uncovered platform (nowadays that has all been substantially modernized!).

We were put up in Hotel Intercontinental until we found a home a few weeks later in the Gulshan neighborhood to stay. Our colleagues also lived in that expat residential area. It was a large house with a lovely coconut tree-bordered garden, but it took some considerable bathroom adjustments to assure us of appropriate comfort and hygiene…

Backyard by night

At night, with the full moon, the backyard was a dream come true for a Dutchman grown up amidst oaks and beeches. For Joy, hailing from Caribbean Guyana, it just felt like home.

During weekends, especially in December when the weather was dry with warm subtropical temperatures during the day, cool at night, the yard was a wonderful place for our kids and their many friends to have party fun. Below, Joy cutting another birthday cake, with head servant Paul looking on.

The kids enjoyed themselves. Our children grew up in a ‘multicultural’ environment.

Dave and Sam on the left, with their Montessori teacher Mrs. De Souza in the background and top right, Dave’s math teacher. 

Striking features of Bangladesh were its ships on the broad rivers!

My portfolio concerned industry, energy, and banking. A major industrial project included the multi-donor financed construction of an 1100 t.p.d fertilizer company, seen from the air below.

Ashuganj factory
Ashuganj

We traveled monthly with a group of local donor representatives to Ashuganj in a diesel-powered train through the flat land covered with rice fields and small rural villages to supervise construction progress and solve project issues. Below is a picture taken from the train window,  representative of the Bangladeshi flat land scenery.

Next came a natural gas drilling project (needed to feed the fertilizer company), a very exciting experience. Below the jubilant flame when we hit a gas find after a night full of suspension!

Because of the distances and weak road connections, many of my energy trips needed to be carried out by helicopter, which also provided a thrilling opportunity to see the country from the air.

On the way to the helicopter
Railway bridge over the Mega River on the way to Ashugansj

I also followed  American entrepreneurs involved in oil production and visited their projects. See below one of the rigs I visited.

Below the proud Bangladeshi Energy officials, hoping for a break to help their poor and overpopulated country (100 million+ at the time I was there, now grown to 160 million!, the country with the highest population density of the world. The majority is Muslim.) The fellow in the orange shirt was an American oil man.

Other field trips were carried out by road (with local office drivers, who were very good). There we met workers hacking bricks from clay, dried in the sun, and then pulverizing the bricks again for gravel, depending on the construction needs.

What to do if a road is cut by flooding?

Two solutions: go back home or cross in a little boat, and continue with another vehicle waiting across the ditch, which we did and which landed us in a welcoming village with doe-eyed beauties.

They smiled at us when we left, after having handed them a few hundred Takas for posing on the picture.

After four years and many adventures, our two kids had grown up nicely. Here they are, in our backyard, in front of the poinsettia, with bikes we got for them on our R&R trips to Bangkok. 

One last look at our coconut trees on a misty morning in December

And farewell it is, to two of our closest friends, the two of us (Joy extreme left, me extreme right) with Jim Curry, Deputy Chancellor of the Canadian Embassy and his wife, Cynthia, who also hailed from Guyana!

Next: our travels to India.

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