Monday, August 2, 2010

The Art of Communication

Communicating can be difficult in Bangladesh, regardless of whether the person you are speaking to knows English. I’m not quite sure how to typify or generalize it for you, but there is definitely something different about the way Bangladeshis communicate, and I’ve yet to figure it out. There may be a lot lost in translation. I have noticed that people take words very literally, so you sometimes need to be really specific as to what you want. For example, getting more details about my training program schedule has been like pulling teeth.

I ended up moving hotels this morning, since the journey from Baridhara to Grameen was too perilous to do twice daily. Now I am staying at a larger hotel that is within walking distance of Grameen. However, Grameen (and this hotel) is not in such a great neighborhood, so the walk is not exactly pleasant, either. Though, speaking of having difficulty communicating, my rickshaw driver (his name is Ali, btw) may be making the commute down here to bring me to work in the mornings. There is just no telling if he actually understood what I told him about coming here. He showed up at my old hotel this morning before I left, when I had tried to tell him I would be needing him at the new one. He also invited me to his home for lunch after prayer on Friday. I had to have a hotel clerk translate that I would be away for 10 days from Wednesday. I think he got the 10 days part, but maybe not Wednesday, so he may be waiting outside my hotel for a whole day or two before I get back. I also need to think of a polite way to refuse lunch at his home. I appreciate the gesture, but don’t think it’s safe for me to eat the food. Though, I have been thinking it would be interesting to follow him for a day and see what the life of a rickshaw driver is really like.

My other Bangladeshi friend, Jony, has been very persistent about meeting again asap, so I invited him to join me and a fellow GB trainee for dinner at our hotel. Jony ended up bringing a friend from his university, as well. Conversations with Jony continue to be entertaining, though most of it is unintentional on his part. His English is perhaps not as good as I first thought. Arranging a meeting with him took way too much effort. It was really a two-text messages required event, which took about 12 to actually happen.

Jony was quick to bring the topic of conversation back to Bangladeshi dating, and I think I’ve figured out his infatuation. He was recently dumped. The easy tell was when he tried to explain to us that “Bangladeshi women have no souls.” Who hasn’t heard that before from a heart-broken friend? Jony’s friend was having some romantic troubles, as well. His girlfriend’s parents were trying to offer her up to be married to another man – a dentist apparently. Now that’s tough luck.

1 comment:

  1. This remarkable post evokes in a poignant way my early weeks in Bangladesh in 1988. You are doing your best to get to know the country on a deep level and it will provide you with a richer experience and also help you get to know the essence of microfinance better. More robust relationships will develop. So many foreigners come to the country and do not demonstrate the curiosity, patience and moxie that you are – their loss, your gain! -Alex Counts