To every thing there is a season, turn, turn turn. Bangladesh is one of MCC’s oldest projects. There’s a plaque in the Dhaka commemorating the first volunteer in West Bengal back in 1946. At one point MCC Bangladesh had over 300 National staff and something like 70 Expatriate service workers or Bideshi’s, but a few years ago MCC switched to the partner model in Bangladesh, the budget remained the same, but staff contracted. National staff was reduced to more like 80 and the Bideshi group shrank to less than 10. One of the side effects was that a lot of the research MCC was dried up. The reason my position was created was to restart the appropriate technology program and is part of a larger agenda of trying new ideas. At this point, officially my language study is over, and officially I’ve started my work. The reality is that I still have a lot of Bangla to learn and I’m living in the office infested with mosquitos while building a place to work and live.
In the last year REAP has moved from Jolchatro to Bogra, and in the process gone from a small office to taking over a 4-story apartment building which they added a classroom on the top of. There isn’t a workshop here though and as a result the decision was made to rent some land in a village about 9km from the Main office, this would become the site for Adarsho Kamar Bari (adarsho – “ideal”, kamar bari – “farm”), a sustainable technology workshop and some Bideshi housing. I mentioned before how I ended up designing it and as a result I have been throw into making a lot of decisions very quickly. This month was broken up by a retreat amidst the tea farms in Srimongol and an unexpected tool buying trip in Dhaka. But now most days I ride out by motorcycle to go supervise and spend time with the workers. This is a stretch for my Bangla, but I can generally get my point across and understand the questions I’m asked. There are a few people who can speak English in the office but I’ve found that but for a few exceptions I’m generally defaulting into Bangla. Still not having a permanent residence after 6 months of transition might seem like a stressful situation and it is, but so far I’m really enjoying what we’re doing and that helps. The new buildings use hollow block make with a form of green cement which unlike portland cement doesn’t need to fired. Our roofing tiles are made from the same material. We’ve built a ginourmous rainwater collection tank and right now I’m working to nail down the details of an artificial wetland or “living machine” to purify our blackwater. Adarsho Kamar Bari has a bio-gas digestor which captures methane from cow manure. While possibly a little large, it will hopefully give us bio-gas for cooking. We’ve probably made some mistakes in the process, but we’ve tried a lot of innovative ideas for our own way of living and some just might translate into village life. Kemon Achen? Ekano ami besto. – Still I am busy.