I have returned… returned to the States and now back to Bangladesh. Going back for Michael and Rachael’s wedding was a really nice vacation. They’re now happily married and moved into their new house in Lancaster. Derrick and Rebecca also recently bought a place in Harrisonburg and I was able to visit that as well. I did lots of shopping, drank lots of lattes and spent as much time with as many people as is possible for this introvert. It’s odd but Bangladesh seemed like dream while I was there and now that I’m back the visit doesn’t seem quite real either. I’ve heard it takes a day per time zone to get over jet lag, but using melatonin seems to make the switch quite a bit faster. So the sleep schedule is back to normal.
There have been several changes while I was gone. Dave, who was part of the SALT program, finished up his term and headed back to the states. Arriving back, the MCC Guest house in Dhaka, or “Bat Cave” seemed very empty since Sarah who working with the Peace program had also finished up her term. And while we can’t replace her, we’re looking for someone to fill her Position
One small change that happened while I was gone: Rishi, our office driver here Bogra, turn a prototype tank outside the office into a nice little fish pond by adding some rocks, water plants and of course fish. There are even a few small eels. There wasn’t an aeration system and the fish started looking like they needed oxygen, so I hooked up a little aquarium pump we had to do some wetland research and Rishi was happy. There are probably other ways to increase oxygen levels without electricity. Maybe a small waterfall made from a hand pump and a big bucket or an old tractor inner-tube with a tap and a pressure valve, but this was what I had on hand.
A change that I was hoping for but didn’t happen is with the new house/workshop. I was hoping that it would be finished, but it’s pretty much at the same place where it was when I left. Almost done but… And the biggest issue right now is electricity.
I used to take electrical power completely for granted. Sure I was a part of the NC green power program to buy green electricity, but it wasn’t something I thought about everyday. Electricity is probably overused on the whole, but as a convenient way of moving energy it’s wonderful. That said, I’m a little ambivalent about electricity because even though it’s so useful, unfortunately the first thing that often comes with electricity is the Television. Actually it often comes before because it’s often run from batteries. So it’s a little disheartening that we’re so dependent on electricity, but without fans, things can be pretty miserable. Everywhere I’ve been in Bangladesh has either inconsistent power or none at all. If you do have it you should be grateful because you’re part of the 38% of the population which has access to electricity in the first place. If you do have power it’s probably going to go out every day, because the power grid is 30% oversubscribed so rolling blackouts or “load shedding” happen when production is insufficient. The general problem is that Bangladesh is too flat for hydro, doesn’t have enough wind for turbines and solar is really expensive. They’re doing a lot with Bio-gas, generating methane from cow dung, but that’s still pretty small. Most of their power is currently produced from natural gas, but aside the problem of burning fossil fuels, it’s very likely they’re going run out in a few more years, one professor at the University of Dhaka said it could be as early as 2012.
Which brings us back to this construction project. We either could get power from the grid or produce it on our own. On the one hand there’s electricity in the village… but the current transformer is overloaded and a new power line is needed. On the other hand we have this inexpensive generator that I bought a couple months ago for running tools. It’s a Bangladeshi generator belted to a Chinese made Diesel engine, fairly large actually… but it’s producing dirty power and making things burn out. Rock meet hard place.
All this makes the Dilbert cartoon from a few days ago quite relevant and very amusing. I sometimes feel like there’s this shell game that gets played with resources. We, self included, play games moving around labor, energy, and materials and hope we’ll end up with working systems without having to pay the price. Bidudh nei, eta boro shomosha. No electricity, it’s a big problem.