Posts Tagged ‘bandarban’

These men work

Monday, November 16th, 2009

As I’ve suggested previously, I do appreciate an amazing view but I hate taking pictures of one. As a result almost all of my time around the lookout atop Tiger Hill was spent watching and photographing a group of men who were working to build the foundation for a new structure. Actually I ended up watching them for the better part of an hour and a half – far past the point when Catie, Denise, and Polly gave up on me and started back down the hills to a distant village. (Though I must make a special note of appreciation and credit to my ever-patient and supportive Cat that I had to do a great deal of “no really, it’s fine! you can go, I’ll be ok, I’ll catch up!” convincing before she would leave me behind.)

The men seemed to enjoy my hanging around with my camera for so long. I still don’t think they were having fun exactly as it was hard work with little chance for relief from the brutal sun overhead, but they had a good few laughs from my being there. The age of the workers ranged all the way from young adolescents to one man with a long white beard who was well on in years but still quite tough and strong.

The one odd member of the group was the labor supervisor. He was a very young attractive man, and despite the fact that most of the work consisted of the rather messy task of mixing and spreading concrete, he was wearing crisp light tan slacks and a spotless white button-down shirt. He could wear these clothes because his job consisted of nothing but watching and assuring that the men continued to work properly and efficiently. I guess there’s nothing inherently wrong with this system, but it just struck me how obviously (and visually) that slick young man was trying to distance himself from the common laborer.

At one point while I was photographing, I wanted to get an extreme low angle so I pretty much laid full down on the ground which was dusted with some dirt and stray cement. I do things like this quite often to get a shot, so I didn’t think anything of it. When I started to get up though and brush myself off, the supervisor – who I imagine had been watching me with some disdain – addressed me and said something about “dirty” while shaking his head and pointing to my pants. I looked down at the brown and white dusty patches on the navy fabric without feeling too much shame, and then looked back at him and shrugged and said “it’s worth it!”. Either he didn’t understand or simply didn’t approve.

I’ve concluded that I’m just not cut out to be any sort of upper-level supervisor in this lifetime. I’ll keep creating in my sometimes dirty Bengali drawstring pajama pants, thank you very much.

Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)

Photos taken in Bandarban, Bangladesh on October 31, 2009.

Tiger Hill lookout

Friday, November 13th, 2009

The most arduous trek of the weekend was on our second day when we made the steep climb from our resort up to the lookout at Tiger Hill. Denise had the ingenious idea of wearing the same clothes that had gotten so disgusting with sweat from the day before. We all followed suit and were thankful we had, since a fourth of the way to the peak that was our destination I’m pretty sure we were all once again drenched in our own perspiration.

Once we reached the lookout that sits atop Tiger Hill, I had to take a few minutes to catch my breath and drink as much water as I could justify rationing myself right then (considering a good deal more trekking we had planned for the day). The view in all directions was spectacular, but true to my usual form I only took a few photos of it and didn’t really like any of them. I was more interested in the plateau itself: the local people who ran a small shop or two and were making lunch, the goat that wandered about, resting in the shade and eating bits of grass from time to time, the colorful swing that Catie found, and most photographically alluring of all – the men who were working on the foundation for a new structure next to the existing lookout.

Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)

Photos taken in Bandarban, Bangladesh on October 31, 2009.

My first Buddhist temple

Friday, November 13th, 2009

I certainly think the idea of “the journey is the reward” applied to our walking around Bandarban, but the destination wasn’t half bad either. Throughout the course of the day we were actually slowly making our way to Buddha Dhatu Jadi, the largest Buddhist temple in all of Bangladesh. As luck would have it partway through our journey a monk from the temple saw us as he started to pass by on a rickshaw so he stopped and decided to walk the rest of the considerable distance along with us as well as guide us into his temple. He was a very well educated man and an especially gracious host.

It was my first visit to a Buddhist temple and I found it to be a lovely place to enjoy a lazy late afternoon just as the sun began to set. The temple sits high on a hill up above the trees and the 360° view is spectacular. The 151 steps (if my memory serves me correctly) were a small price to pay for such a beautiful and peaceful spot.

Of course along with that tranquility must come a few bits of humor. It is still Bangladesh, after all! Actually the comedic moments started to rush in far before I had the chance to find any sort of peace or beauty. As soon as I started up the steps towards the main entrance and its magnificent golden archway, a couple Bengali tourist men asked to take their picture with me. I obliged with only the slightest feeling of surprise. Over the course of the next hour however I continued to serve as the caucasian spectacle prop for at least five more pairs of Bengali men who were visiting the temple that day. During the last experience I had an awkward moment where the man was standing very close to me on my side and I didn’t know where to put my hand, and when I started to adjust its position my new friend interpreted my move as an indication that I wanted to hold his hand (something that is very common for male friends to do in Bangladesh). So we held hands, and his friend took the picture. I wish I had a copy of that one.

My other source of amusement came from the inside of the temple itself. I had heard that the Buddha statue inside is actually the second largest in the entire country. It didn’t seem like everyone gets to go inside, but our monk friend opened it up for us. I was expecting something quite grand, so I must admit I had a hard time holding back my laughter (merely from pure surprise) when I walked in and saw the statue of Buddha decorated behind with flashing colored LED lights that in my opinion had all the splendor and class of a Las Vegas casino. I mean no disrespect though! I guess I just have different taste than Buddhists in Bandarban.

Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)

Photos taken in Bandarban, Bangladesh on October 30, 2009.

Walking around Bandarban

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

On the first day, after our trek through the jungle and the river boat ride, we spent the rest of the afternoon walking through the large town in Bandarban and on through what I might call the “suburbs” to a Buddhist temple. This was a fun pedestrian journey as the town provided a lot to look at – including people, goods and shops, and general ‘bustle’ – and in the more rural area there were countless children excited to see a white man with a camera, not to mention beautiful green fields and livestock.

One amusing moment occurred when I was photographing a small group of boys on the side of the road. It was clear from their body language that they were gunning for a photograph, and I was happy to comply. When I lifted my camera to my face they got pretty giggly and started goofing around, continuously trying to push one another into the background and make themselves the front-and-center star of the composition.

Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)

Photo taken in Bandarban, Bangladesh on October 30, 2009.

I took a few like that and then I heard a man nearby on their side of the road tell the kids “Hey! Get in a line!”, at which point the boys quickly got their act together and maturely stood in a single row so that everyone could be clearly seen.

Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)

Photo taken in Bandarban, Bangladesh on October 30, 2009.

My personal preference would be for the first ‘style’, but I like both photos and in this particular case I actually think the composition worked out better in the orderly line image. The experience though was just another funny installment in the ongoing game of “What do Bangladeshi men want in pictures of kids?”. Clearly the answer this time favors simple unobstructed visibility over spontaneous fun or candid moments. To each his own!

Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)

Photos taken in Bandarban, Bangladesh on October 30, 2009.

A river way of life

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

The destination of our first trek in Bandarban was the river that cuts through the area and runs right down to the main town. It was about an hour’s hike through the jungle from our resort. There was a farmer working near the river and he helped flag down a small boat to take the four of us to town. We were told the journey would take about an hour and a half and should cost around 250 taka. The boatman seemed happy enough to have us so we got in and off we went down the river.

The boat ride was quite possibly the highlight of the entire weekend. It was sunny and hot but it felt amazing to be sitting in an old wooden boat, floating down a wide lazy winding river, breathing in clean air that smelled lovely from the fresh water and the dense surrounding jungle. In my opinion, it was basically the exact opposite sensory experience as being in the city of Chittagong. There was no stench of burning trash filling your nostrils, no car horns rattling in your ears, and no dust clouding the air and stinging your eyes. (I know I may sound a bit harsh here about life in Chittagong, but really I just mean to highlight the beauty of Bandarban.)

The greatest part of the experience though was the life we got to see in the water and on the riverbanks. I don’t mean the fish swimming by our boat, or the cows, goats, and boars grazing on the distant land, but the people who lived and spent all their time around the river. There was just so much life to see – I can’t think of a better noun to use. People seemed to do absolutely everything at the water. Women were washing pots and clothes, people were bathing, children were swimming, playing, and wrestling, and a lot of men were working: building things, transporting goods up and down the river, and supposedly “finding natural gas beneath the riverbed” (so said the manager of our resort later that evening when we showed him my photograph).

Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)

Photo taken in Bandarban, Bangladesh on October 30, 2009.

I was just amazed by what seemed like such a potent illustration of river lifestyle or culture. I wondered if most people would spend their entire lives on that river, from the time when they were tiny kids playing in the mud until they were old men and women working on that same shoreline. I couldn’t decide whether I found this idea to be somewhat depressing or absolutely beautiful and somehow liberating. To be honest I found myself leaning toward the latter. I think I spend so much time feeling anxiety over what my “next move” is going to be in life and how I can become bigger, better, and more successful. Maybe it’s American culture in general or maybe it’s especially the hyper-achievement-obsessed school I grew up in but I just feel there’s so much stress placed on the idea of advancement and upgrading and more in general. To forget about that worry seems like a dream to me, and I feel like once you were rid of it you could live a happier fuller life with whatever you already had.

This train of thought led me to want to say things like “these people are all so happy” but I kept checking myself because I felt like that was shortsighted. I’m sure the people who live on that river have a host of problems in their lives, including health and nutritional issues as well as social concerns within their communities. It can’t all just be fun in the sun on the riverbanks. I guess what I really meant to exclaim was that those people all seem to have so much energy and vitality, and I am impressed by that, and perhaps a little envious.

River boat ride in Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)

GPS track of our river boat ride in Bandarban, Bangladesh on October 30, 2009.

The entire boat ride to town did last about an hour and a half, and the only slight glitch occurred when we disembarked and tried to give our boatman his deserved 250 taka. He shook his head no and said we needed to give him more. He had been nice and had also happily let me take as many photos of him as I liked, so we only somewhat begrudgingly offered him an extra 50 for a total of 300 taka. He again shook his head and said that we owed him a whopping 800 taka! This was absolutely ridiculous and we didn’t know what to do. We eventually (and at this point extremely begrudgingly) tried to give him 350 but he still wouldn’t accept. At this point several young men came over from where they had been sitting at the river’s edge and asked me (in impressive English might I add) what was wrong. I explained to one of them that we had been told the boat ride should cost 250, but that our boatman was asking for such an outrageously greater price. The man shook his head and angrily spoke to the boatman (this time in Bangla) and then told me that we should give what we had already offered and that everything was OK and we could go. I thanked him and as we walked away he added that the boatman was a “bad man, very bad man” for the stunt he had tried to pull. Polly told me later that one of the other men had explained that the boatman was not part of one of the local tribes (as they were), but was actually Bengali instead and had simply relocated to Bandarban. This I guess especially fueled our new friends in having no sympathy whatsoever for our boatman trying to rip us off. In any case I was very appreciative for their help, and the experience only further bolstered my respect for the local people.

Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)

Photos taken in Bandarban, Bangladesh on October 30, 2009.