Of course, the arrival of Valentina in Dhaka was my main focus above all other events. About five months, including the small forced leave back home because of the Pakistan visa, had passed since the hard parting between me and Valentina in the middle of October last year. The more we both feverishly awaited our long-awaited reunion. Dominik and I had already arrived in Dhaka by plane the day before because our car had actually decided to travel to West Bengal after traveling through the mountains of Nepal, the desert of Iran and several thousand potholes in fifteen countries. However,maybe it had noted Kolkata as the end of our journey and simply did not feel doing like the last leg to Dhaka Bangladesh and back. Whatever it may have been, the spring of the left rear wheel was broken, a spare part was not found and so we instructed the extremely helpful Harjit with the repair. We settled at Ratul, a friend of Munif, our contact in Dhaka, for the first night. The next morning it was time. Valentina and I were finally able to embrace each other again. We only dared to exchange a short welcome kiss as we did not know if this was allowed in Muslim Bangladesh.
After a restful day in togetherness, Valentina spent most of her time catching up on the sleep she had missed on her twenty-four-hour journey. The following days, we did, together with Dominik, some small explorations of the area, where Valentina got a first chance getting used to the chaos of an Asian big city. At this point, unfortunately, it must be noted what a different experience it is to be out with a woman on the streets. If Dominik and I were already used to being exposed to constant prying eyes, we also noticed the way in which the men on the streets eyed Valentina. Although she was appropriately dressed, many unfortunately started at the wrong body parts, which caused great unease with Valentina and us.
In Bangladesh it is similar to the other muslim countries we visited on our journey like Iran and Pakistan, in which everyday-life for women takes place mostly at home. This lifestyle makes the appearance of women in the street far more rare than what we are used to from back home and it felt like Valentina was the only white-skinned woman in all of Dhaka. Eventhough she was not wearing a headscarf, she was dressed appropriately for a tourist, but it did not safe her from the disagreeable stares of many man.
The whole thing culminated in our trip with the extremely nice Farazi, another friend of Munif’s, who showed us the few attractions of the non-tourism city. We admired the Lalbag Fort, an uncompleted fortress from the mogul-era, as well as a temple, and then made our way on foot through the old town of Dhaka to the harbor. Here in the small shopping lanes there was a lot of chaos consisting of scooters and bicycle rickshaws that even Dominik and I had not experienced on our trip so far. It was unfortunately anything but an idyllic walk through the old town as you imagine it, which can be explained by the approaching holidays, which resulted in thousands of people doing their shopping or making their way through the crowds to the harbor.
For Valentina, who was under constant observation in all this chaos and was only able to help herself by not paying attention to them and looking at the ground, it was especially hard. We fought our way through to the harbor, decided to take the quickest way out of the hustle and bustle, and called an Uber, which turned out to be one of the best, cheapest and most reliable means of transportation on our journey.
Unfortunately, it has been a frustrating experience to see how different it is to walk around the street as a woman. I wanted so much to share the positive experiences we had with many locals , but it was frightening how different the outspoken curiosity shows itself with women. Dominik and I never had the feeling of being bothered on our journey. Of course, the attention we got was sometimes a bit exhausting but it always turned out well if you greeted with a smile and a bright face from the opposite did the same.
Sadly,with her they behaved differently and only very few returned a friendly greeting … Even though it was an oppressive experience, it’s good to have seen it to open our eyes a little.
But not everything was bad in Bangladesh. Although Valentina has the last word here of course, our acquaintance with Munif made up for a lot.
Fortunately for us, Simon, a remarkable person about whose life you should write a book, had come into contact with the native Bangladeshi. Munif received us all with such warmth and his mother took Valentina directly in her huge heart. Thanks to Simon, we have found a friend for life who will continue to play a major role in our lives and the future of Travel for Smiles. Together, we also made a visit to “Families for Children” and Munif led some games to improve verbal and physical communication. You can find out more about this in the donation post.
After only five days, our time together was over,again too early for all of us, but this visit will certainly not be the last.
During a beer, Dominik and I sat together for the last time on our journey. But even at this farewell, we again made big plans for the future, which made it rather the beginning of something new. So it does not really mean farewell but we both see each other on the Dult in Landshut again.