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16 May 2015 – Still in Bangladesh
Getting to know Bangladesh
Because we spend most of our time in our rural
location as the only expats, we face local conditions
in every aspect of our daily routine. Whilst the
locals that we meet, work with and deal with during
our normal daily activities are very friendly and
helpful there is always an underlying feeling that the
helpfulness is sometimes not purely altruistic.
Whether everyday dealings amongst the local
population in Bangladesh is really more corrupt than
any other country we've lived in or it's because we
have been insulated by the blanket of the expat
social life everywhere else, I'm not yet sure. But
the scale of the problem here is mind-boggling.
There is absolutely no aspect of life for the average
Bangladeshi that is free from 'extra payment' to
get any sort of service.
It appears that the general population views each of
the very frequent new laws and rules as merely
another means by which the public service, including,
or rather 'particularly', the police, can supplement
their very low wages.
Of course this state of affairs not only results in
the proliferation of unlawful activities that has led
to virtual anarchy on the roads and in many other
areas of the public services but it also results in the
inferior quality of the goods that are provided. This
must be the capital of the world for forged
products. There is an entire industry that creates
containers and labels that are identical to those
used by famous foreign brands but the contents
make no attempt to copy the quality of the originals.
Locals and foreigners alike not only suffer the
inconvenience of products such as insect repellents,
toothpaste, shampoo, etc that don't do what they
are supposed to do but also others that are actually
harmful such as packaged foods and pharmaceuticals.
There is also widespread food adulteration,for early
ripening and prolonging life of products, that could
easily be corrected were there a political will to do
so. Fortunately the toxic levels are fairly low and
most expats are not exposed long enough to suffer
any long term effects or they can buy the more
expensive and safer products from a few reliable
outlets. However the local population who are
forced to do most of their shopping at the local
markets are not so fortunate so their health must
be seriously affected.
Jack's work continues to go very slowly. Because of
the very large population and cheap labour
everything is planned on a labour-intensive basis but
when recruitment is difficult, as it is in this rural
area, the contractors have no back-up plan to use any
other methods, so work just creeps along.
This situation is accepted on most of their projects
and the contracts are automatically extended to
meet their completion dates. They are not used to
the strict contract enforcement on international
projects and so we have a 'cultural' clash.
Some of the younger engineers appreciate the
situation and are keen to look for alternatives but
they are concerned about holding on to their jobs
and not rocking the boat so nothing new is tried.
It's a very slow process to try to change their
thinking but at least it's an opportunity to try to
encourage them to modernise their methods and
even a small success in that regard is very satisfying.
Last year the pleasant, consistently dry weather lasted
until quite late in the year and the monsoon season was
not quite what we had expected.
Unlike other areas where we have lived where there is
heavy rainfall for the same few hours every day for a
few weeks, it was at much more irregular intervals and
variable intensity up to the end of July. A bit like English
weather only more so!
By August the rainfall became a little more intense and
was more like the monsoon we had expected but there
were still periods of quite a few days with no rain.
The temperature and humidity increased in August but it
was still quite pleasant, especially just after the
Of course, even light showers make many of Jack's
construction sites inaccessible since most of the roads
are unsealed and the soil in the delta area is
However, at least last year, the contractors were
persuaded to build up the materials stocks at all of the
sites before the start of the monsoon so that they could
continue working. Unlike last year when work came to an
almost complete halt between June and October on many
of the sites!
This year seems to be much hotter and more humid at
present with still no sign of the start of the monsoon.
However general progress has still been extremely slow
and so the contractors have been requested to submit
yet another work schedule for the remainder of their
contract. One contractor is on his fifth revision!
Jack's contract was originally due to end in March this
year but he has now been asked to stay on until October.
We had already planned to go back to Australia for
Sam's wedding in early April so we thought it would
coincide nicely with the end of the contract. We didn't
expect to be back here after the wedding!
Under the circumstances we decided to find alternative
accommodation in Barisal as we really couldn't face
another six months of living in what had become virtually
a building site in our hotel.
We are now in the only apartment, other than the
owner's a few floors below, in another high rise that has
been completed ready for occupancy. So, at least so far,
it has been pleasantly peaceful and everything is new.
Our break back in Australia was very refreshing but a
bit rushed. The main attraction, Sam and Kiran's
wedding, went off beautifully after a bit of a scare over
a rain threat in the morning. But after that everything
was just about perfect.
I'm not a great 'fancy wedding' fan but even I was
impressed with all the work they had put in, by
themselves, to make it so special. Fortunately I wasn't
invited to the stag night so I was able to stay clear
Still no sign yet of another wedding in the family but Kim
is due to finish her Masters in November so who knows
after that. She is keen to return to England to work and
so we may have more reason to visit again in the near
Sam was successful with her paediatric exam in March
and now has her practical in August to work towards.
I suppose my retirement might not be decided by
employers unwilling to employ me after all but by the
need for child care services. But be warned. We are
Sam & Kiran's wedding. 11 April 2015