Monday, April 26, 2010
That's what some Bangladeshi man said to us as he pointed at these kids. Or it may have been stray children. Either one is accurate.
We had just gotten off a long train ride from Chittagong to Dhaka and were waiting for Rick to come pick us up. As we stood leaning against the gate that separated the parking lot from the train platform, we were slowly surrounded. Children in front of us and men behind us. They wanted to check out the bideshis or foreigners. One of the men wanted to practice his English with Mike and towards the end of that very short conversation, he pointed to the kids. "Street children," he told us.
The boys mostly stood there and smiled at us. They kept trying to speak to us and Mike kept responding with "Bangla nah." They were waiting and hoping for handouts, but they weren't begging. Mike said I could take their picture, that they would really like that. Sure enough, as soon as I pulled out my camera, the kids put their arms around each other and smiled.
Eventually, a big enough of a crowd had gathered and Mike told me to be as boring as possible. If we were less interesting, people would leave. So, I stashed the camera and just stood there looking at the Dhaka skyline and wiping sweat off my face with my orna or scarf. One by one, the men wandered off to something more interesting and the kids ran off when another kid came yelling about finding food. At least, that's what it looked they were yelling about.
I've seen so many impoverished people since I've arrived. It's really really hard to deal. This experience at the train station, I could almost say it was positive, because the people were pretty nice and just stared...which is something bideshis have to get used to in Bangladesh.
When leaving both the Dhaka airport and the Chittagong airport, I've had children come up to me begging and motioning toward their mouth. At Dhaka, they were tapping on the windows of the taxi incessantly. I didn't know what to do, so I just looked in the other direction. This happened another time while in Dhaka, except it was an old woman and we were waiting at a railroad crossing. To be honest, I get kind of scared. Are they going to open the car door? The kids actually pulled down the window a little and I wondered if they would reach in. They didn't. Maybe I'm scared because it's so close, I'm confined, and I don't know what to do.
In Chittagong, Thomas picked us up from the airport and as I was making my way to the truck a couple children followed me, begging. "Taka nah," I said, which means "no money." One boy pointed at one of my bags, which happened to be a shopping bag (it was filled with gifts for the Kuhns from people stateside) and said something which I didn't understand. He did not look amused at all.
Mike and I have talked about it. If you give even that one child some taka, you'll be swarmed. So, what do you do? How do you deal? Mike told me this: "I'm doing what I can to change the world." You can't give every single person some taka, but you can support causes that are trying to make the world a better place and the people that go in and help the poor of developing countries.
It's hard to see such huge need, and I'm only here for less than two weeks. I get choked up a little, if I think about the poverty too much. For this reason, I'm glad I came to Bangladesh. It's good to be confronted with and to wrestle with these things. My friend Chris lives here and is confronted with it all the time. We can only do what we are capable of, and for the rest, we've got to trust our God.
“We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.” Mother Teresa