I will apologise now to friends who subscribe to this blog. I probably won’t write a minipost next week (unless I get really bored!) and next weekend’s post might be a bit dodgy! Carry on reading to read why!
Well, it’s Christmas Eve and we’ve settled in for the night with the in-laws. The presents are wrapped, the cards written, kids settled and the food cooking. The TV is on and the endless Christmas movies, TV repeats and cartoons are playing on the hundreds of TV channels available.
So this is Christmas as John Lennon used to sing.
Well, part of being here and watching the repeats is that you get to reminisce and think over the past year and beyond. I’m thinking over the Christmases I’ve had over the last few years whilst being in Bangladesh.
Our first year was spent in Dhaka after getting three months of language training. It was a fun time but we were still somewhat bewildered by city life (being country yokels at heart) and desperate to get to LAMB up in Dinajpur (funnily enough – the countryside) and start life in our new house there. We arrived just before new year when the Bangla ‘shitkal’ (winter) kicked in properly. We had a miserable time waking up in a wet bed and dressing in wet clothes because Bangladesh houses are built to get rid of heat, not keep it in. With no windows in the veranda, the northern fog invited itself into the house and settled on everything. Still, we were finally home and settled and that was good.
The second year started off badly as that year my father died. We returned home to the UK for the funeral but stayed on for Christmas itself and that was actually very nice. It was a surprise to be back and had not been part of the plans but despite the sad circumstances was very welcome. At that point, we were missing the land of our birth and so it was especially nice to be able to share the season with our families.
The third year (last Christmas), was actually our first year spent at LAMB. We finally got to spend the ‘borodin’ time with our LAMB family and it was a treat worth waiting for. I tell you, there are no better hosts, no better cooks than those living at LAMB. From the national staff through to bideshi foreign staff, it is a treat to come out of the church on Christmas day and go from house to house sharing nasta snacks and even full toykari kabar – a full rice and curry meal. In fact, Christmas is going to feel odd this year without a spicy meal! My favourite part of all though, is going out of the NGO grounds and into the village up the road to the mud huts where our ayahs live. Shurola, our older ayah is one of the most important women in my life and I have missed her immensely. I don’t think I know anyone wiser or more humble and – most importantly – she makes the best cup of cha in the world! Visiting there and enjoying nasta and maybe a special Shantali ‘juice’ is a wonderful, if simple, time spent with honest people who enjoy sharing the little they have.
And so, this year, we are back in the UK – but not for long. Just yesterday we received from the Bangladesh embassy an early Christmas present – our visas to allow us to return to Bangladesh. We’re excited, but we’re also sad. We’ve re-made connections with our friends, the children have re-made their lives with friends from school and we’ve got used to English ways again. How will adjust to being back in Bengal after such a long break back in the UK?
We’re also worried. We now only have a few days to pack up a house and get the bags ready to leave. By the 3rd of January we will be back in Dhaka – it seems unreal. There is so much to sort out – bills to pay, payments to be stopped, friends to say goodbye to – how can we get it done in time?
Probably the way we got out there last time – with the help of friends and family. No doubt they will rally round and get us sorted. We’re blessed with wonderful friends and supporters who give their time, effort and money to keep us out in Bangladesh. We’re grateful for them and blessed by them.
Which brings us back to Christmas perfectly.
‘Tis the season of giving and it is ‘better to give than receive’ so they say. Well, if true, I can only assume that those we’ve given presents too are going to have an amazing time because we have received so much and have been bowled over by it. For all my rants about those in power and corruption in many forms and for all my worries about how society seems to be sinking in its own hypocrisy, the actions of those close to us reminds us that there is still so much good, so much friendship and so much love in the world. At this time of year, whatever our faith, we can remember that and prepare for the new year with hope in our hearts. I definitely feel hope – and it is not just for that longed-for cup of cha.
Merry Christmas and Shubho Borodin to all my blog friends and supporters around the world. May this time of year be a real blessing to you and all you hold dear.