Yeah, I had fun coming up with this title – can you tell? Those who know me personally may well be doing a ‘face-palm’ and thinking ‘oh no, what has he started doing now?’
There are two meanings to ‘naked’ that come to my mind and by referring to both I hope to avoid being arrested for perverse behaviour in front of minors. Maybe.
The thought of nakedness is close to my heart as we continue wrestling with the extreme heat in Bangladesh. Recently I understand the temperature reached 45oC (then add 5-10o for humidity, which is the real killer). Regular showers are essential, not just to wash away the inevitable dust and grime, but to feel release from the heat too.
Getting this release is not easy in a country where women are expected to cover up more or less completely and men, unless working the fields, are expected to dress ‘professionally’ in shirts and trousers. I confess that my biggest faux pas here is that I often wear shorts (long ones that come down below the knee) even when I work at the school. It’s almost like I’m coming to work naked in some eyes.
I’ve never been one for dressing properly (I hate ties, for instance) but wearing shorts has been essential here. When I don’t wear them I become dehydrated and suffer the ‘foreigner’s curse’ of getting sores and rashes that have, at least once, got to me so badly that I had to take bed rest and antibiotics for a few days.
Although not culturally inappropriate, wearing shorts is frowned on because boys wear shorts; not ‘important’ men with reputations to maintain. Well, that’s where I fall foul again because I tend not to care much about reputation. I don’t like people telling lies about me but if someone doesn’t think much of me by what I myself do then that’s fine. They’re probably right, actually. The students I work with take me for what I say and do rather than whether my trousers actually reach my ankles or not and this is the way I prefer to build reputation.
That’s where this post’s true ‘nakedness’ comes into it. I bare my soul when teaching, not by telling every intimate detail of my life, but by just being me and relaxing with the kids; we have fun together; we share together. I hope it is teaching them a good role model for life: don’t try to make a reputation for yourself. BE the reputation and live with it – whatever others think.
Where this falls down, however, is (as I discovered recently) when I try to work with teenagers in Bangla. I struggled really shockingly badly and couldn’t help but feel I disappointed them. There is nothing worse, after speaking in your very best and carefully researched Bangla, than a confused-looking student putting up their hand and saying “Uncle, could you just say that again in English?”
Then you feel naked, I can tell you.