Remind me again, why did I come back?

A short post this week. I do have some lined up about our experiences since returning to the UK but not today. Later.

Today I’m ‘sort of’ celebrating finally having internet to the house so I can get on with a mass of writing. However, it seems that unlimited internet is not an option any of the internet companies can offer to our particular area and, so far at least, it looks like the internet will be continuously on and off (in the time it took to write this post it fluttered back and forth dozens of times). A bit like Bangladesh really.

Not like Bangladesh, however, is the expense of things. January has utterly crucified us financially. Food, clothes, school uniforms and kit (you don’t want to know how much but I will tell you the total came to four figures and that was just one of each thing that was on the essential list). Then we discovered that the charity which will continue to pay us for a couple of months more didn’t tell us that the ‘wages’ we were expecting would have National Insurance contributions docked from it and from the travel expenses we claimed back  having already paid out for them. The result is we’ve lost out about 200+ quid. There’s been various other problems too, meaning other large expenses and the end result is we begin February with pennies in the bank account and that’s all. If I had a body that was worth it, I’d probably sell myself for either sex or organs right now. Alas, I think it has passed its sell-by date for both of those options.

The weather is a little more complex when comparing to Bangladesh. It’s cold, yes, but so is Bangladesh currently. But our house – with nice central heating – is warmer than we would have over there. But then our winter is barely getting going. It hinted at snow yesterday but didn’t come. It will. Bangladesh’s winter is almost over and would need a global catastrophe to ever see snow! But the wind and the rain here is just utterly, utterly horrid. It has no redeeming features at all. The rain in Bangladesh is always refreshing and warm – as long as your home isn’t being washed away in it of course; but then that’s something the British can sympathise with a little as our homes get flooded regularly these days.

When I look back over our photos each month from Bangladesh it amazes me how much we packed in to each set of 30-odd days. Time goes so slowly there that you can experience so much. Whereas January has flown through in the UK. Despite trying to work for the last two weeks, I’ve achieved very little: a handful of chapters to a book and a few articles and short stories to editors. Not a fraction of what I needed to do here.

And all this leaves me wondering: Why?

Why come back here? Why uproot our kids from their home? Why sit with them for hours at a time holding them as they sob when you just want to sob too? Why try to exist in a country that doesn’t seem to want you and, at times, even seems to resent your existence as even the companies you deal with to give you heating or provide your mobile services seem to think you owe them a really big favour for being allowed to use them? Why come back to a country where society seems determined to live according to ‘what’s in it for us?’

I’m being harsh, I know. I’m being unfair – perhaps. I’m not seeing all the good points, I know that too and know that I will, given time.

Given time.

That’s the hard part and seems consistently to be the only advice anyone can give me. “Give it time, Ken,” they tell me, “you’ll soon settle in”. But what if I don’t want to settle in? What if I’m biding my time until I can go back and pick up that part of my heart I forgot to pack in the cases? I would love people here to give me some other advice too than just ‘time heals’ and other platitudes, only I can’t possibly think what that advice might be. In fact, when my son, Thing II, was deeply distressed recently over something that happened that upset us all, there was little comfort I could offer other than the same advice which fills me with horror to think of: give it time.

Well time sucks. It really does.

Might as well give up and play video games?

Might as well give up and play video games?

 

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About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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28 Responses to Remind me again, why did I come back?

  1. Pingback: Counting Blessings | kenthinksaloud

  2. Seyi sandra says:

    I read your post and wiped a tear, I don’t really know why but it resonated with me. I’ve lived in the UK for the last ten years of my life and consider this place home. I’m British through and through, yet, my parents and extended family are still in Nigeria. Can I move back permanently to Nigeria? No! But my children would be going home often now to know more about our roots, and culture. I miss Nigeria but I’d accepted this place as home.
    I hope you would settle in soon, though it’s going to be a while Ken. I’ll be praying for you too my friend!
    Blessings. 🙂

    Like

    • Seyi, your kind words touched my heart. It’s good to know this resonated with you and I can understand where you’re coming from. In many ways you are the grown up version of what I hope my children will become – happy in their ‘adopted’ country (in their case the UK which they’ve never really known) but still in love with the country of their youth and its culture as you are with Nigeria.
      Thank you for your kindness, friendship and prayers – all are valued 🙂

      Like

  3. archecotech says:

    While reading your post it helped me understand myself better and why I don’t think I’ll ever return to the States again on a full time basis. Regardless of how things may be there and what they were like in Bangladesh, “life dishes out what it may”. Thinking technology makes things better or that one culture is superior to the other (way of life) is all just a pile of crap. Slavery in any form is just plain wrong, modern society with all the bells and whistles is just a sugar covered form of this. I’ve questioned myself the importance of material things and have come to the realization they are a trap. True freedom comes from having the ability to make choices that exclude responsibilities to anything other than family, friends, and course “God” if you are a believer. Have you ever heard the story of “crabs in a bucket”? If you know it then you understand, if you try to climb out the rest of the crabs will do their best to pull you back down into the bucket with them. Don’t settle down it will kill your dreams. Remember ADHD isn’t a disease but a blessing!

    Like

    • Yes, as you know, I’ve never seen my ADHD as a curse but always as the greatest tool I possess! We have little choice but to settle a little but, all being well, the travel-writing side of my work will expand over this next year and I will be able to get my itchy feet moving around a little until I get the chance to return to my beloved Bangladesh. Or at least Asia!

      Like

  4. Madhu says:

    Like your Indian reader above, I too would have thought it was our prerogative to complain about the kind of issues you have been subject to! Hardly expect it from ‘developed’ countries. Or perhaps it is the development that is the curse. I can see the transformation in our society as we progress towards that goal. What can I say, except I hope things change for the better soon. Take care.

    Like

    • Thanks Madhu. I think it is the ‘curse’ of developed countries rather akin to Orwell’s predictions in ‘1984’ except that society has built its own oppression rather than have a government inflict it upon the people.

      Things ARE getting better – slowly. This week has been good so far. But give it time…

      Like

  5. Your post is an eye-opener. People in countries like India and Bangladesh, etc. think that things like “internet will be continuously on and off” and “the companies you deal with to give you heating or provide your mobile services seem to think you owe them a really big favour for being allowed to use them” do not happen in countries like the UK.

    The change from Bangladesh to the UK must be drastic in many ways, particularly for your kids. I noticed you said, “Why uproot our kids from their home?”

    Does the fact that, while being a white ‘bideshi’ made you special in Bangladesh, you are ‘part of the crowd’ in the UK add to the ‘culture shock’? As a blogger who recently moved from India to the US said, “Knowing English isn’t your strength anymore. You are not among the elite crowd.”

    Best wishes to you and your family!

    Like

    • It’s a good question. I think it is easy to become the ‘boro lok bideshi’ in Bangladesh but, to be honest, I’ve never really done well in the kind of circles where that kind of attitude is expected. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like Dhaka too much – I can’t cope with with inequality of it all. Where we’ve been in the rural ‘nothingness’ of Dinajpur we’ve tended to be part of the community which has certain been influenced by bideshis but is one where deshis expect to be equal to them rather than lower. This is my kind of thinking to be honest. We became family to all around and that was good because they are family to us too. We’ve never really been part of ‘an elite crowd’. If anything, that persona is stronger now because we’re often perceived as ‘the ones who lived in a third world country and lived in conditions no normal person ever would’ – it’s wrong, of course, but that ends up putting us on something of a pedestal. I hate it!

      In the UK, in contrast to the relational model of Asia, you find everything and everyone, to some extent or other, are individualistic and that attitude comes across in the way companies deal with you too. There’s a falseness in how they pretend to treat you as a valued customer but the reality – as you find out whenever there’s a problem – is very different. What comes across is that everyone is out to take your money, while all the time claiming they are giving you ‘a great deal’. People talk about the issue of corruption in Asia a lot, especially Bangladesh, but it’s an integral and insidious part of British culture.

      Thank you for commenting – it was a most fascinating and thought-provoking question!

      Like

      • Thank you for your detailed reply! You’ve provided lots of food for thought, which I expected when asking that ‘thought-provoking’ question.

        Yes, people do tend to put you on a pedestal when you do something ‘good’ that they think themselves incapable of doing.

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        • Yes and it’s such a shame because that actually closes the door to encouraging people to be more global in outlook. My life is richer for the large number of friends I have all over the world. Some people I know don’t have friends outside their own village! In it’s own way that’s passive communalism and while I’m not saying it causes all the troubles in the world, it certainly does nothing to stop them…

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  6. Audrey Chin says:

    When I studied in UK, I remember flying into Heathrow after Xmas in sunny Singapore and feeling my heart just sink. Whatever Wordsworth says, the Northish bit of England in the winter isn’t fun. It will take grieving and regret and tears Ken before you can let go. And, talking about the cost of things, do be prepared for the taxes! Meanwhile, here’s a nice warm virtual HUG

    Like

  7. doug puryear says:

    why did you come back?

    Like

    • It’s a very good question Doug!
      Basically, we have elderly parents who used to be heavily involved with our kids and we had taken a lot of their growing up away from their grandparents. We wanted them to have the last few remaining years with them again. On top of that, my daughter needed to be back to rejoin British society in time for her beginning her later studies which aren’t possible in Bangladesh. It was a little early but the charity we work for sends people out for two years at a time before bringing them back for a break. This was when ours fell and another two years out there would be too late for my daughter to really settle into studies here in the UK.
      The upshot is: we’re back so both kids can get through their teenage studies and enjoy their grandparents while they can. Once they’re at university, we have every intention of heading right back to Bangladesh! Of course, a lot can change in that time…

      Like

  8. Ruby Tuesday says:

    The only “advice” I have probably includes a time element, but that doesn’t make it the same as ‘Just give it time, you’ll settle in.’

    I think something you need to acknowledge, both for yourself and your whole family, is that you have suffered a great loss. And just like if someone you loved had died or gone away for a very long period of time, you are grieving. Grief is not something passive, it isn’t something you just “wait out” and one day it’s over, it is a very active process which you ‘work through’ and ‘move through’.

    It’s also very personal, no two people grieve in the same way and there is no set time on the length of a mourning period. But I think the first step is to simply acknowledge that loss, and the effect of it.

    Sending my best, as always. xo

    Like

    • Thanks Ruby. Yes, you’re right – we’re very aware that we are grieving. We knew it would happen and we knew we would hit rough spots. It just doesn’t make it any easier that it’s happening. I guess what’s important as we ‘wait it out’ (grrr…) is to have the support of such good and loyal friends, physically where live now and internationally. Such friends – such as your most wonderful self – are keeping us going day by day 🙂

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  9. Well.. If it helps (and it probably won’t) I haven’t fully recovered from not being in Portugal anymore.. It was the best thing in the world.. Now I’m.. Here..
    But you do have good days.. They’ll be coming soon.. Hang in there..

    Like

  10. Fahima Begum says:

    Thanks, now I don’t want to live here either.

    Like

  11. Muna Haque says:

    All I can say is that I am praying for you 🙂

    Like

  12. January is a tough time to come back to the UK. It has few redeeming features. I won’t add to the platitudes about giving it time, but hopefully February will bring some physical and metaphorical sunshine.

    Like

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