Why I'm Going Back To Bangladesh (And What I Found There)—Part I



Last December, if one could have measured such things, my intention to visit Bangladesh would have registered strong and clear of the Richter scale of my heart.

If intention had weight and I'd walked through airport security feeling the way I did, I'd have set off every alarm and sent security guards scurrying towards me. My pockets emptied, my hands open and arms outstretched, I'd stand patiently waiting for the pat down to reveal nothing. Walking through the metal detector again, it would still beep. Bangladesh, like liquid metal, runs heavy through my veins.

A doctor throws an x-ray of my chest up against the light. There between my heart and my lung is a black smudge, the shape of this country I've never been to.

"I'm sorry there's nothing we can do. You must go—that's all I can tell you."

The diagnosis only confirming what I already knew.

As my trip approached Bangladesh it felt as if my journey of the previous nine months had been building toward this place. I had walked thousands of miles across the better part of entire countries. I'd left my home, my friends, my family—pulled onward by something I could not explain.

It felt as if I'd climbed every pass, descended through every mountain village, ridden every train, bus, & taxi, explored each crowded market, walked every sidewalk in a long list of foreign cities—each and every bit of this a long, twisting, fast-forward speed tunnel leading me from my door in San Francisco to this.

And yet, back in December, the way to Bangladesh was closed. Dhaka, the capitol, was shut off from the surrounding world. A traffic barricade had been instituted—part of a protest against the the upcoming national election. Every car, truck, and train barred from the city—nothing could get in or out of Dhaka. Violent protests and sporadic bombings had brought life there to a stand-still.

My contacts in both Bangladesh and neighboring India unanimously advised me against visiting. One person living in Dhaka declared it to be the worst violence in at least ten years.

I weighed my options for a few days and ultimately decided to heed their advice. However, I had already bought my ticket to fly of Bangladesh months before and changing it would have been both costly and a hassle. Instead, I decided to buy a cheap ticket from Kolkata to Bangladesh, planning to spend the day in the airport where there was little to no danger.

I felt good about the decision. I'd get to be in the airport (which sounded fun to me) while still getting a taste of Bangladesh from the air and from the little bits you can pick up from being in an airport.

I figured maybe there was a reason it worked out the way it did—it didn't mean I wouldn't return, it just meant the pilgrimage would take a bit longer.

All of this I've told a version of previously. But something happened there I haven't written about. I've been sitting on it, chewing on it, thinking on it, and eventually acting on it. It was something I could never have predicted or anticipated.

In the moment it felt like a flash of lightening in the dark, illuminating my course, its powerful clap resounding in my ears. Yet in the months since I've doubted it and wrestled over it, bargaining with God and myself in the process.

And yet no matter how I've tried I have not been able to walk away.

So here I am, back in India. In only a few days I'm heading back to Bangladesh—this time with something to accomplish.

(Sorry for the cliffhanger, but I'll be posting the next installment in the coming days—it's just too long for one post!)