My mom bought me a pair of 100% linen pants yesterday, she's making me get more malaria pills this morning, and I won't be able to pack successfully without her this afternoon. She's been a big part of this last leg before my departure, but tomorrow is more about my dad. I leave for Bangladesh tomorrow night, after a one and a half hour drive to JFK airport with my dad... on his birthday. I'm not sure if this is the most appropriate birthday present, but it worked out this way.
This year, between May 25th and July 23rd, I will be out of the country on a mission trip to Bangladesh. For those who don't know, Bangladesh is a small country on the eastern border of India. It is home to 150 million people (half of the United States) who are squeezed into an area the size of Wisconsin (thank you Ashraf family). Based on fairly reliable sources, they are a lively, friendly, welcoming people. However, the country is arguably the poorest in the world.
For the last two years at the University of Notre Dame, I've been involved with a boxing program called Bengal Bouts that sends money to the Holy Cross missions in Bangladesh (mostly schools). This summer, following in the wake of Mark Weber (see the documentary, "Strong Bodies Fight"), Bobby Powers, Dom Golab, Mike Doran, Jack Healy, J.P Foley and others, I get to go to Bangladesh to teach English, learn about their culture, play soccer, hang with the priests, and get to know the kids. Needless to say, it'll be an unforgettable summer. People have told me that I'll be forever changed by what I see and do. I find this neither doubtful nor disagreeable.
My current emotional state is not incredibly interesting to note. I'm neither notably nervous nor anxious. I'm excited, but not quite bubbling over. I'm looking forward to the trip almost as a young child looks forward to his or her very first day of school or as a young adult looks forward to college- it's a new world that others have been to and told stories about, but which one cannot imagine before experiencing.
I do look forward to teaching. I want to see if teaching is a possible career vocation. I anticipate that I will enjoy making lesson plans, watching them fail, and adjusting to improve. I expect to have many difficulties, which will only force me to invest myself further and love what I am doing. Aunt Erzsi, Mrs. Straka, Mrs. B., Dr. Gubernat, Dr. Fagerberg, Dr. Schneider, and a few others have taught me what it means to be a dedicated, inspiring teacher. I hope to follow in their footsteps this summer (and possibly forever).
Though I don't know totally what to expect, and my future posts (hopefully weekly) may not be this long or well-composed (though they probably can't get much less), I do know that I am drawn to the life I will be living when in Bangladesh. Who knows how quickly I will get sick of it, but living with a pair of pants, a pair of shorts, and about 5 shirts in sandals, unbearable heat, no air conditioning, and occasionally clean drinking water carries Franciscan tones. And that doesn't even include the excitement and struggles in the barriers of language (ah, reminiscent of Hungary) and culture (eating with only your right hand).
I will keep prayer (at least five times a day- Bangladesh is 90% Muslim), mass (every morning at 6), reading (whenever it's too hot to do anything else, which will be quite often- the average temperature during the day will be in the 90's with constant 100% humidity), and journaling (for class and for myself) central to my life there. Whether you contributed financially or not, I appreciate any prayers, well-wishes, notes on this blog, or emails that you can send my way this summer.
While writing this, I have begun to see this trip to Bangladesh as a better and better birthday present to my dad. It'll be good for the world and great for me. For his birthday I get to show him that I'm growing up to be someone he can be proud of.
Ashi! ("bye!", or literally, "I'll be back")
an early adventure with Dad
(adventures in Bangladesh to follow)