Map of Bangladesh

Map of Bangladesh
for more detailed map, scroll to bottom of page

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Nagymama and the Calm After the Storm

My Nagymama (“Grandma” in Hungarian) moved into our house in New Jersey a few months ago.  She had spent the last 50 years in the Philadelphia area as a parishioner at St. Elizabeth, seamstress for Howard, and mother to three children (including my mother).  This summary overlooks a lot of her life, but it reveals consistency, persistence, faithfulness, and at least some security.  The decision to leave her house, and instead live with the people she once had supported, was undoubtedly a major one.  Though I have not discussed this too much with her, and keeping in mind that I must be careful what words I put into her mouth or what generalizations I make because she reads each of these blog posts, I will relay what we have discussed as well as the further fruits of this discussion.

I have asked her, on multiple occasions, if she is bored yet with her life at our house.  Though her life in Pennsylvania consisted of much more work behind the sewing machine, time babysitting for my aunts and uncles, chores in a house alone, and errands to run (or walk- she never did get a driver’s license, even though I promised her that I would someday buy her a car), she says that she is not bored at all with her new life.  Now she spends much of her time reading, cooking, going to family events, and sleeping (more than she used to).

Here in Bangladesh, I have had a parallel experience.  My life at Notre Dame this year was filled with dorm activities, boxing, preparation for Bangladesh and Dublin, Little Flower Youth Group, DEEP, and much other fun stuff (not to mention the big three- School, Sleep, and Socializing) as most everyone’s university life is.  For the past few days here, I have spent the majority of my waking hours preparing English lessons, studying Bangla, writing in my journal, or reading about the saints and Narnia, all here outside the door of our second floor room.  We have a wonderful, walled-in porch around the second floor of the building that partially shields one from sight, but gives Kevin and I a perfect view of a few jackfruit (the national fruit) trees, the main entrance to the parish compound, and a small pond, all from a plastic chair.  I’ve told a few people that my ideal place of rest or leisure would include a view of water, the shade of a tree, and a wooden bench.  Though I am on a plastic chair and I am in the shade of the building rather than the shade of the trees, this place is pretty ideal.

After a long semester, this restful existence (we are getting 8-10 hours of sleep every night) is fully appreciated, maybe even necessary.  A good friend told me, over “bottom left” dinner in North Dining Hall, that people need time to process all the experiences we encounter in life.  During a college semester there is very little time for reflection or processing, and my recent trend has been to pack life with as many exciting, good things as possible, without time to process (in the hopes that I will simply enjoy them, look back on them later in life, and have good stories).  I have realized that, though I have outstanding experiences to look back on and learn from, if one waits for peace to change battle plans, the war already will be lost.

Rarely do I give myself time, in the midst of action, to learn and grow, but one time is certainly during prayer, especially mass and adoration. These were as integral a part of my busy schedule during school as they are here with the Holy Cross priests in Bangladesh.  As an aside, I am nowhere near as good a story-teller as many of my friends and family, which makes me think that I need to spend more time reflecting on and sharing my story, and less time hectically living it. 

My Nagymama shared with me, at our kitchen table almost every day during the one week I was home between Notre Dame and Bangladesh, some of the Hungarian language and prayers, a few of her stories from childhood, and a few stories from my mom’s childhood.

I have the chance to share, over the internet now and certainly more when I come home, some of the Bangla language (the only language, Bengalis proudly claim, that has launched a successful revolution) and prayers that I have learned, and a few of my stories from Bangladesh, connecting them with stories from the rest of my life.

Like my Nagymama in her relocation to New Jersey, I am not bored in my new, less hectic surroundings here.  Like my Nagymama, I have found peace and enjoyment in a life of leisure, the calm after the storm.

Hail Mary in Bangla
Pronam Maria, Prashad de Purna.
Provu tumar shohai.
Tumi narikule dhonna.
Tumar gorvofol Jesuo dhonna.
Hey punomoye Maria Ishyor
Jononi amra papi
Akonoyo amader mritukale
Amader mongol prarthona koro. Amen.

Random... just a great picture of Victoria Falls in Africa- photograph by Kevin Ortenzio (it's his current screensaver and I just had to take it)... you're welcome

Remember the wedding I had to leave? Well Kevin got to stay and here is an interesting picture-
the couple, the parents, the priest, and a random American dude.

a sketched map of our parish, along the border of India, in NE Bangladesh

We took a day trip to Jafflong, one of the two "most beautiful places in Bangladesh."
Jafflong is on the border with India in NE Bangladesh and one of only two places in Bangladesh with natural stone and mountains- the other is the Chittagong Hill Tracks.
Over our heads you can see how fast rain rolls in here.
Pictured is the day trip crew, minus Fr Dominic (who is addicted to taking pictures, but secretly REALLY ENJOYS being in pictures, himself, as does Sr Shilpi who is not in this picture).

told ya so

the ladies (Sr Jumona, Sr Jamalee, Sr Sukriti) posing daintily... and me

We barely fit into this little "I don't know what you call it"- I'm not even in yet and there are two people standing on the ground with me, waiting to get in.

One if by Land: the India-Bangladesh border at Jafflong-
you can reach the border here by road or by river.

The boat we crammed into to travel up the stream 100 yards to the water border.

Two if by Sea: This water is from India, but we are in Bangladesh.
The border is about 3 inches to Kevin's left.
It is guarded closely from a watch tower on top of a hill of stones on the shore.

Many random Bengalis wanted to take pictures with Kev and I at the border- I think I made it into about 13 family photo albums- here's just one example.

The three white stones I am holding were "gifts" from these three boys (in fact they asked for money after the picture was taken).

This is an outhouse (they call this a "khola" or an "open").

Practicing for the coolest picture of the entire trip so far

The coolest picture of the entire trip so far
I am an American, standing in Bangladesh, drinking a waterfall from India.

The tired ride home- we also stopped at a Muslim holy place in Syllhet- gotta love the beard.

Much love to family and friends and thank you for your continuing prayers and support,

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