a brief table of contents for this long blog...
I) Some practical info
II) my final blog
III) pictures from our last week
IV) a section of Leo and Andrew's pictures from Mariamnagor
V) Leo's final reflection
I) Some practical info
A) This should be the last wordy post to this blog- all future posts will be only videos or pictures, unless I am divinely inspired to write more.
B) I will be studying in Dublin in the fall and doing some travel throughout Europe. These adventures will be the last in my year of worldwide adventures to California, Rome, Bangladesh, Dublin, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and various other European destinations. If you are interested in following the new Dublin Blog, check back on this blog later in August. There will be a link.
C) I just got home this morning to New Jersey. After saying hello and good bye to the other families, driving Leo to the bus station, and driving home, I have spent an ideal summer day swimming, eating, and talking at home. Tonight we'll finish with Burgers, Watermelon, Corn on the Cob, my bangladesh slide show, America's funniest home videos, and an early Bed Time.
II) My Final Blog
The impact of the Congregation of Holy Cross and the Bengal Bouts boxing club has been enormous here. This is in stark contrast to the difference I have made over these short two months. Many times I have received a sad stare when I tell people I will be leaving within weeks, not even staying for the entire rainy season. Still, witnessing various mission venues, interacting personally with many people, and getting meaningful time to relax, learn, and grow, has been of immense value.
The Congregation of Holy Cross, which first sent priests to Bangladesh around the same time that they sent priests to Indiana and founded the University Notre Dame, has been a unifying force for many underprivileged people. In a country where the government is willing to give tea companies, police, and foreigners virtually free reign, the Catholic Church acts as a sort of union, giving minorities a voice in front of the law, the industries, and the Muslim neighbors. Currently, Holy Cross operates the two most prestigious colleges in the country (and is planning on opening another soon), six of the nine bishops in the country are Holy Cross priests, and the congregation has established half of the dioceses in the country. The cross and anchors of a Holy Cross priest have come to be highly respected.
The impact of the Bengal Bouts boxing club is certainly appreciated as well. In the past 6 years, our annual contribution to the Bangladesh missions has increased from $50,000 to upwards of $160,000. Imagining that this would create a surplus or at least some new projects, I was thrilled, but I have learned that it is only filling a deficit. As the number of native priests increases, the number of western priests with rich western friends decreases. Fortunately, the number of western boxers is increasing. The fundraising of Bengal Bouts become more and more imperative for the missionaries (who are nearly all native) to construct more schools, pay for better teachers, and provide more services for many people- Garos and Kashis, Bengalis and tribals, Catholics and non-Catholics.
As an individual, I really have not significantly changed Bangladesh (but that is not to say that Bangladesh has not significantly changed me). On average, I taught for a meager 10 hours per week. The rest of the time was spent talking, traveling, or celebrating, and most of this was with the priests and sisters, not the children. My teaching has had some stunning results (the ambiguity here is intentional). When I ask students to write negative sentences, I get “I kick didn’t not.” When I ask them to conjugate a verb (present tense, past tense, and past participle), I still occasionally get “fight, forgot, forgiven.” When we sing Old MacDonald Had a Farm, dogs say “boo boo” and cows say “umba umba.”
The four of us, (Andrew, Leo, Kevin, and I) were blessed to be able to spend the last 4 days with Fr Tom McDermott (the uncle of a dear friend) in Dhaka. We met for a couple hours each day to debrief and share. What happened during those meetings was priceless. I’ll share a few of our thoughts:
1) “Nothing is ever enough.” – Fr Tom
-The path of careers and riches and education and success are all never-ending cycles of amassing more and more to one’s self. The only path that gives more and more away is love. There is no limit to how much one can get, how much one can succeed. There is no fulfillment in the path of more and more. The path of love ends with emptiness of self and fullness of union with God.
2) “The secret to life is making new mistakes, not old ones”- Fr Tom
-“Just keep on buggerin’ on,” as Winston Churchill said. Mistakes are not negative. In fact, they are positive because, if we listen, they tell us what not to do next time.
3) “Our ancestors have given us the gift of freedom of vocation. To forfeit this freedom for the sake of security, or in fear, would be disrespectful of them and of the great gift they have given.”
- we talked a bit about freedom in general. Full human life requires freedom, in its fullness
4) “I don’t mean to get up on my high horse, but I do love to get up on ‘em”- Fr Tom
-sorry, you had to be there
5) “It felt like trying to help an elephant make love to a zebra”- Fr Tom
-again, had to be there
A great line from a poem by TS Eliot reads, “We had the experience but missed the meaning.” This is so common in our modern, high-paced, get ahead or die trying lifestyles. It is so uncommon in Bangladesh. Thanks to Holy Cross, all the Srimangal and Mariamnagor people, the Bengal Bouts, and the coordinators of the International Summer Service Learning Program, the four of us have received a wonderful gift. We were given the gift of an experience, melting with meaning, saturated with significance, plump with purpose. May God continue to stir this in us. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love.
III) Pictures from our last week
Last Supper in Dhaka
On the Dhaka-Dubai flight I befriended this Japanese flight attendant, named Ai, on Emirates Airlines. It was Leo's birthday so we woke him up for the is last minute birthday picture- Ai also wrote him a nice birthday card.
Ai with everyone once we landed in Dubai
Dubai airport- We had a picture here back in May with Juni and wearing totally different clothes. Juni is the Hagen Daas worker we bought ice cream from. We tried to find him again, but apparently he was not on duty.
With Fr Frank Quinlivan, the provincial of Holy Cross' Bangladesh Province
with Fr Tom McDermott
Sr Marian Theresa just died. She was the first Bengali Sister of Holy Cross and the principal of Holy Cross College in Dhaka for 38 years
with Sr Pauline at Holy Cross College, the best women's college in the country
Bengal Bouts entirely funds this technical school for orphans, for only about $1000 per month
with the boys at the Holy Cross Brothers' technical school
We had lunch with Monsignor Mark (from Kenya) and Archbishop Joseph Marino (from Alabama)- Archbishop Marino is the Vatican Embassador to Bangladesh, aka the Apostolic Nuncio
sand barges come up the river to deposit sand in low area of the city. This creates more land, since there are so many people.
some of the Bengali seminarians in Dhaka loved to play chess
just a cool picture. Outside of every chapel, there is an army of shoes. This was one of the smaller armies. I missed the larger ones, unfortunately because I rarely carried my camera to mass.
LEO AND ANDREW, MARIAMNAGOR SECTION
And this blog has totally neglected Leo and Andrew's experiences, so here is a section devoted entirely to them and their pictures. There is also a reflection from Leo at the bottom.
lungi man, lungi man
"Welcome!"- sorry, inside joke, ladies and gentlemen- now let's get on with the proceedings
fotua and a panjabi at the same time?!
two handsome boys. Are those baker's hats?
pose number 2
pose number 3
not much to say about this one
cute kid. Leo liked to take solo pix
What a caring teacher
the second Bangladeshi kid we found who wears UCONN stuff. who knew?
those two on the left look bored
The one on the right was known for two things, neither of which is her boxing prowess-
1) her scowl
2) her smile
This picture nicely captures both
One of their favorite pictures.
V) Leo's final reflection
This is an email from Leo, addressed to his friends and family, and edited (just slightly) by yours truly...