Two weeks ago my intern group had our first trip to a village, just a day trip. Our Grameen Bank coordinator met us at the hotel with a hired driver at 7:30 AM to start the drive to Narsingdi, a neighboring district. As I rode the two hours on roads not fit for cars, past rice fields and city streets and men with seine nets fishing, it was impossible not to see vibrant life. As always. So green, and grey, and red and rich orange and turquoise and purple. The people themselves are just walking tapestries. And it is so vastly different from home, it truly feels like the other side of the world.
We visited a center meeting, an open hut where groups of women come weekly to repay their loans, and then were invited to several borrowers' houses. Our coordinator acted as interpreter and we got to ask them questions and see their homes, and get an idea of what life is like. The women, as always, were extremely shy but when speaking through the interpreters many of them showed such a quiet strength -- they work so hard to earn extra money for their families, in addition to being wives, mothers, cooks, laundresses, maids, and whatever other titles moms fill. They are expected to be silent in household decisions and are generally given no say in family matters, especially where money is concerned; Grameen has been trying to change that since its inception in 1976 by targeting their loans to women. This is often the first time women have been given money that hasn't gone directly to their fathers or husbands. Still, their husbands are in charge of what happens with the loan, but the women are now included in the process and are given more of a voice now. It has been neat to hear of the changes the branch manager has seen in these women and this village in just a few decades.
It was immediately apparent that hospitality among people -- the poor -- is the same the world over. As in Nicaragua, these poor families would prepare food and serve drinks on their only dishes; we undeservingly took the offered food while perched on benches or the bed in the main (usually only) room of the house. It was actually quite fun to try the different food they served, because it was as authentic as you can get and much cleaner (safer) than we could find in the city from street vendors. At the first house, the woman sent her daughter to make a type of soup out of coconut and fruit -- it was like a sweet paste and actually very good. Later we had tiny bowls of noodles spiced to the extreme, and puffed rice - and - sugar cookies. It was all delicious. We always had a crowd of people and kids peering in the doorways and windows to see who the foreigners were and what we were up to, and sometimes after the women relaxed with us a little bit they would ask us questions too. A frequent one for me is always if I'm married, because girls here usually get married very young and I am the only girl in our intern group. I was talking with one borrower's daughter who looked about my age, and then she asked if I was married. I returned the question and she said yes she is, and she has 3 kids -- one of them is 11 years old! It turns out she is 30! I think Bangladeshi women are all beautiful, and they all keep their youth very well. They have gorgeous skin and most all of them have straight shiny dark hair. I have maybe seen 2 people total with curly hair. ;) I've also been asked if I dyed my hair because it's not black ;)
Then we went back to the branch office to ask the branch manager more specific questions about operations at the branch and how well they are doing. The heart of Grameen is really at the village level so it was great to see the system right where it is affecting people.
I'm a twenty-something from the Pacific NW making home in new places as I follow where God leads.
My intent is to show Christ's love to the world and use business to solve some of the social problems we face: hunger, illiteracy, healthcare, economic hardship. For now, I'm in a stage of learning. A little adventuring, a few books, some good friends, and a whole lot of prayer and life runs on.