This is hopefully my last day in Chittagong. I have to catch up with work and won’t do anything else today. I’ll use this post to mention a couple of things I may have forgotten before.
I haven’t seen many foreigners in Bangladesh. There was a group of Japanese(?) in Dhaka, and a British(?) here in Chittagong, and Aaron. I’m pretty sure most of the villages I cycled through haven’t seen many, if any at all. That, of course, explains people’s curiosity. When I stop somewhere to have a break it takes half a minute and there is a small crowd watching my every move. Usually someone with some English skills will step forward and ask the standard questions, country, name, job.
As far as I can tell, there are people everywhere. I think the longest stretch of road without a person can’t have been much more than 500 meters.
The kind and amount of manual labor being done is incredible. And so is people’s stamina. Cycle rickshaw drivers don’t have the luxury of gears on their vehicles. More often than not I see them literally standing on the pedals – left, right, left, right, for the whole ride – to actually move the heavy thing and the cargo or passenger.
There are no lifts at construction sites. If there are bricks and sand needed at the top of a building, it’s people who carry the stuff up. Two piles of bricks or two bowls of sand hanging from a long stick, carried across the shoulders and up stairs.
People pushing 8m long bamboo sticks piled up on a hand cart through Chittagong’s heaviest traffic.
Shipbreakers risking their health and their lives by cutting through the massive hulls. No safety gear, no insurance, no compensation in case anything goes wrong.
And almost everyone here, especially those doing the heavy work, is more than a head shorter than me and weigh half as much, if at all.
Me cycling through the country, with little luggage and a filling meal at the end of the day is certainly less challenging.
And when I say that the countryside is beautiful and the villages look quaint, I must not forget that the people are very poor and live in very simple conditions.