A colleague told me how a French diplomat arrived at Dhaka airport in tears, but when the time came for him to leave, he was again a wreck and covered in tears. When I first heard this, I thought, “Too right, tears of joy!”. But, with my time in Bangladesh coming to an end, I can finally see the proverbial irony. As someone who was younger than ICCCAD’s usual recruits (and who knew Asia only through a school atlas), you would forgive me for finding the idea of leaving my home, friends and family for Bangladesh, very daunting. I had fallen into an opportunity to experience a gap year, yet in my first month, I thought it had been the worst decision of my life. But I gave it time, stuck it out and (I don’t mind saying) worked as hard as I could, to make sure I was pulling my weight around those who outgunned me in experience and qualifications.
The results? I can hold my head up high and be happy with what I have achieved in my time at ICCCAD From helping to write papers and organising an international conference, to even doing some male modelling, trekking in the Himalayas and cycling in Vietnam, I have not wasted my time. Although there were challenges, I feel these have made the results and rewards sweeter and more valuable. I leave Bangladesh satisfied, well travelled and with many new friends, prospects and fresh ideas to explore in the not too distant future.
Although I might not be leaving in a puddle of tears, I will be sad to say goodbye to all the friends, family and culture that I have been privileged to experience here in Bangladesh. This is something most westerners will never know of. But I will say this. It’s not a goodbye, Bangladesh, just a prolonged see you later.