Monday, January 31, 2011

Almost there!

My flight from San Francisco departed at 11:45 AM on Sunday, January 31. As I type this, it is 6 AM on Tuesday morning and I’m in Bangkok. I feel like I’m time traveling, yet all I’m doing is losing time.

I’m happy to say that the trip has been fairly easy so far. I’ve found ways to keep myself entertained. The main source of entertainment on the first leg of my journey (from San Francisco to Osaka, Japan) was a gentleman seated in the same row, but at the far window. When we departed, the flight crew asked everyone to please shut their blinds so that the TVs would be visible for those who wanted to watch the movies. The man at the window made it about an hour before he could no longer resist the urge to look outside. With an amazing predictability, the man opened the blind roughly every 10 minutes, and just when I would think he'd stopped (maybe 17 minutes would elapse), he’d do it again! Each time it sent a shaft of light across my screen, but rather than be upset, I was amused and I started a log. I’m not quite sure what he was looking for - the map showed us flying over water… When we did fly over land, however, somewhere towards the end along the coast of Russia, he was so excited that the window was opened about every 3 minutes and he even woke his seating partner to show her the view.

Aside from that, I had to laugh at the fact that all of my things were trapped in the overhead bins. The middle bins were so far up that I could neither open, much less close them, without standing on a seat. This wouldn’t have been a problem if I’d been able to store my backpack under the seat in front of me, but the space was occupied by a large metal box (possibly containing a life jacket). About five hours into the flight I started craving the Goldfish crackers that were stowed above a sleeping guy’s seat. After trying to figure out how I could get them myself without disturbing him, I had to ask a flight attendant for help. Starvation crisis averted.

I arrived in Osaka at 11:24 PM PST on Sunday (4:24 PM local time on Monday). I had 8 hours to burn. I rented a tiny little room with a twin size bed and about a foot of space on the left side, and rested/napped for about 3 hours. Took a shower in the shower room (for my birthright friends, it was reminiscent of the kibbutz showers but nicer, with doors, and without the squeegee). Used the rest of the time to finish Julia Child’s My Life in France and boarded the next flight.

Thai Airlines is great! There’s lots of legroom, they have a special step bar so you can reach the overhead bins, the stewardesses are dressed in beautiful “traditional” attire, and they have orchids in the bathroom! As nice as it was, I slept for most of the flight. And that brings me to where I am now – 4 hours away from my flight to Dhaka.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An Introduction

With my departure to Bangladesh only a few days away, it’s time that this blog be born. Blogladesh (thank you Fil for inspiring the name), will serve to document my experience on the other side of the world. But before we land in Dhaka, here’s some background on the journey so far…

I’ve wanted to volunteer abroad for several years and I knew I wanted to work with children. Initially I thought this would entail working at an orphanage and setting something up through an existing voluntourism program; however, after doing some research I came to the surprising conclusion that giving your time is expensive. Who would have thought?!

In an effort to avoid these high program fees, I enlisted the help of my parents. Thanks to facebook, my dad was able to get in touch with a friend who offered to help. After several conversations, Mark connected me with a friend of his who lives in Bangladesh. Andrew described two possible volunteer opportunities, one of which was at the Sir John Wilson School in Dhaka. I was immediately attracted to the Early Years Program and the school’s philanthropic work through IMPACT (each month surplus revenue is donated to support projects around the country). I wanted to make sure that their needs matched what I was looking for. I emailed with the principal who made me feel very comfortable and excited about moving forward with this plan. Things were about to kick into high gear.

Both Andrew and the principal urged me to come to Bangladesh ASAP. They warned that beginning in late April the temperatures would become unbearably hot. Given this timeline, I had about one week to decide whether to quit my job and take this leap, or to stay and continue life as it was.

Sitting on Ka’anapali Beach in Maui, I let the idea marinade. After some time, I concluded that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and given my situation (no apartment lease, no car payments, nothing to tie me down) it was the perfect time to take on this challenge.

Yet talking about quitting my job was a lot easier than actually doing it. But after breaking the news and taking a moment to exhale, I felt good. December 30 was my last day in the office.

I rang in the New Year in New York City, spent the first weeks of 2011 in Israel, and am about to embark on what will be a defining experience both of this year and of my life. I invite you all to come along for the ride.

To learn more about the history and demographics of Bangladesh, visit the CIA World Factbook.