সহিষ্ণুতা – Patience

For any who know me, you’ll know i’m probably not the most patient person in the world. I LOVE to be busy. I plan. I party. I work. I go out for food. I do church(es). I volunteer. I AM BUSY.

A week later and we’re still here in Dhaka waiting for our final UK volunteer to arrive. For any that are joining the party a little late, I am in Bangladesh for 10 weeks on an ICS placement. We’ve had a week of orientation with our Bangladeshi volunteers and are staying at the Church of the Nazarene International HQ in the capital. Its basically the head office for the two projects our team will be working on whilst we’re out here. Its been tricky to wander freely, but occaisonally we have been out into Dhaka. The Northern team has gone to Bishiri, near the Indian border to assist Garo Baptist Church and on Wednesday we’re heading to a small fishing port called Mongla in the south to assist Bangladesh Nazarene Mission.

The reason we’re here is climate change. We are the first UK volunteers working with projects to inform the local communities about changing weather conditions and the impact that those conditions have on their work, and ultimately their livelihoods. The ICS programme exists to promote shared learning across the world, as well as assisting in the local development for third world countries. In a nutshell, the government has funded Tearfund to run ICS in Bangladesh with their existing partner – Church of the Nazarene International, hence why we’re here.

This is an experiment. Everything is quite new, and the goals and ambitions set for the projects are quite broad so its down to the team leaders and in-country coordinators to help us to make a specific project plan that is realistic for the time frame. I imagine we’ll be conducting community interviews and courtyard meetings, to understand where the community is at first. We hope to deliver some presentations on climate change, and then interview the community at the end of the project to see what they’ve learnt as a result.

Bangladesh is a fascinating country. I remember learning about it in Geography at school, it was one of the case studies that you just have to remember because things are just so complex. There are 3 rivers, the Bay of Bengal and even some snow melt from India! Where we’re going, it could take just 25 years for the encroaching saltwater in the South West to poison fresh drinking water and waterlog the farmland. Cyclones and river erosion literally mean this country is disappearing, with more than 30-million people being displaced as a result.

Life isn’t all doom and gloom though! Dhaka as a city is beautiful and terrifying. Rickshaw art is something to be marvelled at, and the poverty is  more intense than i’ve ever seen before. The flavours and smells are captivating, and the Bangladeshi volunteers and locals are extremely amicable and proud of their country. Our Bangla volunteers had never been on an escalator before, so yesterdays trip to the shopping mall was an experience!

Climate change is an important part of why we’re here – but ultimately we are pioneering long-lasting relationships with the locals and sharing the gospel. I’m learning that building rapport with diverse communities is the key to development. I have always disagreed with the concept of western people going to marvel at poverty, because I believe poverty is all around us, especially in the western world. Here though the people we meet are so pumped about improving their country they want to pick our English brains on culture, marriage age, music, work ethic and just everything! They love their country so they want to make sure the physical land doesn’t disappear! That’s a pretty big wake up call for me as a western person as well, what with my extreme choice and cheap clothing and excess rubbish…..

Highlights of our relationship building have included:
-Dancing (ceilidh, hindi, macarena, tribal, cotton eyed joe, aaaaand many more)
-Animal charades
-Disney movies

Building relationships takes patience. If we want to make an impact here we have to be patient. In the long periods of spare time I have i’m browsing through Romans again, so naturally – ‘rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer’ (Romans 12:12). I hope and pray that this trip teaches me to be better at waiting and listening as a result of being patient. I can already see snippets of God working through my journey to this point, and in the people I meet, but alas that’s for another post I think. I’ll also let you know how the whole woman-in-a-muslim–male-dominated-society-thing is going, cos its er… interesting.

Much love xxxx



A reflection in 6 parts

As we near towards the end of 2013, I cannot help but think of all that has happened this year. I haven’t written in what feels like forever, when quite frankly I have had a giant list of things that I totally could have shared with you. Instead I suppose I’ll touch upon some of my highlights, some that have definitely happened in the last 3 months or so!

After I finished a bunch of summer internships – BBC Performing Arts Fund, Library Theatre, Whitworth Art Gallery, I applied for a Marketing & Schools Co-ordinator job at the Challenge Network in Manchester. At this point I was so bored of applying for jobs. Annoyed at how poor I was and scarcely conscious of the fact I might have to move back home if I didn’t get something soon. I went into that job interview pretty flipping nervous. It didn’t stop me telling my interview panel quite confidently that I believed I could do the job, and do the job well. Two weeks later I got a call from them with a start date of December 2nd. My first choice, as it was going to fit in perfectly with the trip to America I had planned for November. So highlight number 1 – applying and successful getting a job. Next year I want to smash it!!!

In November I went to the States for 3 and a half weeks. It was magical. Full of art and beer and old friends and new ones. Some real blasts from the past were mixed in with some memories that I will remember for the rest of my lifetime! I gloried at the art in Manhattan, drank craft beer from Microbreweries in Portland, and sampled the foody delights of the Seattle Pike Place Market. It was just what I needed. A chance to get away from Manchester and have some ME time. I love my friends and my God and my life but pheweeeee it gets a bit busy sometimes and I really don’t put myself first. I stayed with friends I had not seen in years and was reminded of family memories that truly touched my heart. I was inspired by the creativity that oozed out of the country but remained perplexed at the social needs of some really poor communities. I made friends from Australia, Austria and Switzerland and spent a large majority of my time swapping stories – one of my all time favourite things to do. Highlight number 2 – USA! USA! USA!

Before my crazy summer of working for free and planning a holiday I graduated University. Something I knew I would always do but there was still a teeny weeny part of my brain that thought I wouldn’t get a 2:1. I did however, and comfortably walked across the stage in the Whitworth Hall to gain my certificate. Its a very hyped up event, totally over-priced and a bit weird, so my favourite part was seeing my family come together for lunch afterwards. We ate and drank and I showed them my new gaff in Didsbury. Highlight number 3 – BA (Hons) Drama, 2:1

I’m not bored with God anymore. I think when you finish a stage in life – which is largely connected to education – you feel like its the end of the world. Nothing is certain, and no matter how much people say ‘God has a plan for your life’ you just want to tell them to bog off and say why hasn’t anything happened yet. What have I learnt in 2013? Patience baby, its a true virtue that you have to PRACTICE. As much as I believe that people have a lot of common sense and things that appear naturally to them its frustrating when not enough emphasis is put on practicing disciplines. Whether you are in church or not! Practice time keeping (something I am getting better at!), practice patience, practice silence, practice love. This year I have learnt to practice. When I have gotten better at something – patience, time-keeping or loving people its made me just WOW over how God loves us and ultimately wants the best for us. Highlight number 4 – learning to be obedient and patient. (I still have a long way to go!)

In June I moved into a house share with 7 strangers in Didsbury. Its wonderful. We are our own little disjointed family, challenging each other left, right and centre and learning that just because we are all different doesn’t mean it is a bad thing. 8 people in a house gets busy and messy and stressy mind, but I really do love them, and I totally encourage you to live with randoms or do a house share cos it sure does keep you on your toes! Highlight number 5 – housesharing.

Things happen when you least expect it. Like boys, jobs, bad moods, arguments, and creativity. I’m pretty sure the best way to be is to embrace it all really. Try and be an open book. Know how to make yourself feel better when you feel crummy. Love people, REALLY. Highlight number 6 – trying to love perfectly so that fear is cast out. THEN blessings come tenfold!