I went to Bhola on 15th November. I had made the mistake of arriving just before Eid, which meant chaotic travel arrangements – I will cast a veil over my journey from Dhaka to Bhola – and rather a lot of dead cow. But much more disappointing was the fact that there was no school my first week and many children chose to go home after Eid. Although this meant I had time for all the necessary meetings with staff and fellow Bangladeshi trustees, I did miss the children until most of them returned before I left.
Bottled gas ran out on the island, so I suggested to Ali we take the remaining children and some staff to the district town of Barisal, 37km away on the mainland as the crow flies. Few of them had ever been there, so it was an exciting excursion which turned into a long day for some. All went well on the outward journey – around 2 hours with the car on a ferry, then a short drive over to the next ferry which takes 20 minutes to Barisal. We bought bottles of gas, had lunch with Ali’s relations and then went to the children’s park. Unfortunately we then missed the first ferry, arriving at 5.30 to see the next one disappearing towards Bhola Island and to get the news that it would not be back until 10 p.m. I had a slight sense of humour failure, but luckily Ali agreed that I and the smaller children plus a couple of staff would take a speedboat to the island. We were home by 7.30 but poor Ali and the others didn’t get arrive until 3.45 a.m! The water levels were so low in the river, the ferry didn’t return until after midnight.
We had our usual wonderful picnic at Valumia last Friday. This involves taking sacks of rice, all food and cooking utensils in the tractor trailer – quite a production. During the day the boys cut down a large tree and the wood was piled onto the trailer, along with children and cooking utensils, for the return journey. We girls of course did our ladylike gardening, weeding the newly planted vegetables which, we hope, will survive any weather now.
On Saturday we had a sports day which was huge fun. Ali really is a star at organizing all the competitions. Many of them took place on the sand laid where the tailoring building will go. This gave us the idea of putting sand on the land behind the boundary, where we have already filled in a pond, so that the children can use it as a playground while builders are at work.
The children are all well and happy. A couple of teachers have left and we are looking for replacements, but the number of small children hasn’t increased since last time I was there, so they seem to be able to cope. We have now promoted the teenage children to the role of ‘helper’: each will receive a small amount of money each month and each has been given an area of responsibility. They continue, of course, with their further education of tailoring for the girls, woodwork and metal work for the boys. Once we have built the tailoring building, above which will be accommodation for married staff, we will be looking forward to building workshops on our beautiful new land. It is a ten minute walk away and has been called Supari Bagan, which means Nut Garden. The nuts have already been harvested and will be sold when the price is high…
My bangla and sign language improve very slowly! We all have fun teaching me..