Monday, November 5, 2012

The weather was terrible when I arrived in Bhola. The rains had been late, and we were still getting downpours. On my second night there was a mighty storm in the south of the island – 31 dead and a thousand fishermen lost at sea, although I understand 700 of them were rescued. We felt nothing at our end of the island, and our only casualty was the television lines. Since I depend heavily on Al Juzeera for my sanity when I go to Bhola alone, I was rather fed up until the aerials were mended!

Once the rain stopped, it became extremely hot and humid, and the third floor was like an oven under the flat roof. Fans simply moved hot air around, and the nights were not great. We may have to invest in a couple of small air conditioners for us visitors.

The disappointing news is that Chandan Cruze, the manager of whom we had such high hopes, is not right for the job. Apart from the fact that he can’t drink the water in Bhola and appears to dislike the island, he really does not have managerial skills. So I had to give him his marching orders, and the hunt resumes for a director.

Before we both left, however, we had regular evening lessons in sign language. He may never need to use his newfound knowledge, but I hope to put mine into practice on my next visit.

The staff and children were in good form. Montu and Monira are thrilled with their new baby boy, and Shahti’s daughter Nabanita has become a little beauty.

I walked to the primary school with our deaf children one morning. They have settled in extremely well and no longer have a signing interpreter – the whole class looked at her instead of the teacher! Ali plans to send all our children to school in January, even the slow learners, since they will all receive the government curriculum school books which we can use in the boundary.

Several of our deaf teenage girls and boys have been training in Dhaka, and four of the girls start work in a garment factory this month. They live and learn free of charge in the Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed, founded and run by an English physiotherapist called Valerie Taylor who is a good friend of Ali. Sadly I didn’t get to meet her this trip but hope to do so next time.

So we seem to be achieving our aim of educating and training many of our children to lead a normal and fulfilling life.

As usual I brought home a suitcase full of the beautiful embroidery – pillow cases, table cloths and napkins – made by our teenage girls under Asma’s tuition. I sell them here for donations and hope to have a pre-Christmas ‘embroidery party’ in my house, to give friends a chance to find unique and lovely Christmas gifts.

We took a mixed bag of disabled children out for an ‘awareness programme’, this time to a girls’ secondary college in a very rural area. Ali had asked the principal to invite parents of disabled children to come and meet us. We had not expected 61, from an area not much larger than Chiswick… By the time I left, we had half a dozen new children – mainly CP and Downs – who will come daily for physio until they are able to look after themselves enough to live with us. I have asked Ali to do other such awareness programmes, since we have space for more children.

Due to the rain, planting at Valumia is very late – in fact, we only ploughed two days before I left. We usually manage to plant early so that we can sell surplus vegetables in the market but sadly, this year, they will only be ready at the same time as everyone else’s and we will have to eat or store them ourselves.

We had a wonderful picnic on the estate belonging to the politician whom I met on the overnight launch to Dhaka several years ago. It has a beautiful avenue of trees – very welcome in the heat – and runs along the bank of the river. Ali and the younger children had a lovely swim before lunch. One of the better picnics as far as I was concerned – perhaps not as adventurous as the one Peter and I enjoyed in March, but all the rivers were too high for us to attempt another island visit.

I left just before Eid. Most of the children went home for the holidays, and I always feel sorry for Ali who has to stay in the boundary with the few who have no home or whose parents do not want them. He tells me they had a good time, they shared a cow with other families and went out on some visits. School has now reopened.