1. The thinking behind this blog

Before I came to Bangladesh I considered the pros and cons of blogging as a way of sharing stories with family and friends. I worried though that a day-to-day record, by virtue of its very inclusiveness, could be tedious to read and come across as overly self-indulgent. Indeed, the idea of any kind of public, ‘personal’ blog seemed both self-indulgent and narcissistic. I questioned too whether such a process would merely feed into current disturbing trends towards voyeurism and exhibitionism. But then I remembered my friends telling me how much they had enjoyed, and looked forward to, reading my letters during my last extended (pre-Internet) period abroad. It’s hard to believe now that I used to write so many long freehand letters. (I remember too the thrill of collecting bundles of post at designated post-offices along my route.) However, since then I have a lot more friends scattered around the globe and ‘writing’ now feels alien without a keyboard. Upon reflection, I thought it might be a little more interesting for you, the reader, if I posted less often and retrospectively. So, by selecting from my journal I hope to be able to illuminate the past from the vantage point of the present. I am trying to keep the tone and flavour of my original diary notes. Hopefully, my entry (albeit hesitant) to the world of blogging will help me to stitch together a picture of Bangladesh for those who might be interested, admittedly, of course, as viewed through my own personal lens. The exercise might also militate against my tendency to write too often in the abstract.

There is one problem: one of the main reasons behind the blog was to stay in touch with family and friends. In this regard I am failing miserably. In fact, the ‘blog’ is now proving to be an obstacle to keeping in touch, because I keep deferring e-mail contact until such time as I can include the link. It is now more about sharing experiences, even if a little belatedly.

In my defence, it is very easy to find excuses for not blogging in Bangladesh. Frequent power cuts and poor (or no) Internet connection are just two. (The simple act of trying to send an e-mail has been known to almost reduce me to tears!) Furthermore, there is always something new to experience in Bangladesh and I never want to miss a thing. Any free time that remains is spent keeping my journal up to date and so I constantly procrastinate when it comes to blogging.

In any event, I hope I can bring some of my experiences in Bangladesh to life through this ‘blog’ – albeit retrospectively. I know though that words can be a blunt enough instrument at times. I am always struggling with the inadequacy of language – whether it be the written or the spoken word – to express the ‘essential’. It seems to me that every day we do a lot of talking but say little: it’s as if we feel obliged to fill the silence. (It rang true then when I read that Carlos Fuentes described writing as ‘a struggle against silence’.) One of the reasons that I love to write is that it gives me a way of negotiating meaning: it is through the act of writing (and reflecting, and dialoguing, and revising and revising again) that I create a form of ‘knowing’. And like the writer, Michener, ‘I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions’. There are experiences though, that, for me, possess an inexpressible and at the same time essential silent beauty, or poignancy, or sublimity. Perhaps the essential is incommunicable, or is it that the unsayable is essential? For now, the answer remains a mystery and my quest continues. (Maybe it’s a little like the slippage that occurs between languages when there is no word in one language to adequately describe the meaning of a word or concept in another.) In the meantime, I have a lexicon of words at my disposal, which, with the help of photographs and other media, will describe what can be articulated, in a way that will hopefully enable you, dear reader, to share something of my experiences in Bangladesh.

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9 responses to “1. The thinking behind this blog

  1. Hi,

    I can’t stop reading, your style of writing is so entertaining!!!!

    Can I ask….what did you think of the tourist infrastructure in Dhaka?

    • Thank you Nadiya! Glad you’re enjoying it.

      To answer your question: the tourist infrastructure is not as developed as in other south Asian countries. However, this should not deter a visit. It means that you need a little more time and patience to figure things out. On the other hand, the absence of the trappings of tourism also means that you will have a very authentic experience. The genuineness of the people (no aggressive tourist touts) more than compensates for the lack of tourist infrastructure. Hope this answers your question. Regards, Ann

  2. Hi Ann!

    Remember me? I communicated with you during the time I volunteered teaching ESL in Dhaka for the summer of 2014. My poetry manuscript from that time, Mad Rains: Poems from Bangladesh, has been accepted for publication. I sent you a rough copy last year, but it is a bit longer now. My editor has asked me to choose one of my photos for the cover, and I have tons of favorites, but since the title has to do with water, I thought it should have some rain in it, or at least an underwater street. I only have a few watery photos and they are a bit blah. Would you have a photo to donate to the cause with full credit? How are you? Hope you are well and happy. I see that your blog continues to get a steady stream of readers. That is not surprising — it is so well written, penchant, philosophical, imagistic.

    Best, Dorie

    • Hello Dorie

      Good to hear from you. Of course I remember you! And your wonderful poetry manuscript. Congratulations on the forthcoming publication. Exciting times.

      I would be more than happy to proffer a photograph or two. It’s been a while since I’ve inspected my blog/photographs, so let me have a look and see what might be suitable. I think the majority of my photographs are ‘watery’ – rivers/river life, boats/ferries, rice paddies, rainy season, floods, etc. – given that a great deal of Bangladeshi life is shaped by water. The focus of much of my photography in Bangladesh was to record memories and/or augment storytelling, rather than striving for perfect pictures.There just wasn’t enough time. Nonetheless, quite a few turned out to be ok (I think) on quality/artistic grounds. I’ll e-mail you a selection shortly.

      Regards, Ann

  3. AndersJohansson

    This is a good post title. The thinking is very profound and interesting throughout. My girlfriend and I are going to Bangladesh (for travel) at end of this year and we are excited to find your blog. It is very informative and balanced and helps us with planning. Very creative too! (We are both participants in the Arts.) In this post you made me think about ‘expressing the inexpressible’. I think music is the answer. What do you think? Thank you for this fascinating writing. I think it is good for improving my English too. 🙂

    • Thank you for your lovely comment Anders. I think I might think too much at times! It’s very interesting (and a little uncanny) that you should mention music in this context. I’m taking guitar lessons at the moment and so have been thinking about music a lot lately. I downloaded this image a couple of days ago:

      After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music. Aldous Huxley.

      And this morning I got your message! A coincidence? Or divine intervention from the Muses of music?!

      Enjoy your trip to Bangladesh: I’d love to hear about your experiences. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

      (P.S. Am I right in assuming that you are Swedish?)

  4. My wife and I are taking a leisurely vacation in Kathmandu, Nepal. Your blog looks like something I will enjoy! I may not look at all the posts till I get to Bangladesh, but I am looking forward to seeing the different ones. My blog is mostly photography, but it definitely is a culture that lends itself to many feelings, etc. that can’t always be expressed by a photo.

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