3. The offer, the atlas and the geographer

When the first offer came from VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) of a placement in Dhaka, Bangladesh, I am embarrassed to admit, as a geographer, that I had very little knowledge about Bangladesh and its place in the world. I had a vague notion of where Bangladesh was located but its precise geography eluded me. (In retrospect, this ambivalence is typical of how far from Western consciousness Bangladesh has fallen.)

The volunteer position offered was a capacity building and learning development one in the area of good governance and was a remarkable fit with my background, experience and skills. The vacancy was for a Research and Training Adviser in the National Institute of Local Government, a division of the Ministry for Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives in the Government of Bangladesh. Knowledge across the three divisions of the institute was desirable: research, training and project development/consultancy.

Located, as it was presented, in the fields of education, organisational development, local governance and rural development and requiring research, training, project management and consultancy skills, it was as if the position had been created for me. The only problem was that it wasn’t in Africa, for which I had stated a preference. It would have been possible to wait and see what other offers might be presented, but it would have been unlikely that a position as appropriate as this would come along again soon.

I accepted.

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