Thursday, June 21, 2007

FYI: There Are Only 4 Religions

Some people continued to complain on Tuesday about the pace of class, while others retaliated with a passive-aggressive, “I guess I’m just stupid.” It all got to be too much for me, and I spent the tea break alone to get some peace and quiet.

It wasn’t long at all before everyone was quieted, though, as the teachers assigned three chapters worth of homework – where they had previously been assigning only one chapter per day. I felt a big smug, however, when I overheard one of the people who had been complaining about the class being too slow say, “I guess we should be careful what we wish for.”

I went to a restaurant called Magpie for lunch with 3 of my classmates, only to find that we were the only women in the entire place – attracting even more stares than usual. Women seem to disappear around midday, though we see them often during the rest of the day.

In the afternoon, I met with Farina, my “conversation partner.” We were assigned in groups of two to a student volunteer from IUB (our host university). The idea is that we can spend time with people our own age, go places, and practice using our Bangla with a native speaker. Farina is a 3rd year student at IUB, majoring in communications and digital media. She admitted that she is more comfortable speaking in English than in Bangla because she lived in London for 4 years (her father was in the military), and has always attended English language schools here in Bangladesh. We gave each other quick overviews of our life stories, and practiced a little bit of dialogue. She said (twice) that my accent is very good, so that was cool. Her father was a freedom fighter in the 1971 liberation war – when Bangladesh fought to obtain independence from Pakistan - as were both of her grandfathers and two of her uncles (all of whom were killed in the war). We made plans to go to the Liberation Museum later in the week.

Dinner provided unique cultural insight and entertainment in the form of a conversation with Milan, the cook. One of the girls asked if the dish (which, like all the dishes he serves, was quite indistinguishable) contained pork. He asked, with a surprised look on his face, if she was Hindu, and she responded, “No, Jewish.” He looked confused, then said, “Christian?” “No,” the girl smiled and the table fell silent, “Jewish.” Milan pondered this for a moment, began to say, “Buddhi… no, they’re in China,” and remained puzzled. Someone else offered up, “You know Israel?” Milan nodded, “Yes, yes, Israel, Palestine, I know.” “Well the Israeli’s are Jewish,” someone else chimed in. Milan suddenly looked cross. “No,” he said, “Israel have no god. They take money, buy food. You no have food, they tell you to go work.” He contrasted this with Islam, “Here there is God. Allah give food. Allah give water. You have no food, you pray to Allah and Allah gives.” Our mouths hung open, our eyes wide in reaction to his certainty on the issue. To end the conversation, he stated simply, counting on his fingers, “Four religions only: Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian. Only four.” When he left the room, we giggled quietly around the table, while two girls pretended to resign themselves to the fact that their religion did not, in fact, exist.

I spent the remainder of the evening working on the massive amount of homework that had been assigned, and eventually gave up in favor of sleep.


terris213 said...

So, those beggers in front of the mosque can't be "good Muslims," else Allah would have given them food already. Oh well, Jews are God's chosen people, He'll take care of them. So did you ever find out if the dish contained pork? And is Milan now treating those two classmates differently? I sure hope not. Write more on your blog about your b'day! I hope you had less stress that day. Hope the trouble makers will learn to keep their mouths shut now that you all are overloaded with homework. Learning a new language should be enjoyable, not a chore. Take care, keep blogging!
luvs ya,

Sara said...

Well, besides that there are more then 4 religions, they have to remember they are in a different country. Different views, beliefs, ideas...the works. How did the hw go? I hope those smug "I'm smarter then you" people learn to keep their mouths shut, hehe.

Its pretty boring here. The weather is beautiful here in NY State! The sun is actually out! Shocker, I know. 29 days till the 7th and final book of Harry Potter. That is what I am looking forward to. And to the 5th movie. And Transformers the movie is coming out. July is going to be a good month.

Miss you tons!!

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