Last week, we shared Dr. Leslie Edgar’s first blog about her Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer assignment in Bangladesh. Part 2, below, is just as insightful & inspiring…
“It’s easier to see where you’ve been from the rearview mirror, but the act of looking back is an important one. Please indulge me as I reflect upon my two week experience in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Below are the lessons I’ve learned from the [figurative] rearview of a rickshaw.
First, the driver matters! To say the traffic is insane in Dhaka would be an understatement! When you have 160 million people in an area smaller than Iowa, it’s bound to get crowded. It’s important to choose those who will drive you with care. For my experience in Dhaka, Winrock International and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Farmer-to-Farmer Program were our drivers. We selected well, and our trip was largely a success due to their efforts. When working in developing countries, choose your driver (collaborator) well; a large part of your success will be directly related to their experience. Choose a driver who is native, experienced, and knows the traffic rules!
Second, the passenger also matters! When you choose to travel with someone, make sure you trust the other passenger. It’s important that you share the ride with someone who also has your best interest in mind. Over my past eight years in higher education, I’ve been blessed to travel internationally with many students. Traveling with students as they experience the international world, ranks in the top three things I do as an educator. In my Dhaka experience, I had the opportunity to travel with Bo/David Williford, one of my graduate assistants. Our work was challenging, we experienced a few hiccups, but he always made me proud, because he was professional and adaptable. There’s little that compares to watching our students achieve success, especially in an environment out of their comfort zone and thousands of miles away from their family and friends. So, passengers matter, choose wisely!
Third, there are no clocks on a rickshaw. There is little use for time in a country that is largely focused on feeding its people. The lesson I learned here is that sometimes we get caught up in the things we think are important, checking off our lists, completing the next task, getting to the next meeting and so on. Time seems to stand still for those suffering and hurting here. The Bangladeshi people could use our help, as could many other developing countries. I encourage my faculty colleagues and students everywhere to get involved in the global food security issue. If possible, donate your time and talents to important programs worldwide. If you’re not sure where to start, contact me and I will send you the names of my friends from Winrock.
Fourth, there are no motors on a rickshaw. If you want to get where you are going, it takes hard work and someone has to peddle for you! I’ve found this true not only in Dhaka, but in life. Most things that require effort, can get you where you need to go! Hard work is important so start peddling! There’s no free rickshaw rides here, and it’s unlikely you’ll find a free ride in life. However, it’s alright to catch a ride now and them. Sometimes we need to rely on others to help us get where we need to go. That’s ok, but remember to pay them back, because again, there are no free rides on a rickshaw! Thank you to my family, friends, colleagues, and students for allowing me to have a free ride every now and again. I appreciate each of you.
Last, we must look back to see our progress and gain perspective on where we’ve been. The act of looking back is an important one, but it’s of equal importance to look ahead! This was true for me in Dhaka and is largely true for life. Sometimes our rickshaw gets stuck in traffic, sometimes it breaks down, sometimes we need to get off and push to get where we need to go, sometimes we can just enjoy the ride. The most important thing is to remember that the journey matters! I’m glad I took the ride. Thank you to all the wonderful people I’ve met in Dhaka. Until we meet again my friends…”
–Dr. Leslie Edgar