Sunday, September 16, 2012

I'm from America : Demonstrations in Dhaka

photo per BD24news
We've seen our second demonstration in Dhaka this week. The first was on Friday at the main mosque after prayer time. The local police did a great job keeping the crowd controlled. "If you stay on that side of the line, it stays peaceful, but if you cross the line it's no longer peaceful." The crowd was large (10,000 ?), but fortunately stayed quite far from the diplomatic enclave. Today there was another small, but rapidly started, demonstration of about 150-200 students. It was very near the embassy, but the police (again great) and a beautifully timed monsoon shower dissipated the crowd.

We did, however, receive our first email to stay put and avoid the area around the embassy. A friend sent an SMS to ask "Everyone home ok?".  I was in the kitchen making dinner and hadn't seen the email alert. Ceiba was not off the bus from school yet, and by now a few minutes late even. My mouth got dry and my stomach turned. I sent a quick sms and email to Chris to be safe.

Our driver always gets Ceiba off the bus. I assessed the activity in the street outside our balcony, nothing was out of the ordinary. I opened the door to go downstairs to also wait for Ceiba. I slipped on sandals, but quickly paused, took them off and put on runnable shoes. Downstairs I went to wait, my heart rate fast. My mind was blurred with thoughts of what could be coming down the street in front of the embassy, if the school buses were in any danger or if the children were being kept at the school. Our bags still needed to be tweaked. What if things headed south, and we needed to leave quickly? Okay, I was overreacting, but the state of the world and days of news reading kept me in a whirlwind.

The bus pulled up, Ceiba got out, we talked about her day, she giggled and bounced and carried on as a  child should. She got a snack, showed me her art and calmed down my nerves. And then the "all clear" came. A short time later I heard Chris's voice on the phone. And so all was fine.

It's comforting to know we have a great group looking out for our well being here in Dhaka. While we all feel Americans are well regarded in Bangladesh, we sadly too know it only takes a few people who don't like us to make a negative or catastrophic impact. And while my husband has a important job to do here in Dhaka, I feel I do also. We are all the "face of America" when we are in someone else's country. And I take it very personally to try my best to show a good face, to give eye contact and a smile and to answers questions openly.

Today, I stopped at the market. Though maybe I overthought things, I felt more watched today. I smiled and chatted with a shopkeeper. He asked where was I from. I paused, thinking of my surroundings and recent world events, but proudly said with a smile, "I'm from America".

And he smiled back. Maybe just as I know he is not the Muslim that harmed Americans in Libya, I am not the American who made the horrible film that has sparked so much controversy.
We are just people.

It's good to be prepared and responsive, but there's no better way to end the night. All under one roof.
 We continue to keep all those serving at home and abroad in our thoughts. Please do the same.

1 comment:

  1. What a great post. Thinking of you. I love your comment about being the face of America. So true.