Good news! On Thursday, in the middle of Tropical Storm Fay's extended stay in our town, the FedEx guy arrived in the pouring rain to deliver my passport, complete with a newly affixed visa on one of its pages.
Now, since the plane tickets have been purchased, and my visa is in hand, I feel like I'm officially on my way next month. Ok, ok...so "where, oh where" you ask, am I going?
...to a country relatively the size of Illinois, but with a population of about 1/2 of the entire US, and a larger count than all of Russia (which is 120 times its size), making it the most densely populated country in the world
...to a country where most people live at extreme poverty, averaging GDP around $1,800/yr
...to a place which houses the world's largest mangrove forest, and even endangered species like the Bengal Tiger
...to a country that is constantly threatened by floods, monsoons, and cyclones
...to a country that is encapsulated by an extensive system of rivers and deltas
I'm headed to Bangladesh.
This will be my first time into this section of the globe, and I'm very much looking forward to it, albeit a bit nervous. I'm meeting a group of people there who have been doing humanitarian/missions work there for a few years now in a very tangible way. I will be helping with food/clothes distribution, refugee work at camps from the Myanmar typoon back in May, helping with basic medical tasks, and teaching English as a second language. Basically, getting to know some of the beautiful people who live in the coastal regions of southern Bangladesh, and helping out and showing love in whatever way I can.
Another friend of ours, who lived in St. Augustine for a while, and his fiance are living in the capital city of Dhaka, and are working on international studies, addressing the poverty situation in many of the rural areas of the country. So, I'm getting to meet up with them as soon as I fly in, which will be a great welcome to an unknown place for me. They're going to take me shopping for proper clothing when I get there, as well as serve as a translator and also accompany me the next day down the coast to where I'll meet the rest of the group.
...oh, and if you want to confirm my statement about the people in Bangladesh being "beautiful", take a look at my friend's Flickr page!
In doing research about the country, and people, I came across the website of a project called UnCultered. It's mainly the work of a grad-student, Shawn, who heard a presentation about poverty at Notre Dame, and decided that he could do something about it, so he moved to Bangladesh and has been there a year now doing great work. He posts a lot of videos on YouTube as well.
The friend I mentioned earlier, also connected us from RosaLoves to a couple stories of need in Bangladesh, including the The Sharkar Family and the Child Development Center in Baje Amli. Go visit the site to read the stories (and even buy a shirt to help the cause).
Since I'm traveling alone, I thought it would be nice to split it up, so by fanagling the plane ticket situation, I got a couple days stop-over in Italy both going and coming for the same price as a straight ticket. It will be nice to regroup half way around the globe. :) I'll definitely be writing more as the time approaches for departure...but for now, I'm doing a lot of praying and preparing of my heart, mind, and spirit.