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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Yeah I'm a slacker 

Well I was just having a look and Dad is right with his comments. It has been a long time since I last posted.

The placement at the National Institute of Mental Health is finished. Well at least for the moment. I might send a couple of fourth year students back to do some more data collection. I need to get some the interviews that I already have translated and then I will know if what I have will be of any use. I'm sure I'll have plenty to write about I guess I'm just not sure what that is yet.

The placement has basically dominated my life for the past 2 months and so I haven't really done anything exciting excpet for going to placement. There were however a few funny incidents that are probably worth sharing.

We were standing out the front of the hospital one morning just having a cup of tea when one of the patients bolted out the front door and off down the street, he was caught but t was entertaining.

There is a police hut made of bamboo on the side of the highway where police wait, mainly for taxis, to bribe them for inconsequential things. One day on the way back from placement there was a truck where the hut had been, it had obviously run of the road at the opportune place to flatten this shelter, what a shame.

I drove one of the CRP vehicles. The drivers always joke and pretend to give the keys. So one morning I took them got in started the car and drove out the front gate. I drove about a k to the main highway before turning the car over to the driver.

The mp3 player dad gave me for christmas came in handy for some of the car trips. All of the students were very impressed with my ability to take over the radio. Ver cool.

There was one dummy spit. We were sharing a vehicle with some radiology students. One morning they needed to leave early but failed to tell me or my students, as a result the transport left without us and we had to catch a public bus. When the car picked us up I spat the dummy at the driver and the students and on return to CRP took it up with the transport coordinator and the radiology course coordinator. Apparently now all of the drivers and many other people are scared of me. Good.

That pretty much covers the excitement. Although working on Easter Sunday is wrong in so many ways. Hope you're all having a great Easter.
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Monday, March 07, 2005

hmmmm sleep deprivation possibly 

Have recently acquired a copy of Jeff Buckley’s ‘Grace’. This is an old favourite that I really haven’t listened to much for the last few years and on hearing this again there were a few things that stuck out to me that I had never noticed before. One thing was the absolute passion that went onto every song. From the beautiful ballads like lover you should have come over, to the haunting corpus Christi, to the block rockin eternal life there is not a wasted note or lyric on this album. It truly is a masterpiece and almost unbelievable that this could be a debut album. But probably the most disturbing thing about this album is the lyrics. Not disturbing in themselves but when placed in the context of Buckley’s death.

The album seems to be obsessed with love, life and death. There are lyrics in almost every song that refer to death. When I have some spare time I’ll get the lyrics from the net and go through them but some notable ones that stood out to me: ‘grace’ ‘and I believe my time has come’ ‘mojo pin’ (?) ‘we might both be gone tomorrow’ ‘so real’ ‘in my nightmare it sucked me in and pulled me under, that was so real’ and there are many more.

I’m sure you all know that Buckley drowned while swimming in a shipping channel, possibly drunk at the time, before the completion of his second album. So was this a man who understood mortality all too well and therefore put everything he had in to his musical passion, or was this a man who had premonitions of his own death and communicated them to the world through one of the most beautiful albums of the 90’s and possibly all time?
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culture and health 

Well here we are half way through the 8 week psychiatric placement and things have finally found a bit of rhythm. We seem to have hit our stride. The program is running smoothly and the data collection seems to be coming along nicely if a little slower than could have been hoped. I’ve been thinking a lot about cultural perspectives on health and illness. We have been so indoctrinated with the modern medical model that is almost impossible for us to imagine another frame of reference. Well this might seem true initially but you only have to delve slightly below the surface to realise that many people in Australia still hold unscientifically proven, for want of a better phrase, perspectives on healing. There are many people in churches who believe in faith healing, many people use herbal remedies and the immigration to Australia over the years has brought many different cultures together with many different perspectives on healing. However, these are almost always considered to be alternative to the dominant paradigm and may or may not be supported by Medicare or private health insurance.

An interesting fact is that the vast majority of patients who are admitted to the National Institute of Mental Health have sought treatment from a traditional healer. In most cases this has been ineffective, thus their admission, but the interesting question to me is why? I think that illness in many respects is a loss of control. Not just for an individual but for their family and loved ones as well. Throughout history there has been a need to take measures to try and regain control over the situation. Modern western medicine does this essentially by labelling. Once we can give a diagnosis to a certain disease and ascertain how serious it is we can prescribe the appropriate treatment to cure the disease, or at least slow its course. So why do people go to traditional healers in Bangladesh? There are many reasons but I think when it comes down to it they are convenient and inexpensive and they are in touch with the local community and culture. This does not necessarily mean that their treatments are effective and in some cases what they do may make damage worse. In some ways this is no different to many of the people in Bangladesh who call themselves doctors but actually have little or no medical training. I guess my main point is that it is easy to look at other cultures and judge the way that things are done. It is easy to say obviously you will get no real help from a traditional healer, but they may well laugh at us and say how foolish, do you really believe that being jabbed with needles or prayer can heal you? Just food for thought.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Happiness 

Well it’s been a long time since my last post and that is for several reasons. The first is that I have been pretty busy with work and the second is that life has settled into a fairly normal routine and so to me it doesn’t feel like there is that much that is interesting to write about. I’m sure this isn’t true but Bangladesh just feels like home to me. I guess I realised how much I’ve changed in the last 18 months or so when I went to the airport to meet Gavin and Christy, 2 new Australian Volunteers who have come to CRP. On the way back from the airport while we were crashing along bumpy roads and dodging in and out of rickshaws and other assorted vehicles I was sitting sideways on the seat in front of them leaning against the window so I could chat to them along the way. It was great to see the looks on their faces as we weaved along the crowded streets, lots of near misses and always something interesting happening everywhere. It took me back to when I first arrived and everything was new and fresh and exciting. The sensory overload is unbelievable. There is so much noise and so many people crowding the sides of the narrow roads, women in bright coloured clothes, men in lungis carrying impossibly heavy looking loads on their heads, vast fields of rice interspersed with the tall chimneys of brick kilns pumping black coal smoke into the already dusty air. Bangladesh is truly a country of extremes. From the poor day labourers and factory workers to the rich businessmen. From the overcrowded, deafening, maddening traffic jams of Dhaka to the quiet and peaceful rivers of the Sundarbans and the rolling hills of the tea plantations of Sylhet. This is truly an amazing country and it’s easy to forget that in the frustrations of the daily grind. One of my colleagues told me that in an international study it was found that Bangladeshi people were the happiest in the world. This may sound incredulous to some but I can believe it. People here don’t find their pleasure in material possessions. The vast majority of the population don’t regularly partake in drugs and alcohol to relax, here people are what is most important, especially the family. People here find pleasure in the simplicity of living and it is a very beautiful thing to be a part of. So many people in Australia look to the next thing for satisfaction, the next promotion, a better paying job, new curtains, a new TV with surround sound and spend so much time pursuing these things that they turn their backs on the people in their lives, the very people who have the ability to bring them true happiness.
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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Fun Fun FUN 

Well my favourite part of the year has begun again in ernest. This is the 3rd year students psychiatric placement at the National Institute of Mental Health. I don't know why but I feel quite comfortable in mental hospitals, maybe it wouldn't be so much fun as a patient, but I guess that depends on how much insight you had.

The placement has been knocked around by the current political situation and in 10 days of placement so far there have been 6 Hortal (strike) days. These are generally called by the oposition parties and enforced violently so going into Dhaka is generally not a great idea. We've managed to get a bit of work done in CRP but nothing beats the real deal when it comes to psychiatry.

So generally that's been keeping me busy, have still been managing to have a bit of fun but when I'm going to Dhaka it's an 8 O'Clock start and we get back about 2pm and then I'm often in the office til 7 so it makes for long days but it's all part of the fun.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Sundarbans 

Well just arrived back from a wonderful holiday in the Sundarbans, the largest littoral mangrove in the world and home of the royal bengal tiger. Of course we didn't see any of these but any tiger that would be stupid enough to be seen by 20 people crashing through the forest would probably be too stupid for me to want to see anyway.

This was a trip organised by Natasha as her family was coming to visit which a whole bunch of other people tagged along on. So there were a few volunteers from CRP and a group of youth ambassadors from Dhaka.

Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the urban life that is Dhaka and surrounds and forget that this is not the real Bangladesh. Putting down the river on a boat toward the bay of bengal, watching the small settlements get further apart and smaller and once the engine was cut off at night the silence was almost deafening. It was so refreshing to be out in the beauty of nature which is comparable to anything I have seen elsewhere in the world. So much water, so much forest, beautiful bird life and scenery and great company made this one of the most relaxing and enjoyable experiences I have had in Bangladesh.

Now it's back to the real world where I still have a lot of preparation to do with respect to the placement and associated data collection which starts on Saturday. Wish me luck.

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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Back in Bangers 

Well I'm back after a wonderful holiday in Australia which almost managed to turn on a bit of summer for me, must admit on the way to Canberra on the plane when they said the ground temp was 16 degrees I almost asked them to turn the plane around and head nack to warmer places.

As is often the case not everything went as planned and I didn't get to spend as much time with people as I would have but it's only six months til I'm back for a while, like a few years I think and have much less excuse for not spending enough time with people.

I'm missing good beer already, VB out of a can is not quite the same and there have been a few departures and arrivals in my department the saddest being Nila who has moved on to the greener pastures of Save the Children USA (still in Bangladesh) and Signian, who is an OT from the states here on a fellowship.

Other than that I'm busy getting my head around the work again and watching the odd DVD on the new laptop... will have some interesting things to write soon as my data collection/placement starts at the end of the month and I am going for a trip to the Sundarbans, the big mangrove on the south coast, for a quick holiday, must remember to do some work some time....

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Thursday, December 09, 2004

Homeward bound 

Well despite the insanity of leaving and the fact that I am well behind on my workload I am still very excited about coming home. Australian summer with all the associated trimmings, BBQ's, beer, cricket, the beach, these are things that are just not the same in Bangladesh. Not to mention the fringe benefits associated with this trip like new nephew to play with and the obvious holidays and associated shenanigans.

In case I wasn't busy enough AIB is playing the BAGHA christmas party on Friday night which in terms of attendance could be our biggest gig yet. Should be a blast but basically writes off the weekend and a good part of Saturday morning for doing anything constructive. It's hard being a lecturer and a rock star at the same time. It's a tough life here.

Anyway can't wait to be home and kick it aussie summer style.
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