Thursday, July 31, 2003

Sports day... 

I arrived at work on Monday morning to be told by the OT head that there was a problem and that my students didn't want to attend my class anymore, she was joking obviously but I'm sure anyone who has seen me at 8am would realise I am not at my sharpest at this ungodly hour. The real reason I had no class was that there was a sports day.

Now I imagine sports days as kind of a mini olympics with everyone sitting out on the oval while people run in different races, do long jump, shot-put, discus etc. but I should have known that this would be quite different.

One of the interesting games was called musical pass the pillow. Now this is a bit like pass the parcel except nothing get's unwrapped. A pillow is passed around the circle until the music stopped and then whoever was the person holding the pillow was out. This was hilarious as every time the music stopped there would be a large discussion around who actually had the pillow when the music stopped.

This was followed by the funniest game of them all. It is apparently the national game here and is called break the pot or something similar. All of the teachers were obliged to participate. What happens is that a clay pot is placed on the ground about 10-15 metres away from you. You are then blindfolded, given a large bamboo stick and sent looking for the pot. If the people blindfolding you are generous they will point you in roughly the right direction. As far as I could tell the only people who actually managed to break the pot were the ones who could see. I had a go but ruined my chances of finding the pot by turning around and walking towards the crowd, including principal and vice principal of the school with the stick raised above my head. I think this game is basically designed so the students can have a good laugh at the teachers and in that respect it was very successful!

Tomorrow am off on a boat ride (weather permitting) with a whole bunch of the students so that should be good fun, have been requested to take my guitar but will have to have a think about that considering the regularity that boats sink here. Will tell you all about it soon.

Come on the raiders!!
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Monday, July 28, 2003

what i didn't get to before... 

The thing that probably got to me the most when I was travelling around Dhaka on my own on Friday afternoon was the poverty. Every street you walk down, every time you're in a vehicle stopped at an intersection there is someone begging and these do not often look like have any other way of supporting themselves.

Now I made a decision that I wasn't going to give money to beggars while I was in Bangladesh. I think that in many ways this is not such a bad decision. I have come over here to work, at no expense to anyone here and help train people who will in the future contributet to the health and well being of this whole country. However this never seems to prevent the guilt thta arises from turning your back on a fellow human being in need. It is impossible to help everyone as there are so many poor people here but when you are confronted directly it is still hard to turn you back.

This got me thinking about why are there so many people in the world who live in such extreme poverty? It would be nice if we could blame the US goverment, I mean their foreign policy over the years has basically seen them grow incredibly rich, and the money must have come from somewhere. Every dollar they give in aid earns them 2 dollars in trade and while well educated a large proportion of their population has no idea what it is like for 2/3rds of the worlds population. Or maybe it's multinational corporations like Monsanto who exploit the worlds poorest farmers by selling them grain that will not produce seed that can be grown the next year (so they need to buy it off them again) and will only grow if used with a certain fertiliser (also bought from them). Maybe its governments who subsidise their own agricultural industries so heavily that the most efficient farmers in developing countries can't compete.

It would be nice to think that these were the main causes of poverty because they are detached, somebody elses problem, nothing I can do about it. I don't think it's this simple. I thnk every person who has an education yet chooses ignorance of the plight of the poor in the world.

We all have the oppurtunity to make a difference to poverty in the world and particularly in the west where we have so many resources at our fingertips and so little idea of what to do with them. In the global village the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer and to quote Jack Johnson "we've all got the blood on our hands"
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Saturday, July 26, 2003

...and a good weekend was had by all 

Well it's been a big weekend for me here in Bangladesh. On Friday morning headed in to to Dhaka with Mel (Pommy Speech and language therapist) to go to the Bagha club. This sis a club for ex-pats where they do sacralicious things like serve bacon and sell beer.

Now I need to make a confession that I'm sure some of you will find hard to understand but I hope that my explanation will suffice. Here it is.. I drank Fosters... out of a can. I know that this sounds inexcusable but please allow me to explain. The only beer served here comes in cans. Why choose fosters I hear you cry well all the beer is the same price but fosters comes in a slightly bigger can. It also claims to be Australian for beer which I find just a little bit beyond the pale since I have never met anyone at home who drinks the crap.

So after a couple of beers and a nice relaxing couple of hours Mel was heading back to CRP and I was heading across Dhaka to meet up with some other AVI people for dinner. My first solo mission in Dhaka.

As it turned out I had absolutely no problems at all and was very happy with the outcome. The other volunteers are great, I have a few connections in Dhaka and had a realy great time with them all.

Tried to write this post in a cyber cafe just down the road from their house but due to a power cut I lost the lot, very disappointing as there is something quite important I had written about but don't have time to add in now.

will post about it later on...
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Thursday, July 24, 2003

New feature at Bangers and Mash! 

I have just managed to install a comments feature on the page! The technological genius required to do this is beyond the scop of this post but I thought it would be a good way to make this a bit more interactive. So if you have any comments or questions etc. comment away!!!
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The weekend has landed... 

Well it's the end of the working week for Mick, well at least until Saturday morning, but its better than nothing and this weekend I've got a few adventures planned that should make things quite interesting.

I'll probably head into Dhaka tomorrow some time and go and hang out at the Bagha club, this is a club for ex pats where they sell wonderful things like cold beer, its crap but it's still beer and when you get to the end of hard days work and it's still 35 degrees you feel like you've earned one.

After that I'm going to meet up with some other Aussies who are living and working in Dhaka to have dinner and I'm going to stay in there and head back on Saturday morning. I'm really looking forward to meeting some people and making a few contacts in Dhaka. It's really nice here at CRP but all the students live nearby so if you're around on the weekend the only way to get a real break is to hide. Spent about half an hour last friday explaining how to reference stuff to students so it'll be nice to get away for a night.

Today I took my 2nd year psych class the the national institute for mental health which I think was a really good experience for them. they had a bit of a chance to chat to some of the patients there and the guy who took us around was really helpful about answering their questions. It's the second time I've been there in just over a week so I'm starting to recognise a few faces which should come in handy when I have to run the 3rd year prac there later on in the year. Did spend about an hour or so sitting a room with this guy and the students while the discussed all their questions and queries in Bangla. It was about as exciting for me as watching a foreign film with no sub-titles and really bad reception, but when the students asked me later if I was bored I cleverly avoided the question by saying that I thought it was a valuable learning experience for them and I already had a decent knowledge of psych so it was not a problem. I should be a diplomat!

I am really keen to make this prac at the end of the year work as most of the psychiatrists have no idea about OT, not so different to home, and so if we can wow them in the 8 weeks we have it will make a strong case for creating posts at this hospital and from there we can take over the world! woo hahahahahahaa (evil laugh).

In other news I played another table tennis game last night and actually won a set!!! after that I proceeded to play terribly but his was a moral victory for me. Have also heard that they play some darts here as well which should mean that I can make use of the hours I spent at Kami and Steve's practicing. Have also heard that people arounf here aren't much good at it so I might be in with a chance there!

Hope y'all survive the rest of the week. Have a cold beer for me.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Ping pong 

Well last night I played my first 2 games ina singles table tennis tournament and got flogged in both... Here are my excuses. I had worked from 8:00am to about 6:30pm with a one hour lunch break. I was tired. But I think the most important one is that compared to most of the people here I'm pretty crap. Oh and I forgot to mention the added stress of the joy that is marking assignments.

You may find it difficult to beleive that I have assignments to mark already but since I arrived here after the semester had officially started Patrice had set an assignment on CBR for my 3rd year students. This didn't look too hard to me but apparently essay format is a style of writing they are used to and particularly the component that is referencing. I would say that more than half of the assignments have long setions of text directly copied from other sources which are not referenced at all. This is a problem as one of the key points on the assignment sheet was that any information found to be copied would result in a failure of the assignment. So at the moment I think I've decided to make it worth 5%, not too damaging to overall mark, fail at least half of the class and become the most unpopular teacher in the whole of BHPI! What a way to kick things off hey? I was also going to prepare a handout with some tips for writing essays and when you have to reference although they have received this information before and it didn't seem to help too much. Ahhh the joys of teaching.

In other news I'm going into Dhaka on Friday night to meet up with some other Oz Volunteers which should be nice, just to hang out with some Aussies and make a few contacts in the city could be very useful considering how long I'm going to be here for and should be a welcome change from the day to day here.

I have also been approached for advice by one of the students on a personal matter which between his english and my lack of understanding of bengali culture I was forced to resort to the advice that Poppa gave me before I left. I asked him if he had any advice for a young bloke heading over seas for a couple of years and he said "honesty's the best policy and nothing's worth more than a good name" How can you argue with logic like that? So that was my advice. If you're honest then its pretty hard to go wrong.

I seem to be forgetting the most exciting thing that has happened to me in the last week. The tailor had finished my clothes for me! I now have 2 new pairs of pants and 2 new shirts which are fantastic and for the bargain price of about $30. gotta love it.

Thought of something really inciteful and interesting to write about last night but have completely forgotten what it was.....

sorry about that
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Sunday, July 20, 2003

Professor mick 

Well it's not even 2 weeks in and professor mick has some assignments to mark. This may prove difficult for several reasons. My students are all writing in their second language and so it has hard to differentiate between lack of knowllege and lack of ability to explain things in english... I'm sure i'll pick it up as I go along and fortunately Patrice (aussie OT) is back from her jaunt to Thailand so I'll be grilling her about this.

Did I mention that its so humid here that if you don't eat biscuits straight after they come out of the wrapper they are soggy in about five minutes and anything you leave sitting around for too long get's mouldy... very very humid. I guess not so surprising considering how much of the country is flooded. I guess in Australia this is not the kind of problems you are having.

Had a very boring weekend where I spent most of the time reading a book, not that this bothered me as in Australia I was consistently annoyed by how little time I had to read, or that by the time I got around to reading the several beers I had consumed earlier made this a difficult process, funnily enough not a problem I have had here.

Have managed to get myself roped in to a table tennis tournament, playing doubles with one of the OT interns who is a pretty good bloke but I think that we are up for a serious arse wooping. As a result I have been telling everyone that I don't play to win but merely for the enjoyment of the game, I think this is a good excuse for being crap.

Have also noticed that the raiders have not lost a game since I left the country and am now sure that they will win the competition this year if only to spite me... Also seems impossible to find anyone around here who even knows what Rugby League is let alone a TV station that shows it.

Anyway gotta go...
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Thursday, July 17, 2003

They joys of south Asia 

Well I have been requested to post a few things about general life over here starting with that most interesting topic of conversation... the weather! Well for starters it is bloody hot. I realised this yesterday morning when I was on my way into Dhaka to visit the Institute fro mental health in a landcruiser which had a temperature gauge. I was thinking to myslef it isn't that hot yet as it was only 27 degrees! This was at 9:00am so you can imagine how it it gets. Everyone here keeps telling me that it has been a lot cooler since the rain has come and just before this happens it gets really hot. I guess the rain here is the next major point of interest. I reckon that since I've been here I have seen more rain than I did in Canberra in the last six months. The funny thing is that apparently it hasn't really started raining yet we just get the odd deluge (at the very least every second or third day) which means the humidity is very high. So sweating is a given.

One thing I definitely want to mention before it becomes so normal that I forget all about it is the fact that there are no stone quarries in Bangladesh at all. This may not seem like a major thing but when it comes to construction stone chips are required for all manner of things. Bangladesi versatility though has come up with quite an amazing solution to this problem. As there is plenty of material for making bricks, they make thousands of them and then people are paid to sit there with a hammer all day and smash the bricks to pieces so that they have the stone chips they need. Labour here is much chaeper than in the western world so this is not a problem.

Another thing that amazed me when I got here, and also made me think why has no one at home ever thought of this, is the door stops. They are a wedge on a hinge on the door frame so that when the door is open it can be moved in to stop the door from closing. I am sure this is a very inadequate description but it is the best I can do at the moment.

Now to the Institute of Mental Health. Met the assistant director who was a very interesting man and spoke quite good english if incredibly fast with an accent so thick that it was quite hard to follow. He is very supportive of occupational therapy and can see the benefits that it has for the patients but said that to get government posts created CRP would have to lobby the government, however this is done, the government would then talk to him and ask if there was a need and he would say yes. The government here recently took out the noble prize of the most corrupt in the world so I am getting the impression that this may be a very difficult task. Or maybe very simple if I put a few 500 Taka notes in the right palms. Although this is just encouraging corruption which I think I would find ethically very difficult so I think it will be the long hard road for me.

Am going to try ant tee up a meeting witht the secretary for health so I can wow him with how much money employing a few OT's could save the goverment in terms of reducing the time people spend in psych hospitals and also the benefits for everyone of treating people in their family situations which is a very new concept here. I figure that everyone thinks saving money is good. May also check out what world treaties Bangladesh are signatories to and use this as a way of getting international prestige for the beaurocrats who take big steps forward in addressing the needs of disabled people.. politicians love being in the media when people are singing their praises and as much as I hate sucking up to anyone I can see the real need for occupational therapy as a profession to get going in this country and will do everything I can to help that process even if it does mean kissing a bit of arse.

Am adjusting to the food quite well although my guts have been a little bit funny, which brings me to my final question for you all to ponder until I post again. (aplogies in advance to sesitive readers)

When is a fart not a fart? hmmm I think there's something in that for all of us.
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They joys of south Asia 

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Tuesday, July 15, 2003

1 week down.. 

Well its hard to belive that it's only been a week! I feel like I've been going flat chat since I arrived. Maybe this is due to having a 5 1/2 day working week or the fact that being oriented to somewhere this big is daunting in itself but I guess it's always good to hit the ground running.

Have had my first classes I'll deal with 2nd year Psychiatry first. These guys are trying to learn in their second language concepts that are difficult to understand full stop. My first lecture What is Mental Illness which doesn't sound too tricky was lets say not a complete disaster. Many of these guys have no personal experience of mental illness and so for them to discuss theoretical concepts about it is a big stretch. But my reign of tyranny has begun and in our first class together I set them a self directed learning activity to research some of the different categories of mental illness and prepare a presentation for the class. For our next class we will watch One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and then spend the class after that discussing it to give them some time to prepare their presentations. I am going to visit the Psychiatric hospital in Dhaka tomorrow to get some idea of what the state of play is here and also to arrange a field trip for my students so they can see first hand what all this crap I'm talking about looks like and hopefully that will help them to get some kind of grasp on it... if not they'll all have to fail.

My other class is called program planning and is for 3rd year students. This incorporates a few things such as community based rehabilitation, health promotion and the ins and outs of planning a program... i'll spare you the jargon. These guys have slightly better english than my 2nd years and so it is a bit easier to get the message across. I spent today's lesson teaching them how to reference correctly which they need to do for an assignment that Patrice (other Aussie OT here at the moment) set for them before I arrived. I remeber having this stuff drilled in to me in the first semester of 1st year so it just goes to show how different things are over here.

CRP is a great place to live and work. Not quite as chaotic as Dhaka but if you go in to the local Bazaar it is crazy enough. It is a seemingly endless rabbit warren of shops that sell everything from TV's and DVD players, clothes, material, food... the lot. The only problem is that if you find a shop that is good the odds of finding it again are slim and none. Did a bit of shopping the other day and have a couple of pairs of pants and some shirts currently being made up by the tailor. was not sure whether or not I was being taken for a ride so bartered very hard only to find out from talking to the locals that I have managed to get a pretty goodd price for all concerned. Also bought myself a lungi, like a sarong but worn only by men and generally not to work by professionals such as myself but 24 carrot gold for bumming around the house. Still need to get it stitched up by the tailor.

The people here are incredibly friendly and everyone seems to want to buy me tea or have me around for a mango and everyone is happy to talk about cricket which is good for me especially as Bangladesh is playing in Australia at the moment and the first test starts on Friday in Darwin. Have been telling everyone that Bangladesh will in few years time be as strong at cricket as Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan. Not sure if they believe me but seem to be flattered.

Today have agreed to enter into a doubles table tennis tournament with one of the other OT's who works here which should at the very least be good for a giggle. They have tried to get me to play basketball but have avoided this by saying I am a rugby player and would be fouled out of the game so quickly that it would not help the team. Also threatened to tackle one of my students today as he was being very cheeky. Told me that if he was my teacher he would have failed me for having terrible handwriting, told him that I was his teacher and would be marking his assignments and he may also be the tackle bag for a rugby demonstration if he wasn't careful.

Anyway this is 1 week down and only 103 to go.

Love to you all.
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Saturday, July 12, 2003

First impressions... 

Well I've been here for a few days now and am starting to settle in. There are quite a few volunteers here from around the world which is making the job a little easier but everyone has been very friendly which is tops. My accomodation is so much more than I ever could have expected... a 2 bedroom flat (other bedroom now occupied by Akili, a 70 odd year old nurse from italy who has spent a good chunk of time here in the past and is very easy to get alonf with even if his english isn't fantastic.

Let me tell you a little about the place I'm working at. the centre for the rehabilitation of the paralysed is absolutely amazing. It has a 100 bed hospital that primarily deals with spinal cord injuries. Inpatient and outpatient physiotherapy and occupational therapy departments, a mother and child clinic, a special school, a woodwork shop, a metal work shop, a transitional village (for people transitioning back to their homes from CRP), a special seating clinic, a hydrotherapy pond and I'm sure there is something that I have forgotten!!! The grand tour took the best part of a day and can almost guarantee a brain explosion. Its just so much to take in.

Oh yeah one of the main parts I forgot is the part I'm working in called the Bangladeshi Health Professional Institute (BHPI). They run degree courses in occupational therapy, physiotherapy, rehab nursing as well as about a dozen other things. I think they currently have a couple of hundred students but I'm not huge on specifics yet.

I will be teaching 2 courses this semester. OT in psychiatry and program planning. I hear some of you scoff when you hear my name associated with planning but think about it from this perspective. There are 7 local qualified OT's and 6 of them work here at CRP. There has never been an OT working in Psych here before so that makes me the most qualified person in the country by a long shot! I here some of you say what did Bangladesh ever do to deserve mick but just be nice and believe that I will do my best and that will be better than nothing. I have also found that I have plenty of time to read here and just the other day found myself thumbing through a few textbooks. Some of you who attended university with me may find this incredibly hard to believe but it is for real!! Boredom and lack of TV does strange things to the human brain... apparently.

One interesting thing here though is the food. It doesn't quite seem to have the same variety of flavour that indian food seems to... in fact most of it tastes the same. But it is possible to buy many things in Dhaka which will enhance the variety of food available.

My working week is Saturday to Thursday. The normal working day is 8:00am to 5:00pm with an hour for lunch and on Thursday's you only work until 1:30. I think this will be OK though as there is little to do in your spare time except read textbooks and the less time I have to that the better as far as I'm concerned.

My first officail lecture is on Monday so hopefully by then I'll be able to let you know how that is.....
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Tuesday, July 08, 2003

The Bliss that is international travel. 

There's always something about travelling across vast distances that is inherently exciting when thought about theoretically but in practice rarely ever lives up to. Travelling on a modern jet is much the same as sitiing in the back of a luxury sedan with DVD players on the freeway up to sydney only for a longer period of time. This in itself is no worse than boring. The things that really get me are transit and immigration. Transit means being stuck inside an airport which has about as much appeal as being locked into a shopping mall with planes to watch through the window with no money that anyone will accept after you're already too buggered to shop anyway and when you've done that a few times and finally arrive at your destination you have to fill in forms that no one will read and stand in lines. No I am a patient man but after 16 odd hours of travelling even mine wears a little thin. Paranoia sets in.... every line moves faster than yours, there's 2 guys at the counter neither of whom seem to have a clue what theyre doing, other people seem to wander up the counter and get served immediately, your blood begins to boil and there's not even going to be a cold beer at the end of it, just 50 guys who want you to use their cab to get somewhere and then want money for putting their hand on your trolley while you wheel your bags to the car. Never been happier not to have any local currency but would have loved a big stick....

being booted off computers more tomorrow!
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Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Welcome to bangers and mash...

5 sleeps until I leave for Bangladesh for two years to.. allegedly.. teach occupational therapy to unsuspecting Bengalis.

Who would allow me to do such a thing.. certainly no-one who knew me as a student. But that currently seems irrelevant as I have my tickets and a whole lot of stuff to pack and people to see in the next 4 days.

The main thing coming to mind at the moment is aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrgggggggghhh.
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