As the summer draw to a close, I find that I’m at something of a loss for words. The past eleven weeks have been like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I dove into the summer not knowing what to expect and, while I figured out what was required of me, I feel like I have yet to come up for air.
In some ways, these last few days have been spent looking back on the summer. After all this time, what did I accomplish that has made my time worthwhile? That’s a relatively easy question as I evaluate all I’ve seen and learned, as well as all that BERDO and I have accomplished – from a website to a news bulletin, or a newsletter to presenting a paper at the first ever conference on ICT for Disability in Bangladesh, it has been a productive summer.
The larger part of my attention has been focused on looking forward. On the one hand, I want to know – how can we ensure that the progress made this summer will continue? As a practical question, there are plenty of practical answers. We can make sure that news from BERDO continues to reach AP and that AP continues to help BERDO reach the wider international community, along with many more mundane details like website maintenance and updating databases.
But, as the hour of my departure draws closer, so too do all of my worries about transitioning back into life in the U.S. – from the simple things like running water and driving my own car again, to the more intimidating prospect of returning to work and school, there’s a lot to think about. The more complicated question that I’ve been asking myself lately seems like a bit of a cliché – will I ever view the world in the same way again?
Putting it in writing, the question seems pretty childish. But, in all sincerity it is one that’s really got me concerned.
Next week, will I stop to be grateful that clean water comes out of the faucets every time I turn it on? Will I say a silent “thank you” to the water authority when I rinse my toothbrush with tap water without thinking about the consequences?
By Thanksgiving, at a stop light in Georgetown during my commute home will I remember all the frantic tapping on the windows that was the norm only a few months before as beggars tried to make a living out of commuters stuck in the traffic jams of Dhaka?
A year from now, when I put the recycling bin on the curb to be picked up will I bother trying to calculate the number of meals that my trash represents to a Bangladeshi child whose childhood is lost to picking through garbage for recyclables to redeem for food?
A decade from now, as I go through yet another job interview, will I remember Monju and wonder how many more times she had to listen to employers who simply say “we have no jobs for persons with disability”?
I don’t know if this is culture shock in advance of my return or if the emotional goodbyes are just going to my head. I guess if nothing else, on a personal level, this summer has made me think about my life and work in an entirely new way. Sitting back and accepting that discrimination, poverty, and humiliation are the norm for persons with disability in Bangladesh, or other marginalized people across the globe, is simply not an option. There’s just too much that can and must be done to prevent it.
Posted By Caitlin Burnett
Posted Aug 14th, 2007