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Christmas, New Year & elections

Written by Antje on January 5th 2014 22:00

While I’m writing, polling day in Bangladesh is coming to an end. In many ways it’s been a pretty depressing day because of the fact that it’s an election that the ruling party has gone through with despite it being blocked from the start by the opposition. The unrest has manifested itself over the last two months in increasing road blocks and strikes. In recent weeks it’s got so bad that all travel has become difficult and we’ve been advised only to travel if it’s absolutely essential. For me it means I can’t take the short holiday I’d planned in for after Christmas.
 
Christmas and New Year’s Eve were great times of celebration. There were several get-togethers with different people from overseas involved in the work here and there was a Christmas celebration in the church that ended with a huge rice meal for 750 people! On Christmas day itself even the sun was shining so it really wasn’t too cold at all. 
At work we also had all kinds of celebrations. A Christmas celebration in the outpatients with a birthday cake for Jesus, a Christmas do for the nurses in which we told the Christmas story, and also a party for all the doctors. In addition to all of these, there was also a celebration for all staff members involving a challenge: for each department to come up with a traditional song about any part of Christmas. Everyone had put lots of work into preparing. There has always been a kind of happy competitive spirit between the departments at Christmas and this was plain to see.
 
Kerstdienst staf 
Herders met levende schapen
Shepherds with real sheep
 
For me the New Year celebrations matter less, and here even more so because people aren’t really used to staying up until midnight. So although there was a party with a bonfire, by midnight one and all were tucked up in bed; me too. On New Year’s Day there was another service with a moderate meal afterwards.
 
So we’re back at work as normal, apart from the restrictions caused by blocked roads so people are finding it very difficult to get to hospital. Today the hospital functioned as if it were Sunday because of the elections. The political turmoil really affected us directly when the first wounded arrived from confrontations out there. The first was a man knifed by the opposition because he wanted to vote. Soon followed victims of a standoff between the opposition and police. It’s still not clear if today’s protests are over yet. The opposition won’t accept the results of the polling, whatever they are. No simple solution.
 
So as to round off this update on a more optimistic note, here are a couple of photos of Nondita, a 7-year-old girl who was badly burned a few years ago when her clothes caught fire. She had scarring of her neck and of both armpits. Two operations later and she was discharged with a pretty good return of movement of both arms. Her face has also wonderfully changed!
 
Before the operations 
After the operations 
With her mother
Nondita and her mother