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Train ride in troubled times

Written by Antje on March 29th 2015 21:18

I’ve been back in Bangladesh now for 6 weeks and have adjusted to work here. My first few weeks back were not as busy as usual. That was because the opposing political party caused problems with public transportation. They were trying to get more political power. Thus it was more difficult for people to get to the hospital. Officially the transportation problems are still in effect, but in everyday life things continue normally and the patients can travel again. During the day you can get a bus but not at night. 
 
This past weekend there was a conference with all the people from my mission board in the capital city of Dhaka. About half of us live and work in our project and the rest live in and around Dhaka. I was given the task of arranging transportation to the conference. With all the transportation problems we couldn’t go with the bus and chose to go with the train. When all was said and done, 2 groups took the train and a small group went by airplane. 
 
Half of the group in which I was traveling had tickets for first class, and the rest traveled in second class. I hadn’t traveled often in second class and found it to be quite an experience! 
 
01.jpg
Station

02.jpg
Intercity train

03.jpg
Second class wagon
 
In the second class, as you can see, the compartments are open with a small aisle in between. In each compartment there are 2 benches with 4 seats facing each other. The benches have a very straight back. They are not soft at all. After 6 hours I needed to stand for a while and stretch my legs — everything was rather stiff!
There is place for 4 people to sit — but that doesn’t mean that that happens! There were at least 5 people and the woman next to me had a 2 year old child on her lap. Every now and then another child would come and also sit with her. There wasn’t very much space to sit! But when you remember that the ticket cost less than 5 euro, you can’t complain too much! The people that continued to come and sit had an even cheaper ticket with no seat number. 
 
04.jpg
Here is the place where I sat. When I wanted to sit back down the woman who sat in my place stood politely up. 
I also had to get used to the fact that in second class people walk continually through the aisles. In first class that doesn’t happen as much. People selling snacks as well as beggars also passed through.
 
I am now in my friend’s home waiting for the train to go back. The long distance trains run the whole week. One day a week there is a rest day. With the political unrest the trains cannot ride through the night because the rails are inspected for possible sabotage. That means that in the course of the week the trains are later and later. Now the train that should leave at 10 in the morning is 13 hours late and will leave late in the evening. 
 
In fact I enjoyed an extra day in Dhaka after the conference. I bought a new sari, which I will wear for Easter, and some household items that are not as easy to get in Parbatipur. But I am not really looking forward to traveling back. We have once again second class tickets and will sit straight up the whole night. But that’s how it is and eventually it will be just fine….
 
Next time I’ll tell a bit more about the work.