Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bangladesh: Refreshed

The drive to the Nampa area is familiar ground. I know the places to stop for gas and snacks, and I've got a pretty good idea where the various rest areas are in between. As I made the drive recently yet again, I was thankful yet again for not just cars and freeways, but rest areas, too. Those are things I've grown up knowing, and it is tempting to take them for granted.

While traveling in Bangladesh earlier this year, we didn't have those luxuries, but we were offered hospitality by wonderful people who welcomed us and helped us to feel at ease in their country.

Driving back to Dhaka after about a week of travel, several of us were nearing time when we would need to stop. We mentioned this to the local minister accompanying us that day, and he called ahead to one of the CDCs we had visited earlier. They would welcome us to use their latrines.

When we arrived, I was still thinking like an American, I suppose -- stop the van, jump out, return quickly, and be on our way again. But this was not the long-distance-travel rest stop I've grown accustomed to. Several of those serving in the CDC stopped what they were doing to come and greet us at the gate, to welcome us into their space and spend time with us as we waited for everyone to finish.

Then, as we stood there, they offered us tea! "It is a long trip; you need to be refreshed." We were on a schedule; they respected us by acknowledging the time and offering a stand-up tea time in the courtyard rather than a seated one inside. Invitation accepted, the men carried out a large table while several women brought out the delicate china with hot tea and sugar. We all sipped the now-familiar tea as we shared stories together. Those were moments marked by laughter, smiles, and a genuine sense of presence, and I was refreshed indeed.

I remain quite grateful for public rest stops on the long stretches between developed areas in my own country. And I am newly grateful, too, for the generous spirit of hospitality I saw displayed so beautifully on that day in Bangladesh. As one experience symbolic of so many others, too, that "rest stop" is one of my favorite memories from that trip.

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