Sunday, April 24, 2011

Departing Bangladesh

We had a delightful dinner with our hosts on our last full day in Bangladesh. Elizabeth got a load of shopping done including my punjabi and her shalwar kameez.  It is with some measure of  sadness that we depart, but with a much greater degree of excitement to  share everything we have learned about this delightful country and especially the Teatulia garden.
Anis, Don, Shahid, Ameenah, Elizabeth and Juditha

Saturday, April 23, 2011

More than Organic

One of the things that makes this garden special lies in the sustainability factor. I heard the words Fukuoka and  Permaculture before, but it was not until visiting this garden that I realized  all that goes into a sustainable organic garden. Its interesting how often I hear  "Organic can't work on a large scale".  After seeing the garden in Teatulia I realize now how simple and complex is an organic garden.  At Teatulia, first the soil is fertilized naturally with the healthiest compost so that the soil is rich & ready for healthy tea plants.

Different things are planted bearing in mind, season, temperature, height, sun, shade, drainage, pests, diversity & age etc in order to nurture each plant and ensure a healthy eco system.
Lemongrass for soil retention, drainage & shade
Natural plants are used to combat pests and infestations.  These plants are grown interspersed throughout the garden and often provide shade as well. One such plant was used, per suggestion by the workers, as it was an old remedy used in the villages.
Just one of many, used alone or in combination for different infestations
It's been an amazing experience traveling to the garden, and rejoicing in its lush sustainable beauty, I feel hopeful for the future of farming.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Off the Tourist Trail-Bangladesh

Can you imagine a beautiful place, not only in the natural landscape but in the people, where it is virtually untouched by tourism? Bangladesh is such a place. The Sundarbans in the South of Bangladesh is the largest Mangrove forest in the world, one of the many unspoiled gems to discover in this lovely country.  Bangladesh is approximately the size of Florida. In the last three weeks, having traveled the length and width of the country, it has been a delight to meet some of the friendliest people you'll ever encounter who are curious and welcoming. They have had little experience with tourists and almost every person will want to invite you to cha(tea) snacks and smiles. Another Shangri La we discovered is a visionary eco resort.
Panigram(water village) is slated to open in 2012. That the only Westerners that have come here have been mostly from NGO's or for business interests  is soon to change and that is all for the good. The general consensus in the world media is that Bangladesh is an incredibly poor country and by extension holds nothing of interest for the foreign traveler. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, Bangladesh does have poverty, but the wretchedness that often accompanies it, we have not seen.    It is one of the remaining countries where the agrarian villages still remain in tact. Tamarind pods are collected off the street by villagers, every branch, leaf and pile of cow dung is used(cow dung is dried and used as fuel).  There are many places of incredible beauty in the world and Bangladesh is among them. How it differentiates itself  is in the fact that few have discovered it.
In the Sundarban
This is one of the last "best kept" secrets, but it will not remain so for long.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Womans Literacy Program

Twice a week, the women at the garden are offered, while being paid, to learn to read, count and write their names.  Each with a small chalkboard to practice on, they went up in front of the class, to show us how they had learned to write their names. Literacy programs took on a new meaning for me as we listened to their pride. What struck me the most was the down to earth reasons they gave for learning. "So that they couldn't be cheated", "So they could sign their name instead of giving a thumb print". I'm awed by their courage and in the difference this garden has made in the lives of the community. Hope for the future. The simple things we take for granted, like being able to count.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Happy Bengali New Year-Pohela Boishakh

On a clear night  you can see Darjeeling and the Himalayas
Standing on the border between India and Bangladesh
Bengali New Year off to an auspicious start with a cyclone
Linda and Chris have now left and Elizabeth and I have until the  24th to continue exploring Bangladesh. We are  just now getting a chance to decompress after visiting our very unique tea garden in the northernmost portion of the country at Tetulia in the Panchagarh District. The Tetulia garden in Bangladesh is only recently planted in 2000 and something amazing is happening there. It is the first organic garden in the entire country and its cattle lending program and other social programs for the workers are revolutionary.  "Highest Quality" and "Best Practices" would be two ways I would characterize what's going on at the garden. There is a very big story here which I will elaborate in future posts. Suffice it to say for now,  IMHO, the natural farming practices and care for the people who do the work in the garden represent a Quiet Revolution that  provides hope for all mankind.  As we took our first real walk through section #7 of our garden we were blown away with the fact that just years before this area was in dire straits economically and the land that is now lush and alive with birds and wildlife was just a few short years before  nothing but sand and clump grass. Walking further we got to the end of this section of the garden where Bangladesh and India meet. On a clear night the you can see Darjeeling and the Himalayas. We also visited the established  tea area  in Sri Mongol. Now that I am going through all the video/pics of  this incredible journey its clear that there are many wonderful stories to tell.  On April 14th the day before Linda left  we got to experience the start of the Bengali year. It was a very colorful celebration with traditional dance and song. More to come

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dressed up for the Gaye Holud portion of a Bengali Wedding

    There are usually 4 parts to a Bengali Wedding that may span over many days. Anis, Juditha, Linda, Elizabeth and yours truly dressed up to attend the gaye holud portion.  


Teatulia-Building a Library at Girls School in Tetulia

 We were overwhelmed by the reception that we received at the all girls high school, approximately 1000 villagers turned out to welcome us.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Teatulia-Antidote for an Ailing World

 Tetulia Womans Cooperative as we sat in this village we listened to the stories of the woman and how this cattle lending co-op had changed their lives.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

To the Garden

119 Km to Tetulia

On the Road to Tetulia after leaving Dhaka we saw many amazing sights, including this elephant. We have just returned to Dhaka and will go to Sylhet(tea area) in the morning.  We had many incredible experiences which we shall share soon!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bangladesh Ancient Culture-Young Country

Wow, this is a place to visit. There is something  very magical about this ancient culture yet very young country. What we have noticed is that the people here are incredibly kind and helpful. They have born witness to so much suffering, yet they are amazingly positive. 

We visited the National Museum today and got to see some of the culture from this ancient civilization. Landing  in Dhaka last night we got the VIP treatment again. Getting off the plane we were met with someone holding a placard with our names and were escorted to a waiting car.  Our driver navigated miraculously through the tumult that is Dhaka driving with horns tooting all around like bats navigating in close quarters to avoid collision.   On the way to ours hosts magnificent home in Dhanmondi we had a delightful conversation with  our escort Mr. Galib. Still recovering from our 40 hours in transit getting to Bangladesh from SFO we posed for picture on the roof (see pics). On our way back from the National Museum we snapped a pic from the window of our car(see pic)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Leaving the USA and Into ASIA

We departed San Francisco Sunday 4/3 at 1:30am on Cathay Pacific and it was a very  enjoyable flying experience. Kudos to Cathay for making a 14 hour flight thoroughly enjoyable (see pic). After arriving in Hong Kong, where we have a 12 hour layover, we were greeted by an airline representative with a placard bearing our names(see pic). We got the royal VIP treatment and were expedited though the airport and ensconced into the First/Business Class lounge. We were singled out for the royal treatment because a couple weeks previous they had changed our departure times  by about 12 hours on both ends. A very unexpected surprise but very welcome. Refreshing in this day and age of diminished expectations. Once we got settled in, we called my parent with Skype from my computer (see pic).

On the plane I finished the audio book Banker to the Poor  by Muhammad Yunus. I could not recommend a book more. Read it and weep tears of joy for the "Quiet Revolution" that is helping to eradicate poverty in the world. I'm so excited to be visiting the the Home of the Grameen Bank

Soon we will be landing in Dhaka and staying with the family who started the garden in Teatulia.
On April 8th we will be in Tetulia Bangladesh where we will present a check to build a new  library. There is still time to make a donation ($5-10 is fine) of any  size at our website Upon my return I will send you a canister of our tea as a thank you gift for your donation.

Cathay Pacific Rocks!