Sleepless Nights

Mar 5, 2019

I haven’t slept much this trip. Every night seems to be turning into a restless and sleepless night. Partly due to the heat, the excessive horn honking all through the night, the loud music playing in the streets at 1 am, the pillows that feel like bricks and probably just my general lack of ability to sleep normally. But mostly, I haven’t been able to sleep because when I get into bed after a day of teaching I start to think about all students. Their stories. Where they live. What they have to go back to. Their futures. And tears start to flow down my cheeks. My heart aches for them.  I lie awake thinking about my 19 year old student whose brother got captured, tortured and killed. The many students who have lost their parents. The young mothers who have been abandoned by their husbands because they have left them for other wives. And what hurts my heart the most is the constant fear, suppression and lack of freedom all these incredible students have. They live in the most unimaginable conditions and have no way of leaving. They are stuck in the camps. With no ID and no citizenship. No country wants them. They are viewed as worthless and unwanted. I read about all of this before coming to Bangladesh, I knew it would be hard, but now I know these students. I know their names, their faces, their personalities, their families, their dreams….it makes it so much more real. And so much more heartbreaking. When lying awake in bed I also start to think back over these past few weeks and remember all incredible and joy-filled times we have had and the sadness and helplessness turns to joy and gratitude. As I said in my last post, it’s been an emotional roller-coaster.

I knew it would be hard, but now I know these students. I know their names, their faces, their personalities, their families, their dreams

Cayla and I spent some intentional time with just the female students from both groups. We didn’t really know what to expect but wanted to provide a safe place for them to ask any questions, let their hair down (literally) and maybe even have some fun. The girls came running into our group giggling, a little shy and perhaps even a bit skeptical. One girl asked if I could do her hair for her, and that quickly broke the ice. I curled their hair and did their make-up. They were absolutely beaming! It was the first time they had ever seen a curling iron. It was so fun to pamper them and help them feel loved. The girls were so excited to do Cayla’s make-up and thought it was the most entertaining thing ever to help me put on a glamorous head covering. And then, before I knew what was happening, the girls put on music, pulled us up on our feet and a dance party broke out! The image of them dancing and laughing and not having a care in the world is something that will stick with me forever. They had the freedom to just be girls and let loose and it was beautiful! So grateful they trusted me enough and felt safe enough to let their walls down. After we were all good and sweaty we sat down and had a pretty powerful heart-to-heart girls chat. They asked a lot of vulnerable questions about their health and personal girl stuff. Things they have never been taught before and things they have never had the freedom to ask before. Most of these girls don’t have enough money to ever see a doctor and don’t go to school to get the basic “what to expect during puberty” chats that we get in Canada. They have to just fumble through it all on their own with a lot of shame and loneliness. I’m so glad we got the chance to help them through some of their questions. It was a beautiful and unforgettable experience.

Today was the last day of our official teaching in Bangladesh. These 2 weeks have flown by! It’s been an unforgettable experience.

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 Cayla and Janelle