Instead of vacationing at Disney World or Hawaii during winter break, Junior Annalise Tiley and her family opted for something different. They journeyed to Bangladesh; country in southern Asia.
Many high school students, likely have never been to or even heard of the lesser known country bordering India, but there are notable reasons why. According to BBC, before becoming its own country it was formerly East Pakistan until 1971, when the two parts of Pakistan split after a bitter war. Although democracy was restored in 1990, the political scene remains volatile. Currently, Islamist extremism has been on the rise in the usually tolerant country.
Tiley and her immediate family traveled there for her sister, Briana Tiley’s, wedding. Briana was married to Sunny Sanwar, who was born and raised in the capital city of Bangladesh: Dhaka. Their initial wedding was held in July with Briana’s family and friends in America, and a second ceremony was held in Dhaka for his family in early January.
Briana said she still wanted her family to be at her side at her second ceremony, which is why Annalise and her family made the trip. She said, “I invited my family to Bangladesh for them to experience a new culture, one that is completely different from what they’re used to. They also provided support for my marriage, as they were only ones from my side able to attend.”
Like her sister wanted, Annalise said she was enlightened by the experience. She said she had been previously exposed to Islamic culture from here in Lee’s Summit schools and in the community, but that was more than she expected. Islam is the top religion of Bangladesh and she said that the religion is very different from Christianity of America, and is shown in various ways, “Religion there is extreme. It’s not like you would not expect that in a third world Asian country, but since it’s right next to India I figured the main religion would be Hindu but it is very Islamic. Even the mannequins wear hijabs; it’s insane.”
Aside from religion, another distinction from the United States and Bangladesh is that is a nation where poverty is deep and widespread. Annalise was a spectator seeing poverty at its worst, “You know how people at the Plaza hold signs if they want food? Well Bangladesh is ten times worse, but people will literally come up to your car and knock and knock because the people just are that desperate.”
Another extreme problem in Bangladesh is the pollution, Annalise feels she could ever live in that type of environment. She said the people there wear masks on their face because they do not want to breathe the smog in. Annalise said she was also shocked to find out that the country she visited has no child labor laws, “There was little kids making this stuff with hard labor yet they were just so young. It broke my heart.”
Some of the aspects of daily life in Bangladesh were tough for Annalise and her family to get used to, particularly the transportation. Annalise said, “The transportation was so different. There were rickshaws, which are like buggy-like vehicle things where someone is on a bicycle in the front and they were pedaling the people in the back. On a side note, the traffic there is awful. There is no stop lights or stop signs like here.”
Annalise also said that she was surprised that Bangladesh has some similarities to the United States, an example would be the markets and malls having lots of American clothing, a specific example would be shoes, where they had popular American brands like Adidas and Nike.
Annalise said she is grateful for to have been given an opportunity for such an incredible eye opening experience from her sister, “It really impacted the way I live my life. It was really sad to see some of the stuff over there.”
While experiencing some the hardships of the way of life of the people of Bangladesh, Annalise also had some fun touring the city. “I loved the morning walks, I loved the rickshaw rides, I loved going to the markets and to the mall. I also very much loved the dancing. The culture includes so much of it. I tried to dance as much as I could, they taught me and I tried to learn the best I could. It was just so much fun.”
Annalise said that even though it was her first time visiting the country she loved the experience and would definitely go back because her experiences were life changing.