[What follows is a section of a travelogue by Mr. Kashiraj Pandey, NELTA executive member. Please click HERE for the full text.]
Seeing Myself in Dhaka
I did not have fixed plans and no one was worried about my arrival. For me, to experience everyday in which almost nothing seemed so familiar was the pride of travelling that way. I reached Dhaka around 10 am, the 19th May, 2011. As I was told to meet BELTA colleagues at 4 pm, that 10 to 4 worked so well that I explored many parts of Dhaka on the first day that delegates other parts of than Bangladesh and a colleague Ganesh from Nepal, another representative from NELTA, who took a flight to Dhaka the same day with grants from the British Council, was surprised to see me steering him towards many corners of Dhaka during our stay there.
Meeting Sudebjee from English in Action and Sonia from BELTA at the BIAM at 5 pm, the conference venue made me realize that a journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles. As soon As I met them one let me use his computer and the next offered to join for the snacks.
At the Conference
As announced, the conference started on time. At 8.30 am, the volunteers were ready, waiting for the participants and delegates to register. Most of the presenters had registered the previous day. During 9.00 to 9.45 , I could see all participants, presenters and delegates inside the dining hall each holding a cup, exchanging greetings and talking, every one busy, what a fine opportunity for networking!
And I was busy too, talking to everybody, if not as many people as I could find who loved listening others, not many actually. But, I did my best to make me heard, and they were amazed to see me and the way I reached there (you know in 40 degree Dhaka city, a man arrives by bus, all wet from every corner of his body and sweating, with fairly grubby clothes, never taken shower for three whole days and nights) and how I travelled all the way to Bangladesh by bus, and my unplanned journey by road– no seats in a scheduled bus with all hopes to eat and stay in readily available local hotels… and more, all fun when things went well, and that’s how I was there, very excited.
Then I saw all going towards the hall by 10.00 for inauguration, so quiet, so curious we all were.
Then at 11.00 the plenary started with David Graddol for an hour, where he highlighted how the global trends are affecting in reshaping the world of ELT.
Before the concurrent sessions started at 12, I could see all the presenters working on their slides to shorten them so as to fit within the 25 minute time bound which was not very normal for anyone, and I was no exception either, for presentation in such huge gathering meant for an hour in general. The volunteers in different rooms were so alert, and time sensitive. After 20 minutes, they would show a placard saying 5 MINUTES, which was a good signal for the smart presenters to conclude and switch into Q/A session. And in next 5 minutes, STOP!.
Some big names like Fife MacDuff , Jeremy Harmer enjoyed the opportunity to present at the auditorium for an hour each where other presenters like me had to compromise with a normal hall for 25 minutes time limit, and mine to be more specific was in the fourth floor. Yes, I also had my session on the first day with a topic, Journaling for Teacher Development: An Autoethnographic Approach. I could see all participants very enthusiastic, excited for the topic; for the technique of journaling, for an autoethnographic approach they wanted to know what it was and of course some were little skeptic on how would I deal the topic, very curious, very inquisitive, and involving.
After I gave my session, a bunch of BELTA members, the young faculties from universities in Dhaka encircled me, nice to see them falling in love with autoethnographic approach, I know who does not love to talk about their own feelings and emotions, and more than that, about what Creswell (2002) claims as “a reflective self examination by an individual set within his or her cultural context” (p. 438). When people have their own creation and feeling, they look for their own space within creativity, while autoethnography gives a space to display our multiple layers of consciousness, connecting the personal to the cultures around and that was reason they loved to hold me back. Revealing my days for the past three years that once I started to work in this domain, I have found people around me valuing and celebrating my efforts, kept me update and fresh all the times. I have never found anyone coming out to harm my creation, when I believe in “heart to heart communication” in writing. My teachers, colleagues, students, family members, readers, and participants in any workshops have given energy to save me ahead.
A professor from Eastern University did not delay to invite me to her university to talk about my attempt in using reflective journals to garner students’ and teachers’ creativity as well.
I readily accepted where pleasure was all mine to meet the young budding writers, the faculties of English Department at the Eastern.
At the Eastern
It was already four and the CNG auto took us at the University’s building in Dhanmundi. The professors, especially those who were writers too, were waiting for us. I had Mr. Ganesh Gnawali, my colleague from Nepal, with me. Yes, I shared my experience as a writer, the contents we readily get in this part of the world. I talked about some best pieces of Literature that I have read from around the world. I was more lenient towards the one that best represented life, society, and cultures of course, starting with what we already know. People have their own style of creation and feeling, very unique but universal. Those dynamic participants promised they would keep in touch, let see how we could keep the promises further, may be by exchanging the ideas, writing and publishing more books of creativity, documenting the moments of pain and pleasure, ups and downs as what was done by other writers, their influencing texts. To name a few texts like King Lear, Malini, Kabuliwala, The Great Railway Bazaar, The Kite Runner, Swan Song, The Necklace, The Lunatic, Munamadan, and Gauri are some works that the world cannot forget even someone is indifferent to, and all of them somehow were able to capture the moment that reflected the social-cultural, or personal-political experiences based on their own spacio-temporal context/s, and reading, such creation of other writers, works as burning fuel to all writers on the rise when we all are the butterfly of a same garden with multiple sets of flowers blooming within. That’s what I shared in the workshop at the Eastern based on my ongoing research area, reflective practices (Journaling) for overall transformation in teaching- learning. Thank you Professor Iffat Majid, for you gave this wonderful opportunity to meet all these creative galaxy.
At the TA Meeting
Mr. Ganesh Gnawali and I attended a meeting with the leaders of teacher associations from the region; from Bangladesh, from Pakistan, from Afghanistan, and from India. I was glad to observe that the regional Teacher associations are taking NELTA as a model association. We are also the one with branches all around the country who have active life members, more than 2000 by 2011. While other TAs were advocating to encourage young and new members, we had already had Mr. Ganesh Gnawali, an aspiring and promising young man, the proof, whom the committee recommended to avail the BC grant while myself, though representing the central committee, so happily attended the conference on my own.
I shared how we are smoothly working with the government and the partners while it is still a challenge for other TAs from neighboring countries. Our members’ active participation, specially the new ones who wholeheartedly volunteer during the conference or throughout the years was another asset we shared with them. Agreeing on the need of frequent exchange programs, support in training and material development, and regional cooperation etc. the meeting concluded hoping to meet again soon.
As Aldous Huxley remarks, to travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries, I was really worried whether I would be sold on the way even before reaching Bangladesh (Dhaka), but no one tried to hurt me in any cultural (sensitive) matters. However, as a tourist I could sense how easily things were sorted out when we spent money. Had the money changer not arranged the easy escape, I would have returned Kakarvitta instead of heading towards Dhaka from Burimari. And I had a good cause for this. At Burimari, but I should confess, I was so happy to see the humans in uniform accepting any amount of money from anyone with great confidence, confidence counts, doesn’t it?