A View of Chittagong

A View of Chittagong

This isn’t that spicy I thought, lifting a mix of sauce, egg and rice to my mouth with my hand.

My first week in Chittagong, everything was foreign to me, yet, nothing seemed so foreign, at first. Nothing seemed that different from home. However, as the weeks went by, the food became spicier, the customs became more apparent, and the realities of living in a developing country began to set in. I went to Bangladesh with the intention of conducting research on subclinical mastitis, but I left having learned so much more.

A completely different time zone

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Sheep have free rein of the CVASU campus.

One of my earliest lessons came on my first day of fieldwork, when I arrived at the hospital to be picked up. We had decided on a 10 am start time, however, I quickly realized that time was a more abstract concept in Bangladesh than what I was used to. 10 am start time could mean 10 am, or it could mean 11 am, or 12 pm. That day, we started fieldwork at 12 pm. While I waited, I spent some time observing in the hospital. Observing quickly turned into a hands-on sport, when I was asked to draw blood, give shots, and administer fluids.

 

As time went by, I began to understand and appreciate the change of pace. Getting tea or “cha”, as they say in Bangla, doesn’t mean a quick stop on the way to work, but rather a time where everyone has a chance to take a break from their workday to socialize. I found that spending time with loved ones was one of the most important aspects of everyday life in Bangladesh, and that the Bengali people were some of the most hospitable and genuine people that I have ever met.

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Chelsea collects goats milk samples.

Research partners

I had the privilege of spending time with a lot of the students at Chittagong Veterinary & Animal Sciences University while I completed my research activities. On field days, they helped me navigate the streets of Chittagong and interview farmers, while I collected milk from their goats. On lab days, they helped me prepare what I needed for diagnostic testing and directed me in bacteriology techniques. During our down time, they taught me about their language and culture.

My six weeks in Bangladesh was full of academic and cultural experiences. I attended an international workshop focused on udder health. I experienced Ramadan and Eid. I externed at a dairy farm owned by the largest production company in the country. And, I found a canine companion in one of the many stray dogs living on campus.

Over the course of the trip, the other students and I faced our fair share of challenges, from the tropical climate to a terrorist attack in the capital. With those challenges we gained a great deal of perspective. Although I may never see most of my Bengali friends again, I am reminded of them with every story I tell of Bangladesh, as they are the ones responsible for making my time there so memorable.

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