Paola Fornari Hanna, a professional linguist, writer, and trainer and wife of the European Union Ambassador in Bangladesh, recently participated in the Panigram Apprenticeship Experience with her sister, Silvia. She enjoyed her stay so much that she was inspired to write a blog entry for us; we are very happy to publish it!
Recently my sister Silvia, who lives in Houston, Texas, came to stay. She was our very first visitor in two and a half years in Bangladesh, and was as determined to see, feel and breathe as much of the real Bangladesh as I was to show her.
I had read about the Panigram Apprenticeship Experience, and it seemed to be exactly what we were looking for, so we signed up. And for three days and two nights, it was one exciting sensory experience after another. Like blissful children, we got filthy mixing mud (and learnt to add jute to strengthen it for fixing cracks).
We built mud brick walls, and chopped bricks into smaller pieces to fit into awkward places, jigsaw-style.
We learnt to make bamboo chic, from identifying the right sort of bamboo (tholli-dash) to weaving it as tightly as we could, to signing the finished article.
In fact, we enjoyed working so much that it was difficult to drag us away from our activities.
But there was plenty of time to relax, too.
We took walks into the village, and were always accompanied by villagers, eager to chat, and to welcome us into their homes.
One day lunch was served on banana leaves in a local homestead. In the verandah, sitting on the ground, we learnt to eat delicious organic food with our fingers, careful not to get our fingers dirty beyond the second knuckle.
We admired the scenery from a goru-gari
and a vangari
and went on a ride on a wooden boat at night, with fireflies surrounding us like fairy lights, and sparkling fish leaping over us.
I will be back at Panigram, to do everything I didn’t have time for, and to check that my bricks and signed bamboo chic are firmly in place!
Thanks, Kristin, for a unique and extraordinary experience.
–Paola Fornari Hanna