The past month has been a time of adjustment towards our new situation. After the Holey terrorist attack, our movements are extremely restricted now due to potential security issues. We can go to work and home and very few other places in between.
On July 10th, our post went on Authorized Departure for EFMs (Eligible Family Members). It’s a status that means that families of officers were highly encouraged to depart from Dhaka and go back to the United States. While they could stay if they chose, most took this suggestion seriously and decided to take their families to a safer place. Some remained behind because they don’t have children and wanted to stay with their spouses. For those of us who had to stay behind, it means a much emptier community. It also means a higher workload for officers, since EFMs also work in valuable positions at the Embassy. In my own section, we have lost all but one of our EFMs. It does mean I get to learn new skills as we try to fill the void, but it is definitely a strain to maintain our old workload.
I was also moved last week to a new apartment due to some issues with the previous place. I like my new place a lot, but I’m now having to re-unpack, re-decorate, and try to figure out how to adjust to my new surroundings. I love the new place though – it’s far quieter, better laid out, and has a much bigger kitchen. I feel safer here than I did at the previous place, so that is something.
One bright event in the past couple weeks is that a colleague and I were able to get out to Kolkata. Walking outside was so wonderful, and I felt very safe for the first time in weeks. I hadn’t realized what a pressure I’d been feeling until it was gone. Even though we were only there for a couple of days, it made a difference in my peace of mind.
The first day we walked nearly 7 miles under pouring rain for most of the day. We stopped by an sidewalk umbrella seller and ended up chatting with him under his tarp-covered kiosk, drinking tea, while the rain came down in sheets. My colleague and I were both thankful for our Bengali language ability. Then we walked to Victoria Memorial and some markets. By the end of the day, we were soaked, but content. It was just wonderful to get out and meet everyday people and talk and smile and look up at the sky and feel the rain on my face and the ground below my feet. To feel the breeze on my face and smell street food smells and grass smells and even bad smells. To see children playing on the sidewalk and lovers sitting on benches hiding beneath umbrellas. These are the things that are now closed off to me in Dhaka, at least for the time being.
However, I know the Dhaka community is resilient. We host each other at our houses for dinner or board game nights, try to think of creative ways to entertain ourselves, and when we ask each other “how are you doing?” we actually want to know. It must be toughest on the people who now have to be separated from their spouses and children – I can’t imagine what they are going through. I think we will have to be even more “there” for each other in the coming months as we assess what the new normal will be in Dhaka. We will watch and wait and keep trying to do our jobs as best we can, and hope for the best. Because how we face the situation each day is the only thing we can control right now.