Just another day in Dhaka, Hillary Clinton

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It was a historical event at the International School of Dhaka today as US State Secretary Hillary Clinton paid us a visit. To maintain security, we were only notified of her visit the day before she actually arrived. What does this mean? Well, let’s just say prompt organization is simply not a Bangladeshi forte! In fact, using those words in the same sentence seems like an oxymoron! To prepare for this massive event, pretty much the entire city of Dhaka transformed into a semi-well-functioning metropolis and it was nothing short of a miracle! We had newly paved streets overnight, security guards on every corner and hardly any rickshaws (because true cosmopolitan people drive cars, you know). When we got to school I was greeted by very serious looking security guards in street clothes running a metal detector. Since I work there, they let me pass on through, and I didn’t even have to show them the contents of my bag. Hm. Call me crazy, but I do believe that kind of defeats the point of security… though primary teachers do not look very menacing, I suppose.

At 10:15, teachers gathered in the staff lounge for their morning tea, but there was a buzz of excitement in the air. Just as I took my first sip of coffee a colleague shouted, “She’s here!” at which point every teacher abandoned their much coveted seat at the snack table, and ran to the windows. It was such a sight to behold! Not only had Hillary NOT arrived, but now about 50 educated individuals had reverted back into small children with their noses pressed against the glass holding their breath in anticipation! They waited and waited…but nothing.

The excitement slowly dwindled as teachers realized their break time had lapsed and it was time to get back to class. As everyone gradually dispersed from the staff lounge and made their way downstairs to get back to work, Hillary finally did arrive and, again, a mass of bodies pressed against the window for a star sighting! One car pulled up… but it was just some embassy officials. A second car followed and then a squeal of excitement resounded through the reception area as Hillary came into view. Out she stepped and…. she was just a regular person I’m afraid. Nothing too exciting to see except for a gigantic orange purse on her arm. Yep, that’s all I felt when I saw her. In fact, after spending the year being openly gawked at in public like some kind of wild animal, I admittedly had some sympathy for old Hillary. I looked around and had to giggle at how bizarre it must be to show up someplace only to find hundreds of faces smooshed up against windows in every direction!

Apparently her “conversation with Bangladesh” went quite well, though I wouldn’t know! Yes, she did visit our campus, but only 20 people (out of a mere 800+) got to actually participate in this “conversation”. My 4th grade students who are currently studying government were quite miffed that they were not considered when all the arrangements for the day had been made! Don’t worry, Hillary, I covered for you and told them that government officials aren’t really comfortable with kids because they always seem to ask the questions that are impossible to answer, which can be a little embarrassing!

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