Why Bangladesh? I hear that question a lot. Well, it’s India’s fault, really … or maybe fate’s plan. I just know I didn’t plan it.
I was in the middle of getting my CELTA certification in Chiang Mai, Thailand. After the course, I wanted to visit India for a couple of weeks, then head home to see family and friends, then start looking for another teaching job — preferably in a Spanish- or French-speaking country. (I really, really, really, really, really want to be fluent in another language before I die, and Korean wasn’t it.)
During the intense four-week CELTA course, I took time out of my busy schedule to visit the Indian embassy in Chiang Mai and apply for my tourist visa. It didn’t go so well. The first time, I was turned away because I failed to fill out an online form 24 hours before submitting my application. The second time, I filled out the online form for the Bangkok embassy. Unfortunately, the Bangkok and Chiang Mai embassies don’t share information, so they sent me away again. The third time, the clerk said I had to reapply for a journalist visa because I listed “freelance editor” as my occupation.
“But I’m not a journalist,” I explained. “It’s just marketing … about computers. I’m really an unemployed English teacher. Would it be better to say that?”
“Whatever is the truth,” he replied.
I didn’t try a fourth time.
So now I had two weeks to travel and no idea where I wanted to go. One night, after a long day studying and teaching, I was lamenting my failed plans with one of my fellow trainees. He asked what I wanted to do. I said I’d like to volunteer someplace. He mentioned he had a contact at an eco resort in Bangladesh who might need some help. Perfect! I wasn’t exactly sure where Bangladesh was, but it sounded cool and it seemed to be near India. I was intrigued, so my friend checked into it for me and discovered the resort needed two full-time, paid English teachers ASAP.
Before I knew it, the one-week volunteer opportunity turned into a one-year job offer. Well, that was unexpected!
As I learned more about the position, I got more and more excited about it: Working for a socially and environmentally responsible business. Empowering villagers in an impoverished nation to improve their living conditions. Challenging myself both personally and professionally. It didn’t matter that I wouldn’t become fluent in French or Spanish (yet). It didn’t matter that my dating life would be put on hold (for yet another year). This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — and it fell directly, effortlessly into my lap.
I had no choice but to say yes.