When the time came to return to the airport, we passed through multiple security checkpoints and swerved around barriers that were in place so no one could drive straight into the departures building. When we were dropped off at the curb I immediately noticed the military presence. There were many officers standing around with sawed off shot guns and compact machine guns slung over their shoulders. This place is no joke; which is completely warranted because of ISIS’s open threats of attacking the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport with the intention of killing foreigners. From checking in at the counter to sitting in my seat on the plane I went through 5 different security checks. Women were patted down in little private rooms with curtains rather than in public. I’ve never had security specifically rummage through every part of my baggage, leaving no shirt unturned. To say they were thorough would be an understatement. I found comfort in their paranoia because there is absolutely no way you could smuggle something onto that plane.
I met a young man at the airport who was born in Dhaka. We ended up traveling to the same destination so we had a few hours to get to know each other. It was his first time on an airplane and his nervousness was adorable. We had a lot in common, watched the same TV shows and laughed at the same jokes. He told me that he will be getting married at the end of the year to a woman he has never met. I didn’t realize that arranged marriages are still a reality for many people and its such an influential part of their culture. He didn’t seem very enthusiastic about it and went on to talk all about how unrealistic online dating is because you can’t be affectionate with the person in the way you would be naturally. This conversation made me realize how lucky I am to have the freedom to choose who I want to spend the rest of my life with. Now I have a deeper appreciation for the privilege to date/marry for love rather than economic and societal gains.
Regardless of the intimidating aspects of this country, I was treated with nothing but respect and kindness by every person I encountered during my time there. They take proper security precautions because they want to keep everyone safe. The Bangladeshi people spoke better English than most other Asian countries I’ve traveled to. Their eyes and smiles radiated genuine friendliness and they simply wanted to know more about me. My new friend reminded me how easy it is to make friends anywhere in the world if you live with an open mind. Nothing will make you more grateful (and aware) of what you have than seeing life through the eyes of another.
This is my favorite photo of Bangladeshi women taken by the talented Simon Urwin. For an incredibly stunning photo set click here.