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     Volume 4 Issue 44 | April 29, 2005 |

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"Ladies and Gentlemen
Welcome to Bangladesh"

Naheed Ali

Everyone holds their breath as the crammed plane makes its noisy and rickety descent. Everyone is quiet with either anticipation or fear as the plane falls back to earth. The children and women are well groomed after a long exhausting trip. Passengers strain to see outside the window and catch a glimpse of the land below. The clouds gradually disappear and in its place appear lush green scenery with pools of life giving water. Everyone leans even more from their seat to see more of the land they had not seen in so long. Finally the wheels hit the ground and everyone's heart is suddenly rushing with blood. Maybe it is from experiencing the exciting stop the plane makes but for most it's from the announcement -"Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to Bangladesh."

I've experienced the descent into this country countless times. In fact, ever since I was a baby up to now when I held my own baby in my arms on her first trip to Bangladesh. I was born and raised in America. At different times of my life seeing the green palm trees of Bangladesh from the plane meant different things.

When I was young I was more excited about the plane trip itself than the prospect of visiting Bangladesh. I dreaded that my whole summer vacation would be spent away from my friends, my television shows, my bicycle and everything else important to a little girl. I could never get used to the heat inside the home and the dirty streets in the markets. I missed little things like processed milk and carpets. I would spend much of the trip wanting to go back. But when it finally came time something in me was strangely sad.

Yet, soon enough in America I would forget it as I met up with my friends in school and made a trip around the neighborhood with my bike. My father would try to remind us that

Bangladesh was our country and where we really are from. Growing up in America the country he spoke of seemed distant and irrelevant. When he taught us Bangla every weekend the language seemed foreign and difficult to my tongue. As a young girl caught up in her own life, I was convinced that Bangladesh would never be important to me.

As I grew from a girl, to a teenager to an adult those thoughts eventually began to change.

I began to look forward to visiting Bangladesh. I loved the exciting rickshaw rides or market trips where you get to bargain with sellers. I even enjoyed the village because of its complete serenity and beauty. I looked forward to being with extended family that I hadn't seen (eventually that became my own immediate family when my parents moved back to Bangladesh ).

Instead of missing American foods, I loved stopping on the street side to pick up some spicy chanachur. The sound of Bangla became familiar to me, the delicious summer fruits became favourites of mine, and the hustle and bustle of the Dhaka streets became so enjoyable -- like being in a large gathering of your own family.

Slowly and steadily over the years Bangladesh became what my father had always told us it was. Bangladesh ultimately is where I am from. I can't say that I understand all its ways. I am still perplexed by its complicated social interactions. I still cannot speak Bangla without someone saying "You have a funny accent". I will never be able to shake the deep sorrow when a poor girl taps on my car window for some change. There are some things that will never let me be a complete local. But I do believe your country doesn't lie in your language or your dress -- it lies in your heart.

Each time I come to Bangladesh, a larger part of me no longer returns with me when I board that plane back to America. It lies here in my mother's home, in my father's village, in the streets of Dhaka full of my own people. Something of me floats in Bangladesh until I come once again to reclaim it. I can almost swear I see that part of me waving goodbye as I look from the plane window one last time at the green lush landscape.

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