Friday, May 31, 2013

Thoughts on Bangladesh

Brick walkway at the Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed

As many of you know my friend Kim and I taught in Bangladesh during the summer of 2011.  It was an amazing experience and one that we hope to repeat again in the next few years (you can read more of my posts about Bangladesh here)

You remember how we are cooking our way around the world well the next one I should be posting about is Bangladesh, but the truth is I feel funny writing about the aloo chop I cooked when there are other much more pressing things to discuss about Bangladesh. 

Things like the building that collapsed in Bangladesh last month killing over 1000 people.  The building, Rana Plaza, was in Savar a town northwest of the capital Dhaka. The Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP) where we taught is less than two kilometres away from the collapsed building.  We went to the Rana Plaza on our first day in Bangladesh to withdraw money from the bank machine and then went to a building across the street and past the underpass to purchase material for our salwar kameezes and scarves. The people who worked in the garment factories and in the shops who were trapped, injured, and the families of those who have died are on my mind.

Did you know that two babies have been born to women trapped in the rubble.  Can you imagine how terrifying that would be?

Did you know that one woman was found after seventeen days of being trapped in the debris.  Can you imagine how terrifying that would be?

There has been a lot of talk about reform of the garment industry and to that I say hear! hear!   I have been relieved to know that not only has Joe Fresh, the Canadian clothing company associated with Loblaw, admitted they were subcontracting with one of the garment factories in the Rana Plaza while most other clothing manufacturers have not, but they also are working toward better monitoring of the factory working conditions.  

I worry about the backlash this type of accident will have on consumers. Will they want to boycott clothing made in third world countries? Possibly, but is that the answer when the jobs are very much needed.  Can you imagine what would happen to the economy of an already fragile country, if all the garment factories closed. I think about the people who make the clothing I purchase and hope that they were fairly treated, at the same time knowing they were likely underpaid and likely working in crowded unsafe conditions. Unfortunately we are left without many options. Several of the news reports I listened to claimed that adding only a few dollars to the price of the garments we buy would entirely change the working conditions and wages if that money went directly to solving the problems.  Who wouldn't happily pay a little bit more to know that the garments were made in fair working conditions (like fair trade coffee). The problem of how to help the people working in the garment factories is on my mind.

The Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed has been helping with the rehabilitation of many of those injured in the collapse of the building (you can read more about it in this article put out by the World Health Organization).  Helping people with spinal cord and limb injuries is one of the things that CRP specializes in.  The rehabilitation of those injured in the accident has been on my mind.
Savar City Centre

Photo taken by me on the overpass in Savar

Collapsed building in Savar just down the street from the above photo (source)

Bangladesh is one of those places that elicit a complete range of emotions - it did when we were there and a tragic accident like the recent one brings all that to the fore again.  It seems so frivolous to talk about the Bangladeshi food I cooked after such a sobering topic, but nevertheless I wanted to share with you one of the the things we really enjoyed when we were in Bangladesh.   

Our favourite food in Bangladesh was aloo chop, which you can see in the photos below.  You can admire how they are supposed to look because as you will soon see mine didn't look quite as good.

The lovely woman who cooked our meals and helped us whenever we needed anything (like giant spiders being removed from our washroom)

I thought I would give making aloo chop a try when we got to Bangladesh in our world cooking.  Unfortunately they didn't work out as well as the original ones did.  You can see how difficult they were to make in the photo below.  I basically made a thick mashed potato, formed it into a cup shape, and filled it with a seasoned egg mixture.  I then added a bit more mashed potato to close the top.  It was easier said than done though as it was difficult to seal the egg inside the mashed potato. I then rolled the balls in bread crumbs and fried them in a pan to brown the outsides.

I'm not going to include a recipe as they were not the best things I've made.  I think the originals were fried in more oil than I used, which might have given them that nice even brownness.

I guess we will just have to go back to Bangladesh and taste some of the real ones.  

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  1. Thank you for this beautiful post. I have had conflicted feelings about boycotting clothing made in Bangladesh, because I have felt that I want to punish the owners of these companies, but of course not the employees.

  2. First of all, I can't believe it's been two years since your trip to Bangladesh. Secondly, I heard about the collapsed building on the news and read about it on the internet. What a tragedy! And to think that you've actually been to that very building! I have mixed emotions about companies who relocate to third world countries for cheap labor and the bottom line. I remember as a child in the US (during the seventies) how expensive clothing was due to labor unions, and I'll be the first to admit that the price of clothing is nothing compared to what it was, and as a consumer I like that. But inhumane working conditions should be a concern to everyone, and I hope that something good will come from this tragedy.

    Very thoughtful post, Grace!

    And I think your Aloo Chop looks delish!


  3. You have really made me think about the boycotting clothing issue. It seemed simple enough before but now I see the other side too. I would be willing to pay that bit more, but I do wonder if the difference would go to better conditions for the workers without some serious changes to monitoring the situation.

  4. This is a really thought provoking post. Yes, I would pay more for the employees welfare.

  5. It was so sad to hear the news reports out of Bangladesh. I'm happy to hear that Joe Fresh is going to work toward better working conditions. Bangladesh sounds much like Uganda. Uganda has been on my mind a lot lately because my husbands cousin and her husband are there on a volunteer basis working for the people in one of the orphanage compounds. And my son and grandson went for a visit and to see the needs of Uganda. It broke their hearts.
    The a loo chop sounds very interesting, and they do look good, I would love to taste one.
    Have a good week, Cindy