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Alex back in Dhaka - 9th of Jan 2008

I arrived back in Dhaka, sleepy eyed from the night flight from Dubai. It’s a smooth process now, I know where to go for the visa, how to get through immigration quickly, which carousel the luggage will be on. As you exit the airport there is customs, where non-tourists have to hand in a declaration of any items they are importing. Normally I am traveling with suitcases and get waived through as a tourist or foreigner or both, they are really looking to tax Bangladeshi people bringing back high value and electronic items. However, this time I bought a big bundle (full of shoe box gifts from school kids in Dubai), plastic wrapped, just as the Bangladeshi’s do…so the first customs man let me through, but another one realized that I had far too much luggage for a 4 days stay in Dhaka. I told him it was gifts for kids, he said it wasn’t allowed, I said they have no commercial value and I’m not paying…so then we had a small crowd of customs officers debating the situation in Bangla, with most saying it was for the kids, its fine, but still this one wanted me too pay…luckily I was first through immigration and was in customs when it was quiet, but suddenly there was a few hundred people from 3 flights heading to the customs officials…with their hands full a couple of customs officers told me to go and the one who wanted to charge me tax looked on, wanted to stop me, but had his hands full and so I was free to head into the morning sunshine of Dhaka with all the gifts for the kids and having paid no tax…woo hoo!!
I quickly dropped off my bags, changed and headed out to the project to see what was going on…I arrived at the school to find a big tent put up where the children normally play cricket and badminton…was it a party?? Sadly no…well at least not until later…inside were hundreds of children forming orderly queues. Dr. Musa, a local dentist and great supporter of the Dhaka project had arranged for volunteers (mostly dental students) and bought all the supplies to be able to do a blood test for every child and employee at the Dhaka project to find out everyones blood group! Here we go again, the children are already more vaccinated than me…and guess what, I have no idea what my blood group is either…so I joined the line!! So now I can tell you, my blood group is A positive!!
Back to the blood tests, myself and two volunteers went off to visit the nursery and pre-school, were the children are too small to come to the big tent for the tests, so we take the tests to them. We were armed with my only ammunition to stop them crying…a big jar of sweets! As it turned out, very few of them actually cried, most were more distracted by my camera than anything else…in fact some of the teachers and catering staff were more scared of the needle than the kids! In the evening, with the big tent still up, the kids put on a little party/farewell send off to another volunteer from Holland called Anouska, so it did get used to a party after all!!

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