Aah the art of communication. Difficult enough back at home in England but you try it at 11pm in a crazily busy market/shopping district of Nalitabari, with a crowd of at least 50 locals following you everywhere you go!
The camera crew and the World Vision guys had ventured out the night before (Sarah and I had been planning and writing blogs, etc until 11pm most nights and so couldn’t go – The Student Support Centre first and all that!) and were full of exciting stories the next day.
“It was extraordinary”, said Mark, “A massive crowd followed us everywhere we went and the Mayor turned up and wanted to marry Elisa!”
I have to say, though, that I’ve always found it difficult to take any man seriously when he’s standing in front of me dressed in what appeared to be a skirt! So tonight Sarah and I were determined to finish work early (10pm!) and head out to see the sights.
At 10.15pm we all hit the dark streets of the ‘Town’. As we wait for Sarah to send her final e-mail, a crowd of 10 appear. One hundred yards down the street there are 20 people. Some approach us and we offer our hand, “Where from please?” they ask, showing great but friendly interest in us.
We walk around a few streets and most of the other guys are looking at the shops and stalls. The crowd is now 30-strong and getting increasingly excited. Then Mark finds what I can only assume is his favourite shop as he’s in there for at least 20/30 minutes trying literally everything on (to be fair he has two young children at home who he is also shopping for).
I’m not big on shopping so while everyone else was in the shop I just hung around outside mingling with the crowd. I shook a few hands and had awkward, attempted conversations with a few, but most of the attention was on the guys in the shop. By the way, the crowd was now at 50 or more and there was lots of jostling to get front row ‘seats’ to see these strange people in the shop.
Then Sarah made a big mistake! She came out of the shop, pushed through the crowd and stood with me. 50 men and boys about-faced, lost all interest in the other shoppers and happily pushed their camera phones in her direction and snapped away. I can’t imagine how embarrassing this was at best, or how intimidating it was at worst, for a young woman (hope that doesn’t come across as patronising which certainly isn’t the intention).
She stayed incredibly cool and we laughed the attention off with jokes about her being a somehow miraculously reincarnated Princess Diana.
At the end of the night one of the film crew, who had taken his camera with him (we were meant to be off duty but these guys have been incredibly dedicated), insisted that they got footage of Sarah and me on a rickshaw. That poor guy, these things are really only designed for one and our guy had to peddle both Sarah and me (people who know me will confirm I’m still carrying a little bit of puppy fat!). The carriage creaked and swayed the whole way, which thankfully was only three or four streets away and went so slowly that the camera guy easily kept up with us the whole way.
I paid the rickshaw guy about 10p and watched him limp off down the street…