7 years after starting dignify... I have booked a trip to travel to Bangladesh for the first time. I am excited & apprehensive, and while I won't be public about dates (it is sometime in the coming 6 months), I want to share some details of the journey (and my process of getting this trip going) with you.
Why have I never been to BD, in spite of having 100% of our product supplied from one producer, located in Bangladesh? I have been asked A LOT if I have been to Basha, to meet the women & see the process. I am relieved that finally, my answer can be yes.
Here are some reasons that a trip to our production hub never happened... until now!
When I started dignify, our family was not even 1 year out of a grad school hiatus (ie. no income) and the whole dignify project has been "bootstrapped" from the start. That means: without external investment.
Everything we have invested into dignify — from the website to postcards to shelves in our office and ALL the inventory of blankets — has been paid for as we've gone along, with money that we made from sales. For many years, I just didn't have enough extra cash to make a cross-the-world trip happen.
Now: Flights are shockingly inexpensive. I'm actually flying to Dhaka, then after my visit there, on to London UK (to visit family) before coming home. The whole journey cost ~$1200USD. For flying around the entire world, I find this astounding. But, it's still a lot of money. We are more established as a business now, and I had the ability to cover these expenses with our revenue as well as pay the basic, necessary bills.
When I started dignify, we had a 3-year old and a 2-year old, then less than a year after our launch, added another baby into the mix! We have a lot of family & friend support in our life, but for me to leave for long enough to cross the globe... that would be a lot to ask of Wayne, our kids, and everyone else. I know that there are parents who travel for work all the time, or who are stationed away from their families; for us, it just didn't feel like it would work at this stage.
Now: All of our kids are in full-time school, which takes some of the burden of childcare away, and will allow Wayne to keep working in the daytime. Also, because they are older, they are just more resilient and can manage better without mom around for 2 weeks.
Along with the practical challenges of leaving my young kids at home, we also felt a heightened risk of travel to Bangladesh. In July 2016, when my youngest was 2.5 years old, there was a terrorist attack on a European-style bakery in Dhaka. 29 people were killed, including 20 hostages (18 of whom were foreigners).
I don't govern my life with fear, but it definitely did not seem like the right time to visit.
Now: We felt that some time had passed, and it was a more appropriate time for me to consider a trip
Modern technology has made it remarkably manageable to have a great working relationship across two countries on opposite sides of the world. Email and video chat have been indispensable.
Some people from the west with connections to Basha will travel there to help with a specific area or skill — supply chain practices, or therapy training, etc. The truth is: I don't think I am going there to be particularly helpful 😬.
BUT, being there, re-energizing, and injecting reality into my everyday work... this is helpful. Not just for my own pat-on-the-back feels; as the largest reseller of Basha kantha, the best way for dignify to be helpful is to sell blankets! And, right now, after 7 years, it feels like the best way for us to do that is to go deeper and get re-inspired in person.
My flights are booked, but I am not going to be public about any dates in advance. My trip is prior to the spring. I will save sharing photos, videos, & stories until after I have left Bangladesh to head home. Again, this is just for my own safety & peace of mind.
I'm not entirely sure how I will approach the "journalism" aspect of documenting my trip. I told my cousin, who is a video content producer and he was ALL OVER the story aspect of my trip (I made sure it was clear he was not invited 😂). But, I'm not sure yet how I feel about my use of media on the trip. For sure I will take photos, but I don't want a camera to create a barrier to the connections with artisans. I also wonder if I will become too concerned about getting the "right" kinds of photos/videos to use later.
I will also share more in the coming months, but I would love to hear from you: your questions about Bangladesh, my work, & my trip; your experiences in countries with very visible poverty; or anything else you have to share! Comment below or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few stories, as I parse through the complexities of privilege & justice…
We spent time visiting in Dhomina’s relatively large home. The space had been expanded to include a separate cooking space — built upon because of the income she earned making kantha for Basha, for us. Amazing!
I've shared my favourite reads in the past, and today I'm sharing some faves to cook.
This is not a cooking blog (obviously) and I haven't styled any plates or hired any food photographers. I am no expert, but I do cook great food. This assertion is not self-congratulatory! I have little (no) inherent skill and I attribute all of my good cooking to 1) other people's excellent recipes, 2) access to fresh, reliable, & varied food, and 3) time (ie. the time I currently have currently to cook AND the many years of practice).