Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 10, 2013
I’ve been home from my trip for a few days. I’m really, really glad to be back home. How glad? Well, let’s talk about where I was last week.
One week ago today, I found myself sitting in a 4-wheeled vehicle on the opposite side of the Earth flanked by an armed police escort, racing through the streets during a decidedly violent protest, where protestors were attacking any automobile or motorcycle they found on the road – passengers included. People were going to the hospital with injuries and burns, and even dying. And sometimes being a police officer – at least in capital city – wasn’t enough to protect you from angry mobs. I’d seen a picture in the paper of people armed with bricks chasing a fleeing policeman. I was watching with hyper-alertness as people crossed the street in our direction carrying packages that looked large enough to carry a brick. And I thought to myself, “They’d better let me go home on time after this, ‘cuz there’s no way I’m getting paid enough for this craziness.”
We were in the personal car of the head of the training facility, with a driver he’d managed to scrounge up, because none of the taxi services in town that we used under normal circumstances were crazy enough to go out during one of these protests.
Now, the truth is probably that I wasn’t in all that much danger, and that all sounds way more badass than it really was. Really, with three armed police officers packed in with us, we were probably as reasonably safe as our hosts could arrange. Anything more, and they’d have needed to escort us in a tank or something, and it was probably an overkill as it was. So – as safety goes – it was probably not that bad. But it was still not as safe as staying in our hotel, which was what we were supposed to do during these all-too-frequent protests two weeks before a big government changeover, just as the former head of the opposition party was getting tried, convicted, and sentenced to execution for war crimes.
I figured if I was going to go through that kind of craziness, you’d better believe I’d turn it into at least a blog post. Or a story. Or maybe a game. It’s a weird thing to go through a situation like that and really have no idea what your personal risk level is. I’m sure my friends and readers who have served in hotspots in the military can tell even more hair-raising war stories. Some have. But for me – well, I never had to do anything like that as a game developer.
Actually, talking to the guys in my company, nobody else has had to go through anything quite like that, either.
My joke with my co-worker just before the trip, when we were waiting for our ride with some level of apprehension, was that this was life’s way of asking, “So, how’s your side-business coming along that would allow you to quit this job, anyway?”
Sadly, mine’s not ready to replace my income any time soon. But I gotta admit, I’m feeling a bit more inspired to start cranking out top-quality games at a renewed, more brisk pace right now…
I should stress at this point that for the most part, on days where they weren’t setting fire to vans and motorcycles they caught out in the street, it wasn’t bad. The people I met or came into contact with were super-nice. I’m talking “give you the shirt off their own back” nice. They were protective of foreigners, and treated my coworker and I like celebrities sometimes. Yeah, children would stare and point at us… that was a given. We were big, strangely-colored foreigners. But folks were really nice, treated us well, and wanted us to feel safe and see the best of their country of Bangladesh. When my last day finally came, there were handshakes and hugs and heartfelt goodbyes all the way around, from these people I hadn’t known two weeks earlier. They came from a culture that was probably the most alien to me of any country I’ve ever been, but we were all people defined by a humanity that bore far more similarities than differences.
But I’m afraid the political turmoil really did throw a bit of a wet blanket on things. Just like most places in the world – including back home in the USA, I find that the majority of people – on their own – are really good people. It’s just a certain percentage of evil in the population, and their leadership (which I think attracts the darker, greedier, power-hungry percentage) that ruins everything.
On the taxiway out of the country two days later, my Thai Airways jet offered as a personal entertainment option on the seat-back display a view out of a camera on the nose of the aircraft. I turned it on, and watched our pilot deftly dodge a giant pothole on the taxiway of their biggest international airport. I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, what a metaphor for this entire visit.”
I guess you could call it all a visit filled with mixed emotions, and refer to the country as “a nation of contrasts.”
Me? As I said, I’m really, really glad to be back home.
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