Student - April 18, 2019

Stared at in Bangladesh

Text:
Anne van der Heijden

Who? Maaike Visser (24), MSc student of Nutrition & Health
What? Thesis research on a new rice variety
Where? Parbatipur, Bangladesh

Photo: Maaike (left) spent two months in Bangladesh doing research for her thesis.

‘I didn’t really choose Bangladesh myself. I was at an interesting presentation about thesis topics related to micronutrient deficiencies in low-income countries. Then I submitted my top 5 and I was allocated this one: a study on the health effects of a rice variety with raised zinc levels.

Violence

I spent two months in Bangladesh for the study, together with another Wageningen student. I wanted to travel around the country for two weeks with my boyfriend, but because of the elections it was rather unstable, so we went to Nepal for two weeks instead. The people I talked to in Bangladesh about the elections said they had gone relatively peacefully. In other years there was violence for months beforehand, whereas this time it was only in the week before the elections that people were murdered. But I still felt less free to go anywhere I wanted.

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Bangladesh is very beautiful and the people are kind and fair. But there isn’t much nature, I thought. A lot of rice is grown and the land is used efficiently for farming. It is densely populated too. I had expected that, but it really is extremely full of people. Even in the countryside, there are people everywhere.

Trailed by a crowd

My fellow student and I compared children who ate regular rice with children who ate ‘biofortified’ rice. We visited little villages and people’s homes, places you don’t usually get to see as a tourist. In this rural area, people obviously weren’t used to foreigners. We were openly stared at and you sometimes had a crowd of 20 children trailing you everywhere you went. And they didn’t speak any English, so there was a big language barrier. Being at the centre of attention without being able to communicate wasn’t always very nice.

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Now I’ve got all the data and I’m analysing it. I hope to be finished in a couple of months. I enjoyed having a project about micronutrients in low-income countries, because I’ve been interested in that since my Bachelor’s. Hopefully I can carry on with the topic.’


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