Reflections on a decade of blogging
It has been three whole years since I last posted on this blog. Three years. From a personal point of view I’m really disappointed with myself for neglecting it for so long. There have been times when it dawned on me that I had dedicated a tiny little corner of the internet to documenting my travel and experiences for several years, yet like an old t-shirt, I tossed it into the back of a cupboard, shut the door and forgot about it.
Perhaps I have been a little intimidated as my last post (in March 2018) documented a wonderful trip to the western part of Bangladesh that incorporated the contrasting intensity of the Lalon Festival and the peaceful tranquility of rural Rajshahi. That was a fairly characteristic post of mine as it presented a predominantly image-based dedication to the charm of a land I have called home for a number of years in the past decade.
Typically I enjoy blogging most about travels and adventures, yet in the past couple of years these have been limited, and totally curtailed for the past year of course. Thus, for too long now my blog has remained frozen in time, categorized as an activity I used to do, rather than a current interest.
Now seems like an appropriate time however to revisit and reopen those thoughts and experiences I had somewhat diligently recorded for a number of years. Not always regularly, but routinely enough to ensure I would at least have a record of where I had been, who I’d met, what I thought, how I felt and generally what life presented.
As I click submit and share this new post, it is April 9th, 2021. Exactly ten years to the day (April 9th, 2011) I sat at an unfamiliar table in Chittagong, Bangladesh and posted for the very first time on this blog. Ten years ago I had little idea of what life had in store and where the proceeding years would take me. I was beardless and perhaps a little aimless, trying to carve out a path based on a variety of somewhat vague goals and aims. I knew I wanted to teach, and I knew I wanted to do so outside of the UK.
Looking back, I can reflect upon a decade of personal and professional growth, driven primarily by travel and adventure that has opened many doors and allowed me the privilege to experience so much. When I arrived in Chittagong ten years ago, I did so on a short-term, three month contract with a limited vision into the immediate future and little beyond.
Chittagong (and Bangladesh) suited me though, and thus the initial three months turned into a distinctly satisfying six and a half years. Bangladesh became a second home, and from there I was able to explore many other beautiful and unique corners of South Asia.
I have written fairly extensively about my time in Bangladesh on this blog and shared countless images. Some of my favorite moments and experiences have come when armed with a camera and a willingness to explore, and this has led me to all corners of the country. From Cox’s Bazar in the south east to Rangpur in the north west, and Barishal in the south west to Sylhet in the north east. All offering something different, and reasons to return.
Over the years I have documented in words and images a wide range of subjects. From the passion of tea drinking and cricket, to chance encounters with UN peacekeepers, and the discovery of a war grave that revealed a connection between Chittagong and home. I have shared my thoughts on change and my experiences as a teacher, documented national days of significance and endeavored to share the stories of some wonderful people I’ve met along the way.
In particular though, I have frequently felt most comfortable when being able to offer a modest glimpse into the places I have visited through images. Photography evolved into a passionate hobby of mine during 2013, some two years after beginning this blog, and it has undoubtedly become my main motivation for blogging.
I must have clicked thousands of images since 2013, and a select few of my favorites have made it onto this blog. Sometimes I spent a week or so exploring different locations across Bangladesh, other times it was a weekend excursion meandering through the countryside that lay just a short cycle outside of Chittagong city. I can’t tell you how much pleasure this simple activity gave me, but I always strive to ensure my blogs do at least provide some sense of that.
During these past ten years I have also been extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to visit Sri Lanka, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Malaysia.
Between July 2012 and July 2013, I spent a year living and working in Guyana on the north-eastern tip of South America. During those months this blog was dedicated to documenting an episode that once again presented a vast array of fresh encounters. This period in Guyana was definitely a significant learning experience for me personally and professionally and a challenge on many levels. However, I look back and reflect upon it with great fondness now, and with the benefit of a huge amount of hindsight, I believe it may well have been one of the most defining years of my life so far.
I haven’t written about this previously, but in 2019 after leaving Bangladesh, I spent several months teaching in Sulaymaniyah (also known as Slemani, Sulaimani or ‘Suli’ for short) in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. It was a little daunting when I first arrived, but as always things tend to fall into place, and I was soon able to appreciate my surroundings and take time to learn and explore. I’d like to share a few images from my time in Kurdistan and Sulaymaniyah below.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to travel around all that extensively for various reasons, but Kurdistan, and Suli in particular is a beautiful place full of warm and welcoming people. Many hours were spent strolling through the streets of the city, or sat at a small tea stand watching the world go by.
Surrounded by mountains on most sides, Sulaymaniyah presented a diverse climate with freezing temperatures and snow in the winter to a challenging dry heat in the summer. Professional reasons meant I moved on after eight months in Suli, but in that time it was evident that Kurdistan is a fascinating place on many levels, and I am grateful for having the opportunity to experience that.
At present my teaching journey has taken me to Kabul, Afghanistan. I have been there since August 2019, yet a global pandemic has interrupted that for the time being. As you can imagine, Kabul is a whole new type of challenge, but equally another engaging and rewarding experience that allows me to work with some wonderful colleagues and students.
I would love to share some images of my current surroundings and location, but due to security reasons, it is not advisable at this point. However, I can say the view from my apartment looks out onto a stunning mountain range that surrounds Kabul on all sides, and at different times of the year it provides a colourful vibrancy that encases the city below.
Currently, traveling around Afghanistan is prohibited for me personally due to my job, and this is a key reason (or excuse perhaps) for my lack of motivation or inspiration to keep this blog updated. I will share one image though of a sight I pass most days in my place of work that never fails to spark my enthusiasm for my current role.
It feels good to return to this blog and compose a post. I’m hoping that it may inspire me to get back into a regular habit of doing so once again. I’m not sure if anyone is actually reading this post, but it’s okay if not – I’m happy knowing that I have a personal record that I can return to and remind myself of moments that shaped me over the years. If you have happened to stumble upon this blog and this post, thanks for stopping by.
Perhaps in ten years I will still be posting on here. I’d like to think I will be. It will hopefully mean that I have had ten further years of travel, exploration and adventure. Met more people, clicked more photos and lived life.
11 thoughts on “10 Years Later…”
Beautifully written, my friend. Love the photos, the honesty, and the depth you bring to writing, photography, and blogging. You, sir, are an inspiration. Here’s to tea houses, cycling trips, adventures in foreign lands, and more of the same. Cheers bud! Keep ’em comin’
Cheers Buddy! Bangladesh reunion soon 🙂
Very well written John and stunning photos as usual. It’s been great having you home with us for the past year but I’m sure you would sooner be back teaching your students in person. Let’s hope it won’t be too long now before you go back. Keep the blogs and photos coming xx
Fascinating insight into you past travels and experiences. Julie enjoyed it and we both hope you get back to normal life soon.
Lots of Love Auntie Julie & Uncle Robbie
I’m certainly reading it.
I’m delighted that you’re posting again. (If only as a break from Argyle!)
I’ve always read your blog with a mix of jealousy, admiration and a desire to know much more. You write so well and your photography is excellent.
Maybe, when you’ve got a weekend or so free, a book is in order?
Thanks very much! Really appreciate this feedback.
Well written as always John. Keep ’em coming.
Fascinating and what an amazing opportunity to be able to make such a difference to the lives of so many young people – what a privilege ! I’ve been fortunate to be able to visit India and East Africa (on a totally different level to you) both amazing countries and wonderful people – I was amazed at the quiet dignity even in the most difficult circumstances All done with long haul travel for now but the memories will stay with me for ever.
Thanks very much for your comment, Jane!
Accidentally came across your story via the wonders of FB John, your life has been so interesting and has been superbly documented via this blog. A big well done from me and hopefully to can get back to doing what you so obviously love very soon!
Many thanks, Tony. Yes, hopefully I’ll be out on the road again soon!