Birthday Girl

Personally I’ve found life overseas stimulating, exciting and challenging but there are occasions when you’re bound to miss home more than usual and as my birthday approached I found myself thinking about family and friends, birthdays past and our typical plans to get together and celebrate.

Having only been in-country for three months I didn’t want to tell anyone that my birthday was looming as I wasn’t sure how I’d feel on the actual day itself, perhaps more emotional than usual. It all seemed to be working wonderfully well too, until late in the afternoon I received an email from my colleague Bishwajit saying he knew I had a secret AND he know what it was.  But he’s discrete, so I had no worries that the rest of the office would find out. Then Ely, one of my flat mates sent me a text message. ‘Happy Birthday! I’ll bake you a cake’! 

Now Ely has a ledgendary reputation for baking amungst the VSO community, so this was very welcome news.  Bishwajit and I work in the same building, our NGO’s Head Office on Aurangajeb Road, so I invited him back to the flat after work to share some birthday cake.  Babo, my other flat mate greeted us when we arrived. He also knew it was my birthday and had bought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers, with dusky red roses and orange gerbra.  The scent was heavenly.  It was so nice to receive such a fabulous gift. Bishwajit then produced cake candles, a large tub of chocolate ice-cream and a wicker bowl of absolutely gorgeous flowers, a stunning assortment and wonderful arrangement.

Bishwajit carefully arranged the candles on the cake, turning off the ceiling fan before slowly lighting them one at a time. For once the power remained on, so the light was switched off, and, in the dark, they sung ‘ Happy Birthday’ while I attempted to blow all the candles out with one breath. I must have been about seven years old the last time I did this…and it felt wonderful!  Everything was so unexpected and it really made me appreciate that even in such a short space of time these people around me, out here in Dhaka city, wern’t only colleagues, but my friends, and very dear ones too. 

Birthday cake and flowers

Birthday cake and flowers



  1. roger adams said,

    20/06/2009 at 3:21 am

    hi. Dhaka caught my eye as did VSO.I sent an e-mail to friends in Bangladesh minutes ago. You are in your fourth month…..but no mention of the Bagha club. or of buzzing flies etc,etc, swamming to the computer….and not helping with the sweating work experience.Have you lost weight yet?? or taken a launch into the Bay of Bengal.I worked in OD with an NGO 2002/3 and again 2006 and thought to again return to Bangladesh this year but the UN/NGO being agist did not want me from VSO.I lived about 30miles from Barisal in a bungalow built for sole use. I remain in close touch with my Bengali friends for whom i pursuade in money. Regarding
    the OU, my ex-pat experiences have hugely fed into my creative writting TMA/ECA outputs.Are you going to write for publication and are reading. Bengali poety.My management MPhil etc ETc, taken at Lancaster whilst a Senior NGO manager, was way better than anything the OU offered – a dated costly waste.Give my regards Lipi at VSO and the boss.BYE

    • Bernie Allen said,

      20/06/2009 at 10:34 am

      Where to start! Bagla club, yes several functions, even met Mike Foster, the UK Development Minister there for a photo shoot if you can believe that! No, not lost weight, but I was in good shape before I came and I have lost that! Regards poetry I have always been a fan and so that was a natural extension really, but a truly marvellous one. Lipi is still here and I most certainly will pass your regards on to her and Shahana, VSO Country Director. Bernie

  2. said,

    08/03/2010 at 5:31 pm

    Hi call at +8801741337806

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