Day 2 In Dhaka, Bangladesh – & What I’m Upset I Didn’t Know About Until Today

When Lindsey asked me if I would consider going to Bangladesh with Food for the Hungry, I googled the location as I fumbled for some sort of reply that was neither yes or no. I thought it was a city. And I couldn’t remember if it was Asian or an island in the Mediterranean.

It must be tiny, I thought.

As I scanned Wikipedia, phone to my ear, I saw that nearly a hundred and fifty million people lived there. I googled the United States’ population quickly. 315 million. And then I noticed this paragraph:

The most densely populated? Why did I not know this? Sandwiched between China and India, countries I’m well familiar with and know to be massively populated, how have I never read about the entire country of Bangladesh? 150 million people that I have essentially never heard of?

Then I noticed the size. Equal to the state of New York.

Half of America inside of little New York.

I’ve always wanted to go on a missions trip. I’ve always wanted to visit a third world country. I’ve been told for years that when I go, it will change my life. Every kid in my high school youth group went, and it seems I can’t make it 24 hours on Twitter without seeing someone leaving for Africa or Haiti. This is what Christian people do. Sort of like baptism – that thing that everyone around me has done at least once, but for some reason, I just seem to be one step behind.

I tell Lindsey that I think I want to go. It terrifies me, but this is a rite of passage. I ask her what specifically we will be doing.

I always thought I would go to Latin America or Africa to accomplish something – build a home, dig a well. She talked about the girls, the women, and the culture. Blogging, writing, and seeing what Food for the Hungry was doing. I’m pretty sure I asked her the same question three times. What will we be doing? What do you want me to do? What is the project? I couldn’t understand why it was important for me to just go and see.

Trips like this are for doing, for helping, for giving; why do you need me to just see?

* * *

photo by daniel white

We arrived yesterday in Dhaka, and were taken to our hotel. It was explained to us that we were staying in the Beverly Hills of Dhaka, and I looked around at the rickshaws, piles of burning trash, feral dogs, and half dressed children running through the dust roads. This is the wealthy area, the decent part of urban Dhaka. Not the slums, and not the rural villages.

In the morning we would go to one of the slums to meet an untouchable people group, the Telegu, and see the school that Food for the Hungry had begun 30 years ago for the children there. Brought from India to sweep garbage out of the streets in the section of Dhaka dedicated to landfills, this entire people group is born, lives, and dies as the lowest of the low. For now, we were to catch up on sleep after 24 hours of travel, eat, and give our body a few hours to adjust to the culture shock, best we could.

To be honest, I prepared myself well for culture shock. I spent month prior to this trip staring poverty and homelessness in the face while moving through my daily life in Los Angeles and driving through Skid Row. I forced myself to make eye contact, to acknowledge, to pray, to process ahead of time. (I know, go ahead. You can laugh at me. I’m laughing at myself too.)




photos by yours truly

When we left our hotel at 6:50am Dhaka time, I was (mildly) prepared for the dirt poor, for the hopeless, for unsanitary living conditions. I was prepared to feel guilty for my extravagant lifestyle. I was prepared to see children I could not help, women I could not offer freedom to, and sickness I could not heal. I knew shock was coming, and warded it off with my well-perfected coping skills (AKA pushing the “turn all emotions off” button).

What I was not prepared for was that which follows.

When we got to the school, we greeted the tiny, barefoot children and made our way to a small, dimly-lit room to have morning devotion with the school staff. They are all locals, and we began to go around the table for introductions.

“I am Joseph,” the young man sitting directly across from me stood and announced. “I was a sponsored child. I am now the headmaster and teacher at this school.”

This set of statements was made with a mind-blowing combination of pure pride and utter humility. He grinned from ear to ear, teeth shining bright, looking around at all of us to see if we had understood his broken English.

“I am very grateful that I was a sponsored child and that I now can be teacher and headmaster of this good school.”

The young man sitting next to him stood up and announced that he also was a sponsored child. And the next. And the next. All four of these men had been sponsored as young boys, been saved from a childhood of manual labor, and were able to get an education because of their sponsors. An education so good that they now taught and raised the next generation of children in this slum.


photo by esther havens

Instead of broken men and women like others in their class who rose at 5am every morning to sweep the roads with straw brooms and hunched backs, they had fulfilled lives. Hope. Joy. Love. Community. Purpose.

More than that, they had been transformed into human beings who were able to believe that God had created them as individuals with potential and talent, instead of confined to the worthless, untouchables that all of Bangladesh’s society saw them as. Typically unable to attend school or associate with other Bengalis, this school is the first of its kind. A school that has changed how these people view themselves before God and before their society.

And it is made possible by those that sponsor children.

To be honest, this is what I have been upset about all day. Sponsoring children has been a part of my life since I was 13 or 14 years old. My family sponsored children and I wrote letters and sent money with my allowance. When I went to college, I sponsored a new girl on my own. And before this trip, I decided to sponsor a second young girl whom I will have the incredible opportunity to meet on Tuesday.

But my WHOLE life I have sponsored children with the impression that I was simply being a good person and helping to pay daily bills or expenses that they were unable to afford.

I didn’t know that this $32 a month was the difference between learning in school with bright eyed friends and sweeping dirt out from under busses and rickshaws and animals as a 7 year old in order to provide for their sick mother or orphaned siblings.



photos by esther havens

I had no idea that this small $30-ish a month was literally changing a human being’s entire life and their whole family. I had no idea that it didn’t just put food on the table.

I wish I had known that the letters I sent (or did not send) were the only voice a young girl had in her life to tell her that she was beautiful, smart, talented. That I was the only person to say, “I believe in you. I pray for you. I see you as special, as important, as valuable.”

Oh how I wish I had known. How I wish, all these years, that I had heard even a whisper of these lives that were being changed not just for a month at a time, but for a lifetime. How I wish I had known that these were my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I had the opportunity to give them a life of hope that I was simply born into without asking and without deserving. How I wish I had known that this was more than money and “providing” and “giving to the poor.”

How I wish.

But this is what I needed to see, so very badly. Thank you, Food for the Hungry, and every human being who has ever sponsored a child.







With Love, From Istanbul.

The adventure has begun!

[ I am traveling with Food For The Hungry to Dhaka, Bangladesh with Max, Daniel, Lindsey, Logan, and Joy. You can read about the birth of this trip here and you can follow our trip page here. You can also follow the hashtag #fhbloggers on Twitter and Instagram and see all the massive amounts of photos & updates we’re sharing! ]

I write to you from a corner of the Istanbul International Airport, up against a wall plastered in DUTY FREE signs and advertisements by Gucci, Boss, and of course, Starbucks.

It’s a little surreal to know that you’ve just flown to the other side of the planet and yet as an English speaking person, even Istanbul feels like just another airport. My language is on nearly everything. I am privileged, and keenly aware that I did not choose this life for myself. The American dream lives, sleeps, and breathes all over the world – even though, as our Romanian neighbor told us Tuesday, “This is no better than where I come from. This dream seems glorious, but no. Now that I am here, I see it is the same. And the hardships are even greater. My home is better than all of this.”

My greatest complaint of the last 16 hours is that my husband didn’t have quite enough leg room for his 6’2″ self on this aircraft that spanned 9 seats and 2 aisles across.

My second complaint is that I haven’t a clue what time it is for my body, for this airport, or for where I am headed. I left LAX on Thursday evening, and will arrive in Dhaka on Saturday morning. I hope you all enjoyed Friday, because it was just removed from my life.

But seriously. I really, really missed this part of traveling that I grew accustomed to while road-tripping with Max for 7 months last year. I missed the harsh reminder that time is an false safety net against a wasted or uncontrolled life; it simply exists so that not everything happens all at once. I am thankful to remember again that I hold no ability to measure my life, but only to choose well and full in the moment.

We have 2 hours until we board our second plane, a 7 hour flight into Dhaka. I have crayons, pretty paper, and elaborate sticker books tucked into my bag that I will hand to a little girl named Kajol in a few short days. She is 6 years old and lives in a small town outside of Dhaka. In a tiny shanty made of bamboo and tin, I’m told. This is the second time this week I will hand a small token of love and care to a human being who will experience life on Planet Earth in a way utterly incomparable to mine. I will be speechless again, I am sure, as I silently ask God how his heart can withstand a universe of compassion packed within it.

But for now now, I must go find my gate, and get some people watching in. 🙂

A little note: If you also want to sponsor a girl from Bangladesh, please do. The average daily income there is $1.20 USD, and our pocket change is their life. Just click the image below.

we purchased target’s entire travel section in prep for our first international trip, hah.

max having a rough time during hour 12

the crew, minus max & i!

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Announcing My Trip To Bangladesh, Some Photos, & Some HolyCowThisHurts/IsAwesome

A few months ago, Lindsey messaged me on Twitter in the middle of my work day and said, “Hey I have a quick question! Can I call you?”

I messaged her back my new cell phone number, and a few moments later we were chatting.

“So, do you wanna go to Bangladesh in January?”

Dude, Lindsey. That is not a quick question.

* * *

2011 and 2012 have been an intense years for me.

At the beginning of 2011, I was a single girl, just beginning to feel aches and pains in my heart over the lack of true-Jesus and true-good women in my life. I was quitting my full time job and dropping out of college for the second time*. Not in a cool Christian, hipster sort of way – but in an I’m totally miserable and this cannot be what life is about kind of way. (I mean maybe it was just a tiny bit Christian/hipster, but whatevs. It’s working out.)

Have you ever been outside in a vast field, with a blindfold over your eyes? What is before you is massive, infinite, laden with answers to life…but you can only somehow feel its vastness, and the hands on your blindfold are whispering, “not yet, not yet, not yet.”

At the beginning of 2012, I was an oh-lord-I-just-met-someone-and-suddenly-got-married girl, just beginning to feel the aches and pains of finally seeing life created within relationships with girls through the new Good Women Project (one of the most beautiful parts of my entire life!) but asking, isn’t there more to All Of This than just talking. writing. telling my story, a thousand times over?

And now here I am, at the almost-beginning of 2013, with Bangladesh before me, and a year of emotional upheaval about the lack of doing, giving, face-to-face-love-ing behind me.

I made that sound more intense than I should have, perhaps, but there’s a reason that the posts have been going up slowly on Good Women Project and here on my blog. The heart shifts and grows, and these digital pages are learning how to align themselves with the newly budding desires and ever-maturing perspective. I have decades of damage from closing out my heart’s cries, and this outward silence is my learning to hear.

* * *

Lindsey and I talked some more, and she shared with me what Food For The Hungry has been doing around the world, and what they’re doing with women in Bangladesh.

It sounded incredible, but I felt like someone had just asked me how I’d feel about visiting the moon tomorrow. This is all well and good, hypothetically speaking, and for all my friends who do missions trips and live abroad, but wait – really – this is like, the actual moon. My apartment is in Hollywood and I have like, a real sweet grownup job involving celebrities ‘n stuff.

I had a thousand reasons why it was inconvenient, and not a single reason why I shouldn’t go. My whole life up to this point has been excruciatingly inconvenient, and I’m beginning to believe it may be the secret to happiness, joy, and all things worth experiencing.

So I said yes.

On January 24th, Max and I will be flying through Istanbul to Dhaka, Bangladesh for 7 days.

This is the first time I will be leaving the United States of America.

This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was 12.

This is something terrifying.

This is something beautiful.

* * *

To be honest, I still don’t know much about Bangladesh, or how exactly FH.org is creating new life and new love for the women there. But I cannot express how excited I am to go see. To be a part. To write, to share, to give you a glimpse of another world.

I hope that throughout January, you use my little blog as glittery binoculars, through which you can squint and see something beautiful and far away, made close and dear to your hearts.

* * *

Today, the upcoming trip became very real as I got vaccines tiny diseases were stabbed into both of my arms in order to keep me alive whilst in Bangladesh. My parents weren’t crazy about immunizations when I was a little kid, so next week I go back for my MMR and Hepatitis B too AHHHHHHHHHHH. My right arm, in particular, feels as if the nice little nurse lady swung a baseball bat into it.

And here are some pictures from before/during our shots. I hope they accurately convey how unprepared and concerned I am for this entire ordeal. 🙂



DISCLAIMER: I realize that for a lovely handful of you, this is just 10 little days in another country and I’m making a huge effing deal out of this when really it’s not (I mean I’m not even quitting my job or moving or anything), but I just want to publicly acknowledge that I am consciously making this a huge effing deal and will continue to do so because people and women and Jesus and traveling and the world should probably always be big effing deals and to make it a little deal is kind of not fun to me. kthxluvuallsooooooomuch. xoxo

*I don’t always recommend dropping out of college. I know it’s really kick-butt hard, but it’s awesome too. Just hadda say that..

In Which I Share A Little Bit About My Relationship With Some Of The Animals.

I was born into a family that hated cats. Humanity was divided into two sorts: dog people, and cat people.* The first thing I remember about them is that my mother received an “I Hate Cats” book as a gift when I was a young child. Or maybe she’d had it even before me, and I discovered it in our basement as a young child. Regardless, it was a little comic book of cats being killed or obliterated in weird, semi-hilarious situations. A chubby cat being slingshotted into a brick wall is one I remember in particular.

I really, really liked dogs. I remember every house in every neighborhood we lived in by the dog, not the family. We finally got one when I was 12. Her name was Cocoa. She wasn’t really ‘my dog,’ but she was my responsibility, so, she was basically mine. I loved her infinitely, and I helped her give birth to seven tiny, perfect puppies. When I was 15, I came home from a school-related weekend trip and my parents had given her away so that they could travel more, or more easily, or more something.

I lived on my own for five years after moving out at 18, and I always wanted a pet. A dog was a pet that loved me, liked me, and spent time with me. Cats were never an option as I’d sworn in allegiance to my mother that I would never own a cat. (Besides – they bit and hissed without reason, and were the fuzzy embodiment of Fuck You.) She told me when I was 14 that if I ever had a cat as an adult, she would not come visit me. I don’t know if she was joking, but I always remembered it – even after I became estranged from the family, and visiting wasn’t an option for more serious reasons.

Since landlords said dogs were out, and my belief system said cats were out, I owned a very depressing series of goldfish. None of them outlived the 2 week mark, and the man at the pet store became very concerned with my regular “purchase.”

At 23, I met a man who said he loved cats, but wasn’t really a dog person. He also said he wasn’t a guy who was crazy into hugging people that he wasn’t immensely close with. These two things nearly kept me from even replying to that email.

Two years later, I and this man (that I ended up marrying) brought home three tiny kittens (which aren’t cats) to babysit them for an adoption agency in town. Within 24 hours, I identified tiny personalities. Within 48 hours, I knew which was my favorite. And within 2 weeks, I had decided I couldn’t live without one. Her name is Pixel, and I adore her, and she adores me.

Last week, I texted my mother a picture of my tiny kitten. She told me to stop irritating her. I was sad about it, but the kitten-happiness cancelled out the sadness, and I realized I was still happy.

As I sit in a coffee shop writing this, my husband asks if I want to stay or leave. And I tell him I want to stay, but I miss my cat.

I think there is a lesson somewhere in this.

*More accurately, there were Christians who were dog people, and then there Not-Christians who were dog people/Christians who were cat people/cat people. Religiously and non-religiously, I have happily returned to the one-sort-of-people outlook, where people are just people, and that is that..

birthday trip to three rivers + sequoia national forest: part three

this is the last set of photos from our trip! the first set is here [the drive there & back] and the second set is here [the trees].

snow and ice are incredible.























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birthday trip to three rivers + sequoia national forest: part two

so i’m a little bit obsessed with trees at the moment. somehow max knew this without me telling him, and he surprised me with a trip to the sequoia national forest for my birthday last weekend.

the first set of photos from the trip are here. this set is primarily the trees, with a few of us. 🙂























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birthday trip to three rivers + sequoia national forest: part one

for my birthday this weekend, max surprised me with a getaway trip to three rivers!!

we stayed at the rio sierra riverhouse right outside the sequoia national forest. if you’re looking for a get away somewhere between los angeles and san francisco, this bed and breakfast was paradise.

i took so many pictures that i’m going to have to split them up into 3 blog posts. hah. so, here is set #1: the drive there!

later this week i’ll post the unbelievable photos taken in the snow up in the mountains. and, the world’s largest tree. 🙂
















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lingerie / fashion review: true&co

A few months ago I stumbled across a new company called True&Co that had a relatively new model for lingerie shopping. I eyed their products for a month or so, and then decided to test out the whole “shopping from home” thing. I’m notorious for trying on a million things in the store and only purchasing one, if that, so I didn’t anticipate online shopping for bras to work out too well. Especially because I’m in-between on band AND cup sizes. It’s just difficult for me.

True&Co has you answer a detailed but brief questionnaire, and then they send 5 bras to your home. You give a $45 deposit, try on the bras when they arrive, and slap the return label on the box and send back the ones you decide not to keep within 7 days. All shipping both ways is free, and the bras are priced between $35-$60 apiece (less than Victoria’s Secret now, mind you. AND they run sales all the time.). If you don’t keep any, they refund the $45, and the whole experience has cost you $0.

When you answer the questionnaire and order your box, you get to choose 3 from the shop and they choose 2 that they believe will fit you best. (THEY’RE A SURPRISE. I LOVE SURPRISES.) When I got them? All. Five. Bras. Fit. And they were the most comfortable bras I’d ever worn in my life.

I just received my second order from True&Co yesterday, and have now taken it upon myself to be their #1 biggest fan. Below are photos of 5 True&Co bras that I have in my possession right now. If you’d like to try them out too, click here and use the code: LAUREN15! You’ll get 15% off for being referred by me. <3 PS. After you complete your first "intro box" with 5 bras, you are given a personal shop on their website, so the only bras you see are bras that are in your size, and in styles that compliment your shape and figure! So incredibly great.














All photos taken by Lauren Dubinsky. Please credit when used.
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the hardest, greatest lesson i’ve learned in marriage.

 

the hardest, greatest thing i have learned since getting married is that my husband is first a person, second a man. 

i grew up hearing that men and women are so different. opposites. things about venus, mars, and spaghetti. 

* * *

men need sex. women need emotional intimacy. 

men need respect. women need love. 

men watch sports. women go shopping. 

* * *

over the weekend i read yet another christian list of “ten ways to show love by respecting your husband!”

be kind. don’t interrupt him when he’s speaking. show interest in sex. join him in activities. etc.

and as i read this list, i thought, i want every single one of these things from my husband.

even in our own childish answers, we give away what we will not admit:

love is a universal language, and humanity is one species, not two.

love is an individual language, and humanity is billions of hearts, not two.

* * *

nearly every difference, struggle, or misunderstanding between my husband and i has hinged not upon the fact that ‘he is a man’ and ‘i am a woman,’ but that we are not the same person. 

nearly every failed expectation i have found in my marriage was created by the idea that my husband, a person, would be a very specific type of person because he was a man.

and that me, the wife, would be able to solve the problem in a very specific manner, as a woman.

* * *

when we read books about marriage and relationships, particularly in the christian circles, we tend to study the opposite gender – as if to discover and prepare everything about a person before we meet them.

the God of the universe has not created more than nine million species of animals, only to create two types of people.

he has not created more than three hundred and fifteen thousand species of plants, only to create “a man” and “a woman.”

he has created, instead, billions of wildly unique individuals.

billions of wildly unique individuals with souls and spirits so deep and complex that he says only he will ever know each of us fully.

how, i ask you, could we ever know them by a book about men, a sermon about our differences, our parents’ advice about women, a conference, a blog.

how, i ask you, could we ever know them by anyone other than they themselves.

* * *

every relationship i entered into has been shallow, broken, and distanced.

i entered them as a woman, and not as lauren.

i held relationships with ‘men,’ and not with the living, breathing souls that God created in his image.

in the past, i have sought to understand ‘men’ instead of the person right in front of me.

and i have expected myself to be ‘woman,’ ignoring my very own heartbeat.

i missed out on living life with another real person, because i thought i simply needed to learn how to live successfully with ‘a man.’

* * *

a man who defines love by sex, respect, or authority shown is an emotionally stunted man.

a woman who defines love by gifts, flowers, or acknowledged beauty is an emotionally stunted woman.

love is so full, so deep, so wide. and we must give it to the person that we have married, not to the gender.

love is so full, so deep, so whole.  and we must give and receive all of it, every piece, every part, every side, as our true selves allow.

* * *

my soul has cried out through the sudden pain of isolation and condemnation on sunday mornings when jokes are made from the pulpit about “men just needing ____ from a woman”  as it clashes badly with our marriage.

i have looked around at the empty faces of the women around me, knowing that their hearts are crying out to hear that they are okay if they don’t fit every gender role, every gender expectation. that their husbands are okay if they don’t fit every gender role, every gender expectation.

i have seen us be so damaged by the church falling for a secular ploy that men and woman are so opposite, so different, so unlike one another.

we have fallen for it so fully that the church is now commonly known as the original source for gender roles, and we march forward, responsibly protecting one of the most life-limiting, God-contradicting lies ever bought by mankind.

we walk through the doors on sunday morning, our spirit craving a place to rest in the individual that we are. yet, so often, we arrive only to be tweaked and trained and pushed and expected back into ‘man’ or ‘woman.’

* * *

the hardest, most painful, greatest, most incredible thing i have learned in a year of marriage may be one of the greatest lessons i ever learn in my lifetime.

that we are people first.

gender second.

and that gender exists in order to create a spectacular, infinite, unconstrained life.

not to destroy it.

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one morning, i woke up.

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