Khastagir School, Bangladesh

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Although it’s not exactly part of my work as Bardd Plant Cymru, I’d like to let you know about a school I visited a few weeks ago.

On 13 November I began a very, very long journey from Aberystwyth all the way to Bangladesh – by train, by plane and by taxis of all sorts for over twenty hours! Bangladesh is a country next-door to India. Here’s a map of Bangladesh and the surrounding countries (Bangladesh is the one in orange):

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Next to India, Bangladesh is a small country, but it’s a very big country in comparisson to Wales. Over 161 million people live there – only three million people live in the whole of Wales! But Bangladesh is not that different to Wales, because it too has its own language – Bangla.

I went to Bangladesh to take part in a special literary festival in the capital city, Dhaka. The festival is called Hay Festival Dhaka, and it’s organized by the same people who organize the Hay Festival here in Wales every year.

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I stayed on in Bangladesh after the end of the festival and travelled to Chittagong, the second largest city in Bangladesh. The British Council had asked me to read poems with Gillian Clarke (the National Poet of Wales) and then to visit a school in Chittagong.

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The school is called Khastagir, and pupils from four other schools joined ones from Khastatir for a poetry workshop. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but I soon realized that the pupils were very, very similar to children in Wales – friendly, kind, mischievous and very imaginative!

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They enjoyed learning about Wales and the Welsh language, and I talked to them about ‘dyfalu’ – a very ancient poetic craft where a poet describes something without naming it. Every one of them created a new, imaginative poem full of ‘dyfalu’. Poems about great big trees, the smallest beads of dew, the power of dreams and the mysteries of time!

Thanks so much to the pupils for their company, and also to Nahin and Afroza from the British Council for their friendship.

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