Nicole reminded me that Bangladesh is a Muslim country, and it would be even more difficult for a woman to work independently in a Muslim country than in India. The Bangladeshi program had lobbied for an increase in the number of epidemiologists. She confirmed that all the male junior doctors were definitely going to be sent to Bangladesh.
Dr. Grasset said, “Bangladesh has a lot of rivers and isolated communities along these rivers. The Bangladeshi program is planning to place the new epidemiologists on riverboats. Each boat will have a captain with a crew of three to five men. Basically, the smallpox program will hire these boats, and the captain will be taking directives from the epidemiologist. The epidemiologists will operate directly out of the boat. They’ll live on the boat, cook on the boat, sleep on the boat, jump in the river to take a bath, and basically pee and shit off the boat. So, it is next to impossible to place a woman on the boat.” Then she appealed to my sense of propriety. “How could you survive living on a riverboat?”
I reluctantly agreed that it might be difficult for a woman, especially one like me who didn’t like water over six feet deep. “I understand the problem,” I said, pleading, “but isn’t there any other place in Bangladesh you could send me?”
“Connie, it’s a nonstarter to even try and get the Bangladeshi program to accept you.”
OK, Davis, I thought, best to go to Plan B. “OK, Nicole, I’ll stay in India, but please don’t send me to Calcutta. I came all this way to see rural India. In the big city I would have more conveniences, but I really wouldn’t have a sense of how the majority of people actually live in India. So please, I’m not saying where, but at least send me to a rural area.”
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