By Shea Parton
Photos by Atish Saha
When I woke up this morning, little did I know that a little piece of me would die today—specifically, my beloved go-to greeting for breaking the language barrier: the shaka hand gesture. While surfing at Cox's Bazar with some locals, I found out that kids in Bangladesh only use the shaka in elementary school as a way of telling teachers that you need to go to the bathroom. If you know me, you know that I throw shakas pretty relentlessly, so this was big news. Later in the day, I saw my buddy Ayon laughing and I asked him why. He said he'd noticed that my daily shaka quota immediately decreased once I got that wake-up call. Chalk it up to cultural sensitivity on my part—though, in my heart, I know the shaka can never be truly tamed and I have no doubt that I will still throw in a shaka or two over the course of my trip.
Seriously though, today was a really fun day. Since the moms who make the market bag have Fridays and part of Saturdays off as their days of rest, we had a change of pace. We left Dhaka in the morning and took a 35-minute domestic flight to Cox's Bazar (round trip cost: 8,000 taka, which is about $100 USD), home of the world's longest unbroken beach (75 miles long!). Cox’s Bazar is a flourishing seaside resort town nestled at the edge of the Bay of Bengal. The town is still relatively obscure, mostly hosting local tourists—but it has so much to offer the world traveler. I could see an increase in global tourism bringing literally millions of skilled jobs and billions of foreign dollars to the emerging nation of Bangladesh.
July is monsoon season, so we were grateful that we got to enjoy a sunny 90-degree day with water temperature at a lovely 80 degrees. I rented a surfboard and, as I waxed the board, I saw some street children randomly get into a boxing match, while stray dogs wandered around and women in full burkas hung out on beach chairs. This beachside community initially struck me as very different from the beach town I grew up in back in Southern California.
I snapped out of my thoughts and got back to my priority for the day: surfing the world's longest beach. I'm happy to say that I can now check that off my bucket list—but the day's ultimate highlight was meeting three local surf kids out in the water. These young Bangladeshis were just as stoked to shred the gnar as any young surfer in Huntington Beach would be (though I did notice the kids here didn't throw any shakas). Surfing seems to be one of those sports (along with soccer) that resonate globally and provide an instant connection point with strangers around the world. The whole experience illustrated the fact that, regardless of language, currency, or clothing, we are all so similar in so many ways. At their finest, sports can remind us to have a international perspective which sees everyone as equal—which is what the idea of Global Citizenship is all about.
We finished up Friday evening at a hotel pool overlooking the bustling beach town. We could see kids playing soccer and dads fishing in knee-deep water with just fishing string (no poles), as dusk crept over the beach. The evening couldn't have ended any better than it did: with a fresh seafood dinner from a well-known local eco-restaurant called Mermaid Café—consider it a must-visit if you ever pass through Cox's Bazar.
Tomorrow I'm planning to catch a few more waves (and, let's be real, I'm probably going to throw in a shaka or two) before we head to Saidpur to meet the moms who make Apolis market bags. So stay tuned as we continue our Bangladesh updates over the coming days; you can catch live broadcasts on the Apolis Instagram, as well as daily updates with photos right here on the Apolis Journal. Below are some images from Day Three, along with links to my favorite travel items that I put to good use today. Thanks for reading!