By Shea Parton
Photos by Atish Saha
After a 48-hour red-eye commute to Dhaka (plus a few caffeinated beverages and three Tylenol PM), I arrived at Shahjalal International Airport to be welcomed by a mild 85-degree rain and a shagotom (welcome) from Ghayasuddin, the manager of Apolis' market bag production in Bangladesh. While loading my bags, I was also pleased to meet Atish Saha (nickname: Ayon), a local Bangladeshi cinematographer who is helping us document the inspiring stories behind our market bag. We originally connected with Ayon thanks to Apolis Nomad and photojournalist Jason Motlagh, and we're so excited to work with this local talent in sharing strong and honest daily images. He'll also be helping us continue the Apolis tradition of producing a short travel film after our trips, like this one.
After my arrival, we weaved our way out of the airport and through the controlled chaos of downtown Dhaka, heading to the ECOTA Forum for Fair Trade companies, where we'll be staying while in Dhaka. The team there made us an amazing home-cooked meal, and afterwards we walked to the nearby downtown area and each spent 0.81 Taka (0.01 USD) on cups of tea at a local street cart to celebrate our first evening together.
It's the end of Day One here, and sleep is definitely sounding pretty good right about now. Tomorrow, we'll be busy documenting our 24-hour whirlwind tour through the city of Dhaka. One of the purposes of tomorrow's tour is a sobering one—we're going to a site called Rana Plaza, an eight-story building which collapsed in 2013, killing many garment factory workers. The site stands as a tragic testament to the consequences of manufacturing done in unsafe conditions.
Oftentimes, the stories of how products are made overseas can be discouraging—dangerous working conditions, factory collapses, unfair wages. We hope that the images we gather tomorrow will be symbolic reminders of an unwise way of doing things, and of an event which serves as a wake-up call for companies to take care of their workers. We at Apolis feel so humbled and grateful that we get to be part of a different story: that of Saidpur Enterprises, our manufacturing partner in Bangladesh. Located in the town of Saidpur, this co-op employs local moms to craft our market bags in safe working conditions, providing Fair Trade wages, job benefits, and stable income. You're a part of that story too, because every Apolis customer who purchases a market bag is contributing to the well-being of this community.
So stay tuned as we continue our Bangladesh updates over the coming days, sharing the people, stories, and images behind the market bags. I'll be throwing shakas and broadcasting live on the Apolis Instagram, in addition to uploading daily photo stories right here on the Apolis Journal. Below are some images from Day One, along with some links to my gear for the trip. Thanks for reading!