In Bangladesh the children find themselves in a completely different environment, exchanging crowded council flats in chilly inner city London for what are often grand houses surrounded by rice fields and mango trees, with ponds for swimming and a climate famous for its extreme humidity. As Anita describes:
It's like a big open house. You know like in England there are lots of close houses, they are like close houses but [there] there are all these open areas where you can walk and there's not many cars there and its blue and blue gates and long passage way and its got like 24 rooms.
[When I am in Bangladesh I like to] explore the countryside, so like if you went to Sylhet or Dhaka the sites are really amazing so natural like and you know the beach its really big. …The thing I like about Bangladesh is that it is a really nice place to explore and there's so many trees and plants… and there's lots of animals around.
Fatima: ...There's rivers and stuff there … You know, you have your own, like, your own swimming pool? But there’s fishes and stuff inside there and you could swim in there and have a bath.
When we were in Bangladesh we were really rich and we could get anything we want …. You know rich kids, they live in really big mansions? That was what we lived in. [Maisha, Interview, 3/09/08]
For some children, village ponds (often described as 'swimming pools'), rivers, fields and wide open spaces are eulogised as fun to play in, while others dwell more on their negative experiences of rural Bangladesh. Insect bites, boils and the hot, humid weather are top of the 'hate' list, along with frightening wild animals, mosquitoes and other creepy crawlies!
Mad Max: I had flea bites on my legs. We used to sleep in nets that had holes in them and some cockroaches would come in from the hole in the net. People [from Bangladesh] are not scared of nothing really, there are snakes in there …In Bangladesh there is a ghat [steps down to the water]… my Dad's sister went all the way in the lake.
Sometimes experiences in Bangladesh make the children feel that the place where they really belong is London. Mad Max continues:
It’s just that you don't get stuff from London that you get [in Bangladesh] like mosquitoes bites and leeches that pull your skin off and... allergy …cockroaches. It's just weird, you don't feel like you are from there you just want to go back to your country…
Akon put it like this:
'Cos it’s like you don’t get stuff in London that you get there, like mosquito bites … I had some big ones and they came at the night and pulled my skin off and then my whole feet were red because then I had some kind of allergy to them and then … the cockroaches they come from nowhere and when you are sleeping and they come on top of the net and they sometimes drop on you and it's like just weird … you don't feel like you're from there and you just want to go back to your country. But I like it 'cos I know families from there.
Jess told us about the wild dogs that live in her father's village, which she is afraid of, and how she didn't like to swim in the pond, Because there are some little frogs that bite you and your heart stops.
For other children, it was food – usually what they saw as its unappetising qualities – that was highlighted as a marker of their difference:
Tamanan: The food in Bangladesh wasn't nice. I miss spaghetti because I like it at school. And, I don't know, milkshake … If you took the milkshake in Bangladesh, the milk is different and I didn't eat any of the milkshake. My uncle, he made a whole glass and he made it all sloppy and stuff and really disgusting! He put all the milk in, and then put in a tiny bit of water and then he put a little bit of milkshake. They eated it, and my mum said: 'What are you doing? You don't know how to do it, because you're in Bangladesh.'