Letter 40: Married at age 12--can you imagine?

Dear Elizabeth,
            When I arrived in Bangladesh in early 1998, e-mail had just arrived there as well.  It had been big in America for years by then, but it took awhile to get all the way to Bangladesh.  The missionaries thought it was great.  I didn’t blame them, since they were used to sending letters which took two weeks to arrive, if they got there at all and didn’t get accidentally rerouted to Thailand or some other country.
            I’m not sure why, but my mom printed out the e-mails I sent her when I lived in Bangladesh and saved them in a drawer.  When I returned, she gave them to me.
            Most of them were full of the boring drivel that we call small talk, so I threw them away, but I did weed out some good stories and funny stories.  Like the day I traveled to a village and met a woman who had married at age 12.  I’ll let my e-mail tell the story . . .
            Wednesday, 8 April 1998
            A lady and I went to visit a family in a neighboring village.  We walked through the village with our heads covered and had a parade of children following us by the end of the day.  We got to the mud house (not as unsturdy as you’d think) and went in for tea—everybody has tea time here, that’s another great one when it’s hot, drinking hot tea. 
            Get this, the lady was married when she was twelve.  She now has seven daughters and a little boy.  Three of her daughters are already married, the oldest one being my age!  Yeesh, makes me feel like an old maid!

This wasn't the girl married off at age 12, but this was an arranged marriage--from the look on her face, you can get the idea that they're not exactly fun.

            I still remember that day and that woman, who looked so aged, though she couldn’t have been much older than me.  I was staring at her as if she had dropped from another planet until I realized that she was staring exactly the same way at me!  Guess it’s all about what you’re used to.
            Life Lesson:  Be thankful, Elizabeth, that you live in a country and culture that allows you to make choices, instead of one that will marry you off when you turn twelve years old--and likely to someone you've never even met!

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