Myrtle Beach Country Club
(Chittagong Division, Bangladesh)

Many years have passed since last traveling through Moheshkhali, across the Shaheed Ziaur Rahman Bir Uttam Bridge connection found on the road north towards Badarkhali, on this unnamed and dusty (or even often mud-bogged) extension of the Z-1004 mangrove island road; northbound from the Adinath Temple and Bazar, out beyond the firewood collectors' meeting-house and west from the grounds of the Australian Leadership University College, a location of quiet—yet decisive—lecture and instruction.

At the foot of the memorial bridge, on one of the eastern shore's main boat inlets, can one still take shelter at the casual fishermen's roadside café? Business having boomed once during the bridge's construction, this establishment was often times during its patchy history not actively in service; or at least not with regular posted hours. And was it actually even a café at all, or instead just a meeting spot beside the neighboring elderly couple's kitchen window? Appearing at random times of the morning, at lunchtime and even at dusk, this hospitable pair was always prepared to present (with the transfer of a few coins) a standard unannounced selection: warm rice and a strip of Shutki, fresh phuchkas, a glass of tea or even a variety of cool Shorbot drinks.

And what has become of the café's concrete waterside terrace, with its selection of assorted plastic molded chairs and two wooden gathering tables. As respite from the often blistering sun and heat, for years each of these 2 tables supported oversized blue canvas sun umbrellas, both embellished with the faded insignia of the (once, the former?) Myrtle Beach Country Club. From any and all standard online search results, one sadly finds that this club clearly no longer exists today.

And wasn't it often explained to newcomers to the division (with great theatrical hand gestures and precision towel-flapping) by the so-called area expert (or more precisely, as was displayed on his homemade badge: 'Knowledge-Specialist for the Union Parishad Confines') that these 2 distant cultural artifacts were in fact greatly treasured local gifts brought back by the eldest son of the kitchen-window couple. Due to political unrest in the region during the 1970s, the young man was sent to the USA, in order to study oceanography and marine sciences at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. In the nearby resort town of Myrtle Beach, only a short drive from the school, it was described by the parents that their son had held a seasonal summer holiday job. He was said to have been posted there for four consecutive summers as both miniature-golf employee and adjoining kiosk manager. Being strongly impressed by this foreign sun-umbrella design, two samples returned with the young man in the early 1980s, after the completion of his university studies.

As the eldest son in later years moved on (the same as with his other siblings) to a variety of larger towns and cities outside of the home coastal region, the reserved and humble parents always took great pleasure in recounting their children's adventures, and found much joy from their growing collection of exotic, and sometimes even, practical gifts.


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