When Ryan Gibson and Kendra Knighten posed for a portrait for this article, BW asked them to sit close to one another so that we could get both into the picture.
"This is as close as we'll ever sit to one another in Dakha," said Gibson.
He was referring to the capital of Bangladesh, where Muslims frown on familiarity between unrelated men and women.
Cultural taboos are just one of the hurdles that the 21-year-old College of Idaho students will need to negotiate as they spend their summer in one of the world's most densely populated but poorest nations. They'll also confront poverty, disease and one of the harshest climates on the planet.
But their 12-week internships for Partners in Sustainable Development International should give them invaluable experience as they build wells and new tin roofs in large cities and tiny villages throughout the South Asian nation.
How did you secure this internship?
Knighten: Last summer, I was working at a golf course in McCall. I was the only waitress on duty one day when I struck up a conversation with a couple and told them about my hopes for a career in international development, and they happened to know someone involved in microfinance, specifically in Bangladesh and Tanzania. That was Dr. Pat Werhane. I had almost forgot about it when, a month went by, and one day, I was working again and a woman approached me and asked "Are you Kendra? I'm Pat." I freaked out a little bit. She told me about an opportunity in Bangladesh but she warned me that it would be rough. I said, "I grew up in Idaho, and I'm low maintenance." She said, "No, it was really, really rough."
Gibson: She told me about that last fall. I was really jealous. But her sponsors told her that they preferred that she work with a partner. I quickly sent my resume and began talking with PSDI.
How intense are the summers there?
Gibson: The CIA suggests that you don't go there in July and August, and that's because of the weather. Yesterday, the heat index was 117 degrees. Plus, it's monsoon season.
Doesn't that make it a breeding ground for disease?
Knighten: We needed 11 or 12 vaccines. I spent about $2,500 on vaccinations. There was hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, polio, rabies. Plus tuberculosis and cholera are there.
Gibson: And we have to take malarial pills.
What have you been told about your diet?
Gibson: We won't be eating anything uncooked.
Knighten: We may eat something with a peel like an orange or banana, but we definitely won't be eating any salads.
How about sanitation?
Knighten: Our showers will be buckets.
I'm presuming that the Islamic culture will dictate what you wear.
Knighten: I'm not taking any makeup. I should be covered well below the knee and below the elbow. I've been asked to be covered to the wrist. And certainly nothing low cut, preferably to the neck.
And how you relate to a man will be closely watched.
Knighten: It's something I'm not used to. When I'm at college, I live in a house full of guys.
This most certainly will change your view of the world.
Knighten: For most people there, having one meal a day is the living standard.
Gibson: I don't look forward to seeing poverty, but it's very meaningful to understand what true poverty is.
What are you nervous about?
Knighten: A new view of the world is a double-edged sword. Understanding poverty is important but I'm terrified of the process.
On a scale of one to 10, how nervous are your parents?
Knighten: They tell me six, but it's probably 11.