Posted by Kazi Asma Azmery, Rotary Club of Greater Dhaka, Bangladesh on Jan 13, 2019
Rotary is one family! 

I’m in Azerbaijan right now. It’s the 96th country I’ve traveled to since 2009; I’ve visited around 50 Rotary clubs in 22 of them. Where I grew up, in Bangladesh, it was a great honor when I became a Rotarian, because all of the Rotarians were my mom’s friends, my dad’s friends, my uncle’s friends. I was 26 years old when I joined. At first they didn’t want me because I’m so young and wear jeans. My country is a very conservative Muslim country, and they did not want people to dress like this at Rotary. But I worked hard to establish myself as a modern Rotarian.  

I have a small travel agency. In 2014, I planned to travel by road from Los Angeles to Brazil for the World Cup. When I was in LA, I noticed that the guy sitting next to me on the underground Metro was wearing a Rotary pin. We chatted and I ended up visiting his Rotary club.

It’s like that most of the time. I meet people by looking for someone with a Rotary pin or T-shirt or hat. Or I’ll go to one Rotary club meeting and ask for a recommendation for another club to visit. In 2016, I was at a restaurant in Montenegro and saw the Rotary flag. I asked the owner about it, and he was a Rotarian. I was in Australia on Australia Day, and the Rotarians in Perth were selling sausages on the street. So I met them and through them found another Rotary club to visit. On a bus trip in Peru, I met a district governor and his wife because he was wearing a Rotary hat. I met them in Cuzco, and then followed them to Lima and visited five Rotary clubs with them. Later, when they traveled to Bangladesh, I introduced them to Rotarians in my country.

A lot of times Rotary clubs don’t have the right information on their website. Many times in many countries, I’ve gone to the restaurant at the time the website said and there was no meeting. They may not have the right phone number, and sometimes they take a week or a month to check email. So now I try to use Facebook to contact clubs. It’s quicker.

Last year I joined the International Travel and Hosting Fellowship (www.ithf.org ). We have more than 1,000 members, and we host each other. Or sometimes we just pick each other up from the airport or meet and show each other the local places of interest, the food, and the culture. It’s a great way to connect with a lot of different Rotarians.

Rotary is one family. I remember one Rotarian in Guatemala who helped me get a visa for Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan embassy told me I couldn’t get a visa for 14 days. I called the Rotarian, and he talked to the officials in Spanish. I had the visa in an hour.

In San Diego, a Rotarian I met told me I was crazy, that I couldn’t travel by road to Brazil. It took me 3 1/2 months, but I did it. I sent him an email when I got there.

Kazi Asma Azmery, Rotary Club of Greater Dhaka, Bangladesh; as told to Diana Schoberg

Rotarian Stories of 2018

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