In the small East African country of Uganda, a Bangladeshi will be pleasantly surprised to find the “Bangla House”.
The reddish earthen roads that lead towards it also reminds one of their village in Gazipur, Narsingdi or Sylhet; also, when a Ugandan man asks "Kemon Achen" (how are you?) when they hear that you are from Bangladesh, one can't help but feel a sense of familiarity, a shared bond.
For Bangladeshis, this home away from home, located some 6,700 kilometres far away, helps keep away the feelings of homesickness.
And this is crucial for the service Bangla House provides. It houses a transit point for Bangladesh army personnel deployed in various African countries as peacekeepers.
There have been so many stories in newspapers and television channels about how much Bangladeshi peacekeepers are loved by people in countries like South Sudan, Congo, Sierra Leone and Central Africa.
There is also an abundance of goodwill shared among the locals and Bangladeshis here, although Uganda doesn't have a proper UN peacekeeping mission. The credit for the goodwill goes to the Bangladeshi army personnel who have been working for decades as United Nations (UN) peacekeepers in some of the more restive parts of the continent.
Thirty-year old Charles Masereka has been working at the Bangla House for three years and he intends to keep working there for as long as he can, not just because he loves the people who come and go from there, but he also feels a sense of deep gratitude for them.
"Two years ago, I came to know that my father had fallen seriously ill while at my home located some 300km from the Bangla House,” Charles recalled.
The old man had to be immediately shifted to a hospital. The Bangladesh army personnel, who were there for a transit window, raised USD $100 for Charles' father and arranged transport for Charles so he could go home in the quickest possible time.
"My father would have died if not for the Bangladeshi army personnel," Charles said with a broad smile.
Because Uganda is a transit point and logistic base of three missions, Bangladeshi army personnel do not stay for long at the Bangla House. Still, Charles had managed to win the hearts of almost everyone who stayed there with his honesty and good nature. Recently, a group of Bangladeshi army personnel presented him with a smartphone.
“In our country, we have people from many countries, but the 'Bangla people' are exceptional. They are very nice and generous,” Charles said.
A total of 10 local men, including Charles, have been working at the Bangla House for several years now.
“The Ugandans are simple people. They are honest and hardworking. They never let the bright smile slip away from their faces. There is nothing like having smiling faces around you when you are 7,000 kilometres away from home,” said Major Md Shanawaz Tuskin.
Usually 30 to 40 Bangladeshi peacekeepers stay at the Bangla House every day, which is located on the Nakiwogo Road in Banga, just 12km from the Entebbe International Airport. It is cradled by the famous Lake Victoria, the biggest water body in the landlocked country that is also known for having one of the most pleasant climates in all of Africa.
Several groups of Bangladeshi journalists are visiting some of these African countries in the second and third week of May as part of commemorating the 30 years' anniversary of UN Bangladeshi peacekeepers.
Mugaru Collins, a cook by profession, has been working in Bangla house for the last three years and has become quite the expert on Bangladeshi cuisine.
Mentioning the names of all spices in a Bengali dialect, Collins said Bangladeshi peacekeepers were kind hearted and hospitable.
“They (peacekeepers) respect us very much and we also respect them," he said.