25 September 2007

Week 3: No Rowing in Bangladesh or How I Learned to Ride the Bus

3rd-1st in Dhaka 9/19

Today I had quite an experience trying to get down to BUET to meet my professor. I took a rickshaw down to North Avenue, the easiest part of the trip it turned out. Hailing CNGs the entire trip was difficult, as most were full, and I was competing with many others for a ride. The first CNG broke down right after I got in. So I got out, not knowing what else to do. The second didn’t understand where I wanted to go and got someone to translate since he didn’t understand my Bengali. I told him I wanted to go to BUET, and we seemed to agree on 70Tk, even through he wanted 100Tk. Well we didn’t go more than 100 feet before he pulled over, and called over another guy. Well this interpreter told me the driver wanted 100Tk, and I told him that the driver had said 70Tk was fine. He asked where I was going, and I said BUET. Telling the driver this, the driver seemed shocked, and refused to go there. He had thought I wanted to go to the Sheraton Hotel, since the Bangla word for 70 sounded similar. So he wouldn’t drive me to the university (perhaps because getting there is a pain). I had to get out.

I start walking with the interpreter to the closest major road to pick up another CNG. He’s looking for one as well. He ends up getting a rickshaw though, and while I’m still looking for a CNG, he asks me to hop in with him. Already realizing I’m going to be late to my meeting, I say sure, at least I’ll be making progress as he’s going in the right direction (though not all the way.)

The guy gets off in Mohatkali, and I as well. I offer him money, but he won’t accept. I go out to the main road to get a CNG. The ones I ask to go to BUET, won’t, very likely because of the tough traffic on the way there. Finally, as I’ve now walked a mile, and to the next major intersection, I find a CNG who’ll take me for 200Tk. That’s ridiculous. I say 100Tk, now resorting to the price the 2nd CNG driver offered. The guy says no. I walk away. He drives up, and says 150Tk. Deciding it’d be nice to be only a half hour late to my meeting, I accept. In the scheme of things, its not much, just I’m way overpaying.

I arrive at my professors finally. Climb the six floors to his office. We chat for a half hour. It was good to finally meet the man I’ve been talking to for a year through email, who played a large part in getting me the scholarship. We talked about the Jatrabari flyover, my research road. Apparently, its construction might be delayed, or never happen. It’s very likely I’ll have to change my research focus. That’s okay with me. He has a lot of interests that mesh with mine. For example, he did his PhD work on the flow pattens of different size vehicles in traffic, e.g. rickshaws

We talked about the other research he has with his other students. My academic history and future. Baseball and cricket. He lived in Japan for his PhD, so he fell in love with baseball. We chatted about his family, my family, where he lives, where I intend to live. I asked about the possibility of a desk, and he said he’ll see what he can do. We planned to meet in a month, and he’ll know more about Jatrabari by then. Either way, I can always change.

I then headed out from there to Dr. Haque’s office in Mohatkali. This time I got a CNG for 100Tk. Still expensive, but I wanted to be there and not wait for a magical CNG that’s cheaper that’ll never come.

Dr. Haque and I met for a short time. Talked about his GIS project. Showed me what he’s done. We looked at the city map for a bit. Talked about his students and class. We then went to his house to grab another GPS unit so I can do some data collecting myself. Shall be very fun to use on my trips with Shakil.

3rd-2nd in Dhaka 9/20

Dr. Hummer had asked me more about what’s causing the traffic so I responded with: Why the traffic is bad, I cannot tell, might take all year to answer that. The infrastructure is in horrible shape. For example, take a 4 lane undivided road. Many times, three of the lanes have huge holes or parked vehicles, so the entire road is reduced to one lane for both directions. And this type of issue might happen several times in a mile-long stretch. No one, rickshaws or cars wants to drive over such big potholes, and they all try cramming through the same bits of space. Short term solutions have included restricting rickshaws to side roads. A trip through town on a rickshaw used to be possible, but no longer is, as main arteries are for motorized vehicles only. This means that rickshaws become restricted to the small bits of area bounded on all sides by arteries (they cannot use nor cross.) So it reduces traffic on the main roads, a good deal, since rickshaws slow moving in the outside lane was a huge problem for turning and merging. However, you reduce the most popular mode of travel to small areas.

Fight #4…saw it at Gulshan 2 the other night. Some guy trying to hit another guy with a pole.

At the same intersection that night, I heard the car next to me talking about me. I knew when they said “shada” or “white” in Bengali. So I said back to them in Bengali: “You said white, I heard you!”

5 Favorite Parts of Iftar as compiled by a friend and myself:
1. When amongst many people, it gets silent after the azan is heard from the mosque for a couple of minutes as every breaks the fast, when right before the room was loud with chatter..
2. The fact that you hear the azan all through out the city in waves. (although this one applies year round)
3. How we put as much food into their mouth as fast as possible.
4. How it’s such an event throughout the city, affecting the traffic around 3pm and office hours.
5. How restaurants have specials just for Iftar, and all give you A LOT of food.

Went to A+W with Megan for iftar. Our goal had been Pizza Hut, but it was packed, sold out, locked down, because of the Iftar special. They weren’t letting new customers in. So A&W, equally packed, but it had room on the kid’s playground floor where others were eating as well. For $4, we got a burger, hot dog, unlimited root beer and fried chicken. Yum!!!! Had tons to eat. Lots of fun. The Pakistan/Bangladesh cricket match was on as well. Shouts could be heard through the whole restaurant anytime Bangladesh made a good play. Also should note that almost everyone their were between the ages of 15-24. (photos of A&W playground iftar below)

3rd-3rd in Dhaka 9/21

Dad mentioned how they drive on the left, so I responded with the following:
They were under British rule until the 50s like India, so they drive on the left...or the right...or the center...depending on the traffic and congestion! But usually they aim for the left. Unless they want to go down the right. Or there's a big pothole in the left, then maybe the center. But the left is where they would like to be, most of the time. The right is always cool too.

Went out and bought 2 CDS (mix and Artcell) and first DVD.

Had dinner with Courtney and Megan. Delicious food. We played games afterwards. Chinese checkers and Parcheesi. It was fun. I won one of the games. And the other was a tight finish.

3rd-4th in Dhaka 9/22

Starting to get nervous about finding housing in Dhanmondi. Want to find someone to live with. Don’t want to be alone and bored. Been checking myspace and other places to find a roommate or a flat to rent.

Also coming to terms with the fact that I’ll be likely traveling alone for Eid break. I really want to go with someone. All Bangladeshis are with their family, and all Americans who’ve been here had plans before I arrived.

Also got asked by the security guard downstairs for money. He said he had an operation for a hernia, and asked for money. He showed me the bill. I’m not sure what to do yet. Nervous for next time I’ll have to see him.
Advice given was to tell him you’re sorry for the situation, but you can’t give the money right now.

Today was a success! I navigated the bus/rickshaw system all the way to BUET to meet Farah’s nephew. I took the double decker Volvo bus to Shabag. The rickshaw to get to the bus stop cost 10Tk. Bus 12Tk. Then rickshaw from Shabag to BUET 12 Tk. I was glad to buy the bus ticket speaking Bengali. He showed me around the campus, the CE bldg, the gym, the dorms, the labs, and the soccer fields. Rasha then brings me to where I can get a bus back home. We figure out which bus I need to take back home. I board it, and get off at the right stop. Total cost for the whole trip 48Tk. And I got to see new parts of the city too. If I’d taken CNGs the whole way, I’d have paid at least 200Tk. It took a bit longer, but very little. Traffic is the same for all modes.

3rd-5th in Dhaka 9/23

Shakil and I took a bus from Baridhara down to Motijheel/Gulistan. Our goal was to stop at Bangabandhu stadium and see the Rowing Federation. We were going to find out if there were any clubs in Dhaka, and where in Bangladesh there was rowing.

On the ride down we talked primarily in Bengali. The office of the federation, after finally finding it, was closed. Some woman told Shakil they’ll reopen at 4. Meanwhile, him and I went to explore. Ultimately, after wandering into Motijheel further, we took a rickshaw to the train station. There we bought tickets to go onto the platform. We walked to the end, watched trains come in, then walked through one which had just arrived. We looked at the different classes of seating. Took pictures. Then we took the skywalk over the train station to see it from above. Lots of people use the skywalk to commute it seems like. You could see the container yards from the train station. (Below, picture of stadium, view down very long train station, myself in 2nd class train car, train station from walkway above.)

We went back to the Rowing Federation afterwards. Simply put, despite all the signs and pictures, there is no more rowing in Bangladesh. They focus now on dragon boat racing. The only boats in the whole country belong to the Navy in Chittagong. Kinda disappointed. Wished I could’ve been involved here. Luckily Shakil was there to do the talking. I never would’ve been able to handle such a complex conversation. ("Rowing" sign, and rugby game outside stadium)

I’m keeping my bus tickets so I can remember which ones went where. So I can do it all again later.

Like any non-US country, the money is very complex. Different sizes/colors. It’s very hard to find small denominations. They’re precious, so I hold onto them when I can because you want plenty when riding rickshaws for less than the 500Tk notes the ATM spits out.

Today I snapped a photo of “a rickshaw being pulled around by another rickshaw”, as sung about in Modest Mouse’s song Steam Engenius.

3rd-6th in Dhaka 9/24

Today after class I went down to Dr. Haque’s office at BRAC. We looked at my GPS unit, the data I collected, and updated the software on the unit he gave me, in hopes of getting better satellite reception from now on. He was real excited to know of all the places I was gallivanting about, since he doesn’t have the time to make it out everywhere. As long as the GPS connects, I’ll be a valuable data collector.

I got to meet his class as well. I introduced myself, and talked about what I was doing here. Took a few photos for him as well.

Overpaid a bit on most rickshaws today. Some guys we’re giving me a tough time about paying more. I gave in some, they do earn it.

Naira’s for iftar. Met her brother’s friends. Talked mostly in Bangla. I caught a lot of words though. I don’t know why. Maybe I’m getting better. But some conversations I can follow a bit. They do infiltrate their speech with a lot of English so that helps.

We then watched India vs. Pakistan cricket match. I was rooting for Pakistan as most people I’ve met here do. My heart was pounding at the end as Pakistan mounted a huge comeback. But, alas, they fell short, losing their last wicket with 4 balls remaining, down by 5. So close!

3rd-7th in Dhaka 9/25

Today Nadia, a teacher in the other class, discussed why so many people here have a hard time understanding my Bengali, and don’t always think I’m speaking it (believing I’m speaking English words they don’t know instead.) One thing we thought of is that perhaps Bengali words sound similar between each other, so a word mispronounced, can quickly change the meaning of a sentence (or make it impossibly confusing.) In English, I told her I found mispronounced words could usually be picked out. But this didn’t seem to sit well with us. Bengali and English both have many words, and thus both should have confusions made between words.
Our second theory seem to be a much better fit. The English speaking world is huge. And those that speak as English as a second or third language perhaps includes the majority of the planet. Thus, an English speaker, encounters very frequently, others who pronounce the same language with a different accent, and/or with broken speech. Thus, one becomes accustomed to hearing English pronounced differently from how oneself speaks it, and is readied for differences. Bangladeshis, on the other hand, are the exact opposite. Only two countries speak Bengali, Bangladesh and eastern India. Although it is in the top 5 of most native speakers in the world due to the density of people in this region, outside of the area, it is not heard. Thus, people in this area are accustomed to only hearing residents of their region speak Bengali. Although dialects exist, a foreign accent on their language is very rarely encountered. Thus, my foreign accent, applied to Bengali, could be very difficult to understand, and thus confusing to many I may encounter.

Went to Nafisa’s aunt’s house for iftar. Met her cousins. Its cool to meet up with her once in awhile. Keep up with what we’ve both been up to as Fulbrights. She’s making a lot of headway on the school she wants to build in Khulna, in southwestern Bangladesh.

One benefit to the difference of time zones and weekends: I have my weekend on Friday and Saturday. College football games happen on Sunday morning for me, so I wake up and see the results. Then NFL happens on Monday and Tuesday morning. So I get to follow that throughout those days. Then, as Tuesday finishes, I only have two days til my weekend, then two weekend days til more football!

18 September 2007

Week 2: Ramadan starts and a trip to Old Dhaka

2nd-1st in Dhaka 9/12

Had to go to the Embassy to go get a security briefing. Embassy security took 40 minutes. Every bag is checked and scanned several times. Passports scanned and re-scanned. We were very late to the “prompt start” of the meeting, and I felt bad not being there when we were supposed to. Briefing was actually a bit interesting, with a good history of US Security in Bangladesh. Glad to see the other professors who are doing Fulbrights here.

Met Shaheen and Harvey, the main contacts for Fulbrights here. Learned how I get mail, quiet important.

So I Installed Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 this morning because internet is down. That’ll be a good distraction on rainy days, or days I feel tired. Fun game. I remember playing it way back and how much I liked it. I’ll make sure I don’t get addicted and forget Bangladesh.

Went to Gulshan 2 and back to get dictionary, a music CD, and scotch tape. Dad called on the way over. He got to hear sounds of Bangladesh in the background it was so loud. Wished him happy birthday.

Listening to my new Bangladeshi rock CD. Hoping to find some rock bands I like. Naira offered to go to concerts with me, especially since her cousins are in some bands.

2nd-2nd in Dhaka 9/13

It’s always interesting having a cook and someone clean for you. You have so much extra time. Someone mentioned to me that when you hire your own workers, it may seem odd at first, but it’s a great thing you can do, giving someone employment (a secure and safe job at that.) Its my first time doing that obviously, and its an interesting feeling.

I’m enjoying getting to have tea with Shakil and Santa during our tea break. The place we go to is small and hot, and we sit at a side table. We get some of the best tea I’ve ever had. But I didn’t drink tea before I came here, so that last statement really has no weight. And we’ve had samosas...yumm. Its neat just to chat with them there in between classes.

Shakil keeps saying all the places we’ll go. I can’t wait.

2nd-3rd in Dhaka 9/14

Friends kept wondering what my food situation would be during the month of Ramadan in an Islamic country. In summary, I'll be able to eat during the day during the next month. Some details:
1. No, it won’t be odd for my cook to make food during the day, because my cook is Buddhist.
2. Not everything shuts down, just 80% of stuff. And then it all reopens at night for Iftar (the breaking of the daily fast.)
3. Iftar dinners are gonna be Barney-level-AWESOME! (that’s a How I Met Your Mother reference, the tv show I spent all my lazy summer watching.)

I told some guy at a video store to find me all the box seasons of Entourage...because DVDs of tv shows are like $5 a box here. However, I looked into buying an iPod...I wouldn’t, I don’t like mp3 players much. But it was $500 for an iPod video, some things just don't get cheaper here.

It’s really weird how I start my weekend when its still morning on Thursday in the US. And I finish my weekend, halfway through their Saturday. The time difference, plus a weekend that starts a day earlier really changes things!

I can’t send facebook messages here, I think because of the college’s network that I’m technically on. My roommate, other students and I also noted googling certain words won’t work...obvious sexual words are off limits, but there a few funny ones like chicken and morality that can’t get past the block. Morality is the word that alerted me to this peculiar situation. One they missed…cock? First off, that’s inappropriate, but also, why are male chickens allowed? Hens are allowed in too. So I guess, as long as chickens of different sexes are kept at a safe distance…

Eid break is in October. One week off for the whole country, or my class at the least. That’ll be cool. Need to find a place to go. And someone to go with.

Went to Farah’s (teacher of the Beginners class) place for Iftar. Met her nephew, Rasha, who is a CE student at BUET. Will call him to meet up and he offered that we can see BUET together. We talked about CE for awhile, and grad schools. Tough to talk Bangla to Farah’s family, they don’t speak slow obviously, and I can’t pick things out that quickly. I tried my best. It’s frustrating but motivating. I want to work on my listening skills the most.

Out walking at 11pm tonight, I see everyone coming home from Iftar. Looks like zombies in the unlit streets. Each person at their own slow pace (full from so much food.) All a bunch of shadows…really looked like a zombie movie. I do find ways to scare myself a lot.

2nd-4th in Dhaka 9/15

Two kids were begging at our car window. As usual, we politely dismiss them. They persist which isn’t out of the ordinary. Then I notice one of the kids, being a kid, goes to the nearest rickshaw, and kicks its back end. The rickshawallah gets off his rickshaw while the cross traffic is still moving, and goes to beat the kid. The kid gets hit once, and blames the other kid he was with. The rickshawallah walks away, but then comes back yells a few words and hits the kid again.

Spent the day watching cricket with Risal. Watched New Zealand vs Sri Lanka, and then Bangladesh vs South Africa. Its addictive. I now understand all three types of cricket well, and the strategies involved. Glad to gain that understanding. The sport is now much more entertaining to watch. I found myself getting pissed as Bangladesh kept losing wickets. I understood how things needed to progress. I’m excited to root for them now. I hope there is one match in Dhaka sometime during my stay. Also spent time listening to music. Watson Brothers are my current favorite. Below, Risal and I.

We dropped by a mall and walked around the shops a bit. Looks like knockoff iPods are 20 dollars. Nice sandals I considered purchasing were 14 dollars. Dress sneakers for 20 dollars. Maybe I’ll actually buy something, or maybe I’ll be cheap as usual.

Saw a movie being filmed on top of a truck on Airport Rd. Two guys being filmed throwing fake punches, camera rolling. The whole street was watching as they drove through traffic. Always pretty neat to be part of the action!

2nd-5th in Dhaka 9/16

Updated my first wikipedia article today on cricket hat tricks.
I was watching the cricket match, saw the hat trick happen. Looked up what a hat trick was, and saw that it had not happened before in a 20/20 match. So I went ahead and added that it did happen today!

Today in language class I described to Shakil how to play baseball, in Bengali. It was tough. Using all new vocabulary. But because it was fun, it wasn’t as frustrating.

Contacted with Dr. Haque about GIS project. Hopefully I’ll get heavily involved. Mapping Dhaka seems like it could a lot of fun. I would really enjoy that. Using my GPS and GIS skills to do something practical in this city. I trust that he’ll know be producing quality work too.

Today I also read about how since Tejagoan airport was reopened, many buildings are now in the flight cone. It used to be the international airport before the city outgrew its old borders, and when they built to the new airport, this old one was closed, and a military base set up around it. The issue is, during its closure, numerous high-rises were built in the area around the airport. And with its reopening, they are now in the airspace cone the airport is supposed to have clear for operations. The city wants the buildings
knocked down, or stories removed. Many issues arise.

2nd-6th in Dhaka 9/17

I've been finding some really neat articles here on transportation issues. The city has passed huge projects to be completed in the next 17 years. Big issues they have are east-west connections in the city, bypasses, and commuter rail lines. All of these are being targeted. These kinds of issues are exactly why I wanted to come here, to see
how they are handling them.
I took pictures of one of the older flyovers in the city from below as our bus passed beneath. I'm real interested to see how the volumes compare between the flyover and the main road one would travel if you didn't take the flyover. You have well moving traffic on the flyover, and a dead stop below for minutes at a time. I'm thinking the flyover might be handling more vehicles than the main road. However the concrete supports have removed 3-4 travel lanes below it on that main road, so it'd be neat to compare before volumes of the main road, and the after volumes of the flyover+main road. So many things I want to look into once research starts! Below are four photos of the Mohatkali flyover. First looks at the flyover as it splits from the street, and the other three from below .

Shakil and I went down to Old Dhaka today. What an experience. Nothing like I’ve ever encountered in my entire life. We took a rickshaw, then took a double decker bus to the university area. This took 2 hours! What a ride. We talked, looked out the window. But mostly just sat there and inhaled the fumes. I played cricket on my cell phone, my new favorite “nothing to do” activity. When we got to the university area, we walked to a rickshaw stand, and got a rickshaw to take us to Old Dhaka, another 20 minutes away. We got dropped off at Chak Bazar. The busiest bazaar in Dhaka I’ve heard. We roamed amongst the food. By roam, I mean push through crowds that don’t move and vendors 2 feet on either side. Only by luck are you able to take a step. Once we got past the iftar food and the mosque, we got to walk on streets which were crowded with rickshaws and CNGs. One lane each direction. Pedestrians squeeze down the middle or side, sometimes straddling the gutter below us. While walking, I notice that others will pinch me. Shakil had warned me about this. He doesn’t know why.

We finally turned down another street, who knows which one, but looking on a map later, we had gone a good distance. Our goal was to find some iftar food and head back to the universities to eat. While walking though, I got to see all the thin alleyways and stores selling things only as bulk, distributing it to the rest of the city, I don’t know how though. Many of the buildings look intricately and anciently built. The city used to be very pretty here. The streets are all but gone. Pretty fountains, now off forever, are in the middle of some intersections. The street can’t be more than fifteen feet wide. Five story buildings on either side.

We ultimately ended going back to Chak Bazaar. We bought tons of food. Fried items of everything, cucumbers, many kinds of sweets, and some meats. Then we bought some water and plates and cups. This was all a crazy experience. No one seemed to be cheating us out of money, as iftar prices are set pretty well. But the madness involved in getting the food packaged and into your hands was incredible. You’d scream for what you want amongst many others, somehow the right amount ends up in your hands, you hand them the money, and they hand you the change. Many smells are in the air, from fish, to cooking meats, fruits, spices, and sugars. Such an array.

Two funny instances:

  1. A younger man, who spoke English well, grabbing my arm and asking me “Are you a muslim?” I shrugged and shook my head. Scene averted.
  2. I was wondering if I could take a picture. Then I saw a young guy across the table of goods taking a picture with his phone, so I figure it’d be okay. I took my camera out and snapped a shot, then put it away. I then saw he was taking another picture, this time of me, the only white guy in this whole bazaar. I smiled as he took my picture. He saw me smile, realized I knew he was taking my picture. He then looked up from his phone and smiled at me, nudged his friend, and they both laughed. Caught ya!

Shakil and I then grabbed a rickshaw which we took to BUET. We ate in the canteen there. Had to wait 30 minutes about for Iftar. We talked and laughed. When iftar came, the whole canteen became silent except for the sounds of eating.

We stuffed ourselves. We had so much food leftover, and were still full. The leftover food we gave to a beggar.

Learned later that many Dhaka folks will ask if one has ever been to Chak Bazaar for Iftar. Most haven’t and my friend was surprised to hear I went. Who knew?

Below, several pictures from our trip to Old Dhaka for Iftar. 1, last few to catch the bus. 2, Chak Bazaar in Old Dhaka, where we bought Iftar food. 3, How food is sold on the streets in Old Dhaka. 4, Shakil and his Iftar meal in BUET canteen. 5, Me and my Iftar meal in BUET canteen.

2nd-7th in Dhaka 9/18

Have I mentioned my bed is hard as a rock. I’ve started getting used to. Anyway, I still find myself enjoying the bit of comfort it gives every night.

Discovered some frustrations today. Phoning frustrations. I tried calling the Rowing Federation using the number from the internet yesterday, and it wouldn’t connect. I assumed the numbers were disconnected since the emails weren’t working either. But today I called my professor, and again, nothing connected. I decided, it must be a fault of mine, but had no clue what I was doing wrong. My cook couldn’t understand my problem. Took me a long time to discover that dialing a land line needs to be preceded by a 0. My problem was solved!

Well then I called my professor, and the extension I dialed (he provided) must’ve been incorrect, my fault for sure. The guy who answered didn’t understand me, and hung up. Sigh. Next try, let’s see if I dial the rowing again, the correct way. First number didn’t work. Second number, the fellow didn’t know English, and he was unable to help me. It didn’t seem like I had reached the right place again. Oh well.

Finally contacted Dr. Mizanur Rahman through the school operator, and scheduled for me to come by his office at 2 tomorrow. I hope I can get there in enough time and not get stuck in traffic. I also called Dr. Haque, and I’ll try and see him after BUET tomorrow.

By the way, I had to learn to eat with my right hand here, since the left is considered very very dirty.

14 September 2007

Week 1: Arrival and start of classes

This is my first time ever blogging. It's a compilation of my journal entries. Thus, sometimes, within a single day, I might talk about something I'm about to do, and then reflect on it later. Its a lot to edit from my journal. I expect later entries will be much shorter. This entry has a lot of daily life information, because friends and family keep asking how I spend my days here. Hope this helps. Hope a story or two is enjoyable.

Plane Stories 9/3-9/5

The food was amazing on all my flights, including excellent Indian food on the Gulf Air flights. Plus some really good juices, like mango juice.

On the plane from Bahrain to Dhaka, only men flying (99%) There was no order. People were standing in the aisles, disregarding stewardesses’ orders. Lots of hanging out around near the bathrooms. There was fighting for blankets. People yelling and screaming the whole flight. I’m the only non-Bangladeshi/non-Arab. Find out later in the week that this is common for most flights from Arab nations to Bangladesh since these are mostly monthly workers returning home to see family.

I had problem with my bags. Needed to do extra work in Frankfurt to ensure their arrival in Dhaka. This was thanks all to the wonderful staff of JFK who wouldn’t change my sticker on my bags which had the stopping in Bahrain.

First day in Dhaka 9/5

Arrive at airport. Whisked through customs and immigration as a diplomat. Bags arrive, phew! Whisked to my home under darkness by private vehicle. Cool to see the road at night. So much weaving. The whole city seems awake, well not all, but many people moving at 5 am.

Embassy vehicle brings me to apartment but no one to check me in. So they leave me at hotel lobby for 3.5 hours. Hotel feeds me breakfast for free, my first meal here. Watch BBC world and read paper. Got real worried I would never see my bags again. Finally get a call back, am picked up, and brought to house.

Place is huge. Very little furniture. Rooms can be igloos if I want. Unpack, eat breakfast and shower, not in that order. Meet Sujit and Milon. Pictures of my place and the street I live on are below (views of my room and living area.)

Go with Malan to get phone at a little store in alley. Needed to get money. Milon tells Sujit to take a CNG with me to HSBC. Takes one hour there and back, for maybe 6km. Costs 100 Tk. Take 15,000tk out. See a fight break out from a bus, two guys choking each other, with friends of younger one cheering. So much traffic in Gulshan. CNG turns engine off many times when traffic is so dense that it won’t move for minutes. Get back and pay for phone.

Sujit makes dinner. Its delicious, as I’ll get used to. Almost fall asleep before dinner. Bed at 7, sleep for 12 hours!

2nd in Dhaka 9/6

Go to class. Teacher and I take rickshaw ride up to Airport Rd. He points things out and we talk sometimes in Bangla. I’m a bit nervous f

First time in rickshaw, afraid of tipovers. Teaches me names of all the towns. Pass through DOHS Baridhara. Shows me Anannya mall. Go back to class. Get lunch with Erin and her teachers at Pink City buffet.

Whenever I get back I look at maps to see where I have gone through. Helping me to understand the city quickly. One Bangladeshi friend said it’s a very “American” thing to do.

I’m exhausted. Start doing homework. I call Nashad, we plan to meet up on Friday. I stay home. Browse internet. Feeling a bit sad to keep browsing internet. Homework hard and confusing.

My Bengali teachers are in the picture below: Santa on the left, Shakil on the right.

3rd in Dhaka 9/7

I decided to walk around town.
Head south from Baridhara, and west into Gulshan. Cause two buses to collide north of Gulshan-2. Paint flies. They yell at each other, but not at me. Few kids tag along begging. Sweating like a pig. Can’t find American Club. Walk past it actually, but don’t know it. Then walk through a park, and see couples necking. Walk into dead end. Rickshaw driver finds me. Very friendly, too friendly. Asks if I’m going to American Club, I say ya, he says hop in, for free? Wasn’t far. He waits outside for me. I go in, but can’t become member w/o embassy papers. Dumb. Oh well. Come outside, rickshaw takes me to Annanya mall, for free again. I buy lunch to get smaller Tk notes. Go to pick n’ pay to see what they have, buy bread and candy. Eat lunch while walking in mall. Go outside to leave, rickshaw guy takes me home. I offer him 50Tk. He asks for 100 Tk and smiles. No 50. No 100. Here’s 60. No 100. Here’s 60, hand it to him. He accepts. I ask his name, and say thank you, he’s been helpful.

I always feel bad leaving Sujit. Like he’s my mom and wants me to eat for him. How do you handle a cook? Never know what I should say to him if I won’t be there. He always looks upset when I eat out. We finally figure out how giving money to him will work.

Nashad, Risal, and Numayer (Cynthia Rouf’s cousins) pick me up at 3. We get coffee. Go to bookstore and hole in the wall bookstore to find bangla-english dictionary. Buy for 200tk. Then drive gulshan back and forth for a bit waiting for Nashad’s driver. See a man bodyslam a woman in the streets, chokehold style. Amazed still at everyone’s driving ability. Got invited to wedding at coffee shop. I’ll be in one of 1000. Glad to get along with her cousins.

Drove back to Nashad’s in Uttara. Just chill and talk. Meet her father, mother, and brother Tamzid. Have some water. Tamzid takes Risal and me around Uttara in the dark in his car.

Dinner is men first. Couldn’t understand Numayer’s father very well, spoke in Bengali faster than I can comprehend. Food was great.

Sit in parents room and chat. Tamzid tells me how he came back 4 years ago. He had gone to Texas Tech for 5 years, and Hawaii for two.

4th in Dhaka 9/8

Tamzid picks me up at 130. We eat lunch at really expensive restaurants in Dhanmondi. Have masala coke, grosss! So spicy and wrong.

We drive around Dhanmondi a bit, see some of the sites I’ve been reading about. Parliament building. Drive over Mohatkali flyover, which is similar to my project site. Yay!

We go to his friend’s mansion along Gulshan Lake. Play lots of ping pong. They’re all good. Both of his friends spent lots of time in US (Oklahoma and Colorado State) Have French fries and beef pies. I make a bad joke about ping pong, feel awkward, no one laughs. I guess bad sense of humor is a worldwide thing.

All building have mold, because its always raining. Thus, city looks older than it really is

I’m adjusted, says his friend. 4 days in and they are surprised at how comfortable I look. I don’t feel it yet, but it was cool to just chill at their place.

Caught a cockroach one day.

In hospital, everyone takes shoes off, I find out when Tamzid and I drop by to say hi to his friend.

Its amazing to me still how vehicles drive down the wrong side of the road. They ignore red lights in the few places they exist.

5th in Dhaka 9/9

Got a cold from the AC at night. Blowing nose a lot today.

Talked to Chris via skype…success! It was pretty cool to see him there, and to chat live to him. Very very cool actually. (picture below, that's Chris in England)

Interesting to always here the mosques call everyone to prayer. Its woken me up before. Definitely makes you aware you are in an Islamic majority country.

NCSU lost, it sucks. But Michigan lost, that was cool. Lots of teams predicted to win, lost.

Took my first pictures today.

6th in Dhaka 9/10

Couldn’t sleep because I am sick, and because I kept thinking about my fantasy football team. Got up to check how it was doing at 4:30. Stayed up to 5:30, and then went “back to sleep” after reading.

I’ve been parusing through the Lonely Planet guide, highlighted only one thing so far. Haven’t really thought about where to go, just seeing what’s out there right now.

Class today. Its tough. I don’t retain things very well short term, or long term for that matter. It’s a bit frustrating for me, and I think for them to.

Being sick sucks. I’ve gone through two rolls of TP blowing my nose. Might have fever says teacher? I don’t know. I am gonna rest today though. Might go buy a English to Bangla dictionary, and maybe medicine.

I made flash cards. Hopefully this will help.

7th in Dhaka 9/11

I am feeling a bit better, just achy everywhere from being sick. Head hurts a bit, I'll try and find medicine today.

I'm meeting up with Naira today! She was very excited to hear from me, to think of me coming to her country after spending so much time in mine. It must be really neat, because, I'm sure people always say to each other, "Oh you should visit my country one day." and people always reply politely "Of course, that'd be so cool." ...but this time I actually came! She must really be excited because of that. It’d be neat if someone I met over the oceans visited my home, it’d make my week/month/year.

Had a great day in class today. I showed my Bengali teachers “Lister Close” today. I described the whole story behind it in Bengali. about Jemma, Australia, the street itself, where my band wrote the song, where the pictures are from, info about the band, and how the movie was made...my head hurt after speaking so much in Bengali, but I did it. I felt confident in what I was saying too.

Went with Shakil, my teacher, to Dhaka University. Naira came along.

Went to see Shahid Minar monument. It was great to finally see it. I’ve read about it, seen pictures and movies, and heard so much about what it means from Farhanaz and Naira all last year. But to finally see it, emerging from the trees as we walked through the university, was very special. I knew it was coming sooner or later, and when it did, it was all I expected. Except, maybe a bit shorter. And I didn’t foresee tons of people loun

ging on its steps. I wish I could go right up to it, and stand below the awning of the tallest work. I can tell how important it is just seeing it. I’d like to see what it’s all like on Feb 21, National Language Day. There are people coming at midnight from everywhere, streets packed, and they put flowers around it. Women dressed in white and black saris.

Pictures below are of some Dhaka traffic, the language monument, and Naira and I sharing a
snack in front of the language monument.