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.

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