03 October 2007

Week 4: Buriganga river ride, Lalbagh Fort, and getting sick

4th-1st in Dhaka 9/26

After class, decided to go mapping with GPS. After connecting the device to the satellites, I walked to Bashundara. Then hired a rickshaw to drive me around to various parts of my side of the city, so I could map quicker. I explained to him in Bengali what I wanted to do, how much I would pay, where I wanted to go, that I would be directing him point to point. And he agreed. We rode around for about 1.5 hours. Bashundara is a pretty empty place. It’s a newer housing area with many patches of open land and apartment buildings scattered hear and there. It’s what most of the housing areas look like before they get completely filled in.
We went through DOHS and Gulshan too, collecting good data. I tipped 25 Tk.

For dinner went to Arirang, Korean BBQ, with Megan and her coworker Aaron who is in medical school at Brandeis. Inquired whether Aaron had plans for Eid break, and he is going to India. So no luck seeing if he’d want to explore this country.

4th-2nd in Dhaka 9/27

My cook Sujit went home for the weekend. His home is in the southeastern part of the country, near Chittagong. He got a replacement cook in his place, Debu.

Today I was sick, food poisoning. I went to class just to tell them I was sick. I drank saline solution, which Debu got for me, and it tasted not so good. I asked Debu to buy me some Tang to make it taste better. Felt bad that I had to put him through me being sick. He made me bland food so as to not upset my stomach.

Played Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 to pass the day.

4th-3rd in Dhaka 9/28

Today I feel a lot better. I had some nausea at some points, but overall ate well. Dinner was even fried rice and chicken. Had iftar food at Farah’s (well most of it, left the fried stuff and spicy stuff.)

Altaf, the brother of my father’s coworker Anwar who helped me gain my affiliation with BUET, and I met up after my bland lunch. We met in Gulshan-2 and chat for a bit. Then decide to go for a drive around Dhaka. We stop by Parliament, just to look at it, but are quickly scolded for stopping! The area is quite sensitive right now due to the status of the current government. We end up going by his family’s home. On the drive, hear all about his family, Anwar, and himself.
Met Altaf’s mother, father, and grandmother. I would have to say, it was my most successful Bengali conversation thus far. I understood them pretty well, and I was saying things which I could not have said before arriving here. They took a picture with me. They were pretty excited that I could speak Bengali, and at a proficient level.
Anyway, we started the drive back to my house, but realized he would never back home in time. So we got a bus for me, and I took that home. I got great GPS mapping done today everywhere I went. Very successful.
On the bus I got to stand in the doorway, not hanging out of it, but in the staircase. People jammed around me on all sides. When someone gets off the bus, I have to find a way for them to get past me. Some guy on the bus talked to me, but I really couldn’t understand most of what he said. He did ask for my phone number, and heeding advice from past Fulbrighters, I said no.

Farah’s driver then picked Megan and me up to go to her place. It was a get together to honor the anniversary of the death of her father in law. It’s a reason for family to meet and pray and eat. Men and women separated during the service, and the women left ¼ of the way through. So I was now alone with all the men. Could understand some of the words the leader said, but not comprehend full sentences. Iftar was served while we were outside. We ate, I finished only some because of stomach pain. The men then prayed after Iftar. We left soon after, with a prepared dinner for us to eat later.

Spent the rest of the evening playing RCT3. Really wanted to finish the level.

So excited for this last weekend of baseball. Such a heated race in the NL. 7 teams, 4 spots. It’s gonna be good! Of course, I’m only rooting for the Mets.

4th-4th in Dhaka 9/29

New fruit I like. It’s called a pomelo. It’s somewhere between a grapefruit and an orange in taste. But it’s enormous. Huge pulpy pieces inside that are pink, but kinda sweet, a bit sour.
My cook served it to me one day, and now I’m hooked.
It’s twice the size of a grapefruit, with a thick green skin. It seems to hold up well in the fridge when peeled. It is way too much to eat at one sitting by yourself, so that’s a good thing.

Audible signals are used very much in handling vehicles here. For example, when crossing an intersection, since you aren’t going to stop, you honk, to let others know you are coming. If you are a rickshaw or a bike, you ring your bell.
Tapping is frequently used to warn someone when to stop. When backing your car up, the attendant working the parking lot will tap the trunk of your car, and as you get closer to something behind you, he taps more frequently. A final louder tap signals you to stop.
On the buses, the doorman taps the side of the bus once hard to tell the driver to stop/wait for a passenger. Twice means “go.” Don’t know if you tap the bus yourself if they’ll make a stop for you, still working this one out.

Today went exploring with Megan. Decided to take a bus to Motijheel, as far as we could go. But ended up getting off at the Hockey stadium, because a match was happening. Watched for a second. Went past DCC, and then headed south into Old Dhaka. Explored the streets for a long time. Making random turns, not really knowing where we were going, enjoying the stares. Passed many shoe makers in this part of Old Dhaka. Lots of cloth sellers and iftar food. Many times she says, “Oh, I’ve been here before.”

Then we come upon a bridge like structure. I see it heads south somewhere, and we decide to follow it upon my persistence that it’ll head to the river. That I think it may be the China Bangladesh Friendship Bridge (one of 2 bridges across Buriganga River…well it was the other one hah.) We finally found the river. She had never seen it. Of course, my first time.
We peek through the wall next to the river, and see all the boatmen, with their canoe-like boats. One comes up to ask us if we want to take a ride. We decide to go ahead. However, after this one gets in a fight with another over who gets to take us on a ride, and a large crowd gathers, we leave, avoiding what is transpiring.
We walk 200 yards or so down the river to another break in the wall. Instantly a boatman in his boat asks us if we want a ride. No other boatmen are hassling, so we feel safe enough to go this time. We tell him we want to just go around for 20 minutes for 50Tk. We got in, and he rowed us up river slowly against a good current. Everyone on north riverbank stares at us while bathing. River is about 500m across. We see all the boats, all shapes and sizes. Ours is the smallest type. The boats floor can easily be taken apart. We have a mat to sit on while he rows. We hear the Azan from the river for the 4:30 prayer. That was neat. He turns around, we float back. We tell him to land where we started. He rows us in past big ships the whole way. We pay 100Tk for the trip. We don’t know a good price anyway. 100Tk is twice as expensive apparently (after consulting my teacher), but this guy was a much safer choice than those fighting over us.

Next, we passed by the Ahsan Manzil, a pink mansion along the river. It’s been refurbished and is now a nice museum. Megan and I were just looking at it through the fence. Then some guys came up behind us and started talking to us in Bengali. We conversed back. Asked them what the building was. They asked the typical questions: how we know Bengali, where we are from, why we’re here, how long we’re here, and are you two married? By this point, a crowd of 20 have gathered around us. After the conversation, the one who was doing most of the talking told all the others to disperse. There’s always one guy who seems to want to watch out for you. For example, sometimes, when kids are chasing you begging, a random person will shoo them away.

We then meandered back through Old Dhaka. Passed through the Hindu part of Old Dhaka. Saw some temples but didn’t walk in. Walked all the way back to Motijheel. There we got some quick dinner/snack and water around iftar time. We then caught a bus back to Gulshan area. Had dinner at CafĂ© Mango, a western style coffee shop and restaurant.

Overall, one of the better days I’ve had here so far.

4th-5th in Dhaka 9/30

The Pack lost again in football. sigh. But tons of big names lost. Very exciting weekend.

Went to post office with Farah and Erin. Erin was mailing a letter she wrote to her husband in Bengali (he’s Bangladeshi.)

4th-6th in Dhaka 10/1

Saw a television shop which was playing cartoons on their TVs. In front of the store window sat about 4 young boys watching. The store owner was yelling at them from inside the window to leave.

Texting the US costs me $0.02. Apparently my phone cares only if I call internationally, not text. Pretty neat.

Apparently an NCSU doctoral student contacted Dr. Haque. He is from the architecture department, but still interested in GIS. Dr. Haque thought I’d set up the contact, but I told him I had no clue. Another NCSU student involved with Bangladesh! Who would’ve known our campus has such a connection here.

Today went on a class trip. We visited Bangla Academy, a place which started in the 1950s. There goal was to promote Bengali as a language, as Urdu was being forced upon them by the West Pakistani government. Today it still functions to produce texts in Bengali and about Bangladesh. Around their building are some monuments to the national poet and the language movement heroes. Pictures of the beginners Bengali class' teachers, Nadia and Farah.
Next was Shahid Minar, my second visit there. Real short, enough to take pictures. (me there below)

Next was Dhakeshwari, the main Hindu temple in Dhaka, built in the 12th century. Rumors say that the city earned its name from this temple. It was my first time in a Hindu temple to my knowledge. Walked around shoeless, looked at the shrines, and pond nearby. (Pictures below, thought it was neat how it was surrounded by apartment buildings, not there when built 900 years ago. Last picture is a workshop making Hindu statues)

Last stop was Lalbagh Fort. It’s huge, but doesn’t look it from the outside. Tons of green areas. They were shooting a movie while we there, ha, of course…my 3rd film shoot I’ve seen. Famous Bangladeshi actress apparently, all the guys were trying to snatch a look. It was built in 1677, but at that time the river passed right next to it. Now the river has shifted to over a kilometer away. It’s pinkish-orange and all in Mughal style architecture. From the walls of the fort you can see the life of Old Dhaka below (last of 5 pictures.) Pretty neat visit.

Four young boys were incessant on following us everywhere we went at Dhakeshwari and kept asking us to take their picture. Talked a decent bit of Bengali with them too. (they are in one picture.)

We had yogurt lassies afterward at a small shop. Got brain freeze.

And my world was turned upside down today!
Radiohead’s album is coming out in 10 days! They are notorious for delaying, stalling, and taking breaks. It feels like they’re never getting anything accomplished as a band. 5 years since the last album. And all the hints of a release date seemed to point to next March. But today, they announce, nope 10 days! No band announces music release just 10 days before. That’s why I love them. The things they do are just as amazing as the music, artwork and all. The album looks great, and I can’t wait to hear it. Digital release in 10 days (online buying.) Here’s the most original part of it: fans making the purchase get to name the price, you can even it buy it for free. Radiohead knows their fans are dedicated enough, and will pay what they feel its worth to them (you can tell, thanks to several hundred dollar concert tickets.) Then in Dec the hard copy comes out…also original kind of release too with a large package of things if you desire to buy it, that’s at a set price of $81. They are doing all of this without a label, and it has many record companies worried. If the best band in the world can run a massive online distribution themselves then what’s to stop smaller bands?
I had to write "Radiohead new album in just 10 days" on a piece of paper to get it out of my system/comprehend it/accept it/handle it.

Pizza for dinner. And it was good.

4th-7th in Dhaka 10/2

Class was good today. My listening skills are improving says Shakil. I also feel I’m retaining more words quicker. Conversations were good today. It’s the conversing that I feel raises my confidence. But listening helps too.

After went to Dr. Haque’s office. Met with the NCSU PhD student who is doing his field work here in Dhaka (his hometown.) Cool to meet him. Refreshing to hear someone talk about familiar things. For example, I asked where he lives, and he said off of Avent Ferry. It’s nice to hear those words out of someone’s mouth.
Dr. Haque and I then went through my GPS tracking. Saw all the places I went show up on GIS. I got the unit back for a little longer now, but don’t know where I’ll be headed that I can add onto. We’ll see. And below are pictures from his office window, 19th floor, pretty lucky. It faces north to the Banani/Gulshan/Baridhara residential zones. Most of the city is to the south.

Went to Banani to get my package from the American Center. Mom sent one.

Stopped by the Dominous Pizza. But only got a shwarma. Pizza looked good too though.

Started a Bengali journal today. Its just random things written in Bengali.

There are frequent power outages. Enough that finding an apartment with a backup generator is very important. I’ve been in the marketplace when power has gone out, and we’re all standing in the dark. Generators kick in pretty quickly, and electricity returns usually within less than 5 minutes.


Saket said...

Wow, just incredible. What a curious sight you must be! I envision you standing in the stairway to the bus, holding on to the railing, just like the other locals there -- only you're nothing like them! What must go through their minds when they see such a curious sight...only to be further surprised when you glance back and say something in Bengali! Or when you look at someone with the knowing look of "i understand that you're talking about me".

I've never lived in an area where I truly felt like a minority. In America i've always thought of myself as an American. In India, I can sorta blend in well enough, though the language barrier when traveling around definitely sucks. Sweden was like America. But you're somewhere completely different.

The tapping! My cousin Anup was doing that when our family was together in Las Vegas! I definitely know what you mean there.

It must be so empowering to be able to converse in Bengali. I am so impressed with you that you buckled down and learned it.

That's awesome you find another Wolfpacker there. All my teams lost this past weekend...NC State, Stanford, Carolina, and the Chargers. Sorry for your Mets too. :/

What result are you hoping for with your GIS project? Is the GIS to be able to model traffic patterns or to just get a map of the city? I'm curious about that.

Donny said...

We're hoping to have digital shape files to be useful for engineering and social projects in the future. Having this data is useful for so many applications, and currently there's nothing to speak of out there.
The project is also generating a lot of interest. So, what we don't accomplish here, others will take up. Private firms, professors in and outside of Bangladesh, and students have all contacted Dr. Haque about how the project is going, many times offering their services.