11 October 2007

Week 5: Village dinner and buying stuff for Eid

5th-1st in Dhaka 10/3

Class was a mix of emotions. I got very frustrated at some point because I wasn’t understanding the grammar. Boredom followed. Then apathy. I explained to Shakil how hard it is to be “on” all the time, what essentially both of us always have to be. We are always vividly discussing grammar or correcting me.

Went to the office at the university to pay my housing bill. Went to wrong office, and left emptyhanded. “Magically” some man came by later to drop off the bill. Went to bank to pull out money to pay for housing, it’ll require 3 trips since I can’t take out that much money at once.

Went to dinner at Megan’s. Her table’s glass top broke in half. She’s renting from a NCSU professor who comes only in summer. The table had been cracked, but it expanded quickly during dinner. We got stuff off it on time. When it finally cracked all the way through we had to remove the big half so it wouldn’t crash to the ground. Her table is now useless.

5th-2nd in Dhaka 10/4

Today went to the village of my teacher Farah’s husband’s. This was after a good day in class. Shakil did some new things today that kept me engaged. It was a good time. For our conversation class we took a walk along the lake and talked there.

After lunch, Erin and I went with Farah, her husband, son, and another teacher Nadia west of Dhaka about 30km to her husband’s village. This is where his father grew up, and his uncle still lives. It’s a small compound with several structures, some concrete, some corrugated metal. All around the compound, on all sides, is water. The compound floods to waist level in monsoon season. The road to the village from the highway, was about 1 km, and was one lane wide. Sometimes the road is real thin, parts have fallen into the water due to flood erosion.

Farah’s husband took us to a sweet shop he always went to as a young boy. He told us these sweets are made of more natural ingredients than what we’ll find in the city. Thus better. I couldn’t tell, I haven’t eaten them my whole life. (Below, picture of one structure in compund and the Bangladeshi sweets at the sweet shop.)

The water around the compound and along both sides of the highway apparently won’t be there in 2 months. It’ll all mostly dry up, and this is where they will grow rice. But for now, it’s flooded, and boatmen fish.

From the village you can see about ½ km in all directions over the flooded fields. In front of the compound is the village mosque. At the end of the road, after where the pavement stops, is the village school. (Below: Shot of highway bridge from village, small temple in the village, school at end of road, village mosque and those attending.)

Iftar was standard Iftar fare. Dinner was briyani (fried rice and beef mix.) Lights when off at 7 because of loadsharing its called. For example, within a district, the engineers rotate who has electricity off during the peak hours 6pm-10pm. So for an hour, ¼ of the people don’t have power. Sometimes this is done at the local level. But it needs to be done to conserve power usage. It’s part of life for those who live here.

The road there and back was a 4 lane divided highway. National martyrs’ monument is on the way there. As well as a few factories and a college. Once you cross the river west of Dhaka, scenery changes to much more rural. Way home was very dark, passing rickshaws in headbeams.

5th-3rd in Dhaka 10/5

Went to bank to get more money to pay for rent. Roamed through the market on the way there.

Then called Tamzid, and he picked me up after dinner. His friend, him, and I went shopping for panjabis. The first place we went was very expensive. I was looking for a colorful one, so I can wear it for other occasions beyond Eid.

The next place we went to was Shopper’s World. It had decent prices, and according to the guys I was with, would price things based on how well made they are. So I could find cheaper ones if I desired. While they were searching for white panjabis, I stayed in the color section. I found some decent ones, but all still out of my price range. Tamzid finally came over and suggested some, and those were cheap and looked good. We chose one that was olive green, and after the employee sized me up, I tried it on. First one too small, didn’t go past my knees enough. Second just right.

I then paid the Tk 5000 for it (about $80.) While I was waiting for the other guys to find their panjabis, another store employee who had overheard me speaking Bengali came over to talk with me. He wanted to know why I understood Bengali, where I learned it, where I’m from, etc. Several other employees, upon learning I could speak the language, had the same conversation with me. It was neat that they wanted to hear me speak.

As we were leaving I received a phone call from Farhanaz. I picked up and she asked if I was in Shopper’s World. I told her yes, and she exclaimed, she was here too and had just seen me on the stairs. We met on the stairs, hugged, and then she brought me into the shopping area to meet her husband. We both remarked, “heard so much about you.” And then we all talked for a few minutes. She told me about how she’s expecting a baby, and I told them congratulations. It was just great to see her. She was a huge part of why I got here since she wrote my language recommendation letter. Plus, she taught me the majority of what I knew coming here. Spending 3 days a week with her was a big part of my senior year in college.

After leaving, Tamzid and I went to Numayer’s (Tamzid’s sister Nashad’s fiancée) home, where his family was having dinner. Nashad was there as well (who said what I wrote on her facebook wall in Bengali was 90% correct.) Dinner was good. Had ice cream. Then Tamzid dropped me back off at my home. Made plans with him and Nashad to have dinner at Pizza Hut on Wednesday.

5th-4th in Dhaka 10/6

Saifullah, who I met on facebook in an effort to find an apartment to share, picked me up early in the morning. We just browsed some shops, he ran some errands, for most of the morning. Just chatting, getting to know each other.

His best friends are all the guys he went to high school with. They all went to Cadet College, military school. There are 10 cadet colleges in the country, and they went to the one in Rangpur in the northwest. It is with some of these friends he was looking to set me up with.

He finally got in contact with his friends. We stopped by Shahbag. We bought some DVDs. Then to a café where we met his first friend, a med student in the north part of the country and in Dhaka for a few days. So we sat in the café for a bit, I got two cold drinks on their nudging. We then went upstairs to the apartments above the mall. There we met Saifullah’s friend’s brother and friends. They are all mostly doctors or medical students living “bachelor style.” In this case it meant about 4 of them sharing a no-frills room, some sleeping on the floor. Books of medicine and the body are all along the walls on the floor. Clothes hang on most surfaces drying. The guys are living minimally while preparing for their exams and work. We sat and talked for a bit. They told me how staying here is an option for me, and that rooms/beds will open up, but they are snatched up quickly by med students/engineering students looking to get an apartment near campuses and hospitals.

Then Saifullah’s second friend came so we could head over to his place, the apartment Saifullah thought I’d be most likely to take. Rickshaw ride over. On the way over, Saifullah asked me about Bush, and I briefed him on what is happening right now in regards to next year’s elections. We talked a bit about his country’s politics too. Lots of traffic jams on way over, so time to talk.

We finally arrived at this new apartment. It has one bedroom, where I would share with Saifullah’s friend. Bathroom has squat toilet, and shower head is in center of bathroom, so showering is meant to get the whole room wet. Kitchen small, and they have a cook. I asked about installing AC. It’s in a real neat area, close to Dhamondi fun, and the street was neat and looked safe. Its only $50/month too, very cheap!

We then went to Boomer’s café for Iftar. It had pictures of American rock artists all over the walls and ceilings. Pretty good Iftar spread. Met two more of his friends there. Afterwards we walked to Dhanmondi lake, right next door, got some tea from a street vendor, and some of them had a cigarette. The lake was gorgeous at night, and there was lightening striking in the distance. There’s a huge mansion on the lake as well, which was built to look like a boat; it grabbed my attention.

5th-5th in Dhaka 10/7

Went and got the rest of my rent money. Talked to Altaf on phone about Comilla. It was raining hard on walk home, and I couldn’t find a rickshaw.

5th-6th in Dhaka 10/8

Went to office to pay my bill for my house. Walked in with 103 Tk 500 bills, almost an inch thick. But that’s the biggest bill there is, and I had to pay a large amount for my house. Besides a wait, it was flawless. Then Shakil showed up. I waited while he received his check. He asked where I was going, and he said he’d go with me.

I was merely going to go to Bata, the shoe store chain to buy nice sandals for Eid, since my panjabi but my Timberland sandals are not.. After trying on several pairs, I finally settled on a pair of Hush Puppies (so very Bangladeshi.) Prices there did not differ much from what you find in the US for all kinds of sandals.

Since it had just started to pour rain, we decided to walk through some stores for fun. We looked at electronics and household appliances and cameras (he’s looking for a second one.) We meandered into another mall. I inquired about the prices of flash drives (similar price to US) and computer speakers (very very cheap, probably not authentic.) Then we found our way into a tailor. I decided to finally buy some pants. I chose my fabric, and then after measuring 8 measurements of my lower body (waist, stomach, hips, crotch front to back, upper thigh, lower thigh, ankle, length) they asked how many pleats I wanted, how I want my pockets shaped, how many back pockets, and whether I wanted cuffs or straight leg. I bargained the price down from Tk900 for one (650 for fabric, 250 for preparation) to Tk1600 for two. One dark, one light. They are thin, so hopefully I won’t sweat. A little over $20 for two pairs of custom trousers. And they’ll be exact size for me…that’s kinda neat.

We had trouble finding a rickshaw in the now heavier rain…he had to go home though. So under our umbrellas we roamed the streets, but no rickshaws wanted to go to where we wanted in the rain. Finally, one agreed. Prices are usually bumped up in the rain since the rickshawwallah gets soaked. Also, since its getting close to Eid, prices are high for that too.

Went to Megan’s for dinner. We decided to take out from Margherita Pizza: a burger, a shwarma, and some pasta. The plan was also to watch How I Met Your Mother, but downloading didn’t go so well. Ate and watched some snippets of HIMYM before the internet cut out. On walk home the streets had flooded from rain, about 3” deep and fast flowing.

Spent the rest of the night getting a lot of homework done.

5th-7th in Dhaka 10/9

Spent day after class at home. About to go traveling, and its raining today a bit. No desire to go out in rain.

Watched Pursuit of Happyness. Enjoyed it. I teared, cuz I’m sucker for all movies that want to make you cry, and even those that don’t. I’m the target audience.

Gonna pack for tomorrow. Shakil and I bumped our trip to Comilla up one day to avoid the Eid crazy traffic by at least one day extra. Had to push back Pizza Hut with Megan, Tamzid, and Nashad.

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