28 November 2007

Week 12: Thanksgiving and "Oh No! Haircut Time"

Last week I mentioned how Chili's and Best Buy were here, and now I have the pictures! (pics: Chili's right?; nope inside you'll find Thai/Chinese!; Best Buy right? nope inside you'll find soap and non-perishable food products)

12th-1st in Dhaka 11/21

Today I did a big trip around the city for various things, northeast to southeast to southwest to north central back to northeast.

Estimated how much I’m saving by taking buses everywhere instead of rickshaws. On the low end, I calculated about $30 a month. But on the high end, I estimated $120 a month. It’s because CNGs are just so expensive, but the only option if you want to travel far and don’t take buses.

After class I headed right down to Motijheel where I was going to have lunch with Altaf. I had had to reschedule it to today because of my rescheduled meeting with Dr. Rahman yesterday. I met him at his office and he showed me around where he worked. Met his coworkers, and we all had lunch in their conference room. Altaf sent for some briyani and it was delicious, also tried some cow stomach they had as well.

Took a bus to Nilkhet Market to pick up my copied STP. I got there, and they were just finishing. So I got to watched them bind the new copy with string and add the binding glue and material.

Took another bus to Banani. Met up with Jayita and Ishita for an hour. Another of Jayita’s friends was there, and him and I talked a bit about his computer engineering project he’s working on. Jayita and Ishita gave me more details about their club’s performance on Saturday I’m going to see.

I inquired about the tallest building in Bangladesh several times now. I’m now quite sure it’s the Bangladesh Bank Building (first three photos on the page), at 115 m and 30 floors. It’s not super super tall, but it’s the tallest here. About the same height as the tallest in Raleigh (except this city has 10 times as many people!) I spent some time today looking at many websites about skyscrapers in Dhaka. Pretty much the city has hundreds of buildings between 15 and 30 floors, but not above that.

Well in all my searching for pictures I landed upon a neat blog of Ershad Ahmed who worked as a civil engineer up until the 90s. Wanted to share some of my favorite posts of his to show what Dhaka's buildings look like, and other neat stuff!
Tall Building Photos
More Tall Building Photos, most of BBB
Incredible collection of maps

Got a call about another cool housing opportunity. 5 bedrooms, 8 people, central AC, great location. I’ll explore tomorrow night with them. Good price as well.

12th-2nd in Dhaka 11/22

Today is Thanksgiving, but you wouldn’t know it unless you were from the US or Canada and celebrated it. Most people I talked to about it hear have heard about it, but don't what happens.

After class went to a Thanksgiving lunch at the woman’s home who runs the American Center. She invited all the Fulbrights and some of her other ex-pat friends for Thanksgiving lunch. Lunch was everything Thanksgiving, and well done too. It was cool to see most of the Fulbrights there, Jen didn’t come. Nafisa had just left her phone on a taxi, but she was quite stable, I know that I would make me a wreck. Really good turkey, pie, cranberry sauce, and potatoes.

Met Karen, another Fulbright, but she’s with the Fulbright-Hayes program, a slightly different scholarship. She’s currently staying with Megan. Cool thing! Karen went to NC State. She graduated 10 years ago, but she went; another alumnus! She also lived in Sullivan Hall for one year. It was real cool to talk North Carolina with her, and about all the NC State stuff we could. She remarked how weird it is to be hearing all these names and places so far around the world.

It’s weird not to be home for Thanksgiving I guess. Every year I’ve been with my family, almost every year in NJ. I hope that I get to talk to some people since they have a bit of a break in their life right now.

I went to Megan’s for Thanksgiving dinner. I was supposed to go see a new house today, but they cancelled on me since they got back from work late. Oh well. Got to spend the whole night at Thanksgiving. Megan had 5 of us over: myself, Karen, Faisal, and two guys from her work who are both medical students. We had chicken instead of turkey. I “carved” the chicken, or in other words, ripped it apart into manageable sized parts. We had pie and rolls courtesy of Jen who had cooked a lot for another Thanksgiving dinner.

12th-3rd in Dhaka 11/23

All plans got cancelled today. Not seeing either house. Dance practice was moved to Sunday. So now nothing to do.

Went to Farhan’s house. Chilled in his room and had some snacks. Listened to music and talked. Saw the music video for my favorite Bangladeshi song “Rong” which was cool. Just a relaxing time. Afterwards we got some petha on the street. I started feeling a bit sick at his house. A bit of a cough and some congestion on the way home.

I forgot to mention last time that petha is only a winter-time treat. Apparently this is the season for petha, and it will be on the streets only for the next month or so. Get it while it’s hot!

I got back and went to Megan’s place, had some leftover Thanksgiving food while sitting around with Jen, Ben, Karen, and Faisal. Later hung out on the roof with Faisal and Karen and Megan. Tried to get me to come to a party. I wasn’t up for it. Wasn’t feeling good. Was congested and coughing more and more. Drank some ginger tea that Karen gave me.

In Dhaka, there are many many signs for concrete and steel. Much more than I ever remember seeing in the US. Why I thought? Do these businesses have a lot money? Are they competing hard for business? Why would they want to advertise so thoroughly to the general public. Wouldn’t they want to focus only on their buyers. But after thinking about it, I realized maybe why it’s like this. Dhaka is the second fastest growing city in the world only to Lagos, Nigeria. So, when you’re growing, you are building a lot. Thus, a market is created where building supplies are not only in high demand, but suppliers must advertise to stay competitive. Thus because of this building boom, and so many things under construction at one time, it becomes a market necessity to make your name known. Any thoughts on this theory?

12th-4th in Dhaka 11/24

I woke up feeling real gross from being sick. Spent the morning at home. Did some studying and other things. My head hurts, my body hurts, and my nose is stuffed. Feeling badddd.
Went to Café Mango for a bit and had some ginger tea.

In the evening I was heading to Jayita’s and Ishita’s Cultural Club’s performance.
Because I got to Jayita’s part of town early, I had some nuts, cookies, and tea on the street in front of their apartment building. Then wet up to meet Ayon and her sister Kakoli to head over.

The performance was in a very nice performance center near Dhaka University called Osmani Memorial Auditorium. Very fancy place, gorgeous grounds. I can’t imagine an NCSU performance of a cultural club arranging such a nice venue.
I sat with Jayita’s sister Kakoli, Ayon, and his sister Sraboni (the one who just got married.) We were in the 3rd row. Well, the official 3rd row, the place was utterly packed, kids were sitting in the aisles and in front of the stage on the ground. Hugely popular event. It was about 2 hours long, and started about a half hour later than the time they told us. There was a real pretty program with essays and pictures. I haven’t gone through it in detail, but I did read Jayita’s essay. Mainly because Ayon read it first, and pointed out to me that she had written about me in there. She and I had had a conversation a few weeks ago about how proud I was to visit all their memorial sites, and how I thought how special their history was. Well this inspired her to include that into her thoughts about how Bangladeshis should be proud of their country’s history in her essay. Glad I was a small inspiration.
The performance was pretty incredible. I was moved to some tears at the beginning when they had a battle scene set in the Liberation War of 1971, followed by the playing of the national anthem with the flag in the background and five different war figures (a crying girl, a victorious soldier, mother holding injured son, and two others I can’t recall)…it was very moving, and I felt how powerful it was.
During the show, Ayon and I snacked on the cookies I’d bought beforehand. The show actually was all in Bengali, and so I didn’t understand 90% of it. But I still got the point of most performances, liked the songs, and laughed at the humorously acted out parts.
Oh, and this whole time I’m feeling pretty sick, ughhhhhh. (pics: Osmani Memorial Auditorium interior, end of show with all club members on stage, close-up of Jayita (in green) and Ishita (third golden shiny shirt from right) at the end)

12th-5th in Dhaka 11/25

Feeling a tad better today, maybe because I forgot to set my alarm and woke up an hour late! Had 10 minutes to get ready for class and get there! Not like they can start the class without me, I’m the only student.

Went to class in a sweatshirt…so comfy, but I’m sick. Test took a long time today to complete, but I also tried writing some complex sentences. Today’s reading was fun, we’re reading about Dubai! I love that place and really want to go one day. Conversation class was fairly relaxed, and Nadia and I recorded a conversation so people (well Saket asked about it) back home can hear me talk, but the quality isn’t so great.

In the evening all the Fulbrights, significant others (if applicable), and friends went to a restaurant together, and Harvey, who is in charge of us came as well with his wife and daughters. We went to a real good Bangladeshi restaurant in Gulshan-2. Actually, there are two restaurants with this name, right near each other. Why? Are they related..not sure? Anyway there was a bit of confusion and preference on which one was meant and which was better. Dinner was delicious. Heard Lauren’s story on how she got mugged the other day. Shared food with Nafisa and her cousin Ridwan who came along. (pics: Karen/Megan/Nafisa/Ridwan at dinner, me/Jen/husband Ben at dinner and I'm wearing Jen's glasses to reenact my Aktel photo shoot experience)

Afterwards we went to Movenpick ice cream parlor…ice cream was pretty good. Got espresso and caramel, but it’s a bit of a fancy place, so their names on the menu consisting of 2 or 3 words were twice as fancy as their taste. (pics: super nice ice cream parlor with Karen and Erin ordering; disappointed in my ice cream spoon which was functionally designed for scooping in deep cups, but not structurally designed for withstanding the hardness of ice cream and thus bending upon scooping and not extracting the ice cream)

Today I also found that Brand New had released a new song…(fork and knife) it is the mastered version of Untitled 07. Excellent!

Skyped with mom and dad! Yay! Always great to do that.

12th-6th in Dhaka 11/26

Why is a bathroom called a water closet? Well, at least here in Bangladesh, it really is a room which could be covered in water, and is about closet size. Since most bathrooms here don’t have special shower basins or tubs, the entire bathroom becomes soaked when you bathe. The shower head is usually in the middle of the room, and the drain is in the center of the bathroom floor. So this closet is usually soaked! For this reason, you always wear sandals in the bathroom. The floor is usually wet all day from showering, so whenever you simply want to use the toilet, and don’t want to get your feet wet, you put the sandals on! These sandals are left outside the bathroom for all to use: visitors and family members.

Went to Arirang with Megan, Jen, Ben, Tuni, Clay, and Kristin. Korean food. Putting a lot of faith in the place since last time I got food poisoning. This time I went with all safe eating options, just in case. Kristin talked to us about her new eco-friendly hotel resort she’s organizing now that she’s post-Fulbright. Tuni and Clay leave Friday to go back to the states…crazy to think I’ll be at that point in 9.5 months.

Everyone has been sick recently, foreigners and Bangladeshis. The “cooler” weather is at fault I guess. It’s now high 70s low 80s during the day instead of being mid 80s...drastic changes!!

Worked on my calendar for my Fulbright project. Recorded what I’ve been thinking about for changes to my project, and listed my goals and action items. Started structuring my schedule, put in the breaks at least!

12th-7th in Dhaka 11/27

Tired in class today. Still a bit sick.

Sujit made an excellent lunch of stuffed bell peppers with mutton and mashed potato cakes. I think it was all leftovers from yesterday, and to tell the truth, this meal was better! He also made some interesting new breakfast today…he gave us thin crepe like pancakes and a sticky molasses like sauce that was made from dates. Very sweet and thick and strong. Could only eat two.

Finished off the calendar after lunch. Added some more details but didn’t want to complete it entirely since I wanted to get Dr. Rahman’s opinion of it.

Had problems printing at home, so I brought it to a printing/copy store near my house in Nadda bazaar…found out its cheaper to print one and copy it many times, than printing anything multiple times.

Dr. Rahman and I met for about an hour. He was not sure how we could apply my new idea of travel journals to the project. I was really interested in keeping track of people’s mode choice habits. Said I need to do a good lit review before I jump into any decisions. Said a good 3 months of reading only at least. Well I start in a little under 2 weeks. I’ll be spending time in the library reading at first. Getting a handle on history and policies of here.

So what one thing I didn’t think about before going to South Africa, and then again here, was where to get a haircut. Maybe other foreigners never think about this either, don’t know. But its quite scary. All of a sudden you get to the point where your hair is getting long, and you realize you have to tell another person to cut your hair the way you want it in another language! And if they mess up, or you don’t get the words across right, your hair is now massacred! Now I guess I could’ve gone to a nice English-speaking barbershop, but, well I didn’t.
So, got the haircut after dinner. I went to a small hole-in-the-wall place in the bazaar near my house. Here, a man goes to a “saloon” to get a haircut. This saloon had chairs for 3. They only use scissors and combs, not sure how clean either were, and don’t have any clippers or actually anything that needed power. Cutting the side of one’s head with scissors is very hard to do as opposed to using clippers. I’m not sure if my guy was being extra careful, but it took him 2 hours to do everything! He must’ve gone back to my sideburns 8 times! He was very careful with them. He shaved my neck with an actual razor, but no shaving cream. In fact, he didn’t use anything but water until he shaved my face. I really didn’t know why he shaved my face, then put more cream on, and shaved it again. As I found out afterward, a man’s face is always shaved twice at the saloon in Bangladesh. He also put shaving cream on my nose, and I’m not sure why, because he just wiped it off after.
I was quite nervous about this haircut, probably why I waited 12 weeks to get one. I guess I’m willing to chance my Bengali on most things in this country, except when it comes to something that’ll be permanent for me. Haven’t been to a doctor yet, that would be similar I assume. But take food for example, if I mess up, I don’t have to eat it…and if it makes me sick, that only lasts one day. But haircut, that could be long term damage! So I was glad it turned out all right. My hair had gotten pretty long, and I was only liking it when it was under my hat
He told me to name my own price. I had heard a haircut should cost Tk50 to Tk80, but I assume those haircuts only take half hour at most. This was a marathon haircut, and he did a great job, and I’m sure he lost business taking all my hair off so carefully. Ultimately I gave him everything in my pockets, Tk160, probably overpaid, but ultimately, it’s only $2.00.


Saket said...


Hate to hear that you've been sick. Get some rest and get better soon. :)

A few things:

-- totally agree with you on the steel/concrete thing. I see the same thing as I drive through parts of Mumbai. You know I heard that when India became independent in 1947/48, there was not a single factory in the country that produce nails. How can you build a country with no steel? So I can see the importance of those basic commodities.

b) Glad to see the Thanksgiving homage. Is there really no way you can find turkey there? Or is it $50 a pound?

What about cheeses? Anything at the market?

c) The water closet really does have an appropriate name, doesn't it. It's the same story at my uncles' places in Mumbai. We always got used to it after a while, but it really makes you look at the bathroom differently when you get back to your home in the States.

d) 3 months of lit review? Are you cereal? Hmmm....maybe you can ask some of your Bengali friends to try keeping a travel journey as a pilot program? Then you can show those to the prof after 2-3 weeks and show them how useful they can be?

e) "I really didn’t know why he shaved my face, then put more cream on, and shaved it again."

hahaha. You paid $2 USD for a haircut? Jeez. I ended up cutting my own hair in Sweden cause I couldn't bring myself to shell out the $40 they were asking for. Next time I go to Mumbai, I'm getting my hair cut at this salon near where my uncle lives. His technique? He uses a *candle* to cut your hair. No joke. A lit candle.

f) Hey I know this is another request, but could you get a photo of Dhaka and put a marker where a lot of these popular places are? like the copy place, the university, your friend's homes, etc?
Maybe Google Maps 'My Maps' feature?

Thanks man! Gotta run to class.

Donny said...

Um...honestly, the only place I knew to find turkey would be at the American Commissary. Cheese can be bought at grocery stores for prices I'm not willing to pay.

Thanks for the research suggestions, I was thinking things along the same lines.

$40 for a haircut.aye! My hair is not worth that much to me. My friend Travis said he kept "Patriotic Hair" while in Australia for 5 months...he didn't cut it til he came home. He declared, "No foreign hands will touch this head!"

I'll do the map thing. I know you and Greg did it. And I wanted to do it too. But didn't know the best place. When I get ample time, after class ends, I'll get it done.

Ben G said...

Haha, they had movenpick in Egypt too. Every time, i couldn't help but think about NC State getting called a foul called on us.