03 November 2007

Week 8: Always at NSU it seems, and then I see the sites

(lost internet in my house for several days, posting from internet cafe, but can't get pics to load...that is why this is late, that is why there are no pics yet)

8th-1st in Dhaka 10/24

Tried on my new fotua this morning, and they look bigger than they did in the store. Will need to go back to Aarong to exchange.

Class today, I taught Shakil how to use facebook in Bangla. That was a fun way to have a conversation class. And I had a good verb practice class. Class has been going very well. I feel I’m improving at a better rate now. My listening is a bit better, I feel I’m thinking of things faster and am more comfortable with complex structures.

Mosquitos have just picked up. Its getting cooler, and they will increase as time goes on. There are more and more in my room every night, and my arms have been eaten up. Need to put my mosquito net up soon around my bed.

Today after class I went to the American Center to pick up a package and a postcard. Afterwards met with Jayita at her university. Just cool to hang out for two hours. Went to a store to buy a gift for a friend of hers, I tried on two different fotua, but the sleeves were too short for my arms. Went to a bakery and got some snacks, sat and ate them and talked. Saw her cousin Sreyoshi twice in the afternoon. North South University is a small place. Just a few buildings over 1.5 city blocks. All skyscrapers. You need an ID to enter any of these buildings. So when it comes to me hanging out there, it has to be on the streets. Stayed around til she went to class.

Had dinner at Nafisa’s aunt’s home. Hung out with Ishfaq and her for a bit, then Ishraq came home. We had dinner, and it was delicious. They gave me “a seat at the table.” Had dessert. Her cooking is great, and I really enjoyed being there, like part of the family. Ishraq invited me to play soccer on Friday. I think I’ll go. It’ll be fun.

8th-2nd in Dhaka 10/25

Wanted to touch on the fact of English words in the Bengali language. It seems my fellow students and I all have the same problem of pronouncing out an English word in Bengali script. This mainly comes from the fact that English words in Bengali end up having conjuncts, two letters forming into one, because that’s how English is structured in its sounds. Also, we’ll sound out a word when reading, and ask our teacher what it means, and they tell us it’s an English word…we rarely realize. One example I’ll always remember was sounding out “apple” written in Bengali script. I asked my teacher what it meant, and she was shocked…it’s “apple” duh!! But we always expect something different. And even if you’re expecting English words, sometimes the word isn’t as you would expect it to be sounded out. For example, the word “winner” when pronounced from Bengali script looks like “u-i-ner”…because there is no “w” in Bengali. So it can get quite confusing, and I’m not alone. All us students have the most trouble with these the most…the teachers are always boggled and confused with us.
Names are tough too. There is no capitalization, so you never know which words are names of places or people. You sit there and look in the dictionary, and can’t find it there, and get stumped. But I’ve had native speakers say that sometimes they are confused as well. Glad to have company.

Shakil, Santa, and I took a CNG to Bashundara City, the place I have been wanting to go to since arriving. I had first read about it on wikipedia when I started learning about Dhaka. It’s the largest mall in the city, with the largest cinema. At eight stories tall, its enormous. Tons of stores on all the floors. 8th floor is only eateries, huge food court, at least 40 stores. 7th floor is empty, not enough tenants to fill it in yet. The place is sectioned off into different areas…so if you want to buy electronics you go to the first floor east side. Sharees are almost an entire floor. Men’s clothing is floor 4. After eating lunch with Santa and Shakil (a small one for me since my stomach still wasn’t happy) Santa left, and Shakil and I explored the mall. So much cool stuff that I want to buy at such cheap prices. Of course, this is an expensive place to buy it, but good to brainstorm. Shakil said only the upper class shop here. Middle class will come only to browse and watch people. (pics: Shakil/Santa at Bashundara City for lunch, Bashundara City exterior, stained glass roof there, 8 stories of shopping, a never ending hallway of shops)

Shakil and I headed down to Nilkhet market after. Let me tell ya, if you ever want to have something copied, this is the place. In all directions all the shops were just there to make copies. I don’t know what the demand is, but its enough that this place exists. Shakil said he printed and bound his entire thesis here. Pretty neat. We met a friend of Shakil’s there. (pic: just one of hundreds of copy centers)

We went next to Chandrima Uddan. This monument is to the once president of Bangladesh Ziaur Rahman. He played a pivotal role in the war of indepence in 1971. He was murdered a decade after in a military coup. The monument is right near the parliament building. Since it was at night, both were lit up gorgeously. What a sight! A bridge crosses a thin man-made lake to get to the shrine. His coffin is there in the middle of a pool of water, with a patch of grass growing on top. A pyramid of steel beams tops the monument, supported on four sides by concrete walls holding up slopes of earth. Behind the monument, opposite side from Parliament, is a library, but it’s not in use. We spent only a few minutes here. Shakil and his friend seemed to be in a rush to get somewhere. But it’s gorgeous. I guess I’ll go back some other time in the light, which will make it all look different. This place was packed though. Familes, people on dates, friends…it was jammed. (pics: a blurry one of the inside of the monument; Ziaur Rahman's tomb with grass on top, water around, and moon above; view from library to Chandrima Uddan with parliament in background(a bit blue))

Lastly we went to BCS Computer City. Where every store sells computer stuff at low prices. I was going to buy a Flahs drive, 4 GB to back up my pictures here. Shopped a few stores, but prices didn’t vary much. Ended up buying it for Tk3350, less than $50.

8th-3rd in Dhaka 10/26

Today my Dad Vail bracelet fell off. It was during a game of basketball. I went up for a shot and the defender graced my arm enough that the weak bonds still holding the plastic together could not stay. I saw it laying on the ground right after. So lonely, without a home. I am proud to have worn it so long. 5 months and 15 days. Halfway around the world. (pics: broke exactly where I said it would when I circled it, the broken Dad Vail bracelet)

Today I also went with Megan to the house of the artist who paints the paintings in her house. He’s good friends with the man who runs our language program, whose house Megan is using. He’s been all over the world showing his artwork. He taught at NC State as a guest teacher for a bit, so he even knows about Raleigh. Never met an artist in his studio before, can’t recall if I’ve ever met a professional artist before. His home is covered with half finished to almost finished paintings. We had lunch with his wife, a young Spanish friend of his, and another man who occupies a room in his house.

Later went to play soccer and basketball with Ishraq at Gulshan Park. He meets with a group of guys on weekends to play pickup games. We played 2 games of basketball and one game of soccer in about 2 hours. I haven’t sweat or been exercising like that in a long time. I’ve taken it easy since crew ended. I felt great though to play. I’m not the best at either, but great to run up and down the court. We played both games on the basketball court, so it was a small soccer field.
Bought TimTams at a local store…did some Tim Tam Slams!

8th-4th in Dhaka 10/27

I went to Farhan’s place. He lives in Mogh Bazar. Way back, over the train tracks. We basically hung out in his bedroom for 5 hours. We snacked on potato chips and oranges and some 7up. We talked mostly about music. I gave him a CD full of mp3s of my favorite bands, and we listened to some of that. He played me some of his Bangladeshi music, and his other favorite American music. We jammed on guitar.

Picked up dinner beforehand from Margherita Pizza, watched the soccer game til food was ready, and brought it to Megan’s place to eat.

8th-5th in Dhaka 10/28

Met up with Farhan and Saquib at North South University to see a photography exhibit by the NSU photography club. Some pictures from the club’s trip to Rajasthan in India. Hope I get to go there.

Went to lunch with them and Sreyoshi and another friend of hers at Dominous Pizza. Pretty good pizza. Just hung out there for like 2 hours eating, chatting, and taking pictures. A lot of fun. They don’t always speak in English, which is expected, but I try really hard to understand what they’re saying in Bengali. It’s real good for me to listen to them speak. Farhan came over to my place after to just chill and we looked through some of my pictures.

8th-6th in Dhaka 10/29

Played a word game in class for 45 minutes. Say a word, last letter has to be the first letter in the next person’s word. Just a game to help me think of all vocabulary I know. Fun way to have a class.

This morning when I woke up, Saifullah had texted me about being part of an Aktel advertisement. Said his coworkers had liked me for an advertisement they are putting out.

After class I went straight to NSU again. Hung out with Farhan, Ayon, and Saquib. We chilled at a pool hall for a bit waiting to get a table. Meanwhile they read my Bengali journal, not by my wish. They saw my writings while we were sketching Ayon and Jayita’s family tree so I could understand how they were exactly related, and then asked me if they could read what I’d written in Bangla. They then corrected my mistakes. Later met at Salsa, another Mexican place for lunch with Sreyoshi and another of her friends. We all got some rice and just chatted. Jayita came by later. It was cool just to be there for a few hours. (pic: Sreyoshi and friends on NSU's street in Banani, Saquib and Farhan being photographed/disturbed while eating)

I’m keeping up with some of their conversations. It’s good. I’m not too alone in Bengali anymore. And I’m adding my bits in my speech as much as I can. Farhan even pointed out at one point that he was asking questions in English and I was answering in Bangla, and I hadn’t even realized.

Afterwards, Sreyoshi had the idea to take a walk along the Baridhara side of Gulshan Lake, near my house. Well, surprisingly, I was the only one who knew how to get there as I do it all the time, and they never have a need to. So I led them over, and got two rickshaws for us. Five of us, Sreyoshi, Farhan, Saqub, and Ayon. We got there, and walked the length of it, snapping some photos and fooling around. I’ve always wanted to go this place with friends. I told Saquib, who is a good photographer, to take some shots with my camera since he was without his. Sreyoshi was extremely happy, apparently she’s wanted to do this for a long time. (pics: Ayon/Sreyoshi/me walking down path at lake, the guys: Saquib/Farhan/me/Ayon, Sreyoshi/Farhan/me/Ayon, making Saquib and Farhan laugh)

8th-7th in Dhaka 10/30

We went for a boat trip after class, Shakil, Santa, and me. Hopped on two different buses to go all the way out to Mirpur.

For the next part to make sense, let me describe how 3-4 people sit in a rickshaw. There is only seating for two, so the first person sits on the top of the back of the seat. One leg goes in the middle of the seat, and the other outside the rickshaw on the wheel cover. Person 2 sits between person one’s legs, on the edge of the seat. Person 3 squeezes next to person one’s inner leg and sits on the seat….person 3 has the best seat. Person 4, if necessary, would sit behind person 3, like person 1 behind person 2. (pic: best photo of how this is...I'm sitting in Shakil's "lap", his left leg is between Santa and me, he's sitting up on the edge of the back of the seat)

We got to Mirpur, and took a rickshaw to the river, three of us jammed in. The road was horrible, many parts missing, with huge potholes. Wasn’t a pleasant ride. The river is embanked with tall dikes, with a road running along the top. Got to the river, and found a boat stand. When we told the rickshaw driver to stop, he thought it’d be a good idea to pull off the road, onto the shoulder, which went down at a steeper slope. Shakil and I are sitting pretty much in each other’s laps, I’m person 2, on the outer side of the rickshaw (shoulder side). So when we pull off, our side is the first to leave the road, and the weight imbalance almost makes the rickshaw tip over…if I hadn’t stuck my leg out to brace us, we would’ve flipped. The rickshaw’s tire on our side bent as we tipped. It was the driver’s fault. And we were a bit pissed he risked it like that.

To recover we got some tea and cookies at a riverside stand before getting in our boat. (pic: recovering at tea shack)

Got in the boat, which was about 3 feet wide, 15 feet long, and was covered for most of its length by a curved roof. It was pretty tippy, and Santa was freaking out near the beginning. Rightfully so, Shakil and I sat in back with the boat paddler, and so we were weighted down in back, with Santa’s end sticking high out of the water. The middle wasn’t a good spot to sit since it was covered, and you can’t see anything. So in a few minutes I crawled up to the front with Santa, and I stayed there because we were more balanced. Took tons of photos The two of them are a lot of fun to hang out with. The sun set while we were on the water; out there for about 45 minutes. (pics: Shakil, captain of our lil' craft; me/Santa at the bow of the boat; Shakil at stern, Santa in the bow, with the roof between; Shakil after the sun set; me laying down along the floor of the boat)

After, we took two rickshaws back to Mirpur, no tipping this time!!! Santa and I took a bus back to Gulshan since she lives near me, and Shakil went back to his house. Santa and I got dinner at a restaurant on Bishwa road, I had pasta with alfredo sauce!!! Yumm…and had some of her kebabs.


Saket said...

What is a fotua?

Wow it seems like you got quite a network of friends! Awesome.

I can sympathize a bit regarding the english in bengali script. You know, hearing about how good you're getting with the language is really an inspiration for me. I'm starting to read through my gujurati book now too. My primary goal is to get a fundamental understanding of verb conjugation and sentence structure. These are the things I stumble the most with when trying to speak. 2nd most important goal is to memorize the alphabet so I can read the script.

Chandrima Uddan sounds like a cool place. Looking forward to seeing pictures from there, if you can get them.

What's the word on the advertisement?! How weird is that. Greg is probably gonna be in a Siemens advertisement.

One favor I have to ask you: can you record yourself having a conversation in Bengali with something? I really want to hear it! :)

Donny said...

check here for a picture of a fotua:

I'm so glad to hear about Gujarati! I know you'll get to where you want to be.

Hope you like pics now that I've posted them.

The advert will be talked more about in the next post. But it's gonna be running in newspapers for a month starting next week I believe. Crazy stuff. Crazy that Greg will be in one too!

I'll get that conversation recorded...just means bringing my voice recorder to class one day.