07 November 2007

Week 9: Modelling causes bad eyesight (or A trip to the Martyr's Memorial)

9th-1st in Dhaka 10/31

After class, Shakil and I went to Aarong to return my two fotua I thought were too big. For the price of those two, and a small bit more amount of cash, I was able to buy four new shirts. Tried on a whole bunch and found the ones I liked. Then realized I had forgotten my credit card and didn’t have much taka on me. So I couldn’t buy one of the shirts, and to make up the price of my returned items, had to buy a small something to meet the price: bought a small rickshaw toy.

Afterwards I dropped by Aktel’s advertising agency Benchmark. We discussed the advertisement they want me to model for. They said they were looking for an international, young, professional looking person to model for them…supposedly I fit the bill. The ad, which will be for the Virtual Local Number option in Aktel’s service, will run for about a month in The Daily Star, the biggest English newspaper in the city. There are also might be billboard. So in the photo shoot, which will be Saturday at the airport, I am to bring my nice clothes (jacket, shirt and tie) so I look professional. Also was asked that I be clean shaven and trim my hair just a bit. All makeup will be done at the airport. I’m real interested to see what’s going to come of this.

Forgot when it was, but I saw fights 7 and 8 the other day.

9th-2nd in Dhaka 11/1

Santa and I went down to Ahsan Manzil to go inside as class trip. She had never been down there, and I had never been inside. Went through the Hindu part of Old Dhaka, and she told me how she loves the smell of it, since she is Hindu. Well Ahsan Manzil was closed, only on Thursdays…of course. Why would you ever want to have something open? So now we needed something to make of our trip. We decided to just walk down the river to see if there was anything else. We walked until the road turned to mud, then decided to hire a rickshaw to take us back to Gulistan.

In Gulistan, couldn’t find anything to eat, so she came with me to Dhanmondi where we got some fast food for a late lunch. Ended up not being that eventful, despite our big plans.

Afterwards met Farhan and Ayon and some others at a concert in Dhanmondi. It was inside in a café, and although it was billed it as the Wireless Sessions, implying acoustic, the bands played anything they wanted on whatever electrified instrument they wanted, except they were sitting down instead of sitting. I liked it better than acoustic…which I don’t really care to go watch. The bands mostly played American popular hard rock songs, some alternative, and Bangladeshi rock songs. Very few bands actually played their own music. A few bands were bad enough to get booed, and told to leave stage: this happens by the whole crowd chanting ”boowa boowa”…the band on stage looked like it’s about to cry. One band gave a horrible performance of Korn’s “Freak on a Leash”…they ruined it entirely.

Midway through we got some fuchka and some water. But otherwise just chilled and watched the bands. The crowd mostly sat on the floor in front of the stage, rimmed by two rows of standing folks…perhaps a crowd of 100-150 people watching, with another 30-50 sitting on the couches, unable to see. It was a continuous stream of people walking in and out. (pics: two bands from the show with crowd in front)

I’m glad this was in Dhanmondi, because it’s so close to where I’m going to live soon.

I left the concert late, around 10 pm, and by that point, the buses I’m used to taking home weren’t running anymore. So I needed to figure out how to get across the city. Luckily it was late enough that rickshaws could go wherever they wanted, no street restrictions. I ended up taking a rickshaw to Farmgate, where many of the local buses have a hub, took a bus to Gulshan 2, then from there to my house. It was more expensive than a bus, but in all reality, 3 rickshaw rides and the local bus cost me less than $1.

9th-3rd in Dhaka 11/2

Went to Ayon’s for the day. Farhan, him, and myself chilled in his room, looked through his sister’s wedding photos, listened to music, and worked on fixing his computer. Had lunch at his place, his mom made excellent food. Was very filling. He used to share a room with his sister, but now that she’s married and moved out, he has it all to himself.

Note on new money: New money is delivered in an interesting way. As far as I can tell, new notes are delivered on a piece of string. So each note has a little hole through it, as it is forcibly removed from the end of the string (in a knot.) It looks like the bigger notes have this, Tk 100 and Tk 500, and less often on the smaller notes. Obviously I’m not an expert, can’t say for sure.

Also, one of the most watched sports on TV here, besides soccer and cricket, is pro wrestling, I’m talking about WWE. Vince McMahon and his entertainment wrestling is popular here. Many times I’ll see many men gathered around a TV on the street, and peering over their shoulders, I’ll see men in spandex bodyslamming each other in the ring. Friends always ask if I watch the WWE, and I have to tell them, “No, I think its silly.”

Went to dinner with Nafisa and some of her friends. Pretty good Italian food. Fun dinner, lots of joking around. Afterwards, checked out the upstairs of the restaurant which is a dance club, couples lounge, and movie lounge. Interesting place to say the least. Nafisa left but the rest of us went to Cofi 11, where we got some coffee beverages.

9th-4th in Dhaka 11/3

Today Jennifer McFadden, another Fulbright, and her husband Ben arrived. Really cool to have two new roommates.

Went to play ultimate this morning at the American Comissary, the place where you can get American goods. They have a big field apparently. Well when I got there, about 6 people were outside waiting. They said they commissary complex wasn’t letting them in. They weren’t “on the list”…people who were “on the list’ were inside the guardhouse fighting for us to be let in, because they obviously wanted more people to play. We all waited for about 45 minutes, growing to be about 8 upset people, and ultimately they didn’t let us in, we even had an American security chief come to help us…it sucked. Next week I’ll make sure I’m on that list. It also sucks because they guy who invited me, Steve, a Fulbright from last year, is leaving soon, and I just met him, and will never see him again.

Megan came over to cut my hair later, to trim my neck line, since I needed it for the photo shoot.

Rajibul, one of the guys from Benchmark came over around 1 to pick me up for the Aktel photoshoot. He reviewed my wardrobe here, and also told me to bring a suitcase as a prop. We went to Benchmark’s office first. There they review my wardrobe again. They sent some of my clothing with an office helper to get them ironed at a dry cleaners. We chose my red tie, Aktel’s color. I sat around and waited, talked to the photographer and some other employees. Lunch was served, some rice and egg curry. Afterwards I had makeup done. This was my first time ever having this happen. It was real weird to have some guy adding all this stuff to my face…but truthfully afterwards it didn’t look like I had anything on, I guess that’s a job well done? They then re-did my hair, to make it look young executive style…I would never style it they way they did.

We headed out to the airport for the photoshoot afterwards. This is my first time at the airport since I arrived two months ago, and it was my first time seeing it during the daytime. We had special clearances to come in today, for a short time. We were escorted to the baggage claim area by an airport employee, where we were planning on doing the photo shoot. All the columns had Aktel’s ads on them, so it made sense to do it here I guess. They had to make sure they didn’t have the GrameenPhone signs in the background of shots, or the Banglalink trolleys! The whole airport is sponsored by the phone companies!

During the photoshoot they had me wear glasses to make me look “more executive.” I was fine with this except that they didn’t give me fake glasses, they just gave me some guy’s glasses. So wearing them hurt my eyes and during the shots I had to deal with blurry vision. I rested them on the end of my nose between shots. The photographer took a bunch of different angles, me looking different places, holding my arms different ways, smiling different ways. He shot from different distances, and with and without the suitcase. With me standing, and with me “walking.” For every shot I had a phone to my ear and was smiling. The phone was from one of the Benchmark employees, mine isn’t fancy enough!

On the ride back from the airport, I saw a CNG bus which had exploded. It was still raging in flames when we passed. Tons of people were watching, but didn’t look like anyone was hurt. Later saw fire trucks rushing to the scene, first time seeing fire service here! I see ambulances frequently, and police vehicles sometimes.

And one other neat thing, Rajibul asked me come with his friends and him to Kuakata next weekend. I told him definitely, never thought I’d make it there. Its at the bottom side of the county on the ocean. For some reason at this place you can see the sun rise and sun set over the ocean…don’t exactly understand how this works, but I’ll get to see!

Went to internet café to get emailing/facebooking/fantasy football done. Internet has been down for too long now, and I need to get things done. Only Tk20/hr!!! And real fast connection too! Was there for 1.5 hours. And got a lot done.

Got some pizza at Margherita Pizza and brought it home to eat. Then studied for test as much as I could.

9th-5th in Dhaka 11/4

Today’s midterm was fun. I think I did real well. The listening portion was good. I only missed a little bit of grammar, and wrote a good passage. And in the speaking part, we all ended up laughing and having a good time.

After class I came home found internet to be working after 3 days of being down, and got some needed browsing done.

Headed over to Lauren Clay’s place after, she’s the newest Fulbrighter. Right now she’s house sitting some really rich woman’s place. We chilled there and talked for about 2 hours. The place is on the edge of the Army Cantonement, so you could see inside!

We went around to buy her a fridge, AC unit, hot water heater, and TV. I ended up talking to many of the store owners in Bengali about their products…that was interesting. Was a struggle at times, but fun. Not a situation I usually put myself in. the whole thing was good for me as well since I learned the prices of certain things I’ll have to buy soon enough.

We went to dinner at Nirfa’s…had Thai food. Really creepy Mickey Mouse costumed entertainer there for a child’s first birthday. It had the head of Mickey and big orange furry body…very creepy looking. And it stood there bouncing two balloons. For some reason I found it very scary. Took a picture with it. Dinner was good, and Megan came as well. (pics: view from Nirfa's onto Gulshan-2, scary Mickey Mouse beast watching me eat dinner while waving his balloons, me and the Mickey Mouse & Pluto monsters)

9th-6th in Dhaka 11/5

Today marks two months here!

Today in class got my test back! 41/50…they were very proud of me. Found out Shakil won’t be here certain days now, since he is helping Jen with her Fulbright research.

After class, Shakil, Santa, and I went to the Mag Pai Restaurant and had some chicken briyani. We then hopped on a bus to Farmgate and from there on a bus to Savar. We were off to the see Sriti Shoudho, the National Martyr’s Monument. Took us awhile to get out there due to traffic, I ended up dozing off, and when the bus braked hard one time, my head flew forward and hit the seat ahead of me, despite Santa’s attempt to prevent it.

The monument is made of seven isosceles triangles, stacked one behind the other of different sizes. It honors the three million people who died in the struggle for freedom in 1971. The seven triangles honor the seven stages of the national movement that led to the independence of the nation: starting with the language movement in 1952, five major uprisings in the following two decades, and lastly the war in 1971. Its purpose is to honor the victory fought for by a country full of patriots and freedom fighters. Construction began in 1972, and the entire grounds are 84 acres in size. The place was gorgeous, amazingly landscaped, with bridges and walkways going all over the property. The centerpiece, the monument, can be seen from all different angles, and looks different from behind, the side, and the front. It was very impressive. I took tons of pictures, and so did Shakil, we’re nuts about it. There is a helipad from which there is a great view of the monument. Was very proud to see it. It closed after sundown, and we were there for about 45 minutes. After we went to a restaurant, had a deep fried omelet and some tea. (pics: Shakil/Santa at Sriti Shoudho, myself in front of the monument, monument from the side (looks very different), monument from the border of the grounds, Shakil/Santa walking the grounds, Sriti Shoudho near closing time from outside the grounds)

And funny story: finally brought my fingernails into equilibrium. A few weeks ago I clipped my right hand’s fingernails first, like I usually do, but then got a phone call and had to leave my house. Didn’t have time to clip my left hand. And just forgot to do this for a week when I noticed the left had gotten really long. However, at the time of the second clipping, the right hand wasn’t read to be clipped yet. The left was unbearable, and had to be done…so over the last few weeks I consciously adjusted my nail clipping schedule so that I could bring both hands to a point where they weren’t too short to cut, but not too long that I couldn’t bear it anymore…

Perhaps only I think this was quite a predicament, or I’m that bored here (not true,) but this the whole situation was very interesting for me. I’ve never had my fingernails on my hands be on different clipping schedules.

9th-7th in Dhaka 11/6

Since I snapped a photo of some this week, let me talk about wedding lights. When a family is having a wedding, they hang lights from their house. Usually its just long chains of Christmas-like lights, all white, but I did spot one house with a pretty “elaborate” display (unless it’s not for a wedding, which could very well be, see pic below.) It’s neat to see these hanging around. And I guess during “wedding season” in December, the town will be lit up!

Later met up at NSU to see Jayita. We got some food at Western Grill and talked for 2.5 hours.

Went bowling with Tamzid after. Bowling alley had 6 lanes, electronic scoring, and some greasy bowling balls. The lanes looked in decent condition, couldn’t tell if there were any deformations in it, but maybe. Tamzid has only bowled a few times. We played 3 games, I got 100, 160, then a pitiful 89, worst score in years. 160 is my best since I bowled 190 this summer, and I was glad since I have been averaging 136 since then. Well until my 100 and 89 today. We’ll blame those two scores on first time in bowling in Bangladesh! (pics: Tamzid bowling, myself bowling...and I swear I got a strike on that throw)

After we went to a Vietnamese restaurant. I couldn’t tell you if it was authentic or not, but it was delicious. We got the wrong food, and ended up being there a long time since we had to wait for the order to be fixed.

One note on menus, since I’m talking about restaurants. Errors in English on menus or shop signs are very frequent. In fact, the majority of menus at a cafés may have between 15-20 errors in spelling. Never to the point where you can’t determine it, but enough to the point that it makes reading an adventure.

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