06 December 2007

Week 13: Are you a soccer, cricket, or museum kind of guy?

13th-1st in Dhaka 11/28

Today was museum day. Both classes took a trip to the Liberation War Museum and the National Museum.
The Liberation Museum was very powerful. It goes through an incredible amount of detail describing what led up to the war in 1971, and then even more information about what happened during the war, including personal stories. They’ve collected tons of documents, photos, and objects from the war period, and aim to describe every painful detail.
The museum showed a 10 minute long film while we there, so we went in the theater to watch. It was very engaging, and showed excellent footage, showing the mostly foreign audience views of the war they were likely largely unfamiliar with.
The displays were both in Bengali and English. Sometimes I saw that the Bengali description was a few times longer than the English, but I was okay with it. Even with that, it still took me two hours to go through the 2-story museum which wasn’t much bigger than a house. There was just so much to read, absorb, and understand. For someone who knows only a handful of dates and names, it’s a bit difficult to grasp it all. For someone who knows nothing at all, this museum would be very overwhelming, not just in the volume of information, but also in the emotion behind it all.
Seeing and reading about some of the things that Pakistan did to the Bangladeshis when they were still in control made me tear at points. For me, and others, the worst event was what occurred two nights before Pakistan surrendered. They decided before they left they should kill all of Bangladesh's top doctors, educators, scientists, and philosophers. In the middle of the night they went to their homes, took them away, and murdered hundreds of them. Then left Bangladesh two days later. There was no strategic purpose to this; they knew they were surrendering soon, so to do just one more bit of damage before departing, they did this.
What’s incredible to me is that people here still remember the horrors of that war.
Three million people were killed in genocide then. People have mothers who were raped during the war. It’s incredible. I can't imagine living in the US thirty years after the civil war for example. To know of the horrors which happened on your land just such a short time ago...(pics: displays at Liberation War Museum, Erin/Santa at lunch between museums)

The National Museum is exactly the opposite of the Liberation War Museum. It’s several stories tall and looks like a museum; a large imposing structure with beautiful grounds. And inside, it is full of, well, very little information compared to the size of the building. The top floor has some reproduction of paintings from elsewhere in the world, a room of international dolls (the US dolls were represented by two Barbies and a doll that was obviously a gift shop toy purchased in New Orleans (the words New Orleans were on the doll’s dress,) and some other raggedy gift-shop like doll.)
Downstairs there were floors with Bangladeshi art, historical items, clothing, musical instruments….just a collection of everything a national museum should have about its respective country. Downstairs there were more scientific displays about Bangladesh’s geological history and agricultural history. Also displays on cultural life.

Went to Megan’s in the evening and we listened to the first 12 tracks of the Radiohead 01 and 10 mix that I’ve mentioned before. So, I did my senior English thesis on OK Computer, a bit of a concept album, and compared it to Catcher in the Rye. I remember when I was analyzing the album that many times I felt stuff was happening between songs that wasn’t being explained. For example, between Exit Music and Letdown, I felt something tragic must’ve happened and I could only postulate what. But when you stick Weird Fishes/Arpeggi in there, it’s like turning on a light and you see what happened to the two lovers in the songs who’ve escape. Or, how about Bodysnatchers right before Subterranean Homesick Alien! We only did the first half because it was getting late, but supposedly the last 10 songs is where the two albums really mesh. Will give my final opinion after it’s all over.

13th-2nd in Dhaka 11/29

Starting to be sad that class is going to be over soon. Will miss the fun we have every day.

In class we learned to cook. Farah taught us how to make pulao and chicken gorma. Everything has a lot of fat, I’ll tell you that. But also a variety of spices: mostly cardamom and cinnamon. We put that in both dishes. It took 2 hours to cook it all. It was fun to learn everything, and see how some of my two favorite dishes are cooked. Erin wrote down what we were doing step by step, so many ingredients. Ultimately, I’ll copy them down from her, but these dishes look like it takes practice to get just right. If I make them in the US I’ll likely have to go Indian grocery store to buy all the ingredients.

I’m not sure if I ever officially said that food is eaten with your hand here. All food, well except soup. And it’s always the right hand…never never your left. Your left hand is reserved for bathroom business. I was once told, when you use the hand to eat, it’s supposed to make you feel closer to your food. You get to feel the textures, which they say makes things taste better. Yes, your hand gets very messy, but it’s not rude to lick your hand and fingers. Since the staple of all food is rice, it’s important to understand how to eat it correctly. You push your rice grains together, mushing them into a ball almost, then pick up the ball with your four fingers, and bring it up to your mouth, then push it into your mouth using the thumb. Because your left hand isn’t being used for eating, you can use it to grasp your water glass and drink. However, I’ve noticed that many folks here don’t drink a sip until the meal is over, then they drink the whole thing in one gulp.
Anyway, because you eat with your hand, you want to make sure it’s clean before you eat with it. So that’s why all restaurants have several sinks right in the restaurant, and you wash your hands after you order. And then, since your hand is all messy and greasy, you wash it at the same sinks afterwards. In homes, sometimes there is a sink right in the dining room for washing.

In the evening I went to Nafisa’s aunts house for dinner. Talked with her uncle and his friends for the beginning. One guy was in from Florida and he works for the Florida DOT, so we talked about one project he is working on, the new Orlando beltway.
Hung out with Ishraq for dinner. Dinner was delicious as usual. They had a lot of company over. After dinner had a conversation with one of their sons there. A 9 year old boy who was proud to show me he could speak English. So we had a conversation, him speaking English and myself speaking Bengali.

13th-3rd in Dhaka 11/30

Went to Saquib’s house today. Was a great time.
I waited for Farhan at the bus stand since I got there when he told me to meet him but he arrived 30 minutes late. While I waited I talked to two of the bus ticket guys sitting at their tables under their umbrellas. They asked what I was doing, how I know Bengali, the typical questions. I asked them how long they sit there every day, what time they arrive. 8 hours a day, 7 days a week they work these counters. I think it’s a fun job. All this action around you, ever few minutes a mad rush for tickets. Friends come to hang out with you and talk. In fact, conversations always seem to spring up at these ticket counters.
Farhan arrived and we took the bus to Uttara.

We chilled in Saquib’s room for most of the day. Looked at pictures, listened to music, and watched music videos. Opu and Ayon showed up after about an hour separately, it was the 5 of us all day. Arm wrestled, listened to music. Sometime after a delicious lunch served my Saquib’s mom, we went up to the roof, cricket ball and bat in hand! (pics: Farhan/Ayon arm wrestling, Saquib taking a photo of Farhan/Opu arm wrestling, Ayon sporting Saquib's hat, Saquib/Opu)

On the roof we played cricket. It was a lot of fun. For the first time I got to bowl and bat. Ayon taught me the basic points of each. We switched off who was bowling, batting, and fielding in a cycle. We had to bowl and bat softly since we didn’t want the ball going off the edge of the roof and falling seven stories to the ground. Well, one of my bowls was maybe too hard, and Opu’s hit too hard as well, and the ball went over the side into the grassy area 7 stories below next to the apartment building. Three of us went downstairs and had to get some kid to hop the fence for us to get our ball back. (pics: our playing area with Saquib/Farhan/Opu, Opu hitting a ball bowled by Ayon, Ayon batting, oooooopsssss ball is now 7 stories down, myself batting, Ayon giving me pointers on batting, myself hitting a ball bowled by Farhan)

Later we climbed above the elevator shaft building to get an even better view. Uttara is quite impressive. 5-8 story apartment buildings as far as the eye can see. And it’s growing! It’s the main suburb of Dhaka. People are migrating out here at a good rate. In fact, just from the roof of Saquib’s apartment building, a 360 degree turn will allow you to spot over 50 new apartment buildings nearby. The growth is incredible. Its places like Uttara that is causing Dhaka is growing as fast as it is. (pics: how many new apartments being built can you spot in Uttara?, Saquib/Farhan on Saquib's roof in Uttara, Opu/Ayon, Opu/Ayon/me/Farhan posing)

I took a bus to Dhanmondi where I was meeting Nafisa and Khalid for a late Thanksgiving dinner at Khalid’s grandmothers house. Lot of people I knew there, Elizabeth and her Australian roommate, Naira’s and Khalid’s friends Nadia and Samia.
Desert was pretty delicious. They made a pumpkin “cake” and were worried about the results. A delicious chocolate cake, the kind that makes you want to get a drink afterward…milk would be best, but even a coke or water will do. Yum. (pic: Nafisa/Khalid cutting the pumpkin "cake")

13th-4th in Dhaka 12/1

I went running, longest yet. Measured out that Baridhara is roughly 1000 meters long for running, and about ¼ mile wide. My old runs were about 2 miles, and the run I did today was about 2.75

How do you count? Just with you fingers? Well the Bangladeshi way is much more effective. I’d seen it for a few weeks, but I’d never thought twice about what was happening. But it was Megan who finally pointed it out to me. Bangladeshis use the lines on their fingers to count. Look at your hand, on each finger there are 3 pronounced lines, even on your thumb…look close! Then, if you add your fingertip, each finger has 4 points to count. Bangladeshis count this way, tapping their thumb along each line and then on the finger tip…and lastly use their index finger to count the thumb. In this way, you can get up to 20 on just one hand! 40 using both hands! It’s quadrupling your hand counting capacity! Pretty neat. Try it out, maybe you’ll get converted.

13th-5th in Dhaka 12/2

I headed out to find Guide Tours to book my parents and my trip to the Sundarbans in March. Finding the office was a bit of an issue. Sat down with them and received trip options that I’ll explore and choose for my parents and myself. It’ll be a 4-day 3-night trip, likely at the end of their stay due to the timing of things.
Left, and went across the circle to check out if I could get the strap on my hat shortened…my favorite cap from H&M has a real long strap, and I thought it looked silly. And since they say you can get anything and everything done on the streets here, I was searching out someone to cut it and resew it. Found a guy with a sewing machine on the streetside, in the back of bazaar, asked him. He did, and I gave him Tk 20. We chatted about his son and my studies while he worked. Some other guy came over during and also talked with us.
Next went to find a badminton racket. Checked three stores, two sport specific stores and one shop in the bazaar. After asking about prices and the like finally decided on a racket in my price range. Also but a shuttlecock. I bought a low-to-mid range racket so if it gets stolen I won’t be sad. And at least its not cheap and break in the first game.

After dinner went to Gulshan Park to play badminton. It’s been a few months, so my lack of skill to those I was playing with really showed. I got to play 4 games, the first 2 with a guy who asked me if it was my first time every playing L Played the other 2 games with folks who seemed to be of lesser skill level, the category I fit into. I only played co-ed intramurals with Kristen in college and took badminton as a course sophomore year.

I like that pickup games just happen at local parks, every night, for a few hours. They only play in the winter because it’s cooler out unlike the hot hot summer. But they’ll play all winter. I’m looking forward to doing this most nights. Talked to a few people there, but was nervous to say the least. My skill isn’t as good, in badminton or in Bengali, so I’m sure I look a bit foolish. I’ll try my best to keep my head up.

13th-6th in Dhaka 12/3

Headed down to Bangabandhu national stadium. A big soccer match today! Mohammedan vs. Abahani, the two best teams in the country. It was a best-of-3 series, with proceeds benefiting the Sidr victims. This was game 1. Apparently whenever the two teams play, it is always very heated, so even though these were Friendly matches, they aren’t necessarily friendly. Fans or players. A bit of history on what makes these teams such big rivals, as explained to me by Shakil:
Sheikh Mujib Rahman’s (the leader of the Liberation Movement in Bangladesh in 1971) eldest son started Abahani. Because the Awami League political party rose out of this family, leading eventually to Sheikh Hasina, recent president of Bangladesh and now in jail, this team is frequently supported by those who are in the Awami League.
Mohammedan was first organized by the royal family of Dhaka who lived in Ahsan Manzil in Old Dhaka. It was started in the 1930s and in modern times has received support from those in the government of Bangladesh, mainly because the Bangladesh National Party has been in power, and they are rivals of the Awami League. In fact, those who don’t like the Awami League support Mohammedan, plain and simple. Much of this team’s fan base is in Old Dhaka, because the ties the royal family had with that part of the city.

Abahani has its own practice field in Dhanmondi, while Mohammedan practices on either some of the Army’s fields, or the police’s fields.
Abahani’s colors are light blue and yellow and Mohammedan is black and white.
Because Ayon supported Abahani, I decided I would too, but by the end of the game, I was against Mohammedan for valid reasons.

The game resulted in a tie. Many scoring chances throughout the game, but nothing materialized. The action got hotter throughout the game. With about 10 minutes left, a fight broke out in the midfield. And the captain of Abahani (also the captain of the Bangladesh national team) and one of the best defensemen of Mohammedan were ejected. They both left the stadium to much riled yells from both sides of the crowd. The crowd, just like at concerts when they don’t like a band, started yelling “boo-wah, boo-wah!” (pic: the fight which got the two players ejected)

The crowd was definitely heated toward each other, even in the more expensive seating section in which Ayon and I were sitting. At one point, the Abahani goalkeeper made a miraculous save, and one guy supporting that side next to us stood up and gave a yelp of joy, shaking his arms in the air. Some guy 5 seats over, supporting Mohammedan, immediately stood up and started barking at the Abahani fan, “Sit down, sit down, shut up!!”…very emotional on both sides. And this wasn’t even that crazy of a match apparently! (pic: guy on far right was the Abahani supporter and four guys over is the Mohammedan supporter during a heated point in the match)

What made me decide to dislike Mohammedan was how they treated the end of the game. After the two squads tied, Abahani quickly came back to wait on the field for the expected shoot-out. However, Mohammedan went to their bench and started collecting their things. No one knew what was happening. Then Mohammedan began to walk off the field! Mayhem! Crowd is booing/cheering, going crazy. Abahani is just standing there wondering what is going on. Then, one of the VIPs who was sitting near us in a special booth goes down to the field. Ayon pointed out to me earlier this man was one of the great players in Bangladesh history, now much older. He used to play for Mohammedan. He goes down and talks the players back into doing the shootout. Meanwhile people all over the field are yelling at each other. The crowd is cheering going wild and seem to be on the verge of fighting. I was pretty turned off by Mohammedan’s action. What would stop you from playing a shootout for CHARITY?! Anyway, they ended up winning the shootout…dang, I wanted Abahani to win. (pics: Abahani waits midfield for a shootout while Mohammedan walks off, ex-Bangladeshi soccer star convincing his former team to do the shootout, Mohammedan wins the shootout they didn't even want to play)

The food during the game was interesting. There weren’t any official stadium food vendors. All food vendors were from the street who bought a ticket to come into the stands, and then sold their food. Peanuts, tea, potato chips, water, and soda were some of the options. As well you could buy a crushed chick pea, tomato, and onion with spices mixture which is real popular. We bought some peanuts, tea, and the chick pea stuff. Prices weren’t any higher than they would be on the street, except for the tea guy, who blamed it on having to buy a ticket to the game. (pics: Ayon with his tea, nuts wrapped in old Bangladeshi newspaper, food hawker who had to buy a ticket to sell his food, the popular snack he sells)

From the stadium you can see the National Mosque. The game lasted through two azans, so it was neat to hear the azan singing while the game was happening. About 50 fans gathered near the north end of the stadium and did their prayers in the stands during the game. (pic: white building outside stadium is the National Mosque)

The Boy Scouts were helping out at the game. They helped collect tickets and during the game they were the ballboys. Also carried a banner when the teams were brought out. They had similar uniforms and some of the same patches as those in the US. I got some pictures with some of them after the game. We talked about scouting in our own countries for only a short time, but enough to exchange some ideas. Since we shook with our right hand, I asked them why they don’t shake with their left, as this is supposed to be the international scout handshake. Well they explained to Ayon and me that Bangladeshi scouts used to shake with their left hand, like all scouts in the world, but when Ziaur Rahman was President of Bangladesh, he gave a decree that all Bangladeshis should shake with their right hand, and thus the scouts followed suit, a show of loyalty to the then young nation. I also asked where they meet, and with the help of Ayon’s translation, we understood that there are two branches of scouting here, the educational branch and the non-educational branch, the latter which he was part of. Not exactly sure what that meant, but I’ll guess and say it means certain troops are associated with schools, while he, at 21, is not in school anymore, and its only a club. I think what he does is similar to the US’s Venture Scouts. Ayon told me that the common activities Boy Scouts are known for in Bangladesh is camping and service projects. Just like American scouts! Was very excited to meet them, and I hope vice versa. (pics: Boy Scouts with a banner midfield before the game, a Boy Scout ballboy, Bangladeshi Boy Scouts, and a shot with me)

After the game, I bought a Bangladeshi flag on the street and a headband for Ayon and myself for next time we go to a match. Victory Day is coming up, so flags are being sold all over now.

Day ended poorly. Sadly. I accidentally put a lock on my phone, and don’t have the code to unlock it. Spent a lot of time tonight trying to figure out what to do. Sujit tried taking it to the store to get it unlocked, and they couldn’t help. My friend Toma, who works at Aktel, my service provider, assured me online she could get it to work, so I’ll go by tomorrow.
Also got upset at badminton, I think I was being teased in Bengali for my lack of skill. Eh, that’s never fun.

13th-7th in Dhaka 12/4

We cooked khichuri and three types of fish today in class. Our second cooking class in one week. Food was good again. We made a dessert this time called firnni. It requires to be stirred the entire time! So that was my job for about 15 minutes. All was delicious in the end.

Midway through, I had to go to the Aktel office to get my phone fixed. Toma met me there, and gave me all my codes, and helped me get the phone working again.

Went to Lavendar’s (grocery/everything store) upstairs where they have toys. Saw a really cool board game where you have to navigate the streets of Delhi, India in your taxis, collecting fares, avoiding traffic signals, and competing for things…I thought it was a real cool transportation related game! I’ll buy it at some point.

The use of bamboo here is quite impressive. Its strength is used in many applications, whether to construct carts to pull heavy machinery around or to make ladders for workers. But one of the most impressive uses is to support the formwork for setting concrete. As buildings go up floor by floor, the bamboo takes the load of the wet concrete. Also, on this note, many buildings are occupied even while being constructed. Many buildings are occupied in the lower levels since they have been completed, and as the owner’s get more money, they complete the building floor by floor. So it’s common to see a several story apartment building, with drying clothes hanging out windows, and the top floor is a forest of bamboo posts holding up the next floor of setting concrete. (pic: bamboo supporting new concrete)


Saket said...

considering the week I'm having here...reading this post was one of the highlights. wow.

loved the part about eating with your hands. see! it's not all that strange! it's just normal for me...its how we roll. :) i'm left handed and eat with my left hand, but i know it kinda puts off people when i'm back in india. whatever though.

its good to see you've picked up the BETTER way of counting with your fingers! i learned this from my parents when i was really young. could never figure out why my peers in school were using their entire finger. my mom did it once in class when she was a substitute teacher, and the entire class wanted to know what she was doing. its way better.

what a neat experience at the soccer match.

man, i showed a friend of mine your post. it's so amazing to me how much you make the most of any situation you're in. how if you're waiting a bus stop, you look around and chat to people around you. Can you imagine how much you probably make those people's days? "This total stranger - a American - came and talked to me. In Bengali! And actually wanted to listen to me."

Keep it up man.

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