12 December 2007

Week 14: Class wraps up, unwrapping my research, and getting tied in knots at dance practice

At Saket's request, I've started making a map which I've pinpointed the places in Dhaka that I mention in my blog. I've linked it at the side for future reference, but here it is for the first time!

14th-1st in Dhaka 12/5

Today finishes up 3 months.

Class was slow today. Last day before exam. Will be really sad when its all over.

After class, went to American Center to pick up two postcards from Sandee and a wedding gift thank you note from Jenna.

Went to the bank to get Tk10 notes. I gave two Tk500 notes, and got one hundred Tk10 notes in exchange. Tk10 notes, as I’ve mentioned, are “worth” more than their value, since no one ever accepts a Tk500 note, but Tk10 are always being used. They are a hot commodity to hold onto. But now no worry, I have a plethora!

Spent most of the afternoon and late night studying for exam. Prepped one more time to make sure I knew all the names of the districts.

I went to Naira’s house for our first gaye holud dance practice. It looks like it’ll be 4 guys and not sure yet how many girls. The guys, I knew two already, are Naira’s younger brother’s friends. Her sister was there, the one getting married, so I met her the first time. We worked on Mast Kalander, which actually was one of the songs that was at the last gaye holud I went to…looks like we’ll be dancing to it too. Got sweaty. It’s a lot of fun. I can’t wait to perform. More on this later, but not much now, scheduled next practice for tomorrow. Think we’ll maybe practice every day now til wedding.

There are no ovens (okay, of course there are some) in Bangladesh. My house doesn’t have one, very few people I know have them. As far as I can tell, no main dish here requires the oven’s use in preparation. Curries and rice dishes which are primarily eaten, are cooked over a stove. However, the microwave oven is essential! With only a few stove tops, and so many dishes, you have to be able to reheat the food quickly before the meal. But, maybe I’m just not looking in the right places.

14th-2nd in Dhaka 12/6

Today was the final exam. It had 5 parts: writing, listening, grammar, reading, and conversation. Then there was the final extra credit that we had set up, to name all the districts of Bangladesh and the 6 main rivers…for a total of 70 items. I did as good as I thought I would. Didn’t do as well on the conversation as I did on the midterm, and that was a bit upsetting. Did perfect on the grammar. Listening and writing were both good, but a made some vocabulary mistakes on the writing. The reading was okay, missed a few things though. Overall 81/100. Then got all 7 possible points for extra credit, correctly spelling all 64 districts and 6 rivers. Was very proud of that. So total 88/100.
A bit sad to end. This was a fun class, and it was a great way to spend my first 3 months. I couldn’t imagine living in this country without knowing the language. I hope I can continue to improve now that the official education is over.

Went to lunch with Farah, Erin, Shakil and Santa. Some real nice Indian restaurant in Gulshan. Pretty delicious. It just took us forever to get ready, choose the place, and then order the food.

Badminton was fun tonight. I played 4 games. The first we lost 15-14. In Bangladesh, when you get to 14 when playing doubles, only one person gets to serve instead of the typical two man rotation. Gives the other team a chance to catch up. I won three games with another guy after that against different teams. Was real glad to actually make my hits. He kept telling me to hit it harder, but I’m not a fast hitter. I need to work on my power now.
Still don’t understand the way they figure out who plays. There was an entire court open, and there were four of us sitting there waiting to play. So I asked why don’t we play. One guy told me tons of things in Bengali, and I couldn’t make out why. And when the other court’s game finished, only one man would get off, and only one new person would get on. So I just left, it looked like I was not going to be having another game. There is some sort of hierarchy here I think, and the younger guys are trying to work their way into it.

14th-3rd in Tangail 12/7

Today I went to Tangail.
Megan and I took a bus from Mohakali bus station. Never takes long to find one going your way, they’re everywhere. We bought a newspaper and read some of it on the bus. Also played some 9-card after I taught her how to play.
We arrived in Tangail, and asked a rickshaw to take us to a place where we could get some good food. He took us a bit into town from the bus station to a place that looked pretty good. We told him not to wait. Lunch was rice, mutton, spinach with shrimps, and dhal. All served very quick as usual.
The ride to Atia Mosque, our final destination, was supposed to be 3 miles but seemed a lot longer. It’s slow going on a rickshaw for 3 miles. At one point, a piece of wood on his rickshaw snapped, and we felt it was our fault even though the wood was rotting. Either way we decided we’d give him more when it came time to pay. We crossed many very green and yellow fields. People farming. Several small bridges, which sometimes required us to get down from the rickshaw because it’s too hard to make it up the hill. Went through several villages. Bumpy ride at many points. Sounded like the driver was grumbling at points. (pics: Tangail fields)

Well he brings us to a place we didn’t expect, Atia Mosque, but not the right one. It is actually a mazar, which I don’t know what the difference is. Atia Mosque we are looking for was built in 1608, this structure at which we have arrived was built in 1988. hmmm. Big difference.

We tried to figure out what to do now. We had to get back to make the bus. We thought maybe we should just get some petha and some tea. But then this younger guy around our age came up to us. He asked what we were doing. In English. We chatted for a bit, and then figured why not ask him if he knew where the other Atia Mosque is. He said of course, this way, and starts walking us. Low and behold, it was right around the corner, maybe 100 meters down the road. Wow, if he had not found us, we literally would’ve gone so close but so far. Thanks to him, we made it to our destination. He offered to show us around.
The mosque was built in 1608 and refurbished at some point in the last century, it was in great shape. Our new guide took us around. The place wasn’t very big. Maybe 30 meters long, 15 meters wide, and 6 meters tall, with an additional 3 meters of the main dome on top. It was very ornamented, with incredible detail carved into the exterior walls. It’s still in use. We arrived during the afternoon prayer, and there were people praying inside. It had one large dome on top, three smaller domes toward the front side. Four minarets, one at each corner. In the front, three arched doorways. At the back, a pond. There was a crypt in the front. The photo session in front of the mosque was humorous, our friend wanted to take photos with only me, not Megan (even though he was talking to her more)…but was inviting complete strangers to take pictures with us. Although we were only there for 20 minutes or so, since he rushed us around and out, it was enough to make its impact. I’m not sure if we had enough to time to absorb, so much was happening so quick. (pics: Atia Mosque in Tangail viewed from back side at pond, Atia Mosque's front side, myself next to one of the minarets, guide/me/stranger in front of Atia Mosque, ornamented exterior wall close-up, Megan in front of Atia Mosque)

He then helped us arrange a way to get back to Tangail to catch a bus back to Dhaka. We got ourselves a tempo (a CNG with seating for 6 people in a cage in back…cross a CNG with a rickshaw school van) to ride to a nearby village where we could get another tempo. He was going to follow us on his bike. He looked pretty awesome riding after us in his shades and flashy orange shirt. (pic: our guide looking awesome on his bike riding after our tempo)

In the village, got some petha and jumped in the tempo to go back to Tangail. Tight squeeze. At one point, some passengers got off, and some others got on. A boy with down syndrome was with his family who got on. And since we all couldn’t fit in back, someone needed to go up front. The only other man besides the boy had a small child with him. So once I realized what all the commotion was about, I told them I’d sit up front. Sitting up front involves hanging on for dear life as you squeeze to one side of the driver, on a seat not meant for more than two…and there’s a third guy on the other side of the driver. Some tempos I saw had 4 guys in the front seat! (pic: front seat passenger in a tempo holding on)

Bus ride home was feeling very long. Stuck in Savar for a bit in traffic. At beginning of bus ride a man came onto the bus selling hard boiled eggs. For Tk 6 he would peel the egg, cut it down the middle, and then sprinkle spices on it. Everyone wanted one it seemed, so we got one as well. I was surprised to find that it was warm.

Megan and I ate at a restaurant which I’m considering one of the better ones I’ve been to in Dhaka. It was a small place, typical Bangladeshi hotel thing. Meaning tiled floors and walls, and wooden tables. But the naan here was amazing, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar…oh my… I ate two. And the rotisseries spiced chicken was just as good. They even had this interesting salad dressing we’d never seen before. That was a winner too! Definitely where I’ll take friends from now on. Oh my!

14th-4th in Dhaka 12/8

Went to the head instructor Farah’s house for a picnic. One reason for the picnic was to celebrate the completion of our course, but a lot of Farah’s family was there too, so perhaps it was already planned and we were invited along. Good food, and very greasy. The meal was termed a “picnic” but was different than what picnics are considered in the U.S. For what I can tell, here, picnics are just meals eaten outside. The same food you would eat normally. We ate our food on the porch of the home, not sitting in the grass, like the word picnic might make you imagine. But technically you’re not indoors, so thus, picnic. (pics: big pots of food for picnic, Erin/Jen/Ben enjoying picnic)

I was told once that this time of year is picnic season, where people have picnics. But they said it in the context that people go somewhere to have these picnics, like a park. So perhaps other picnics would be outside, but I’ve heard, still the same food as you would eat at other times of the year.

14th-5th in Dhaka 12/9

I know have a better understanding on why the Jatrabari-Gulistan flyover isn’t being built after spending a good part of my day collecting sources. This article covers what happened earlier this year best. First, it was determined by a committee which had some BUET professors on it that the project’s on/off ramps were going to make overall traffic worse in the area, because they would obstruct traffic flow on the roads below. Five of the thirteen ramps were proposed to be removed in the revised plan. It was said that the builders of the project proposed those ramps not to improve the traffic but to increase revenue by being able to collect more tolls (more access points would mean more people getting on the flyover.) Also, it was said that the builders of the project used bribery and corruption to win the project improperly. There is a big issue over how much they said it would really cost and the like. Folks in the DCC and in the building groups who gave it the go ahead apparently did not follow ethical procedures. All of this has lead to the project being stalled, even after breaking ground.

Had lunch with Toma at Sub City. This place clearly exemplifies one thing I’ve been wanting to mention. No place ever just sells what they advertise. Yes, Sub City sells subs, but it also has the option for pizza, burgers, Chinese, Thai, and Indian! This isn’t rare. Most places here don’t just offer one type of food. There is usually a variety of foods you can get. So if you go to an Indian restaurant, you’ll likely to be able to get Chinese and Thai as well. If you want Vietnamese, don’t forget to browse over the Korean part of the menu. Italian restaurants have ensured to have Greek and French parts of their menus. Okay, so not all restaurants are like this, but many places offer a variety. The menus become quite long with various sections of food choices.

Well I was a bit saddened by my Sub City experience. I wanted to get the turkey sub on the menu, but when the guy came to take the order, he said there was a problem, they didn’t have any turkey left. So I said I’d take the roast beef and beef salami sandwich, and he said, no we don’t have any of that either. How about the beef pepperoni sandwich, nope not that either. So what do you have? We have chicken, shrimp, or tuna. Sigh…I’ll take the chicken, just make sure you put that oil and vinegar on it. Nope, you’re out of that too. Ok…whatever…just get me a sandwich. Sigh. Nothing I wanted they had. In fact every cold sub on the menu was not available. Sigh. I wanted potato chips too, but I had to settle for french fries. I should come back when Bangladesh’s turkey stock is replenished. This lack of food offered on menus is not uncommon. I’ve been to many places where I order a dish, and they look at me and say “no, we don’t have that”…so really, you need to go to a restaurant and ask them, “What can I order today?”

Did a lot of reading on my first day of research! Read the first part of the Dhaka STP, and went through many internet articles seeing what projects are currently happening in Dhaka, and what their history has been the last two years. Just trying to gain the true context of all the situations.

Dance practice was not really successful tonight. Only half of us showed up and only could practice pieces of two dances. So tomorrow night we’ll meet up again. So right after I went next door with some of Naira’s friends/family and played badminton. Got three games in. I really need to learn how to smash and hit it to the backcourt. Then I’ll be a more complete player.

I left my keys at the badminton house I think….gotta go back tomorrow to get them.

14th-6th in Dhaka 12/10

Today was a bit hectic in the middle. I didn’t get much sleep last night because of fantasy football. Woke up and looked into it. left some guys on the bench who scored lots of points. After breakfast was working on the computer, not research, when saifullah called. Told me to come by the aktel office

Went by the Aktel office because Saifullah called me up to come by. He’s just left Aktel, and was dropping in only because our trip this weekend has many Aktel folks coming along. Met some of the guys going. We’re planning to play some cricket and badminton on top of the mountain we go to, so we’re making sure to bring our sports stuff. Also heard my ad will be out soon enough, things got held up somewhere. Pictures will come I promise.Went to guide tours to find out some details. Saw my permission papers were completed to get me into Bandarban as a foreigner.

Went by the house I was at last night and asked about my keys. Glad I could be understood by the guard about what was happening. He told me to come back at 7 when the home owner would be home. I did during dance practice since Naira’s house was right next door.

14th-7th in Dhaka 12/11

Got more reading done on the STP and looking up current projects here in Dhaka.

Talked to Sandee for 3 hours this morning on Skype, first time we’ve talked since I’ve arrived. But once she got Skype, it didn’t take long for us to plan this.

Dance practice was good. After a slow start, sitting around and eating for about an hour and a half, we finally started doing some things. Tashfique and Tawfique did their dance first, and then later Tawfique showed us the dance for Dekha Jo Tujhe Yaar. Pretty cool. Can’t wait to perform all these. Dance practice, even when we don’t do much, is very fun. Tomorrow we’ll work on the same dances again.

After, went by Ishfaq and Ishraq’s place to meet with Nafisa and them about the concert we’d been planning to benefit Sidr victims. Nafisa and I had first talked about this last week over dinner at Khalid’s place and that’s when I jumped on board, but this week things have started to materialize over email, and tonight, us four organizers finally all got together to talk about the budget and things that need to happen before Eid.
Anyway, we were trying to nail some really big bands for this, and a big name venue. I didn’t want to bring this up in the blog until I really knew some good details, so as not to release things too early. But we have confirmed some pretty major acts. Top of the list is Warfaze, Aurthohin, Artcell, Black, Nemesis, Vibe, Powersurge, and Radioactive. Some of the biggest bands in Bangladesh right now. Looks like the name will be Save Our Souls and the date will be January 4th at Bashundara Baridhara complex. We are ordering several thousand posters, bills, and tickets. Ishfaq, at just 17, has really used some impressive contacts he has. I’m very impressed by what he’s accomplished. Nafisa has a lot of say in what’s happening, and I’m trying to give as much input as I can on running large events (LINKssss from what I learned from organizing the Krispy Kreme Challenge, Walk for PKD, and Million Meter Rows) we’ve already got some pretty hefty donations too. Many of the bands are playing for free, and some major bands gave us big discounts. This event should be huge. Ishfaq thinks maybe 2500+ people. We’ll see. I’m excited. Things are materializing, and very quickly. I’m in contact with Diya, Farhanaz’s younger sister, since she works for the music section of the city’s biggest english newspaper, talking about publicity and what we can do to make this event bigger.

Interesting thing Farhan told me today. I was trying to set up with him when I can go by his home to use his landline phone, since I need to use it for my Fulbright exit language test…for the language grant. Anyway, he told me he may not have class next week. I asked why, and he said students are demanding an earlier break. He says that, as a private university, this happens at his school a lot. They demand more break so they can go home for the holidays, and the school usually gives it. Is this common for private universities? Or just here? I have no clue. But I was shocked the students could influence the faculty that much by promising a walk out.

1 comment:

Saket said...

Hey man, sorry for the late comment. the last week of school was really rough.

sounds like you had an interesting week. isn't it weird that the language program is ending? i'm sure you'll still stay in touch with people.

i'm absolutely thrilled you're helping to organize that benefit concert.

excellent work on your exam. i got reamed this quarter. my first ever C+. then i got a B. and a A-. rough rough.

man, i hate to hear about that Sub experience. i'm dying here to figure out a way to fix it..but i can't figure out how to ship a sub sandwich out to you.

be warned: i want a youtube video of your dance!