30 January 2008

Week 21: Cool weather and rain can ruin your health, trade fairs, and large religious gatherings (BUT NOT MONEY!)

21st-1st in Dhaka 1/23

It has been a bit cooler and windier these last few days. Not as sunny out either. Perhaps it’s the start of the seasons changing. On a side note, I’m so intrigued by the idea of the monsoon season. It’ll be my last season I experience here. And it’s the most unique. I’m always wondering what life will be like then.

Washed our bed sheet, I will finally feel clean sleeping in that bed.

At BUET I was waiting to get my computer access approved today. So while I waited I did some research work on crowded buses, collecting my last bit of literature before I start reading into it more critically.
When the director was finally available to approve my computer usage application, the security guard told me to come in. They were very hesitant to give me access as I wasn’t an official student. I didn’t have an official letter showing where I came from either, and only my professor’s signature proved someone knew I was supposed to be at BUET at all. After lots of discussing amongst each other, it was decided if the director’s boss approves me, I’m ok. So another bit of waiting, then that top guy approved me. They gave me a username and password and showed me the computer lab. The internet isn’t especially fast, but it’ll be good enough, and it’ll be nice to be able to use programs and internet without bringing my laptop to campus.

When I got home, Ashrafi called me and said he and Popel were going to go see Radioactive at Decagon Café. Radioactive is a band I saw the night of Cyclone Sidr, with the spectacular vocalist. They also were the winners of DRockstars, a rock band American Idol-esque competition in Bangladesh last year. Wasn’t really a concert, more of a café performance. They did two sets. Mostly English songs. They played a few of their own numbers. During the intermission, Popel introduced me to the vocalist who was his roommate for a year. I asked when their CD is coming out, and he said soon enough.

Spent the rest of the night trying to get a currency converter to work in the sidebar of my blog. Required me to learn a bit of HTML to edit what was already available on the internet. Wanted people to be able to convert from taka to popular viewers’ currencies to understand the values I’m throwing out.

21st-2nd in Dhaka 1/24

Went to HSBC to get money for the Bangkok trip, and because I needed an encashment slip to show the money I was paying with was originally US dollars. But there, I realized that Megan still hadn’t given me a firm yes/no on whether she’ll come or not. Called her, and she said it was likely. So I’m going to wait until Sunday then see if the answer is still yes, then rebook the ticket on GMG if she comes.

Three weeks ago, I completed my collection. Of what? Money! And by that I mean the bills of Bangladesh. Waited until a week with less to write about in the blog to put all these pictures up.

For weeks now I’ve been trying to gather all the taka notes, but with a certain aim in mind. I was trying to get a brand new and a real old bill of each denomination then take their photo together for comparison. The main motivation behind taking these comparison pictures was the Tk2 note. The old ones are so unrecognizable, they might as well just be scraps of paper. They are torn, brown, and look like garbage. And they are probably the most often exchanged note because of this. No one wants it in their wallet, and whoever you give it to will give it away just as quick. As well, local bus fares are usually around Tk2, so Tk 2 notes are commonly being passed around.

As you can see, the oldest Tk500 note I could find still doesn’t look so bad, despite it being old enough (at least 2004 or earlier) to have a different picture on it altogether! The holes in the new notes are because they come in bundles with a string passing through them all. I took shots of each bill front and back. Each bill is a different size and color. (pics: what I felt was the "front" and "back" of the Tk2, Tk5, Tk10, Tk20, Tk50, Tk100, and Tk500 notes. New above old in each)

The only time I actually had all the notes in my wallet at one time, happened in Khulna, and I took a picture of them all spread out. Also took a photo of the three coins, and the one different Tk1 coin I had. The coins differ in that the Tk5 coin is actually 12-sided (that’s the Jamuna Bridge on it,) the Tk2 coin is a bit thicker and its edge is smooth, and the Tk1 coin’s edge is reeded, like the US quarter. (pics: "front" and "back" of Tk5, Tk2, and two different Tk1 coins; all bills spread out the first time I noticed I had all of them in my wallet at one time.)

And that last note which took me many months to find….the newer Tk20 note.
The following link has information on all the bills, you just have to click through to read it all.

In my collection I also have a 50 poisha coin (half of Tk1) and a Tk1 note, but don’t know where they are packed up right now.

Went to Shawarma House for lunch and to do research. The staff watched me the full 4 hours I was there. Finished gathering the articles for my literature review there. I think I have what I want now to understand my topic fully. Diya came by for a half hour or so. Showed her pictures on my laptop of friends and home.

Naira invited me to come watch a movie at Probal’s big movie watching room. When we picked up Probal and Nerpa, we got to see their new place they’ve moved into after marrying. Not much furniture yet, so it looks enormous. They even have a pool in their apartment building. That’s really unheard of here.
We went to Probal’s movie place, and we watched Shoot Em Up. What a violent bloody shooting movie. Still cool. The girls really didn’t like it. But for the theater like environment there, the guys felt watching a drama would be a waste of the big screen and sound system.

Rained today. A lot cooler. This is surprising weather actually for this time of year. There really isn’t supposed to be rain in the dry season. People are blaming global warming.

21st-3rd in Dhaka 1/25

This morning I woke up to see it was raining still. It was very cool outside, and the rain was light. Apparently the cold and rain caused seven deaths in northern districts of the country, people who can’t afford warm clothes even for 55 degree temperatures.

Went to the trade fair. It’s a big annual event which lasts a month. It’s set up behind the Chinese-Bangladesh Friendship Center, a big convention center. Fair had pavilions and shops. There’s apparently a competition for the company who creates the best pavilion. In the past, when it came, the Trade Fair used to be the only time and place you could buy international goods, but that time is long passed. (pics: entrance gate to the trade fair with pavillions in background, fountain and pavillions at trade fair and in the background is the big central spire with a globe on top.)

I was supposed to go with Ayon, Saquib, Nipu, and others, but as of last night they all backed out. So Megan came with me, and she invited Karen as well, so it ultimately was the three of us.
Walked around, asked about prices. Though I heard it’s supposed to be really cheap here, I’ve seen cheaper prices elsewhere in the city. Looked at a few shirts, but they were all too small. It was wet and a bit cool, but not too bad. (pics: many of the stalls which form the border of the trade fair, Karen and Megan inside a stall that sold Bangladeshi made handbags.)

By the way, in Bangladeshi shirt sizes, I’m a XXXL. Crazy that I’m the big guy around! The XXL size is usually too short in the arms.

Also a major event happening in Bangladesh right now is Biswa Itjema. Its technically in Tongi, next to the Turag River, but that’s still in the Dhaka Metro Area.
It’s the second largest gathering of Muslims in the world, after Hajj in Mecca. Over three million people will come in the next three days. I know many people who are attending. It’s a big prayer gathering. Throughout its duration, the event causes a lot of traffic in the area. And a lot of extra flights are coming in and out of Bangladesh.
But as I was writing this, I read a news report that the event is getting cut short this year because of the rain and the cold, which left three people dead. Such a shame. Since this just happened, I updated the wikipedia article (go see from the link before.)

Ate lunch at Diya/Farhanaz’s place, which has been in planning for a few weeks. Delicious home cooked food. Was there until 5:00.

Today I started really looking at graduate schools. Made a spreadsheet to compare them, like my father made for me when I was choosing undergraduate schools. Have several points for comparison including what the school’s most popular transportation research topics are, how many transportation professors they have, and if they have a student section of ITE. However, just as important items like how good the weather is, how their football team performs each year, and of course the likelihood of rowing there or not is included in the spreadsheet! Tonight I completed my analysis of Cornell. I have eleven universities on my initial list, which was pulled from a list of the best civil engineering schools. Texas, Berkeley, Stanford, Cornell, Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Purdue, Georgia Tech, Northwestern, Michigan and MIT, as well as Virginia Tech’s Metropolitan Institute and comparing them all to what I know already about NCSU.

21st-4th in Dhaka 1/26

Supposed to go to Sonargaon today. But the rain and the cold made Megan and I decide to cancel it. It’s mostly an outdoor affair there, and it wouldn’t be fun with 60 degree rainy weather.

Today is the KKC back at NC State. 3000 people registered, and they had to cap it there because of t-shirt limits. Wonder what it could’ve grown to. It is so exciting. Can’t wait to see how it goes. I care about it from an organizational standpoint, as well as how it succeeds in raising money for the NC Children’s Hospital. Saket, Greg, Peyton and I, as the past organizers, keep sending emails around and commenting on how we think it’ll turn out. (graph link) The way registration grew day by day compared to last year is spectacular (graph thanks to Saket.) Incredible what happened. 400 people in one day near the end!

Was home most of the day. Started a literature review document which I’ll gather all my thoughts on the articles in.

Met up with Saifullah, Ashrafi, and Sunny at Anam Rangs Plaza. First helped Saifullah buy some CDs of American music for his new car. He wanted some faster stuff and slower stuff, but not rock. So I suggested Justin Timberlake, Black Eyed Peas, and Coldplay. Hopefully he’ll enjoy. I know Coldplay is rock, but it’s not heavy metal or punk, which was what he was trying to avoid. Back at Popel’s house later we had some snacks and hung around and talked. Celebrating that Ashrafi will be going to the US next month.

Newspapers posted on walls everywhere. I’m going to make the guess that this is the way that most people in Dhaka get their news. In many locations around the city, the daily paper from different newspapers are posted on the walls of buildings and fences. Sometimes just one newspaper, sometimes up to eight different newspapers. New editions are put up each day. No English papers, only the Bengali ones. There’s usually a crowd of four to five guys reading the papers each time you pass by. I also see rickshaw drivers stop to take a break and read too. A lot are put up near bus stands as something to do while you wait. This practice seems to be a good way to keep the general population, who can’t afford a TV or a daily paper, up to speed on local, national, and world affairs. It certainly promotes knowledge and discussion among the readers. Couldn’t imagine how else they would get the news if this wasn’t done. (pics: five men separately passing by stop to read newspapers on a board in front of the Jigatola bus stop, two men stop to read newspapers on a wall near Dhaka University/BUET)

21st-5th in Dhaka 1/27

BUET students are doing online course registration for the first time ever this semester. They are continually coming into the computer lab in which I’m sitting to register. Many times in pairs to explain to each other how to navigate the nuances of the new system. I see a lot of them staring at the registration page for minutes on end, trying to understand what exactly needs to be done, and exploring the possibilities of this new online system.

The computer lab I’m in is fairly nice. Twenty computers, all Dells. Not that fast, but fast enough. Most people are coming to browse the internet. We remove our shoes before we come in. and we leave our bags in cubby holes near the entrance. Meaning I have to empty the contents of my bag at my computer station, then bring the bag back to the door.

Went walking to find a place for lunch. Went south from BUET to see what was there. Found a restaurant that looked really nice inside. Well designed tables and chairs and a neat interior. I ate lunch there, and it took about 45 minutes, and in that time, NO ONE ELSE CAME IN. Felt bad for the owners. They obviously put a lot of effort into the place, and no one is coming. I wonder if I was the first all day. Took them forever to make my food, and although I’d like to blame their lack of customers on bad service, I think the case is rather that they had to fire the stove up and cook everything fresh since I was the first.

Going carefully through each document for the literature review, and taking notes on the parts which are important to my project. There are no studies that I can find that did exactly what I want to do, or even 50% of what I want to do. In what I’ve found, buses are simply deemed overcrowded, but how that affects operations is rarely even mentioned.

21st-6th in Dhaka 1/28

Today’s plan was to buy tickets for my flight to Bangkok. Last night Megan confirmed she’ll be staying in Bangladesh an extra month and a half so she’s definitely interested in coming to Bangkok with me. So we made plans to get that done today.

First I went to the American Center to pick up a letter telling of my affiliation with Fulbright. I’ll be giving this to my professor at BUET so we can get me access to other places on campus. While there, Harvey told me about the conference for Fulbrighters that India holds twice a year. All South Asian Fulbrights are invited, but we have to pay our own way. Honestly, I’d go if it wasn’t so expensive. It’s a $500 dollar plane ticket to get there and the hotel is $150 bucks a night, all inclusive. That one trip could be almost two months of living for me. I just can’t take that kind of time and money to do this. Although it’d be nice, I’ll have to say no.

From Megan’s job we headed by bus to my travel agent from last week in Motijheel. We booked our tickets at the travel agent, but not without them serving us lunch first: fried chicken, fries, and a roll. Just like last time. And it’s not like they were trying to win our business anymore, really not sure why we’re fed there.
We got the GMG deal just fine, Buy 1 Get 1 Free to Bangkok. Had to shift our travel dates because of flight availability, so now we’re traveling from February 15-19. Will be a fun trip to see Bart and Shariful and now have Megan there too. Hope to see a lot of the sites in Bangkok and see what the rave about the city is. Had to go to the bank to take out the big wad of cash…handed over 91 Tk500 bills to pay for the tickets!

When I got home this evening I couldn’t find my disembarkation card. This piece of paper is given to you when you arrive in Dhaka at the airport. They stamp it and it says you entered Bangladesh through the airport. Very necessary if you leave the country over land to prove how you go there. It’s a big deal. I had brought it with me to the travel agency inside my passport. Must’ve lost it there went they went to make photocopies of the passport. Quite frustrating. Wondering if I’m will have to fight to leave the country next time. Will try calling agency tomorrow to see if they have it, but not crossing my fingers.

Got sick again tonight. Stomach problems. And no one can see it was street food this time, as I’ve only eaten at good restaurants the last few days. Was not happy get sick again. It always seems to start at night too. Don’t know what’s causing it.

21st-7th in Dhaka 1/29

Today I’ve been sick. At home all day. Worked on my literature review from home. Reading about New Zealand's mens single sculling rivalry. Watched videos from KKC coverage(including Technician slideshow and UNCTV pre-event coverage.) But mostly just recovering and drinking oral saline.

Called the travel agency to see if they had my disembarkation card I lost at their place. Nope, they hadn’t seen it. So now I’m going to try and see what will happen. I’ll try and see if I can get it all worked out before I arrive at the airport on February 15.

Had cereal for breakfast. And managed to have rice and some blandish curry for lunch. Potato and tomato curry only. Felt good to eat the warm food. It’s been cold in the house lately too. Given me a sore throat as well.

Talked to Lauren online, one of the other Fulbrights. She’s going to be leaving early. She was mugged once, and recently her roommate got mugged for the second time, all in their neighborhood. Well its enough that she’s calling it quits and doesn’t want to stay anymore. I’m likely going to buy her TV, DVD player, and fridge. Win-win for both of us as she gets some money for the stuff she bought and I get cheaper prices for used items.

Throat this evening has gotten worse. Hard to swallow food, and also hard to swallow water. Will go to doctor tomorrow. Diya and Farhanaz’s parents are both doctors, and their mom’s hospital is real close by. So I’m going to get this checked out if it’s not better tomorrow.

24 January 2008

Week 20: Trying to buy furniture for a TBD flat (or Each day you might meet a friend/rock star)

20th-1st in Dhaka 1/16

Had some kichuri with tomatoes for breakfast. Then got a call from Farabi that he was going to come by BUET today. We had talked about it yesterday, since his mom wanted him to see the university his father attended long ago. Headed over. Discovered that bus #13 is much more crowded going to BUET than coming home. Reason is that so many people from north of where I live take this bus to New Market, so it’s crowded when I get on, then it empties out halfway through. So packed that I was hanging in the doorway (laptop bag and all) for the first part of the trip. Then got a seat after.
I showed Farabi around the campus for 45 minutes. It’s not big, so it’s quick. Took him up inside the civil building to show him the campus from up high. Pointed out all the important points. Pointed from afar the new Electrical Engineering building under construction at BUET, as that’s his major at Rutgers. (pics: ARC and bus garage on BUET's campus, Registrar's Building, Farabi looking out over BUET from the Civil Engineering Building, the new Electrical Engineering Building being constructed)

Went to the ARC for the presentation they were having today on the condition of safety and planning in transportation in Bangladesh. Waited around, and saw that nothing was happening. Finally saw someone I knew and asked what was going on, when it started. He informed me that it had been yesterday, they had moved the date one day earlier on short notice. As in, they told me about it on Sunday saying it was Wednesday. On Monday, they decided to hold it Tuesday instead. And I had no way of being told this.
Spent the rest of the day looking for articles on bus overcrowding. Finding some intense articles with models and equations. Not sure if that’s the path I want to take my research right now. I want to do more of an observational study, not modeling.

Badminton was a bit windy tonight. Played some singles matches with Alavi, and then all of us played some doubles. A bit windy tonight, and that was messing things up.

20th-2nd in Dhaka 1/17

Last night didn’t get much sleep because Mohan had a friend stay over, so I stayed in the drawing room. The mattress pad there is fine, I sleep well, but our boua comes at 6:30 am and has to be let in. Then she starts cooking and cleaning, and I can’t sleep with all that noise. Mohan and his friend also started chatting. I pretended to be asleep, but not successful.

At BUET most things were closed. Didn’t know today was a bit of a break. So without access to the library, I went to the computer lab lobby and did some researching on bus dwelling and passenger crowding on my laptop.

In the evening I met Farhan in Kakrail. We had some fuchka then some petha. Then, since we were near, he showed me his old school. Tried going to a mall but it was closed. Farhan told me that malls close at 8 pm so that electricity is saved. Makes sense now why all the malls here close so early. Instead we dropped by one of his university classmate’s house and had some tea and biscuits while talking with the family. (pic: how petha is prepared and cooked on the streets)

20th-3rd in Dhaka 1/18

Pantha Path, the road which passes in front of Bashundara City and the Sonargaon Hotel has at least 50 furniture shops in a row. Like most shopping areas in Dhaka, Pantha Path shopping area specializes in a certain type of item. All over Dhaka, there is always a “best” place to shop for goods. Some examples are Pantha Path for furniture, Bangla Bazar for clothes, Gulistan Stadium market for electronics and sports goods place, Sonargaon Road for pets and pet supplies.I took a bus and walked to one end of the furniture row to start my new flat furniture shopping. Had a little notepad with me and a pen, to jot down prices as I walk buy. No reason to record where you find the price, because I’ll be bargaining it down elsewhere anyway. So just find a good price, then tell another place that this place offered you this. etc. bargain down a lot hopefully. Each place gives different first costs anyway. A cabinet for my clothes can be quoted prices from Tk7500 to Tk12000, all the same thing. Checked out a bed, found a guy who says he’ll be wiling to buy back at 75% when I’m done with it. Looked for a dining set, and might just settle on a folding table and chairs…for a TV stand, a folding table. See a trend. I’m not interested in real nice things as I’ll only have them for seven months.

Most places sell the same stuff. There are a few different types of shops…some sell cane furniture, some carved wooden, some metal, some modular-like, some fancy and padded, and some that sell desk chairs. Within each category of shop, expect to find the same stuff at each.

Stopped at a car rental place. Checked into prices of car rental service for when my parents come. Including driver. Asked if there would be a problem if driver came back from Khulna without us. No problem. Asked about drivers food and lodging. No issues. Will choose a car type after talking to parents.

Met up with Ayon, Saquib, Nipu, and three others from their school days while they were sitting near a restaurant near Dhanmondi Lake. Chilled at the lake and laughed. Walked over to the free theater along the lake. It’s like a old Greek outdoor theater. Free programs happen there all the time. Huge crowds come to watch, standing room only. If only outdoor performances in the US were this popular. Watched two dances. All of us got petha from the petha outdoor shop with the variety, then we all got some soup. Pretty delicious soup, neat that it’s just from a cart. Then lastly we all got some fuchka. The fuchka was spicy! Half of us were left huffing and puffing to cool our mouths down.

A good night of badminton playing. But Oyon and I just don’t seem to be able to win together. In fact, I seem to lose a lot of games. Although I’m making my hits, my teammate is not. I’m making them worse, and that comes from myself making bad shots. A bad shot results in a smash, and sometimes at my partner. I need to stop putting my team in bad situations and start hitting quality drops and smashes. (pics: shot of our rooftop court from above, myself going up for a shot)

20th-4th in Dhaka 1/19

Had made a plan to meet up with Rofiq today so he can show more of the stuff in the traffic lab and also so he could introduce me to some of the professors at the university he is involved with.

Well that didn’t end up exactly happening. I arrived and met him at the office he works in, the BRTC office. This is the place that contractors and companies come to submit samples for testing. For example, if you are constructing a building, you give them a concrete sample to be strength tested in the concrete lab. In this office you fill out the paperwork for you test, make payments, and get results. It’s a very busy place. BUET I’m assuming has some of the only, or the only, testing facilities of this type in Dhaka. So many people are coming to get things tested for their engineering properties. Anyway, he was packed in the office with requests, and he was the only one who showed up to work today. So he couldn’t get out of there for an hour and a half to bring me to the lab.

Today was also the first day of class for students, including new first year students. You wouldn’t be able to tell though if you weren’t told. Looked like any other day on campus that I’ve been to. Maybe a tad more busy, a tad more students, but students weren’t doing anything out of the ordinary. No special “Welcome to BUET” events. Just a day at the university.

Tons of kids were coming up to Rofiq all day. Finally asked him why and what they were giving him to sign. Well as he was the guy who takes care of the traffic lab, he is one of the many people who has to sign a form for each kid saying they don’t owe any fines for breaking something in the lab. Each kid who is graduating this semester has to get this signature! And they have to go to all their labs, and get the lab caretaker and the professor to sign off. Then they have to get the library and the computer lab to sign! This is over 15 signatures total! What an intense process. And it’s all done after you’re done forever. So even after you’ve finished, you need to come back at least one more day and do this.

Our boua hasn’t come in a few days. So I bought a sponge and washed everything which had been piling up in the sink. Not sure what she uses to wash the dishes since I didn’t see anything…or maybe I don’t want to know.

Headed down to Gulistan to go to the stadiums. The stadium markets are the best place to buy electronics, home appliances, and sport equipments. Circling the stadiums are the stores. They are technically underneath the bleachers, and you can see the bottom side of the bleachers in some stores. Most stadiums in Bangladesh have markets, and it is common for them to be selling these things. So it’s very easy to price compare and shop around as each store sells the same thing. I was searching for a microwave, refrigerator, DVD player, and TV. By shopping like this it also helped me understand what exactly I was searching for!
Highlight of the night was being told to sit and chat at one of the stores, and then they proceed to offer me tea. Of course I said yes! It was too nice, a bit humorous to me, so I drank some tea with them. Maybe after looking at 50+ stores, I needed some? Maybe Best Buy and Circuit City should adopt this practice.

Really making my way through Dune at a faster pace than I usually read. Maybe if I take a day off I’ll forget all I’ve read, so I’m staying consistent. So many terms to adjust to. Liking it so far, looking forward to see what happens.

20th-5th in Dhaka 1/20

The Wolfpack win!!!! Was so excited when I woke up to check the score and see us in the lead in the second half. But they were catching up! Then Miami took the lead. Then we came back. And then after everything, we tied it! Overtime. But then they went 4 minutes with almost no scoring until Miami hit a two pointer. Then a crazy crazy ending. Gavin Grant went for a 2 point shot, missed, J.J. Hickson got the rebound and scored a layup. Tied it up. Then on the inbound pass, Gavin stole it and scored 2 more!!!! We won, watch it here!!!!!! We won’t be 0-3 in the acc to start the season. So happy. So glad we won. So so happy.

Started reading Kristina’s and Kelly’s blog, see the sidebar.

Before going to Oyon’s to play badminton, bought two extra shuttlecocks because of all of those that we’ve been losing. Badminton tonight wasn’t very exciting. There was a decent breeze today, more than bearable. Wasn’t any fun for me. For one side, a little tap meant the shuttlecock went way past the court. From the other side, a hard smash might just make it over the net. Sigh. The net was almost horizontal to the ground on moderate breezes. We ended up just chatting for a bit and then going to dinner. (pics: Oyon and Deep setting up the net and our light fixture, the net near horizontal in the light breeze...not optimal playing conditions)

Our landlord came to me tonight and told me that the apartment I was moving into won’t be available until February 15th now, because her sister has decided to stay a little longer. Thought recently married, she is not ready to leave yet, and wanted a bit more time at home before she makes the move to her new husband’s place. I was upset, but acted understanding, and said it was okay. Fifteen extra days staying in this place, so I decided to make myself feel a bit more at home and set up my speakers and cleaned up an area which I could call mine.

Today was also a public holiday for Ashura, and besides the university being closed, the only way I saw it being celebrated was in the form of a parade in front of Bangladesh Rifles, and I wasn’t close enough to see what was exactly happening. I just saw flags from down the street. I do know that it is not as important in Bangladesh as it is in other countries as most people here are Sunni Muslims, not Shi'a Muslims. For the latter, this holiday is much more important.

20th-6th in Dhaka 1/21

Got news from Shariful and Bart on when it would be best for them for me to visit them in Bangkok. So this morning I started looking through flights to get there. Look to be going February 7-10. I’ve heard the cheapest options are GMG, Biman, or Druk airlines. First two are Bangladeshi, third is from Bhutan. Called some of the agencies but was having a hard time communicating what I wanted. Decided to just go by the offices tomorrow in person.

Registered for the Krispy Kreme Challenge. We’re going to break last years numbers by a lot. It will be huge. I hope the organizers are ready for it all. People are coming from all over to compete. I signed up and asked to have my shirt mailed to me in Bangladesh. Fourth year now! Incredible. Wish I could be there to help organize it like in past years. I guess since my Park Scholar class of 2007 has endowed the event, we're technically always helping. Also, Saket, Greg, Peyton, and I have been advising the new organizers over email as much as we can.

Headed off to BUET for a meeting with Dr. Rahman. Ended up finding him downstairs and took the elevator up together. Chatted about his recent Masters student who just had his thesis review. Dr. Rahman was real happy. It was the first ever student he’s advised to a Masters thesis! What a great accomplishment.
After he finished with another student, I went in. The critical part of our discussion, my research, went very well. Told him my feelings about where we had initially discussed my research going after the Jatrabari Flyover was cancelled: evaluating large project planning here in Bangladesh versus other countries. I explained how I wasn’t feeling confident in what I was doing. Evaluating something I’ve never actually done myself was hard, as all plans looked incredible to Donny the novice. I continued and explained how through my reading of Dhaka’s STP, there were issues that were really interesting to me, and I started to have ideas of projects I really was excited about. Also mentioned how plenty of field work would be involved, and that I would enjoy. I told him about both the pedestrian overpass/underpass project and the overcrowded bus project, and both ideas had him excited. We were sharing ideas quickly, and ultimately, he suggested I first tackle the bus idea.
After this I asked how I thought a team of students might help with the success of the project, would get them something to work on for senior projects, and get me involved more with BUET. He said he’s meeting with four or five of his senior students next week to discuss with each their senior thesis, and he’ll let them know what I’m doing and see if any of them bite.

Bus home at 5 pm was busier than I thought it would be. At one bus stop, our bus was so packed at the door that four guys jumped through one of the windows at the back of the bus to claim recently opened up seats in the back row. Those windows are above head level when standing next to the bus. Was very impressed.

Met up with Diya for a quick iced tea at a nearby tea bar. First time having iced tea here, wasn’t too bad. Mine was orange flavored.

Badminton, less wind tonight. Alavi and I were on a team tonight and we went undefeated. Last game against Deep and Siam didn’t finish all the way because our last shuttlecock went over the side of the building. (pics: Siam serving, Deep returning a shot)

Tonight when I got home Mohan had returned from three days with his wife and son in Jessore, and I told him what the landlord had said yesterday when she came by. That I have to stay here until the 15th. Well he said she came by again tonight. This time she said that her sister has decided to stay until the end of February before moving permanently to her new husband’s house. So I’m now here until March 1. Sigh. I was a bit more annoyed this time, enough to vow to go look for a different place tomorrow morning. I was a bit tired of being given the runaround for the third time. I feel silly going to buy furniture for just 6 months too. So tomorrow I’ll look around at different apartments and see what I can find.

20th-7th in Dhaka 1/22

Went on a search for a new house. Quite a disconcerting process. Was very nervous to have to walk into random places and ask them in Bengali about a flat. Plus the fact that no one wants bachelors staying in their place, because it is commonly known that bachelors will surely bring drugs, sex, disease, famine, and maybe earth-destroying comets into the apartment building.
In summary, of the few places I found with “TO LET” signs out front, some weren’t available until March, others not available to bachelors (one sign said “NO BACHELORS ALLOWED” right below “TO LET”,) and another was a bed in the living room of a house with eight guys already (but only Tk1200 a month!)
I felt defeated, felt that no place would be as nice or as cheap as the place I’m supposed to move into. I started thinking about why I was really searching. One reason I wanted to move was because I was feeling unwanted by the landlord, maybe thinking she didn’t like me and was just thinking of ways for me not live there. But I told myself I’m just skewing it in that direction, she probably has nothing against me and it’s just a matter of family circumstances I’m caught up in. Also thought about how I wanted some friends to stay over on Feb 20th for Ekushe February the next morning. There’s no reason they can’t stay over at this place if I clean it up. I need to just create some spaces for myself there, and clean it up a bit. I also thought how these other roommates were willing to have me stay with them. All were not my idea of what I wanted from a roommate. I realized how lucky I was to have Mohan as a roommate, and thought, “Why am I trying to get away from him.” He’s a great guy and listens to me. We talk together. I decided staying where I am until March 1 is no big deal. I’m feeling more comfortable every day. I’ll go buy a TV and DVD player now, and start enjoying it. Why wait? Why not make this place more like a home?

Came home and on the way back bought some detergent. The boua hasn’t come in days, and I was out of clean underwear. Time to take things into my own hands, literally. Clothes washing without a washing machine is a physical activity. First I heated some hot water on the stove, and poured it into a big bucket, just a little. Then filled the rest of the bucket with cold water from the tap. 4 tablespoons of detergent powder, and then put all my clothes in, about 8-10 pieces. I swirled the clothes around in the soapy water and then let them sit for a half hour. Afterwards, spun them around again. Then with the tap running cold water, I beat and swished and squeezed each piece of clothing until all the soap was out. It’s quite an aggressive process beating and slamming the clothing against the floor in the water stream. I didn’t have any specific technique, but was trying to mimic the sounds the boua makes when washing the clothes. I always hear the splashing and the smacking of the wet clothes against the floor, and was trying to make the same noises, assuming that it would be achieving the same result. Did it until not many suds were coming out. After doing this to each piece of clothing, I hung them out to dry on my verandah. Whole process took about 45 minutes. (pics: my clothes washing bucket in my bathroom filled with suds and clothing, hanging clothing out to dry on the verandah)

Went to go buy plane tickets to Bangkok Headed to Sonargaon hotel as both GMG and Biman have an office there, and Druk is across the street. This is also the hotel my parents will stay at when they visit. Was very nice, I had never been inside. They made a good choice.
GMG, although they have a Buy 1 Get 1 Free sale right now for Bangkok, was too expensive. At least that first ticket was, and I don’t have anyone traveling with me.
When I went downstairs, Nipto, Ishita’s older brother who just had baby girl, saw me. Hadn’t seen him since the wedding in October. He works at Gulf Air and is usually around the Sonargaon hotel, but he wasn’t working today. Somehow though, he saw me and told me that with his job he could help me, he knows travel agents. We went to his favorite agent he usually works with, a CNG ride away to Motijheel. At the travel agent, they searched all the different the airlines. Found a variety of prices. Although Biman isn’t known for their greatest service, they were by far the cheapest, and as I’m not on an important trip, I’ll risk their scheduling. GMG would be cheaper if I could find someone for Buy 1 Get 1 Free, but that’s a lot of money to ask of someone for just a three day trip. I always forget how much plane tickets cost, and it’s going to be about $360 to fly to Bangkok from Dhaka.

I asked where he was heading since we were going by bus to the same place, and he said he was going to Arnob’s studio, one of the greatest musicians in Bangladesh right now, very popular. Nipto asked if I wanted to meet him real quick. Since Nipto has a band himself and is currently working on his solo project, he was meeting with Arnob, who also manages Bengal Music Company, about releasing issues. I agreed.
Inside the studio on this day was Black, one of my more favorite bands here. The lead singer and the producer came out for a break and I talked to the lead singer for a bit. They’re working on their new album, first in five years. He’s doing the vocals now, all music is finished. We talked for a few minutes about music and Bangladesh and such. We all then went in and took a listen to one of Black’s new songs for their album. Pretty good stuff, I got into it right away. And the recording studio sound is incredible, so it was a great listening experience. I was a bit surprised that I was sitting in a studio with a major artist working on their new album. I’ve said before, the music scene is not as removed from the listeners here as it is in the US.
Asked the singer what process they go through. He told me how they always do drums first and vocals last, but in between things vary. That was cool, because its just like Chris, Trav, and I. Wish we could get a cool studio like that to record our 5th production in.

When I got home Mohan asked me how my house shopping went. I told him what I had been feeling from the morning, and how I was glad to have him as a roommate, couldn’t ask for anyone better. Well he was glad to hear it, but then had more news from the landlord. Sigh. What now? Well he said that they are now thinking about keeping the apartment I would’ve moved into for her sister when she visits occasionally. So I can’t move in there. She may come back sometimes, and they want to make sure she has a place to stay.
But, since technically the apartment him and I are currently sharing would be open in March as well, since Mohan is going to be moving out with his wife and son to someplace new, I could stay permanently in this apartment. So the landlord hopes this will happen instead. What a situation! Mohan is having problems finding an apartment himself. He had one, but then that new landlord changed their mind on him too. We both are facing similar situations. I told him about the first apartment I visited in the morning with Tk8000 rent, two bedrooms, and two bath. He was excited to hear it was nearby too. So he’ll go check it out, and hopefully get it, as it also opens up on March 1. I’ll see what happens. I still have 40 days with Mohan sharing, and anything apparently can happen.
In regards to keeping this place, I guess it is convenient. No moving at all. I could start buying things now without worry of moving it later. Yes, place is a tad smaller than the place I would’ve move into downstairs, but with the same rent. However it’s still a good place, and I feel fortunate to have it.

Read some of Dune and went to bed.

Oh and I put a currency converter up for you readers, so when I talk in Taka, you can convert it something you might better understand. Thanks to coinmill.com

16 January 2008

Week 19: Dhanmondi Lake cures stomach problems

19th-1st in Dhaka 1/9

Saw a girl take a bad step into the drain today. Bleh. Let me explain. The drainage sewers here are right on the side of the road. They are open concrete lined pits or slight indentations next to the road. They are dug for rainwater, but ultimately are for other liquids as well. Some of these liquids include urine. Men can be frequently seen peeing on the side of the street. This can be done either by squatting or by standing, but most prefer to squat. This is because most are wearing a lungi, and that is well-suited for squatting.

Anyway, with all of that entering the drainage pits, they have this solid slime layer on top, and are all are unpleasantly colored. Typically they’re covered by concrete slabs which in turn become a sidewalk of sorts. Many times there are gaps, and you have to hop over them, not very far, but you do. Well sometimes they’re not there at all. The girl who fell in today, she came off the bus and was rushing and didn’t look where she was going, and she took a wrong step into a ditch full of sludge at least 10 inches deep. It was very gross. I couldn’t imagine what she was feeling after. I’m hope she went home and bathed for hours.(pics: drainage sewer covered by concrete slabs with breaks in between slabs which one could trip through, drainage sewer on side of road with some garbage in it, open sewer holes are not a rare site so watch your step!, drainage sewer with layer of slime on top)

Went to Agora to buy some food products such as milk, muesli, and peanut butter. Agora, like Lavender and Pick ‘n Pay are the nicer grocery stores here with lots of items you can’t find elsewhere. This includes peanut butter which has no found a place in the diet of most Bangladeshis. Cheese as well is there, which is hard to find beyond ponir, Bangladeshi cheese, a harder version of paneer. Agora is a good place for foreigners to shop because of the fixed prices. Elsewhere you may get ripped off be, but here you’re guaranteed to get the proper price each time, even if it’s a bit higher. This time I just wanted those three thigns. Couldn’t find muesli, but bought cereal instead, Kellogg’s mango corn flakes. Hopefully good.

Feeling sick in the morning. Feeling sick in the afternoon, and it started to clear up around 2. But later it started hurting again. I don’t know why. Went to Dominou’s pizza for dinner. Ordered some soup and a hot sub sandwich. Ate half the soup and wrapped the sandwich to bring home.

Came home. Moaned. My stomach hurt horribly.

19th-2nd in Dhaka 1/10

Today was spent at home. Sick. Taking ORSaline to replenish all fluids and electrolytes. Watched movies, played on internet, posted blog. Went out and collected some stock photos for the blog. Bought some crackers and peanuts to eat since they are simple foods I could digest.

With nothing else to say, I’ll include something from the list of stuff I have called “Things to write about in blog.” Today: police handling traffic. Since traffic lights aren’t really followed, human traffic enforcement is needed. Yes there are signals, but rarely are they obeyed. Running a red light isn’t even a second thought. So to keep the order at intersections cops are out there. They wear green shirts with white sleeves and blue pants. They carry sticks and they use these sticks to point in directions for traffic, but also to hit vehicles which are misbehaving, especially rickshaws. A rickshaw which is not listening to them they will wack with the stick against the rickshaw hard. They do their job as best as they can. It’s tough to handle the traffic and they do their best to control the busy intersections as a team. They also frequently wear masks since they are around the vehicles’ exhaust all day.(pic: police officer managing the intersection with stick in hand and mask covering his nose and mouth)

19th-3rd in Dhaka 1/11

Again not much today. Enjoyed some cereal in the morning for breakfast. Was honestly very delicious to have cereal for the first time in a long time.

For lunch made PB&J after going to Almas Super Shop to buy some good jam. Also bought some muesli and enjoyed that as well.

In the afternoon I went on a walk around Dhanmondi lake. Was feeling a bit better and bit more energized with actual food in my stomach. The lake is really long all the way around since arms of it stretch in every direction. The walking path is very nice, and I want to start running on it when I start feeling better. The bridges that cross the lake are neat, and I love to just meander in all the directions. There are people everywhere. The paths are very near clogged, but I think it’s nice, so many people enjoying themselves. Mostly men though, as that’s who’s always out and about in Bangladesh. There was some concert going on alongside the lake at the outdoor theater, and it was being sponsored by some banana chip company. They were blasting their minute long advertising jingle over and over. I can’t believe people didn’t leave, because it would easily drive me nuts. I sat and read the NCSU newsletter my parents sent me, and just enjoyed being outside. Haven’t been outside much while sick.

Actually ate the dinner the boua made and talked to her today, asking her name and if she could cook some of my favorite Bangladeshi foods.

Bunch of the CCR16 group came over. CCR16 is the group of people who graduated from Cadet College Rangpur Batch #16. This includes Saifullah, Mohan, Moin, Bapi, Shibli, and many others. They all are great friends even 12 years after Cadet College ended. Four of them came over to Mohan’s and my place. Ate some dinner and we played card games. Learned 29, a real good strategy game that lasts for a long time. Must be great for long trips. Glad I picked this one up.

19th-4th in Dhaka 1/12

Another day where I pretty much stayed at home. Eating simple foods still. PB&J. Bananas. Cereal. Muesli.

Went and got a haircut. They cut it a bit too close! Uh oh! Now I think I look like a professional soccer player, where they only keep a little bit of hair because of all the ball heading. Oh well, it’ll grow. This time I went to a nicer saloon because it was a fixed price, and they have clippers, not just scissors. But they don’t restrain themselves with such powerful tools. Next time I’ll go back to streetside saloon. I might gone today, but all were crowded since it was a weekend.

Started looking at grad schools and fellowships, such as the NSF. Realized I need to start considering this stuff. I know it’s early, but it’s never too early. I’m nervous. Thinking about the whole application process. Thinking about all I’ll have to propose. Thinking of recommendation letters. It’s all so much.

Megan and Aaron came to Dhanmondi. They were going to a couchsurfing “convention” aka a meeting at café mango for couchsurfers and those hosting in Bangladesh. If you don’t know what couchsurfing is, it’s this phenomenon where people post that they have couches for people to sleep on, and when traveling, you can crash at their place. I was first told about it by Spencer Sawyer, a guy on the rowing team. Sawyer is like 6’4” and 200 pounds, so my friend Danny Heater joked that maybe we all would feel comfortable crashing at a stranger’s home if we were Sawyer’s size too. That thought in mind, I didn’t sign up then. Well after tonight, I decided to give it a shot. I may couchsurf someday, but I’d like to host for now if possible.

Anyway, we met at café mango, and I got some soup because I was real hungry and but couldn’t still eat too much because my stomach is still readjusting. Some people were couchsurfers, some were hosts. But mostly chatted with Aaron and Megan because I hadn’t seen them in awhile, and didn’t have any couchsurfing stories to tell.

Took a rickshaw back to my place. I showed them my apartment. Was happy to show. Mohan and Bapi were also there and they talked to Megan and Aaron.

Bapi told me something really neat after Megan and Aaron left. He said he feels that it is his responsibility, as well as all Bangladeshis, to make foreigners who come to aid his country feel especially welcome, and invite them to his home to feed them. It’s them, he said, who’ve come all around the world, to work for near nothing, but to help his country and its people. Thus he feels because of this, the least he can offer is to welcome them to his home and feed them With this thought in mind, I understand more the reasoning behind why I’m always getting invitations to people’s places to eat.

19th-5th in Dhaka 1/13

In the mid-morning I took a walk around Dhanmondi Lake. A nice walk, just to celebrate internally feeling healthier. I really enjoy the scenery and people watching. Glad to take the morning to do this. Made me feel refreshed and prepared for the day.

Also talked to Diya online how I wanted to play badminton, and she told me her friend and neighbor Oyon plays. So she gave me his cell and I got in contact with him. Made plans to come over this night to play. They play on his roof on a court he puts together (by that I mean puts up the lights and the net.)

BUET ended up being successful today. Arrived just after eating my lunch at home. Waited around the ARC for Sohel. Asked him about the library and tips on how I can find what I want. He told me to ask the librarians for the catalog. Also told me to find a man named Rofiq who could help me locate things in the traffic lab. While there I also asked for permission from Dr. Haque if I could make a copy of one of his papers in his private collection, and he agreed and got the copy made for me.

Sohel is a good guy and I’m glad to have met him. He talked to me how he used to like to play sports, but as he got older, his observance of Islam did not allow that to coincide with his life. As a religious person, the clothing he must wear for his religion is not suited for playing sports. So although he still loves cricket, badminton, and football, he no longer plays because of Islam. It is the sacrifice you make for your lord.

Found the catalog in the library by asking the librarian. It was a book with a list of all the MS and PhD thesis papers over the years. As I paged through it, I saw it’s organized by date, and then by author and title. So by going to the year 1991 I could see the few thesis papers from that year, then get the three digit number assigned to that paper, and then look for it on the shelf. The shelf, as I saw before is not organized, but now I knew what the numbers on some of the bound papers meant (not all papers had a number.) The first paper I looked for wasn’t amongst the random papers. Searched for the next, and success, I found it! Was pretty excited to find it. Then had the confidence to ask the librarian where the paper I was looking for was. He pulled out this list of professors’ names, and next to some of the names there were papers’ numbers. Well he told me Dr. Hossain Ali had the paper I was looking for. Not sure why he’s the “caretaker”, but he is. Librarian found the office number for me. Tried to go by his office but he wasn’t in.

Dropped by traffic lab and it was open for first time ever, and I looked inside and saw a guy, and he turned out to be Rofiq Islam, the guy who runs the lab. I asked him about one of the documents I was looking for, and he told me to sit while he went to look for it. It was a big document and he came back with several volumes of books. He also showed his catalogue for the lab of the undergraduate and graduate papers they had on file. Showed me that they had also many measurement tools and devices. He’s an undergrad at another university at night but is running this lab during the day.

He and I went to the BUET canteen and had a cup of Nescafe coffee and talked about engineering. We both commented on how we wished undergraduate students in their final projects would not repeat the same projects year after year. That they would see what has come before them and build upon that.

Played badminton tonight. Went over to Oyon’s building, technically also Farhanaz’s and Diya’s building as well. Went to buy some shuttlecocks. Apparently since we play on the roof we lose a lot. We bought 6.

Badminton was fun. Will be more fun other nights. This night it was a bit too windy, the downside of playing on the roof. We lost all 6 shuttlecocks, couldn’t believe it. The guys and I are all similarly skilled. All the lights and net are Oyon’s and we set them up before we play and take them down after.

Spent some time learning about the Islamic New Year which happened apparently three days ago on January 10th. The new year isn’t really celebrated in Bangladesh as Mohan explained to me, except by extra prayer at the mosque, which unless you go regularly, you wouldn’t go to hear. Neat fact, 2008 is one of the years in which the Islamic year will fall entirely within the Gregorian calendar. This happens every 33 years. The new year is marked from the year the prophet Muhammad moved from Mecca to Medina. I did notice the new moon, and thus I knew a month was changing, but no signs that it was the new year from what I could tell. Of course I was also in the house being sick.

19th-6th in Dhaka 1/14

Spent the morning in the library reading the thesis paper on pedestrian underpasses. Kids were collecting their grades in the library, so there was a constant stream of students. Faisal came by, a friend I met on New Years, and we exchanged hellos after he got his grades. The report was less focused on the pedestrians and more on the traffic. Instead of a safety study, it was more of an flow study and the pedestrians were causing a delay.

Met up with Ayon and his friends from DU for lunch. They took me to this place called Mama, which is on top of Nilkhet Market, literally. It’s on the roof. You climb onto the roof via some back stairs, and way on the other side are three eateries, and one is Mama. First time eating out like this since being sick. They said it has been a popular place among DU and BUET students for a long time.

Went back to BUET. Spent afternoon researching bus delay caused by overcrowding. Not much that I’m finding, really need to find where they are hiding.

Found the bus that can take me from Jigatola to BUET and back. Local bus #13. From the bus stops it’s a short walk on either end. And it’s more comfortable, cheaper, safer, and quicker than a rickshaw. Comfortable in that the bus has nicer seats and the ride is less bumpy. Cheaper in that a rickshaw costs Tk25-30 each way, this cost Tk2….7% at best! Safer because it is less likely to be mugged, and less likely to get in a serious accident. Rickshaw riding can sometimes be very scary. And lastly, it’s quicker because a bus not only goes faster, but can take the main roads.

Stayed home, read a bit of Dune. Just starting on it. My dad’s copy. I’ve heard about it over the years from many people. Especially form Saket. And since the remake of the movie is coming out, and Saket is raving about it on his blog, and even started a fan page called Sands of Arrakis. I decided it was time to pick it up. Saket warned me the first 50 pages can be tough because of all the new jargon, so with that in mind, I’m starting to plow through.

Went to play badminton. Less wind and got a bunch of games in. Glad to have found this group. A seventh guy came tonight.

19th-7th in Dhaka 1/15

Today was “go to Gulshan and get things done and meet up with friends” day. First up was to meet with Saifullah at his new office, check it out, and get my badminton racket back after a month. He has a real cool new job. He came over with his boss from Aktel, and is part of a team which will be developing a new product line for ACI, a company that specializes in dry goods. He’ll be in charge or marketing and gets develop his own team below him. Sounds like he’s going have a good time with it. He’s real excited about all the possibilities.

Next up was to go to Banani and get more packages from the American Center. Some from my parents, the rest of the holiday gifts. Unpacked them all from the boxes and put them in my bag.

Next headed down to A&W where I was meeting up with Risal for lunch since he works right nearby. We had set this up since I was coming to Gulshan and he works there, and we had wanted to meet up more often. Farabi and his cousin also came by. The four of us enjoyed lunch together. Root beer was delicious. Burger and chicken strips hit the spot as well.

After went back to Farabi’s uncle’s house with him and spent the afternoon with him. He was two years behind me in Science and Engineering Specialized Learning Center at Manalapan High School. He’s visiting for 2.5 weeks with family and such before Rutgers starts back up, first time in twelve years. I knew he’d be coming and we’d planned to meet up while he was here. Had a second lunch with his cousins, real good home cooked food. We went to Gulshan youth club, which his apartment building was right behind, and played a few games of badminton. Later we went to cofi11 for some iced mochas. His aunt served us some chingaras, but they were ponir filled (see above)! Yummm. Like mozzarella sticks.

Lastly went to KFC to meet with Ashrafi, a guy from the Bandarban trip who asked to meet with me. He just got a visa to the United States, and wanted to talk to me about it. He will be there thanks to a company which brings good candidates to the US in his IT field and sets them up with companies. If he gets a job with one of those companies, he gets to stay and then extend his visa as necessary. He’ll be sent to Jersey City, and he will be interviewing at Exchange Place, right near where my friend Chris Rappa works! I’m going to try to make sure the two of them meet up. Also since he’s going to be in New Jersey, I hope takes my offer to go to my parents’ house and meet them.

He wants to practice his English with me to get ready for the interviews, so I’m only to speak English to him! Also he was saying he needs get used to an American accent, but what’s even cooler is that I’m providing him with New Jersey accent practice! Real excited he’s going to my home state. He asked me if the people are very friendly in New Jersey. I couldn’t lie. I told him that New Jersey might be regarded as one of the rudest and least friendly states in the US by most Americans. I didn’t want to lead him astray. But I did talk about Jersey to him for the next half hour and all the great stuff about it.

When I got back, quickly changed and headed to Oyon’s house for badminton. Played a bunch of good doubles matches tonight. I get so competitive and apparently I’m never smiling when playing. Well it’s the competition what I enjoy most, and we’re all evenly matched, so it’s a lot of fun. I’m getting back to my previous form more each night, more confident in my hits. Glad to have my racket back too, feel much better playing with it.