02 January 2008

Week 17: New ______ (insert one of the following: year, clothes, home)

17th-1st in Dhaka 12/26

This morning my roommate Mohan arrived from his village. Him, Saifullah and I went out to a hotel for breakfast. He then went to work and was in and out all day, sharing meals with me only. Saifullah left right after breakfast. Asked Mohan when he came home for lunch about our house address and how bills work. Found out I technically am living in Jigatola (sometimes spelled Zigatola.) (pics: street leading up to my apartment building, my apartment building, half of bedroom with all my stuff everywhere since i'm only here temporary, our bathroom, our kitchen, our kitchen, half of our drawing room, Mohan sitting on our bed )

So I’ve learned that my apartment was broken into not very long ago. They took Tk5000 and a cell phone. Since then my roommate Mohan installed a deadbolt lock, so that it can’t happen again. Well it might, but it’ll much harder. But when the thief came, he didn’t take the laptop here or other technology. That’s a bit comforting, probably would only take the easy to grab stuff if they ever came. Either way, motivation to always be cautious and lock things well.

We have a cook/cleaner. The term for such a person in Bangladesh, which I never referred to Sujit as, is boua. She is very sweet and Mohan says she always works with a smile. He also says she’ll do errands other bouas will refuse to do, like going to buy food before she comes to the home. She works at one other home, but comes here first. Besides cooking breakfast this morning, she washed the floor and clothes.

Mohan and I went to Rifles Square after he got back from work, a real nice shopping center on the southern end of Dhanmondi. Its is named as such because it’s on the property of Bangladesh Rifles (the border patrol of the country.) We just browsed the shops. I was looking at places I might want to buy clothes or shoes. Even looked at DVDs I might want to buy when I have a new place. Almost bought some DVDs of Entourage. Found the first three seasons for a good price. I was talking to the store owner about purchasing, but how I only wanted to buy one season right now. It was then he interrupted me and asked why I didn’t speak to him English. He’s not stupid he said, that he knows English. I said to him, well I’m here in your country so I’m just speaking and practicing Bengali. And he scoffed at me! So I took one look at the DVDs, Tk1200 worth, looked up at him, shook my head, and took Mohan by the arm and walked out.

Took the bus to get to Bashundara for the reception of Numayer and Nashad’s wedding. Then a rickshaw to the convention center for the actual reception. Perhaps the only attendee who didn’t come by car. The convention center was way back at the back of Bashundara. Nothing is there! Nothing. Empty space except for the convention center. Walked in and saw I was one of the first ten people. Even Nashad wasn’t there yet. Numayer shook my hand and joked with me that I was early. I chuckled. I had two cups of Nescafe coffee to pass the time. Nashad arrived and took her place on the stage. Friends slowly arrived and talked to them as they did.
Had dinner with Risal’s cousins Jihan and Aqib who I met for the first time tonight. Found out Aqib is coached in basketball by my friend raja.
Found Tamzid and Siraj after. Also sat and watched them eat dinner. And chatted.
Risal arranged for one of his uncles to take me home. So I had to leave a bit earlier since the uncle was leaving. (pics: Numayer waits for all the guests to arrive and greet them, Cynthia/Nashad/myself at wedding reception)

He dropped me off and I had to wake up Mohan to unlock the door form the inside. The door has many locks, some of which can only be unlocked when someone is inside, and we always use those when we’re inside, safety. There’s also a chained gate downstairs which gets locked by the landlord around 11:30pm.

17th-2nd in Dhaka 12/27

Boua came at 7 am. I heard her knocking. I got up to unlock the doors. I had deadbolted it last night. Mohan and I had just gotten a new key made yesterday, so I had used it last night to lock the door. Well this morning, I went to unlock the deadbolt and my key snapped apart. Second time using it. Shocked/annoyed/angry. Now we’re locked in, and she can’t come in. Well after trying to pull the remainder of the key out of the lock with pliers while she was waiting outside, Mohan woke up, and got his key. He slid it under the door so she could unlock it. I felt like such an idiot, but it’s not my fault, the key was soft, and couldn’t take the pressure of doing its job. But now we can’t use the deadbolt. Our best line of defense is gone. Will have to get deadbolt fixed, and another key made. Until then, we’re going to lock the bedroom as well when we’re out.

Mohan said he talked to the landlord last night. She said an apartment will open up at the start of February for me to move into by myself. Still wanting to have my own place. It’s next door to Mohan’s actually. And it’s a bit more expensive since its bigger, at Tk9000. But it’d be cool to live there. A month is a long time to wait, but it’ll go by fast.

My first breakfast prepared by the boua was good. Mohan asked her how many places she was working right now, and she said confirmed only 2. So he asked if she would want to be my boua when I move into my own place. And she said yes. So at least that’d be settled. He said her cooking is very good compared to other bouas, and because of her willingness to help run errands, she’s good to have.

Worked all day. Got through a lot of the STP. Read some real interesting stuff. Thinking about ideas of what I can turn this project into, something tangible.

We had lunch here, fish heads. You just got pick it apart to find all the meat. Went down to the landlords house. He and his wife, and his eldest daughter talked with us. Actually by that I mean his daughter did almost 95% of the talking. We arranged that it would be okay for me to stay there, in the big room above, starting in February. They will require a deposit of two months rent. They also warned about being aware that is not socially accepted that bachelors live alone, and I should respect the cultural attitudes about that. People always worry about bachelors and the perceived problems they will cause. Said neighbors might try to oppose me moving in. And single girls, well they have a near impossible time finding a place to live alone.

I’m going to take it. It’s a great place with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a veranda, a sitting room, and kitchen. I’m excited. One month and I’ll move in.

Around 4, I was feeling antsy. Wanted to get out. So I decided I would go to New Market and look around. And I would walk there to waste some time. On the way to New Market stopped in many clothing stalls to see what they had. Asked about some prices to gage what I should be spending on a sweater. Tk300-500 for a decent zip up sweater and an attractive style. Was trying to wait to see what I else I could find, then bargain. Also was looking for a scarf, which required me learning the Bangladeshi name for it, because the term “scarf” is something different from what I was looking for, a “mafla” as I learned.

New market is a neat place. It’s huge. Stalls go on forever. People everywhere. Clothes and items hanging from the ceiling. Narrow alleys to walk through stalls. It’s full of activity.

So after shopping and bargaining prices, I bought two sweaters and two maflas (the maflas off the street.). Got a text form Ayon asking me a question, but he also mentioned he was at Rifles Square. Right near by! And Farhan was coming too. So I went by on rickshaw and met up with them. Along with Saquib and two guys I met, Nipu and Imu, we went up to the top of rifles square, and sat next to the bowling alley. They had all met to discuss the plans for New Years. Good timing for me to come by, as I was there for the planning. We discussed where to celebrate, what food to bring, and what we’ll do.

After this, went to the HSBC bank, took out money to make a deposit on the apartment. Went back to Jigatola and looked around for a hotel to eat at. Found one. I asked what they were serving and he said pumpkin, egg, and rice. So I took all three, Tk32. Got some interested looks as this was the first time I’m eating at a hotel by myself.

Also bought some medicine for this cough I’ve had for a month.

17th-3rd in Dhaka 12/28

Watched Die Hard 4 (not called Live Free Or Die Hard here) with Mohan when we woke up. Ate our breakfast which was combination of fried rice, fried chicken, and veggies.

I’ve really started to like Ernest Hemingway’s novels. I like his thinking, and his commentary. I love how he said he writes about food well because he writes when he’s hungry. I love his style. I like how I have to reread some sentences to really understand everything. It makes me happy to open the book. I want to reread the books to get everything very well. I like his humorous situations he writes about. I like how I can relate to his thoughts, things he describes are sometimes things I think about, and that makes me happy. Nice to see my thoughts in someone else’s words. I want to hear more of thaw he has to say. I’ll buy more of his books in years to come. His famous ones and his non-famous ones. Always nice to read about food J I want reread both books I’ve read and write down my favorite quotes.

Walked around Jigatola. Looking for internet café. But all were closed for Friday prayer. Bought some snacks and some fruit.

Important story of the day. Coming very close to get beaten by a baton by police officers. Went to a concert Sunny invited me too, and he was trying to navigate me upon arrival to come through the VIP gate, as he was inside there. But there was huge crowd in front also trying to get in, and that wasn’t there gate. It was getting hectic, but Sunny kept just waving to me from behind the gate to come on in. So I start coming through the crowd, then all of a sudden the police burst through the gate and started beating everyone with batons. I was standing right next to people who got hit. I moved to the side the best I could, but I really was afraid the next hit would come on me. Once the crowd parted because of the police, Sunny made sure to get me in by telling some security guy to grab me and drag me inside. I made sure to sardonically thank Sunny for putting me in such a wonderful situation where I got to experience almost getting beaten.

Concert was good. Saw “Aurthohin” or the perhaps it was just the lead singer Sumon. He performs solo sometimes. But still plays the songs which are his. Pretty cool to hear songs I know.

Saw Ayub Bacchu and found out it was a guys name, not the band. But he didn’t play the song I like of his.

Place was packed. Must be at least 20000+. People were everywhere trying to get in. pushing shoving. Trying to hop the fences, then getting beaten by police officers. Lots of people sat in trees around the property or along the wall. This show was obviously unattainable for some but they wanted to watch no matter what.

Sunny had backstage and VIP access for the concert since he worked for Warid, the cell phone company sponsoring the concert. So we got to watch from close to stage, and go backstage to see where all the artists were hanging out, and watch from behind the stage. But I would’ve been more than fine watching form the crowd.

Oh, and got a phone call today from Tanvir, my ad is out in the Daily Star today! Need to get a copy.

17th-4th in Dhaka 12/29

Tried giving a deposit to the landlord to reserve my house, but they wouldn’t take it. I’m not sure they understood what I was trying to do since my Bengali isn’t the best. But they mentioned Mohan’s name, so maybe they want him there.

Really sick of internet cafes, went to check out how much citycell ZOOM internet would cost. Went to the actual store. They didn’t have the internet devices in stock. But they said they’d come in tomorrow, but I found out the cost, an that I’ll need passport sized photos and copies of my passport. So in the evening I got the copies of the passport and went to a photo studio to get passport sized photos taken.

Around 3pm, met up with Dr. Hassan, a mechanics engineer from NCSU, who is visiting his mother and brother in Bangladesh for 3 weeks, as well as keeping in touch with old friends. I had met with him before I left NCSU to let him know I was coming here, and we said then we’d meet up there. So we did! We went to Boomer’s café and I got some lunch and himself a sprite. Later two coffees were ordered. We talked about Bangladesh, how I liked it and such, what’d I’d been up to, the engineering issues involved with the country, transportation, and what Dhaka was like 25 or more years ago when he lived here. Told me how the city was so easy to get around, that when saying one’s goodbyes on the last day, you could see everyone you knew all over the city in one evening. And how now you have time for only one person because of the traffic. Also talked about religion, Pakistan’s recent assassination, NCSU sports and NCSU in general. Really enjoyed it. and he invited tomorrow to come to BUET where he’d meet some of his friends.

Headed over by bus in my sport coat to be at Naira’s beforehand for Nehrir and Probal’s wedding. There happened to find a copy of the Daily Star and saw my ad. Showed it to the guys . (pics: 3 different shots from the photo shoot at Zia International Airport over 2 months ago, actual ad in The Daily Star newspaper)

Tent for wedding was at Gulshan club. Big giant field. And the white tent with all its lights looked an island oasis in the middle of the night. Lights everywhere, and streams of cloth coming form the ceiling. Looked like a heavenly place. (pics: tent for wedding from outside, from inside)

When the groom’s family arrived, we were to form a chain at the front of the tent called the “gate”. The reason this is done is so the groom cannot enter until he pays a price. Although I didn’t get the history of why this is (dowry?) the modern day practice is that the folks on the bride’s side who form the chain bargain for some money from the groom’s side, and then use the money to take all the key members of the bride’s side out to dinner, or do something fun. It’s a lot of money they were asking for, and I guess they know they’ll be bargained down a lot. They started asking for 2 lakh (200,000) taka…a lot. We locked arms so they couldn’t enter. The younger kids were in front of the chain yelling for money. At one point the groom’s side charged us, and tried to push through. I’m quite sure this is all in good fun. They obviously know this is going to happen. I’m also quite sure an amount is determined beforehand. Anyway, after the charge, which sadly broke our linked arm chain, they ended up giving us 20,000 taka. 10% of what we asked. It was a lot of fun, holding back the charge and all the yelling to get the money. The groom himself didn’t do anything, all his relatives did. He stood in back and just grinned at the whole thing.

At one point we had to steal the groom’s shoes, this also was meant to get something out of him. He has to pay to get them back. Not sure if this is different money from what the gate was for. Anyway, we all went on stage to take a picture, then Tashfique and Naira grabbed his shoes and we all ran. Somehow I ended up with one of the shoes, and I hid it in my jacket. I carried it around all night. And I had to leave before we did the bargaining to get the shoes back. So I don’t know what actually happened. But I guess I did my part to hold onto the shoe. I’m hoping some good amount of money came from that.

I left early because Mudasser’s car was to bring me home. But at least I got to watch the actual wedding which happened around 11:00. The following is what I observed without much explanation on reasons or specifics. First they covered the groom and bridge with a cloth. Then held the Koran out (I’m guessing it was the Koran, what else?) and something is said. Next they hold a mirror in front of bride and the groom looks into the mirror and tells what he sees when he looks at his bride. The most typical response is to say “I see the moon” or “I see the most beautiful girl in the world.” Each then fed each other something. They each draped a necklace of flowers around each others neck. Lastly, he put the wedding ring on her. (pics: draped in cloth with Koran being held in front, Probal looking at his bride in the mirror, draping Nehrir with flowers, giving the ring, Taufique/Shariful/Tashfique/Akbar at wedding, bride's family photo with Naira and Akbar in back)

That’s when I had to leave. Wish I could’ve seen the rest. But since Mudasser’s car was bringing me home, I had no choice but to go.

17th-5th in Dhaka 12/30

Picked up passport sized photos for citycell ZOOM. Went to HSBC to take out the Tk9000 for the zoom. Got some breakfast at a bakery. Went to BUET to meet Dr. Hassan at 11am. Found out that rickshaws, when going past New Market have to go all the way around it, going through the backside instead of the more direct front side. No wonder they charge so much.

At BUET Dr. Hassan and I met up with several of his old friends (now professors) and old professors (still professors!). It was good to make some more contacts there. Met a professor who is involved with transportation planning. Also met Dr. Hassan’s old professor who now runs the Accident Research Center. Also a guy visiting from Clemson who knew all my professors from NC State. While at the ARC met a student who had similar interests as me. Was excited to chat with him for a few minutes. Transportation planning with a touch of safety. We also explored the library. I was glad to see his university now 25 years after he went and hear his stories. The whole experience was motivating, and throughout the rest of the day I was bubbling over with ideas for my research.

Going on at BUET today there was a technology fair to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the university. Many displays from local companies promoting their products. And citycell ZOOM was there too. So I went by to check out the connection, a random test. While there I told them I was buying it today, and they said I could buy it right there. For just Tk6000. A 33% off sale if I buy it from the booth. Um yes. That’s an incredibly large discount. Sat around and waited until the product could come from another store. Bought it, but they wanted me to bring my laptop to ensure it all would be all right. They said if I took the product, and it didn’t work, I can’t return it. hmm, that’s inconvenient. So I went all the way back home and all the way back to BUET, to get my laptop. Luckily it worked. And I now have internet. I felt bad that I didn’t take Naira’s device like I said I would, and knew I would have to apologize to her.

Went to the bazaar to buy a suit. At the wedding last night I was jealous that all the guys had nice suits, and I was without one, wearing my blue blazer and slacks. So I went back to the stall I had inquired about the price of fabric and suits a few days ago and told them I wanted to buy one much earlier than I had expected. I chose my fabric, black with faint stripes. Total, with the fabric and the tailoring, it’ll be Tk5000 because its nicer fabric I chose. It could be as low as Tk4000 if I bought less nice fabric, which I’ll probably do in the future.

Went upstairs with the tailor and he measured me in all directions. Chose what styles I’ll like my suit to be, and arranged that I’ll pick the suit up the day of the wedding reception.

Headed out to Mirpur. Rob Bradley from the crew team had a professor from Bangladesh, Dr. Saad Khan, who is visiting for a few weeks. Rob had suggested Dr. Khan and I meet up. So I said sure, and Dr. Khan and I arranged this evening for me to come to his family’s home in Mirpur. Found their house on foot after getting off the bus, and spent about two hours there. We enjoyed some snacks and chatted, very easy to find conversation topics as we’d actually never met before. Met his family and had conversations with them all. Very nice to drop in and spend just a short amount of time. It’s great also to connect with someone else from NCSU. It’s neat to have those connections here when they come.

17th-6th in Dhaka 12/31

Set out for Imu’s place for New Year’s celebration. Met Farhan at his place, had lunch, and jumped on a bus to Uttara. Went to Saquib’s place first to meet up with Ayon, Faisal, and Saquib. The five of us then went to Imu’s place.

At Imu’s we had a fun night. We cooked some chicken BBQ, some french fries, had some beef and veggies, and sodas. We were up on the roof of his apartment building and the weather was cool. We brought up his computer speakers and could play music all night, even to the late hours of the morning to which we stayed up. We were even dancing to the music, having a blast. His mom helped us get the grill going well and helped us cook. Dinner was delicious. There were three other guys there who I met for the first time Bilash, another Faisal, and Malesh. Saquib, Ayon, and I set up some candles to spell out “08” and we were going to light it after the new year came.

And then the new year came! We cheered and whooped. This was the first time they’d celebrated the new year together. Never before had they had a party, and they were all pretty excited. They’ve been schoolmates for a long time and were excited to do this. (pics: BBQing Nipu/Farhan/myself/Faisal/Malesh, our rooftop party setup)

17th-7th in Dhaka 1/1

After the new year came. We went downstairs and had some cake. Then went back upstairs, and lit the candles, to spell out “08”. Played lots of games throughout the night. My favorite was “who’s the worst singer?” and I was glad to sing my rendition of Saves the Day’s “Sell My Old Clothes I’m Off to Heaven”, and be told I would not be winning the game which rewards bad singers. We had prizes for the “winners” of each game that Nipu had picked up from Aarong. He also bought each of us a flute. (pics: New Year's cake excitement, posing for a shot with all 10 of us plus Imu's little cousin, Saquib's hand makes the final touches to our "08" candle display, looking at the prizes Nipu brought and the flutes Saquib/Ayon/Nipu/Imu)

After cleaning up the upstairs around 4 am, I went to bed on the floor for a few hours, but most of the guys stayed up and didn’t sleep.

Woke up around 8 am and Saquib, Ayon, and Faisal and I went back to Saquib’s. Napped for a bit, had some breakfast.

Went to Harvey’s for brunch. Right before, since I was in the area, dropped by my old apartment to pick up the rest of my clothes from Sujit. Lots of embassy workers at the brunch. I was the only Fulbright student for a long time. Erin, Karen, and Megan showed up about 1.5-2 hours later. So for awhile I talked to random people and Harvey. Delicious brunch food: Turkey bacon, mangoes and berries, french toast, and orange juice. The girls showed up later and we all chatted. Some woman told us a story how her CNG tipped over the other day. WHOA!!

Went to Megan’s after with Karen and Erin and just chatted for awhile. Then took a bus home finally to Jigatola. So tired from little sleep. Almost dozed off on bus several times, which would be bad.

Mohan and I went to the landlord’s apartment to give my deposit. She gave us news. I couldn’t move into the place we had mentioned previously. Said that the neighbors didn’t like the idea of a bachelor living near them. However, she did say that half of her apartment, which can be separated to be its own apartment will open up in February too when she herself moves to the third floor. So we took a look around that part of the apartment. Very clean. Kitchen is a bit different, no counters, just floor sink and stove. But its okay they said because our bouas are more accustomed to that from their time in their villages. Bathroom is very nice. Place is actually a bit bigger than what I’m in with Mohan now, but it’s the same room set up. Anyway, rent is 2/3 as cheap as the place I couldn’t live in because of bachelor-disliking. Good deal. Perfect size for me actually. Won’t have space to waste. I’m going to take it. Gave her a deposit of one month rent. Done and done. I’ll move in a month.

Our boua showed up today for the first time in a long while. She’s been sick. Nice to have a home cooked meal, and our place is now cleaner.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The world is such a strange place, here I am in Long Branch, NJ reading your blogs for the past 2 hours to learn about a country where I was born and brought up in...

I have never been to old part of Dhaka city let alone places outside like Sundarban or Sylhet. But I have lived there for 18 years!! All the description and details is absolutely fascinating for me..

On the other hand, I have been in US for 6 years and have already travelled 16-17 states.

Infact when you are back in New Jersey I would love to meetup with you to learn more about my country than yours :)

Keep posting your stories from bangladesh, it has been a real revelation for me..