10 January 2008

Week 18: Transitioning from the holidays to a research schedule

18th-1st in Dhaka 1/2

Was going to go out and buy a few things before I hung out with Cynthia. But I went to get our padlock and it was left open by Mohan the last time he came back. It’s almost impossible to get it to work if it’s left open (as opposed to leaving it locked.) And this time I fumbled with it for an hour. Couldn’t get it to work. Ended up having to lock the door with our other padlock for which we only have one key, meaning I had to give that key to our landlord. Our landlord is very busy planning for a wedding coming up, felt bad disturbing her.

Cynthia and I met and went to Old Dhaka to explore for a few hours. We headed for Ahsan Manzil and then walked back from there to Gulistan. She said the rickshaw ride we took from Gulistan to the river was the longest she’d ever been on. Sat and looked at the river go by in front of us. We actually went inside Ahsan Manzil since this is the first time in three tries for me that it’s been open. But we didn’t do the museum inside any justice. quickly walking through just to see the layout of the old royal palace. We left after at most 20 minutes and started walking back. Wound through the streets, stumbled upon a Hindu festival right in the middle of one of the streets. Saw monkeys hanging out on the edge of a building. Ate some petha in front of a Hindu temple. Glad to share her first time in Old Dhaka with her. (pics: Ahsan Manzil, Cynthia walking in front of Ahsan Manzil, monkeys in Old Dhaka, my favorite Hindu temple right in the middle of the streets of Old Dhaka.)

We took a bus back to Gulshan. Ate some ice cream at movenpick.

Dropped her off at Numyaer’s and then somehow got invited with all of Numayer, Nashad, Risal, Cynthia, and Numayer’s cousins and sister to Heritage restaurant. It was to spend the money that his side earned at the “gate”. I mentioned the “gate” from the wedding, where the groom’s side pays the bride’s side to enter the wedding. Well the same thing happens when the bride comes the first time to stay at the groom’s family’s house permanently. Family members will block her entry until she pays some sum of money. So the money we were eating off of was the money Nashad paid to come to Numayer’s home. I’m quite sure technically since Risal, Cynthia, and I are from the bride’s side, we weren’t supposed to be there, but we were still glad to be included. (pics: Risal/Nashad/Cynthia after Numayer's "gate" dinner)

Then we went to movenpick!! Hah! Cynthia’s and my second time today!

18th-2nd in Dhaka 1/3

Picked up my suit today. It is really nice, and the shirt and tie I got for it look good as well. This is the start of loading up on clothes to bring home due to the lower garment industry prices here.

Went to Baridhara and dropped off baksheesh (tip) to Sujit, but he wasn’t there, so I gave the card with money inside to Erin to give to him. Also dropped off baksheesh to my guards downstairs.

After changing into suit at Naira’s, we all went to the Bashundara Convention Center for the reception (same place that Nashad’s and Numayer’s reception was.) Hung out with the guys at dinner and outside. Megan came separately as well because she knew the groom’s side and also wanted to meet Nerpa, the bride. Receptions are all about taking lots of pictures and eating. Cake was cut too. (pics: myself/Naira at her sister's reception, Raja/Sadia/Tashfique in front of the large reception eating area which still has two seatings!, myself/Tashfique/Shariful/Raja hanging out outside at reception, all us guys posing with the groom and bride)

After reception the family and friends went back to Naira and Nerpa’s house. There the newly married couple, Nerpa and Probal, were brought into the house with the Koran being held over their head and welcomed by family members. After some time chatting downstairs, it was time for them to go to Nerpa’s bedroom which was lit with candles and petals on the bed. Nerpa went up the stairs alone and Probal was carried by Tashfique and Akbar. I think it is supposed to be bachelors carrying him. At the top of the steps Probal picked up Nerpa and brought her to the bedroom and placed her on the bed. (pics: Probal and Nerpa entering her home with Koran overhead, Probal being carried up the stairs by bachelors, Probal placing his new wife on her bed.)

The guys and I went to Shariful’s house after to spend the night. Played soccer on PS2. Fell asleep around 3:30 in the morning but honestly could’ve done so several hours earlier.

18th-3rd in Dhaka 1/4

Woke up early at Shariful’s. Left as quietly as I could, the rest were all still sleeping. Spent all day at home and did some research even though it was the weekend. It was a day off for me and I really wanted to do some reading.

In the evening, my second roommate Moin came from his home in Khulna. He’d been there for 2 months because he had jaundice and was recovering. He said he’s recovered but is sticking to fresh foods without lots of grease, and trying to eat at home. He came home and we chatted while I was on the computer. I was supposed to go my landlord’s brother’s gaye holud tonight and Nafisas birthday party. Moin advised just to choose the birthday party since I knew Nafisa better, amongst other reasons. Well upon leaving for that, the landlord caught me on the stairs, and I felt real bad telling her I wasn’t coming. A few minutes later got a call that the birthday party was canceled. Why I didn’t go back to go to the wedding I don’t know. I just felt weird saying “no”, and then showing up right after. Still feel guilty now.

With nothing to do now I called Megan and we got Mexican food at El Toro. Mexican was ok. Guacamole was amazing. The amount of cheese on the nachos was not enough to satisfy my craving. I was nice to have a change in style of food though. Definitely not El Meson (my family’s favorite Mexican place in Freehold!)

18th-4th in Dhaka 1/5

Today is 4 months!

Megan sent me a website where I can watch episodes of CBS’s How I Met Your Mother, so took advantage and watched one this morning.

Went to see Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (POC3) today! I had low expectations for the movie as I found the second in the series to be confusing and only slightly entertaining. But I thought it’d still be fun to see a movie in the only international style theater here in Bangladesh. And they only play one English movie (and on a rare occasion two) at a time, and this movie will run for over a month before they bring in another film.

Before the movie had lunch. There are so many restaurants here, and each one is avidly trying to get you try to eat there. As you walk through the rows upon rows of fast food places, they each jut a menu in front of your face and try to get you to look at it. You have to walk past firmly to make it through, they’ll stand in your way. The funny thing is, they all serve the same thing! Each one has fried chicken, and rice, and vegetable dishes, and kebabs, and bread. It’s the same stuff at 80% of them, I don’t understand how they all stay open. There’s no attempt to differentiate, except for the one Taco Bell (not a real Taco Bell, in name only), and a few pizza places.

Just like in South Africa, the movie theater tickets are assigned. But unlike South Africa, there are different prices for seats depending on where you want to sit. Since it is stadium seating, the seats higher up with an easier view of the screen cost 50% as much. Only Tk150, but they are called the VIP seats, as opposed to the non-VIP seats at Tk100. I splurged and got the more expensive ones! Ha

Got some popcorn, and it was decent, they give it small bags, only one size. Cups of coke too, but these also were in sizes that are way too small for US movie watchers.

Movie, just like US movies now, had tons of commercials as previews. Although after the commercials, there weren’t any previews. Granted POC3 is old, so why would they want to use previews that were released with the film? Also no more than one movie from the US comes here at a time. Additionally, all movies are approved by the Bangladesh Film Censor Board first before being seen in theaters by the public (use your imagination for what they are censoring, possibly political reasons included) so not guaranteed a preview movie will ever even come to theaters. Thus, no previews.

Anyway, the most interesting pre-movie event was the playing of the Bangladeshi National Anthem and the picture of the Bangladeshi flag on the movie screen. 80% of the audience immediately stood at attention at their seats, another 10% stood up slowly, and another 10% didn’t stand at all. It played for about one minute, and then shut off as the movie started. Didn’t expect that at all.

Another unexpected thing was an intermission. If you’ve seen POC3 you know there is no planned intermission, but I guess an intermission was decided to be necessary. At some possibly predetermined point they paused the movie mid frame and the lights went on, everyone promptly filed out and went to the bathroom and got snacks. Lasted about 10 minutes, then without any announcement the movie restarted. Not everyone came back, or came back in time.

Went to dinner at Malancha Restaruant. From the sign with picture of a burger on it, I thought it’d be international food. But no, was deceived, it was Bangladeshi food.

18th-5th in Dhaka 1/6

Spent a good amount of the day at BUET today. Before heading out discovered that my bag had an orange left in it about a week ago. It was moldy and was leaking orange juice everywhere. Real real gross. I had to pull it out by hand and wash it out in the bathroom. Blehhhh. Hung it to dry, and brought everything in my laptop case instead to BUET.

Got to BUET and looked for Dr. Rahman to sign my computer user sheet. He wasn’t there. So I went to the library and spent some time on my laptop researching pedestrian bridges and tunnels. Found many good articles that I plan to use, and one which was very similar to exactly what I want to do if I go ahead with the pedestrian crossing project. Was in the library until my laptop began to die, and without a suitable outlet to recharge, I decided to shift.

Went to the lobby of the computer lab, and plugged into the best wall socket I could find.

Spent another hour or more researching on the pedestrian topics. Checked to see if Dr. Rahman was in as I was leaving BUET, and he still wasn’t there. Went by the ARC to see if the student I met last time was there. Hoping to talk to him about what he’s doing, and my ideas, see what we’re connecting on. He wasn’t there, out to lunch.

Also noticed at BUET today that my zipper fly on my pants wouldn’t zipper up. It would go up and down, but wouldn’t actually close. This was quite disconcerting. I decided to go home, and change. Hiked my pants up as high as they could go and pulled my belt tight. Then ensured by shirt was pulled down as far as it could go. My best attempt to avoid embarrassment. Wondered what people would notice first: the international guy or that this guy’s fly is open? Or even, both at the same time! A story definitely worth telling friends later. Brought them by a tailor later to have them fixed.

Headed home and got lunch at a sweet shop. Ate a chicken burger and vegetable roll. It was maybe a few minutes after that I felt sick. Uh oh. Went home and laid in bed.

Started to watch Transformers as I wasn’t feeling good and just wanted to relax.

Still decided to meet up with Cynthia and cousins for dinner, as this was her last dya in town. Met at Risal’s place, mistakenly choosing the long way to get there. Impressed myself that I remembered its location three months since I last went there. Hung out there until we went back to Dhanmondi to go to the Leisure Lounge for dinner. My stomach was getting worse and worse. Took some medicine Risal bought me. And had only pasta for dinner. But things weren’t getting better.

Did my best to be social during dinner despite feeling gross. Talked to Risal’s brother-in-law a bit about skyscrapercity.com. He’s another user, and it was really cool to talk about that stuff, not many of us post there, and to unexpectedly meet someone else was really cool. It was Cynthia’s last night too, and she was really nice and paid for us all. Didn’t expect that.

Trying to sleep. Stomach hurts. Moaning all night.

18th-6th in Dhaka 1/7

Stayed in bed for the morning and watched the end of Transformers. Talked to Moin before he left. He quit his job. He’s going to go back home. He’s still feeling weak from jaundice, and needs proper rest. Said he can only get that at his village. So after just a few days of being here, he’s heading back home to get more recovery. No more second roommate.

It was pointed out to me by my garbage collector, who comes up the stairs of our apartment building to pick up trash bins and dump them into a big container he carries, that my can was filled with maggots. I promptly cleaned that out.

On the subject of garbage, I’ll mention some stuff about it. First, there are no trash cans here (kind of like Washington DC once they got rid of them due to the fear of bombs.) But here there are no cans because anywhere is legitimately a trash can. You can throw your trash anywhere you want. Parks are littered, sides of roads are littered. But why is it not totally covered? Well because every morning people hired by the city government (by the department in charge of cleaning) come about dressed in yellow smocks, and take to the streets sweeping them up with brooms. They pick up the trash, not all of it, but most. Most are women. Thus knowing this, people feel free to throw their waste any moment they want to. Honestly, it does look a bit dirty, but it’s working ok. I guess it saves having to set up all these trash cans. (pics: small pile of garbage on the street along with some chicken feathers from a carcass a dog was eating, trash in the drainage ditch along the side of the road)

From houses, workers come to pick up the trash. They come to your door and if you’ve left your trash out for them, they dump it from your basket into a big bin they carry. They carry the bin full of trash to their carts outside. These rickshaw style carts can hold a decent amount of trash. And they cycle the trash to the dumpsters and get rid of it. I’ve also seen these carts take trash from the dumpsters, so maybe that’s how they are emptied. I’ve never actually seen them get emptied. The trash piles up in the dumpsters after its collected, which do smell a bit as you pass. (pic: garbage carts parked in front of dumpster)

The sweepers in the morning also help get rid of all the dust. For such a rainy place, its quite dusty (now because it’s the dry season I presume,) lots of dirt, the place looks a little cloudy all the time. People wear masks to deal with the bad air.

Also no plastic bags here. I’m quite sure there was policy passed to not have plastic bags in Bangladesh, so at stores you can get net bags and on the streets food is served in old newspaper or used copy paper shaped into cups or plates or packets. Many places use newspaper. What a great way to recycle! (pic: old piece of copy paper used to wrap up 100g of peanuts)

Lastly, talking about things that aren’t quite that pleasant, if you ever have a feeling of vomiting from the bus, feel free. I’ve seen on numerous occasions people leaning their head out the window and retching. Its gross, the streets gets covered. But what’re you to do if it comes? Not sure why so many people are vomiting though. I’ve seen a car below get covered by a bus barfer just once.

Went to Banani to American center to pick up packages. Some from my parents, a postcard from fawn, and the Tonight We Die CD from South Africa. Fun bringing all that back by bus.

18th-7th in Dhaka 1/8

Went to ­­BUET. Spent the morning in the library. Brought the right plug adaptor this time. Actually stayed in there awhile and got things done. Checked before and after this morning for Dr. Rahman but still no sign of him.

Met with Sohel for some time at ARC, the guy I met last week randomly in the hallway who seemed to have similar interests. Talked to him about my ideas and just tried to get to know him better. Found out that research has actually been done in Bangladesh on what I’m interested in, but it’s not published in major journals. Usually its a M.S. thesis. Either way, I can find this stuff in the library here, so it’ll be good to review it. He was more excited about the pedestrian stuff I told him since that’s what he’s been working with.

Dr. Haque came in while we were chatting. He showed me even more papers that he’s worked on, or his students have worked on, that I could consider.

The Civil Engineering library will take some getting used to. I’m being optimistic and hoping there is a method to the madness. But as far as I can tell there is no organization. Yes there are shelves marked ‘Undergraduate Papers’ but after that, on that shelf, you will find stacks of papers from random years on random topics, none of which are related. It would be cruel to say they were just thrown there because they are placed in nice piles. The graduate thesis papers are on a shelf and numbered, but by how I don’t know. Not by topic, not by year, not by name. Not sure yet. My mom, the librarian, would have a fit. I’m not sure how I’ll ever find anything there, but my best hope is that the librarians, when not busy, know exactly where each and every document is. I’ll ask around, but just not too sure what the chances are.

Left, felt exhausted. Couldn’t find what I want. Will go back next time and ask someone to help. I’ll bring all the necessary information so they can’t say I didn’t try.

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