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


Ben G said...

1) rockstars. man, you're even closer to the world of Rock'n'Roll than I am when I visit Will and TBO and play Rockband.
2) the whole "electronics district" idea is crazy. they had the same thing in Egypt. You'd be walking in the Lamp district, and then be in the pipe district. Let's say you wanted a Lamp, and some electrical wiring to use with that lamp. Well, you'd have to walk through pipes, door, Louis XVI chairs, and sportcoats...several blocks. So, no convenience factor there, since stuff that's used together, but not quite in the same category isn't grouped in the same place. Plus it seems completely anti-economical. Imagine if you'd tried to price-compare at three different electronics shops a few miles apart... well, you would have paid a higher price. Good for you, but why wouldn't the businesses branch out? I guess at this point, there's so much intertia keeping the current system in place, the enterprising shopkeeper who tried to break stride wouldn't get any business.

Kristina G. said...

haha ill follow ben's format
1) love the currency converter. was about to ask, 'wait, what's the exchange rate?' and had been meaning to ask it since i started reading your blog...
2) does this whole housing situation happen a lot to others? it seems kinda crazy to offer someone an apartment and then just say "hah, just kidding!" especially with such random/late notice.

Donny said...

I'm exactly thinking your final comment Ben. Any shopkeeper who thinks it'd be smart to bring his business outside is going to lose money. No one will go to his shop, no matter how low the prices, since they "know for a fact" they can find the best prices at the big market. People may stop at his to get ideas of prices, but ultimately plan to go to where "everyone buys such item"

kristina, this housing situation seems to happen a good deal. my roommate, me, and other friends i've heard from. monthly TO LET signs are put up and you have to walk around to check them out. ya you could put a deposit down, but if the next guy comes and is willing to give more, well shit, they'll take him. they'll refund you your deposit, and give the house to that guy. its not like there's a housing shortage. who's going to stop them?

there's a saying here..."This is Bangladesh" used for anything that just didn't go just as planned

Kristina G. said...

hahaha like everyday is an adventure? makes me miss chile...