06 February 2008

Week 22: Sonargaon was the capital before Dhaka even knew how to spell "government"

22nd-1st in Dhaka 1/30

Woke up and throat wasn’t much better. Gargled with some warm salt water for the third time. Then drank some warm water, easier to go down. Changed and went to the hospital. Bundled up in warm clothes.

The hospital wasn’t as clean or state-of-the-art as US hospitals. Diya and Farhanaz’s mom, the doctor with whom I was meeting with, told me it is because this hospital is kept affordable for middle class families. I met her in her office, the pathology dept, and she took me upstairs to a throat doctor. He took a look down my throat, said I had an infection, and prescribed me four pills to take (one antibody, two painkillers, and one antacid.) She got me some hot coffee and told me to drink it. Also gave me soup to bring home. Only warm liquid foods today. Told me to keep gargling salt water

Saw that the NY Mets are getting Johan Santana from the Twins. What an awesome deal. Looks like we’ll be contenders again and hopefully won’t have another end of season crash-and-burn.

Watched Philadelphia, staring Tom Hanks. It’s one of those movies I remember my parents watching when I was little, but I never actually watched, but still knew what it was about. I really liked it. I especially liked how the movie skipped big chunks of time at once. It gave you the impression of time flying by. And as he has AIDS, you get the feeling that his life is running out of time quickly. Makes you realize how little time he has to live. Helped the movie feel real to the viewer.

Dip came over later so i could go over his essay with him. I was reviewing some of his college essays that he's using for the slew of US schools he's applying to. Giving advice on how to make them stronger.

22nd-2nd in Dhaka 1/31

I woke up feeling a lot better. Had kichuri and egg for breakfast, along with hot water to sooth my throat.

Went to BUET. Ok, so the university has a really weird schedule. Its weekend is not typical, even for Bangladesh: Thursday and Friday. The whole country is off on the holy day of Friday, but usually Saturday is the day taken to make a two day weekend. Well BUET decided to go Saturday through Wednesday. It would be like a US university having class Tuesday through Saturday. Of course, some universities, such as the famous Dhaka University, go six days a week, Saturday through Thursday. I showed up today and the computer lab I have permission to use was closed. I was directed to go to the central library. Getting in there without a student ID was a hassle.
Central library computer lab has 42 computers...some Dells, some HP. All are running Linux.

One thing I kept meaning to mention was something I read in the Dhaka’s STP. It is that there isn't much parking in Dhaka, and its because the need isn't recognized by those important enough to be doing the planning. Because people have private drivers, the lack of a parking spot doesn’t really occur to them, or get mentioned enough to make it an issue. It is not a perceived issue. Plus, a private driver stays in the car, so a parking lot can be real dense since the drivers can always move when needed to let another car out.

Came home and bought some fruit from the streets. Oranges, apples, and for the first time pomegranates. Thought they’d be good for eating with my cereal. Gave them to Moweena, our boua, to cut open and seed for me. She was glad to. I had kept reading people rave about them on NCSU’s student message board, and since they were so cheap here, decided to purchase.

Saw a bunch of people staring at something. Huge crowd…what could it be!? Oh, it was just a construction site. Everything here gathers an enormous crowd. Our bus got pulled over by a cop the other day, and I counted 13 people on the sidewalk who stopped to watch the cop talk to our bus for the entire duration of the conversation, about 5 minutes. (pic: a large crowd of about 20 people gather around a nighttime construction site to watch)

The girl whose Fulbright essays I helped review, Samantha Huq, made it to the next round of Fulbright. Very proud of her. Glad she moved along. Would be neat to actually meet her after talking online so much.

22nd-3rd in Dhaka 2/1

Watched NCSU blow it against Duke this morning. So upsetting. Up by 9 at the half, only to lose by 20!!! GRRRRRR.

It’s the first of the month. What does that mean? It means everyone is moving! Like I should’ve been, but oh well. Every apartment rental starts from the first of the month, so on the street today were many rickshaw vans taking around people’s furniture. Big stacks of furniture, chairs, and household items. Sometimes the owner rides on top. (pics: two shots of different furniture moving by rickshaw van)

Talking about moving, moving big stuff in Bangladesh is always interesting. Whether you have product for your store, or a big bundle of things you bought, or delivering something for a business, there seems to be a large upper limit to what a rickshaw, rickshaw van, or hand cart can carry. Long things, fat things, tall things, or stacks of many things. It’s great when the owner rides with it, and especially on top. I think the pictures speak for themselves. Some stuff looks real heavy to carry. Sometimes the hand carts have extra pushers to move items like steel or cement. I like the rickshaws full of bags of items the best. Oh and the big stack of metal containers which always towers over the driver. Also am impressed by the bravery of the people who carry new computer towers in their laps on rickshaws! Eek!! (pics: steel rebar being transported by hand cart with pushers helping, transporting lots of stuff on top of a rickshaw van and holding tight to that TV, transporting 2 chairs by rickshaw van and taking a seat while riding (this picture keeps making me crack up...just sitting in his chair as he gets driven around), bravely transporting your computer in your lap on a rickshaw, transporting big sacks of something by rickshaw and taking the top seat, typically the biggest thing stacked I see on the streets: metal pots in giant sacks piled on top of rickshaw van)

Went to lunch with Lauren clay and some of her friends at Café Mango. They had just gotten back form Nepal and China, so heard her friends’ stories. After meeting there, went to Lauren’s to take the TV and DVD player I said I’d buy. Well the TV was smaller than she had advertised, so decided not to take it. Only took DVD player. Will take fridge at a later date.
Dropped DVD player off at home then met the girls at new market. Bought another scarf while there. Went cloth shopping with Lauren, in real tight quarters. She was buying for her bed back home, when she goes back. During this process we decided I would buy her cloth she’s using as window drapes for my place before she leaves. Found out I can make them into permanent drapes for Tk30 each piece.

Painters coming tomorrow said the landlord. I’m excited because I’ll have nice walls when the place becomes mine. She told us to lock up our valuables just in case, that you never can trust people coming into your place to work. Spent part of the evening getting things safe for their arrival, putting all electronics in my suitcase in preparation to lock it on the veranda. Also cleaning up lose items so they couldn’t find or drip paint on them.

When I went out to the shop in front of my apartment to buy some goods, the shopboy, who I’ll guess is 12 years old, asked me if I wanted to play badminton in the street. He’s always playing with his friends there and always sees me with my racket. So I said sure, and we hit it around, no net, just back and forth in our thin street for about 20 minutes. Kept having to pause to let walkers pass, and when customers came to his shop.

Spent time researching University of Texas tonight. 2 grad schools down, 9 to go.

22nd-4th in Sonargaon 2/2

Woke up and headed out to Gulistan to meet with Megan. Before leaving, finished preparing the room for the painters. Wanted to make sure nothing could get dripped on, and all expensive things were packed and stored. Mohan said he might try and get the painting date changed so one of us could be home.

Ride out from Gulistan was uneventful minus having to keep changing seats on the bus because some were near broken. We found a bus that was express to Sonargaon, so that was convenient. When we got down from the bus, rickshaws were just waiting to take us to the tourist sites (every time I read that sentence I think of the line “They’re just waiting to give you your money!” spoken by Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross, one of my favorite speeches that I enjoy watching anytime…watch it here, and if you don't like swear words, the quote I'm referring to is at 3:55…of course its also funny because the rickshaw drivers are thinking exactly what Baldwin says!) They know why we’ve all come. So we just jumped on one, and he started pedaling us to the historical area.

A bit of history on Sonargaon, because I found it quite interesting (adapted from Lonely Planet’s guide to Bangladesh.) It was the capital of Bengal, and during the 13th century it was the Hindu seat of power for the region. It became the Islamic capital of the region when it was taken by a sultan in 1280. In the 1300s, the first official sultan of Bengal established his capital there. It was the capital of east Bengal for 270 years, until the Mughals invaded and got rid of the sultans. They thought Sonargaon was too exposed since it was close to the Meghna river, and they moved the capital to Dhaka. Not much remains of the original city, except for some mosques, tombs, and stupas. Most of the architecture we saw there were from the Mughal period and later, and was mostly built in the late 1800s.

The first stop was Sadarbari, which was built in 1901 and was a rajbari for the area (a royal family’s home.) It houses a folk art museum but has beautiful architecture in two facades. We skipped it first and headed to the newer museum, with the intent to save the best for last. Newer museum in a modern building was definitely not the main attraction at this place. People seemed to just walk in, do a quick loop, and come quickly out.

Roamed the grounds. Took a ride on a ferris wheel. If you remember from one of my earlier posts, these things are made of wood, very rickety, and are spun by men pulling on each cart as it passes. Megan and I decided to try it. The operators always need to ensure the whole thing is balanced properly, so they give specific instructions on where to sit. Some of the extra operators took seats in other cars to make sure it was balanced. It was wild, stomach plummeted on each spin. Crazy to be on it when they’re spinning it with their hands. (pics: ferris wheel which is hand spun by its operators, operator hand spinning the ferris wheel by pulling down on one of the cars)

Finally came back to Sadarbari proper, and went inside the folk art museum/beautiful building. I took a lot of photos of the architectural details. While walking around the place, two guys started talking to us. They offered to take our photos for us and helped lead us around, and were being generally helpful. Names were Abusaleh and Ashraful. We were asking them questions too. They lived nearby and kept asking us to come see their home after we saw all the sites. We went outside and took pictures out front of the exterior. Then walked the grounds to the northern exit of the huge garden complex. (pics: front courtyard in Sadarbari, myself/Megan in rear courtyard of Sadarbari, Abusaleh/crazy looking stuffed person/Ashraful in folk museum, myself/Megan in front of Sadarbari)

Next stop was to see another rajbari. This area we went to was called Painam Nagar. You ride in on rickshaw through tons of old Hindu merchant’s mansions, very ghost town like. People don’t live there anymore. This whole area was built between 1895 and 1905 on top of the old capital city. The last one we got to was the rajbari. It’s being refurbished by two Chinese architects. Walking around the rajbari was neat. It was being repaired at points, made me wonder how stable it was. Told Megan that this is where I’m certain musical artist Habib’s music video for “Krisno”, which my friend Ishita played a part in (the building and her first show up at 1:45, Ishita is the one in the red saree..) Told the guys this, and they instantly recognized it and agreed. I knew it was in Sonargaon just didn’t know which old building. Wanted to go to the second floor, but stairs were clearly out of repair…as in they had collapsed. (pics: rajbari with man bathing in pond in front, Abusaleh/Megan/Ashraful inside rajbari where music video was shot)

We then walked back through Painam Nagar, looking at all the old mansions, taking photos of the ghost town. I couldn’t get over this single street lined with old homes. Some awesomely decorated but boarded up. Some locals had taken up temporary residence as squatters. Local kids were playing amongst the buildings. (pics: the ghost town which is now Painam Nagar, century old Hindu mansion in Painam Nagar, myself standing in Painam Nagar, myself/Megan standing in the entry of one of the mansions)

Megan had really wanted to see Goaldi mosque, one of the few buildings in the area actually from when it was the old capital. We had to ask around on where to find it, and we got rickshaw drivers who did. Guys took one rickshaw, we took another. This mosque was built before the Mughals arrived, and is a single domed mosque, and smaller than what we saw in Tangail. Apparently in 1700s it was falling apart, so they built a newer mosque across the street in the Mughal style. Now they are both there and only the newer one is in use. I enjoy seeing all these mosques, as it is one of my favorite architectural forms. And especially the craft that goes into detailing. (pics: Goaldi mosque with Abusaleh and Ashraful in front, Goaldi mosque on the left built in 1519 and the newer Mughal style mosque in the back left built in 1705)

After this, Abusaleh and Ashraful begged us to come back to see their village. Even though we knew we had to be back for pizza at 5pm with Diya, we thought we could make it since they said their home was really close, 10 minutes away, and we had 2.5 hours until we had to meet. From the bus stop, however, the bus took about 20-25 minutes, and then of course there is the 5 minute walk to their home from the bus stop. So total, that adds about 50 minutes onto the trip just with the going there and back. There was still a chance we could make it on time if traffic was as smooth as this morning, and we didn’t stay too long.
But we did stay too long. I was still glad we went, despite that we were now going to be late. We were given snacks and had to wait for Abusaleh’s mom and dad to come home to meet them. Abusaleh showed me his cucumber field, his main crop. Gave me some fresh picked ones. When his mom finally came home, we said hello and then said we really had to leave. Told them we’ll come back, which is true, probably in a month. (pics: Abusaleh showing us his cow, standing in Abusaleh's cucumber field, Megan and Ashraful in Abusaleh's home, Megan holding up traffic on the bridge out of Abusaleh's village)

Bus got stuck in some traffic. Then getting a bus to Jigatola from Saidabad station was easier said then done. Showed up at Pizza Hut 55 minutes late. Luckily Diya was there with her friends, so she wasn’t bored. They had already eaten a full pizza. I apologized for my poor judgment in arriving on time. We ordered another pizza and Megan and I ate that one primarily. This Pizza Hut just opened a few days ago, the second in Dhaka, third in Bangladesh. It was gorgeous, two stories, and delicious. Ice cream was amazing too. Might be a place I’ll go to too often.

22nd-5th in Dhaka 2/3

Worked on fixing up my notes and ideas about data collection. I’d been writing them by hand, but needed to get them into a word document to arrange them coherently. See what my thoughts are.

Met with Dr. Rahman after lunch in his office. Brought my letter from Fulbright, but he said he won’t be able to get me a university ID since I’m not a student or staff. But he said he’ll get me a letter on university paper and signatures. I will show that to people who hassle me about using things. That’ll be good.
Told him about my progress on the project, how I was happy with my pace, and that I enjoyed the literature review. Told him about my data collection ideas, and how I knew I’ll definitely need two people at all times during data collection to do things correctly.
In the office as well was one of his senior students. He said I’ll get to meet all of them next week, but this one, Arjun, was especially interested in my project. I asked about these seniors, and tried to gauge what their senior projects were like, how much time they are supposed to devote to it, and how much time I should ask of them if they help. Didn’t want to overwork or expect too much of anyone.

After the three of us met, Arjun and I went outside and chatted. Learned about each other. Told him about the project. Asked him more in depth questions about the senior project process. Appears that for senior projects, the teacher highly recommends what they do, but they have the option to design and do their own project. He could jump on with me and make his research topic close to mine. Also found out that senior projects are not a class, but just an outside thing, meeting only with professors weekly and working independently. They get their advisors by picking professors’ names out of a hat from a certain discipline…so he picked Dr. Rahman’s name out of the transportation topic hat.

He showed me his dorm room too. He lives in the all-Hindu dorm. All the other dorms are all-Muslim dorms. And then there’s one girl dorm. Three students to a room, which is a bit bigger than what I lived in one other student at NCSU. Each student gets a table, chair, and bed. All rooms face outside.

Went to dinner with Jen and Ben. Hadn’t seen my old roommates in a long time. On the way over my tempo had a flat tire. More than half the people said screw it and went to find another vehicle, but I stuck with the poor guys. Didn’t mind a 4 minute wait. They had it replaced real quick and we were on our way. Conductor was laughing how this was probably the least profitable trip he’s ever had.

Found Jen and Ben’s place….enormous but the price isn’t too high. We walked to road 27 and got some Chinese food. My stomach was on edge a bit, possibly from some tea I took from a tea shack earlier, but I felt great after eating.

22nd-6th in Dhaka 2/4

Woke to see that NCSU had beaten Wake Forest. It was a pretty bad game for us as we trailed for most. But we came back to tie on a 17-7 run, and then took the lead into the end. We were up by 2, and J.J. Hickson had a chance to seal the deal with two free throws but couldn’t. Wake Forest then scored 2 points with 3 seconds left to tie it. We had once last chance to prevent it from going to overtime. Ben McCauley inbounded it to Gavin Grant at half court. They were all expecting him to drive the lane, but instead he put up a 3! It bounced off the rim, but what happened next was incredible. Ben McCauley, comes out of nowhere, across the entire court, and dunks the shot back in! Incredible. Watch the video, it still gives me chills. What an awesome way to go out.

If it wasn’t for the giants beating the patriots in the Super Bowl that would’ve been all over ESPN’s Sportscenter top 10.

Sitting outside in warm sun to do some of my work. Inside the CE building it’s surprisingly cold. And the warm sun after lunch was very soothing. Today was going over some of the tougher questions I needed to consider about the data collection. For example, if a bus is stuck in traffic, and people are getting on and off as it sits there, how do you classify those movements in terms of stops on the route? Those kinds of questions needed to be answered.

Met up with Santa at Sonargaon Rd and Elephant Rd. We had talked about a trip to Rajshahi this weekend, because I’ve been thinking about going. We made our plans on times and such, and then went to the bus ticket office to book tickets for Thursday. Will be neat to get out of town and see a calmer place.

I was going out to buy things after dinner and Mohan asked me to bring back “ek hali dim”…which I thought was a type of egg. Told the guy at the store I wanted those types of eggs, and said I wanted 4. When I got home I assed mohan what type of egg that was, “ek hali.” And he said 1 hali is equal to four of something, just like one dozen is equal to twelve of something. Had no clue about this. This changes my life because “four” is the hardest number for me to say. People always confuse my “four” for a “six” (4 = “char” 6 = “choy” and my “r” isn’t very hard) but now I can just “hali” from now on if I want four of something…makes it so easy!

22nd-7th in Dhaka 2/5

Spent a little bit of time researching MIT this morning. The third school I’ve randomly chosen from the eleven schools to research.

Had lunch with Naira. We went to the restaurant I’ve been frequenting, and had soup and noodles. Afterwards we walked around BUET’s campus, obviously not her first time, but her first time in the CE building.

Avian flu has come to Bangladesh. Very scary. Don’t think I’ve ever been that scared of a disease before. The fact that you have such a short time to find out if it’s a cold or avian flu if you have symptoms is scary. They had to kill thousands of poultry in northern Bangladesh. Luckily no human cases yet. Luckily the disease is inefficient and doesn’t transmit very well.

More on that New Zealand rowing rivalry. This past weekend Drysdale beat out Waddell in their most recent head-to-head matchup, but only by half a boat length. They’ll face off one more time at the Natl. Championships before the Olympic Trials in March.

After leaving campus I went to Naira’s place to play badminton. She invited me to play at her neighbor’s house where I played once earlier. The bus ride took 1.5 hour to get there. And was exhausting as I was standing the whole time. There were tons of people at badminton, and thus in the entire night I only got to play two games in 2.5 hours of being there.

Faisal, Naira, and I went to Bella Italia after. Bella Italia is apparently the best Italian restaurant in Dhaka, and it definitely lived up to its reputation. Pizza, two pastas, and tiramisu were all well done. They were nice enough to drop me off at home in Dhanmondi.


Kerstin said...

Hi Donny, I hope you feel better now. I like your blog a lot. Life over there seems so different, but still, when you get sick it is the same as here; going to the doctor, drinking a lot of fluids, taking anti-biotics, resting, and finally getting better.

Now, I was watching your videos (very intersting, by the way) and was wondering how you link to Youtube. I tried to do it for my German blog, but I could not do it. I guess I am blog-challenged. I just left the URL for the students to cut and paste, but how stone age is that! I asked several people, but so far noone has been able to tell me how you do like you did or even import the actual video.

Any help (tutorial) is welcome, if you have time that is. My e-mail is kerstingaddy@gmail.com.

Kerstin said...

Hi again, your friend Ben just gave me a tutorial, so now I know how to upload a video.........

Ben G said...

wow. a word for 4 of something. that is awesome!! and how convenient that it's the one that's the hardest to say...maybe the term evolved for that reason??