31 March 2008

Week 29: Dhaka asks my parents "Your country?"

29th-1st in Dhaka 3/19

Today I took my voice recorder into a shop to see if it could be repaired. I took it to a place which repairs cell phones. I figured the technology was so much the same that they should be familiar with the parts and pieces and could handle it. I mean, they both have a speaker and microphone, screens, buttons, microchips, and most important, a place to plug in an external wire (I can hear my electrical engineering friends Saket, Greg, and Ben laughing at me right now from across the world.)

Well the guy poked, tested, checked, soldered, and played for about 20 minutes. And after testing it, no luck. Still didn’t work. Power went out while testing, and he couldn’t put it back together because his soldering iron requires electricity, and all was off. So I left my expensive device in his hands and said I’d come back tonight.

Did three routes today. ATCL was first, and I took it from Mohammedpur to Motijheel. Then quickly took a local bus to BUET to have a meeting with Dr. Rahman. Sadly the meeting only lasted 10 minutes as he had more students waiting. But it was nice to catch up and tell him my progress. I’ll go back and see him after my parents leave.

Stopped by a travel agency to get a price quote for my trip to Nepal with Emily. Made the reservation but had to wait until tomorrow to confirm.

Went back to Motijheel and grabbed a Rahbar Gold bus to Uttara. This bus took 30 minutes to arrive. I don’t understand how some of these bus companies stay in business with horrible service.

Took Anik bus back to Azimpur. On this ride I noticed lots of lightening. By the time I got to Azimpur, the wind and lightening had really picked up.

And by the time I got onto the next bus to take me back to Jigatola, it was really bad. People on the bus were yelling at the driver to drive faster, before the storm broke.

I got off the bus and about 4 minutes later the storm opened up. Wind and rain were howling and pouring. I stood underneath a store’s awning with four other people and waited to see if it’d slow down. It didn’t. Wind and rain were crazy. Wind was pushing rickshaws, undriven, down the street. I finally made a run for it and sprinted for a restaurant, where I could at least eat dinner while I waited out the storm. When I finished eating, the storm had slowed and meandered home.

29th-2nd in Dhaka 3/20

Went to tour office, and they confirmed my ticket.

Been eating carrots and cucumbers on the street recently, had the guts to risk it possibly upsetting my stomach.

In Uttara had a late lunch, then took the Shakti bus. Interested to see where it would end up, first time riding full route. Route was pretty empty until we got to near the end, where at Gulistan and Lalmatia the route got packed with tons of people. Then the wind and lightening started again. By the time the bus ended, it was really windy and dust was blowing everywhere. Hard to even see without shielding your eyes. I didn’t even know where I was, had never been there, and only knew the name and the rough location. Walked until I found a main road about 100 meters down, then waited to see a bus that would take me someplace familiar. Didn’t take long, I recognized all the buses as I see them all daily. Hopped on and took the route back to where I needed as the storm broke and poured around us, not as bad as last night though.

After getting home I went and got a pizza. I was real worn out from all the riding. But the pizza was bad, they used American cheese instead of mozzarella. Wonder if they knew I can notice the difference.

29th-3rd in Dhaka 3/21

Bought a fan for my kitchen and living room so that area of the home could cool down a bit. Mainly just laid around all day. Relaxing before all the hustle and bustle of my parents arrival. Told my boua to come for lunch tomorrow so my parents could eat comfortably here. Also contacted with the rental car driver on where and when we would meet.

Got a haircut to look clean and spiffy for my parents arrival. Haircut was interesting since the power went out midway through. Thus he couldn’t see what he was cutting…uh oh. Well they brought out a lantern and used its light to cut by. However, the power going out meant the ceiling fan stopped. It was good because my hair was no longer flying everywherere (that’s why you don’t put ceiling fans in a barber shop) but it was bad because I was sweating heavily after that, which is gross during a haircut.
Haircut ended up being so-so…I prefer it in lights I have to say.

All day I thought about my parents traveling in the skies.

29th-4th in Dhaka 3/22

I met the rental car near my home and we drove up to the airport to pick up my parents. I was so excited, so neat that my parents were going to be in Bangladesh. The driver had a really nice car. He bought it himself, and handles renting it as his own business. Had nice padded seats, and you can tell he takes good care of it. He had some good CDs in the car too, but I decided since he has a CD player I’d bring some CDs of my own.

At the airport we got there awhile before my parents arrived. He parked in the parking deck because you can’t just sit and wait outside the main door. The arrival area is fenced off, and lots of people are waiting along the fence for family members to arrive, or simply just to watch people arrive all day for fun. People surround these gates on all sides, and many foreigners comment how intimidating and uncomfortable it is for a first time visitor to Bangladesh to arrive and just see masses of people staring at them. (pics: outside the arrival area at Dhaka's airport, masses of people standing along the fence outside the arrival area greeting all people coming to Dhaka)

I talked to some guards and asked them if I could stand inside the gated area for my parents. They said when they arrived, I’d be allowed to enter. So I went to stand outside. Then I was called back and they said they asked and it would be okay for me to wait inside the gated area.

Parents arrived, and we hugged each other! So happy! It was great to see them after 6.5 months! Their flights went off fine and landed fine. No complaints. We all agreed how spectacular and awesome it was that they were now in Bangladesh. The ride from the airport to their hotel was great, to show them my city and tell them things and just talk in person for the first time in months, and not over the scratchiness of skype.

We checked them into the hotel, they adjusted their belongings. Gave me all the things they brought me which included Cheez-its, brownies!!!, tour guide books, some news articles, some computer CDs, a Wolfpacker magazine, some birthday cards, and other small things.

I took them back to my home where we were supposed to have a meal from my boua. But she never showed. We were a bit upset. Really had wished she’d come so they could’ve tasted her cooking. I was also going to teach them how to eat with their hand properly in the unemabarassing confines of my home. They ended up napping while we waited, and finally after 2 hours we went to a nice Bangladeshi restaurant nearby where they could have some dishes and use their hands.

From there we had to attend an orientation meeting for our Sundarbans tour. Nothing special, they stated some simple things, and were speaking mostly in English for my parents. They gave us tea, cake, and sodas…always hospitable. We got all the details, and we were done.

Headed down to the Parliament building and roamed around it and Zia Uddyan for a bit. Took a big loop around the large green space. They got to experience their first real persistent beggar children, who followed us until we got back to the car. (pics: Dad/Mom at the tomb of Ziaur Rahman, Dad/Mom overlooking Chandrima Uddan)

We went to Bashundara City and let the rental car and driver go for the day. We roamed the mall for a good while. Passing through the semi-packed aisle and seeing the 8 levels that the largest mall in South Asia has to offer. Didn’t buy anything. Shopped mostly to see if we could get some Bangladeshi salowar kameez for mom.
We had dinner in the food court, I bought them some fuchka, their first, and hopefully not their last. Some kebabs and parota for dinner. Nothing fancy, just fun. (pic: Mom trying to fit an entire bite of fuchka in her mouth)

29th-5th in Dhaka 3/23

Picked them up from the hotel and we went to Old Dhaka. First up was Bicycle Street to find rickshaw art. We ended up in the wrong place, and ended up taking their first rickshaw ride to Nazira Bazar just north of where we were. There we found about six shops selling rickshaw art. Saw lots of nice examples, and ultimately we decided to buy some with images of tigers on them and city scenes. This art is that which the rickshaws decorate their rickshaws with. There are a few famous artists that do this, and for them the city is more beautiful. (pics: items a rickshaw wallah can decorate his rickshaw with, rickshaw art)

After this we took rickshaws down to Ahsan Manzil, which was good for a quick look around and pictures of the river. But then we walked along the river for a bit until finding a dock to walk down onto. Once my parents saw the small boats, and were solicited by the boat drivers, they decided they wanted to take a spin in the busy Buriganga River. I had no problem with it, it’s fun. So we took a half hour spin on the boat, and they got to see some river life on the banks. Plus the garbage filled river. (pics: Dad/Mom stuck in traffic on their second rickshaw ride, Dad/Mom at Ahsan Manzil, on the boat in the Buriganga River, launches lined up in a row on the Buriganga River with our boat driver in front)

From there we walked up through the Hindu part of Old Dhaka, Tanti Bazar. Saw some of the temples. The streets were colorfully tinted purple and blue as yesterday was Holi, the festival of colors, where it’s celebrated by throwing colorful dyes on each other. We stopped at some of the jewelry shops. Mom was looking for some Bangladeshi pink river pearls. We found strings of them that could later be turned into jewelry. (pics: streets blue and purple from Holi, buying pearls at Tanti Bazar, strings of pearls from the Padma River)

We had walked a lot. It was a bit tiring. They definitely got to experience some rickshaw close calls, and plenty of staring. And of course everyone inquiring about how we were and what country we are from. They got a healthy dose of that.

From there we went to explore BUET. I showed them around all the places I know. Even got to show my mom the research library. My mom the librarian loved it. (pics: Dad/Mom at BUET in front of Civil Engineering Building, mom in BUET's library with another librarian)

Went to Shahid Minar. My parents were really glad to see the monument I’d talked so much about, and all the history behind it. Had two beggar boys following me there, and they were quite explorative, at one point lifting up my shirt to look at my stomach. I didn’t mind, as long as they weren’t bothering my parents. (pic: Mom/Dad in front of Shahid Minar)

We ended the busy part of the day going to New Market. They got to experience the crowds, the pushing, the yelling, and the advertising. My dad and I went to my tailor and got tailored shirts made. We’ll pick them up near the end of our stay. (pics: Dad picking out fabric for his shirts, myself arranging measurements for our shirts with my tailor)

Dinner was with the Siddiqui's: Altaf, his parents, his grandmother, and some other extended family. Anwar, Altaf’s brother, is my dad’s co-worker. Pretty much without him I never would have had the the friends or the fun I’ve had in Dhaka.
Dinner was lots of fun. Lots of chatting and laughing, story telling and of course eating. My parents ate some great Bangladeshi food that Anwar and Altaf’s mother cooked. It was a great visit. They even got to thumb through Anwar’s wedding album. (pics: dinner spread at the Siddiqui's, Mom/Dad enjoying dinner, Dad/Altaf/Mom looking at Anwar 's wedding pictures, the Siddiqui family at the dinner table with my parents)

29th-6th in Dhaka 3/24

Met them at the hotel and we started the day off at the Liberation War Museum. Even though I’d been there before, I still read all things again, to help reinforce the history of Bangladesh a bit more in my brain. Dad went quicker through than Mom and I, which is typical of a Katz family museum visit. Sandee would’ve gone even quicker than Dad (at least in her younger days, then pouted that we were taking so long haha)
Museum was preparing for Independence Day coming up on March 26, decorations were up. (pics: Mom at the Liberation War Museum, getting ready for Independence Day)

From there, we headed to Nando’s for lunch. Dad enjoyed it a lot because the spices I brought him back from South Africa were available at this restaurant. No bottles to buy though.

Next was Lalbagh Fort. They were filming a movie there “Shudhu Tomake Chai” (I only want you) and we had to keep moving out of the back of their scenes. Dad and Mom got to swarms of people come up and ask us questions, and then take photos of us. Kids and their parents, school boys, and young couples. Some asked simple questions, some lectured us about America and Bangladesh. We spent two hours there, exploring all parts of the fort, more than I had had time for last time I visited. One of the best parts is always to look over the edge of the fort onto the streets of Old Dhaka. (pics: Mom/Dad/myself at Lalbagh Fort, Dad getting questioned by some visitors, movie shooting with many observers, movie shooting in the middle of Lalbagh Fort, Dad at the edge of Lalbagh Fort overlooking Old Dhaka)

We headed to Aarong where they bought some Bangladeshi crafts. There was one piece missing from one of the sets we wanted, so I’ll have to go aback sometime and see if they got the piece in.

After, we met with Jen, Ben, and Karen at Red Tomato and had dinner. I was glad as my parents seemed to get a lot of questions answered by different people than myself, differing viewpoints.

29th-7th in the Sundarbans 3/25

I picked my parents up early with the car and headed to The Bengal Tours office. From there we were supposed to take a bus to Khulna to start our Sundarbans tour. Well all the quick rushing for an early arrival was useless because the bus came two hours late. Since the Padma River ferries are running less frequently due to low water levels, it causes major problems in travel times for buses heading to southwest Bangladesh.

The bus was very comfortable, with only three large seats per row. They played a Bangladeshi movie on the ride and I was actually able to understand some of it! Ultimately Mom and Dad took the window seats in our row, as I have plenty more opportunities to see the countryside. At the Padma River crossing where we had to wait a long while, we got out and watched the ferries and launches go back and forth. It was a fun way to pass the waiting time. Also had them drink coconut water for the first time. (pics: Dad/Mom on the bus ride, three ways to get across the Padma River: ferry, launch, and nouka, myself/Dad with some guys interested in questioning us at the Padma River ferry crossing, Mom/Dad walking through the lines of trucks and buses waiting to cross the Padma by ferry)

On this trip I spent any of my reading time with a guide book to Nepal, in preparation for my trip there in July with Emily.

Since our bus came 2 hours late and we got held up on the Padma River ferry crossing, our bus went to Mongla instead of Khulna, a little farther downstream. That way we could cut a few hours off the boat trip, as the bus goes a lot faster than the boat. We made it just fine and were back on schedule. The boat was in the middle of the river and we got to it by a little wooden boat that everyone fit on (about 24 of us.) We had just enough people to take the company’s bigger boat instead of their smaller one. Meant we had lots of space, including a cabin to myself.

We had dinner on the boat, got to meet all the passengers as some people met us in Mongla, and meanwhile the boat started on its way to the Sundarbans, checking in at a forest station and picking up two armed guards for the trip (to protect us from tigers and pirates!)

20 March 2008

Week 28: An improvement in Bangladesh's cricket team might help Bengali's global future

28th-1st in Dhaka 3/12

Stopped by the stadium market to buy a new voice recorder. Mine is working just fine, but I needed another for my undergraduate assistants. Cost was pretty high, but I’m hoping I can sell it on EBay after we’re done with it. It also doesn’t have as many neat features as my Sony has. That’s a big downside. For example, it doesn’t have a clock, so it doesn’t record the time a track is recorded.

Then rushed up to Banani to drop off the payment and passport copies for my parents and my trip to the Sundarbans in two weeks. Grabbed some lunch at a fast food place, and boarded the Dibanishi bus for my second route of the day, from Banani to Dhanmondi.

This ended up being a very very interesting bus ride. About one third of the way into the route, the bus ran out of gas. I always had a fear of this happening during my studies. It means the route for my work is technically a throwaway since it wasn’t a finished route. But I’m already far from the start, and it’s a pain to start over. So that was annoying. Well the other people on the bus had more human concerns, such as “what a pain this is, I just paid good money for you to take me home, and now I have to buy another ticket” kind of concern.

Everyone got off the bus when we pulled over. Yelling ensued. I stayed on the bus not really sure if we’d get gas and go again. Finally I got off, and waited. Then people seemed to convince the driver to get back on the bus, so I did as well, to see what happens. The driver got in the seat but wouldn’t turn on the bus. A crowd of fifteen men have surrounded the drivers seat now, and they are all yelling at the driver, “Drive the bus, drive the bus!” It seems like the situation is reaching a breaking point. The driver finally turns on the bus, to all the yells and screams he is getting, shows everyone that it doesn’t have enough gas. More yelling ensures. At this point, lots of people have come on the bus thinking we might go if the crowd of men can convince the bus driver to drive regardless of gas level.

The bus is about half full, and I then see the driver turn off the bus and start to get out of his seat. Lots of yelling and screaming comes out of the crowd of men, and all of a sudden the crowd of men explodes. Punches are being thrown, people are being thrown, lots of yelling and cursing. The crowd of fighting men starts to move its way to the back of the bus, where most passengers are waiting. Girls and women start screaming, running to try and avoid the fight. One girl even hides behind me. Girls are banging on the back door from the inside of the bus begging someone to open it. They are crying and frantically screaming. The fight of men is quickly approaching us, and then the back door opens. The girls surge out, then the fight surges out following them, spilling literally onto the street.

Now on the street the fight continues, except now people have grabbed sticks and are beating a select few with them. The fight breaks free a bit and people start running down the street, yelling screaming and beating. All the while a highway’s worth of traffic is speeding (at slow Dhaka speeds) by. I get off the bus realizing not much is going to come of this tonight.

The bus is now sitting empty, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere the driver pops up, jumps on the bus, closes the door, turns the bus on, and takes off speeding away.

I just stand on the side of the road trying to grasp what just happened before me. It seems all the passengers have scattered except me, whether fighting or to escape the fight.

Overall, I guess the lesson learned tonight is always make sure you have enough gas, and hide the sticks if you don’t.
This is fight number 18.

Got a knock on the door soon after arriving home.
It was the girls from the family next door and they were asking to come in to see something (I couldn’t understand the vocabulary they were using.) Well they knew where to find what they were looking for, the circuit breaker!
Apparently my apartment has the circuit breaker for both my place and the place next door. Their power was out so they had flip some switches. This happened once more later on.
The reason I have their breakers is because we are actually in the same apartment, but the doorway between us was covered up, and now it’s two apartments.

28th-2nd in Dhaka 3/13

Met up in the morning with Arjun and Shegufta in Azimpur for bus riding research assistance. I gave them the instructions on what we were going to do today. I laid out the names of all the bus stops we would encounter on our first route, so that way they weren’t surprised by anything. We were going to each take the same company, one at a time. Meaning one of us would have to be the last to go and wait around for awhile. And one would have to be the first to arrive at our destination, and wait around while. Arjun went first, Shegufta second, and myself last so that I could ensure they all got on the right buses and were feeling ready. The ticket counter folks were baffled by why I bought three tickets but we all got on different buses. By the time I finally left on my bus, 20 minutes later, they understood because they talked to me the whole time.

I was real nervous to see them off, wished them luck. For me it was simply another data collection, for them it was their first alone.

When we met up at the end, they seemed pretty okay. We got lunch and talked a bit about how the process went. They both are novice bus riders, so also are adjusting to that.
We had lunch, they got briyani and I got fish. Took some photos at our lunch stop. (pic: Shegufta/Arjun, BUET four-years and my research assistants, at our lunch stop while data collecting)

Took our second bus of the day from Uttara to Motijheel. The headway between buses was real long, so they both had arrived when I was only halfway through my route, meaning they had to wait awhile.

The day took longer than I thought. Likely because of all the waiting involved for 3 buses to come and go.

28th-3rd in Dhaka 3/14

Today I finally get to see a cricket match live! South Africa vs Bangladesh at Sher-E-Bangla Stadium in Mirpur. I met up with Ayon, Opu, Annita, and her husband Auvi there at the stadium. (pics: front entrance to stadium where fans sitting in the Gallery enter, rear of the stadium where fans sitting in the Concourse enter, what else would be played behind a cricket stadium than cricket, Opu came unprepared and had to buy a headband at the stadium)

At the bus stop to board the bus to the stadium Mohan was actually boarding too, so we took the route together. I told him the story about our apartment being half painted in the stairway since he moved out and he was laughing really hard, had to wipe his eyes. He said our landlord is a miser, and that’s likely why.

We had seats in the clubhouse section, which was the middle price range of the three seating areas, and the price variation was huge. The gallery cost Tk80, the clubhouse Tk300, and the VVIP section (yes, that’s for very very important people) was Tk1500. If you are a VIP you’re out of luck, no section for you. You have to find a way to double your V status or sit with us commoners. All areas were covered with overhangs constructed of bamboo and sheets. The gallery area was laid out so that you just sat on the concrete seats. The clubhouse had plastic chairs, and the VVIP section had folding chairs.(pics: the scoreboard in the Gallery seating area, view of the field from the Concourse section, the bamboo and sheet structure covering the seats)

It was neat to see the teams come out. All the fans seemed to be cheering and screaming when South Africa came out, and I asked Ayon why we would cheer for them, and he said, “We are just letting them know that we are here, and that we will be loud.”

Bangladesh however, did not perform how we’d like them too. They did even worse in this match than they had in the last two matches the last few days. Really sad to see them go down. They were doing okay at scoring runs, but lost wickets early on and never could recover after that. They were out of wickets with more 7 overs remaining. (pics: Bangladesh batting, batting, and taking runs, South Africa getting bowled to by Bangladesh)

During the match, it was hot. We got ice cream 3 times! Sometime during the 25th over Megan finally showed up, so Ayon, Opu, and I went out to meet her at the gate to give her a ticket. It was neat to have her meet my friends for the first time after hearing about them so much.

For lunch, we went to Opu’s house. His mom served us a big meal to full us for cheering during the second inning when South Africa would be batting. Although we knew it was hopeless for Bangladesh, since South Africa could score that many runs in probably just 30 overs.

The second inning was a bit cooler as the sun wasn’t on us anymore. We sat in the lower level of the clubhouse section for a little bit, but soon left, as the fans were getting rowdy and rude there. They were cheering against Bangladesh because of the poor performance. They were booing the team captain and all the players who came near them.

The game ended in a loss, South Africa got a trophy, and we all left. Except for Opu, we boarded a bus and headed down to Baily Road for some fuchka. (pics: Ayon/Opu during the first inning, Auvi/Annita during the first inning, Annita/Megan/Ayon watching the second inning, myself after the conclusion of the match)

28th-4th in Dhaka 3/15

I spent almost the entire day in BUET’s lab today. Had a huge backlog of data processing to do. I tried my best not to browse the internet and just do my work.

For lunch I went to my favorite restaurant near the campus and got a burger and fries and brought it back to campus to eat. Got some ice cream from the ice cream cart which is front of our campus’ gates.
Went home at 9pm, very late. Bought some vegetables on the way home.

I kept meaning to mention this but Ethan Allen furniture gallery is in Bangladesh (and Thailand as well.) Why do I care, well my street name in which I spent most of my childhood is Ethan Allen Rd. So as kids, whenever we saw the famous furniture store in our area we’d giggle and joke that we really live at the store. And whenever people would ask our address, we would tell them, and they’d chuckle and ask, “Like the furniture store.” Sometimes when I felt like being smart I’d say in the return, “No, like the 18th century hero of the Revolutionary War who led the Green Mountain boys during the charge of Fort Ticonderoga.”
Anyway, here’s a photo of the store front in Thailand, and I still need to grab one from the one here in Dhaka. It’s in Gulshan-1, southwest of the intersection. I remember the first time I saw it I almost fell out of my rickshaw in surprise. (pic: Ethan Allen store in Bangkok)

28th-5th in Dhaka 3/16

Another day in the BUET computer lab again. Trying to plow through all this backlog of data processing I have to do. At one point I had to go to Arjun’s dorm room and grab the voice files he recorded last Thursday.

Realized today that the $75 voice recorder I bought for other people to help me on this project doesn’t connect to my computer. Tried it on Arjun’s computer, and it didn’t work there either. Tried a different cord, didn’t work. So it’s the actual recorder’s problem, not anything else. I think the USB jack is messed up. Returning it is near impossible as things bought from the stadium market stay bought (and are rarely exchanged for.) I might try bringing it to a repair guy and see what they can do since repairs are so cheap here.

Recently I’ve adapted the Bangladeshi meal pattern which is breakfast soon after you get up (for me that’s about 8 am), lunch around 2 or 3 pm, and dinner around 10:30 pm. I also have a second breakfast around 10 am before I head to BUET, and tea and snacks around 6-7pm. One of the reasons I don’t eat until 10:30 pm is that I come home from work tired, hot, and gross. And the idea of hot food at that point is unappetizing. Plus reheating it at the stove is a hot process and not what I want to do upon returning.
Another reason I’m eating this schedule is I’m eating more at home, since my cook makes a lot of food and I don’t want it to go to waste.

Recently temperatures have been 95+ daily, and we’re supposed to have 100+ later this week. That’s me talking Fahrenheit though…Bangladesh talks Celsius (but my readership is more than 50% from the USA.)

28th-6th in Dhaka 3/17

Stayed home and got things done. Did a few more routes on processing. Worked on doing my recordings from the recorder which won’t upload to the computer. After many failed ideas of how to do that, I ended up just letting all the tracks play while my good recorder recorded it. And then uploaded it all as one major track from the good recorder!

Midday I got my sandals repaired. I’d noticed that some of the stitches holding the straps to the sole had gotten undone or loose. So it was time to bring them to street side repairman.
Scattered around are many shoe repairmen. In my neighborhood, there’s about one every few hundred meters. They all look pretty much have the same setup. They sit on the sidewalk and people come by with shoe problems. I only got my shoes restitched, but it looks like they do polishing, reforming, and many other shoe things I wouldn’t know how to describe. Real fast too, to get my shoes restitched it took about 5 minutes.
Hope they hold up for a long time. (pic: shoe repairman and his equipment on the sidewalk)

In the evening I went to New Market to pick up my suit. But the tailor said it wasn’t ready, and said it’d be a few more days. Oh well, no rush. Since I had some cash to pay for the suit in my pocket, I headed across the street to buy a knife for my boua, and ended up buying four t-shirts I liked as well, as part of my “buy stuff here because it is cheap but don’t wear it until I get back to the US” plan.

28th-7th in Dhaka 3/18

Gas fire at the stove today. I heard Moweena scream, and when I came to see what was up, I saw water all over my kitchen. She told me how there was a gas leak at the back of the stove, and a huge flame had gone up while she was cooking. She had thrown a pot of water on it to put it out. She seemed rattled. The problem seemed to be that the gas connection from the wall was not done properly (and I knew this but there hadn’t been a problem yet) and today just happened today where it deteriorated enough to burst.
She tried forming a new seal out of soap, but it didn’t work. She told me to talk to the landlord to tell him of the problem. Or get a repairman myself to come check it out.

Had to head out quickly after the morning’s excitement to Baridhara. I had been invited my former class to go attend a lecture by Dr. William Radice (wiki and personal site), the author of the Teach Yourself Bengali book we used in all my courses. It was being sponsored by the university through which we had our Bengali course, and I was excited to meet the man behind my entire Bengali education.

I’m very excited to give the highlights and my thoughts on the lecture, as one of my favorite bloggers, Saket Vora, does week after week on his blog. In fact, the number of cool speakers who he goes to see at Stanford made me include that as criteria in my graduate school search: neat lectures by important people in the industry or who have neat things to say.
Well I was glad I finally got to hear someone who is at the top of their field in Bangladesh. William Radice is one of the premier writers and translators for Bengali, producing many texts including great translations of Bengali’s most famous writer Rabindranath Tagore and the book I used in my Bengali classes. He currently is a professor at the University of London. (pic: Dr. Radice giving his lecture on "Bengali's Global Future")

He was lecturing on “Bengali’s Global Future”, and in his talk he talked on a number of interesting topics. As Saket usually precedes such writings in his blog with a disclaimer like thing, I’ll do the same, copying it word for word…because he says it so well!
“I’ll note some salient thoughts I took away from the talk. Anything I attribute to [Radice] is a paraphrase, not to be taken verbatim.”

*He immediately started his speech about the difference in Bengali and Bangla. This was covered because he had submitted the topic of his talk as “Bengali’s Global Future”, but without asking him, the organizers of the lecture changed it to “Bangla’s Global Future.” He seemed displeased by this, but understands it, since Bangladeshis refer to their language as Bangla, as if it was a different from Bengali, which they would consider people in Kolkata and East Bengal speaking.

Radice says he resists calling Bengali as “Bangla”. His reasoning was well said. When speaking in any language, you always say the names of other languages in the language you are speaking, not in the way the other language calls itself. Thus when speaking in English, one says “French” and “Spanish”, not “Francais” or “Espanol”. When talking in Bengali, one refers to English as “Ingreji”. However, Bengali seems to be resisting this norm. Why should one make the exception for Bengali and call it “Bangla” when we don’t do that for any other language? He ultimately resisted going on about it, no reason to keep harping on it he said. He has no objection to it being called “Bangla”, but he said he would try to say that throughout his lecture, but to excuse him if he slipped back into saying Bengali (which he ultimately did by about the fifth time he had to mention the language’s name.) [On a personal note, I agree with him fully, and have tried to keep the norm of referring to the language as Bengali in blog as much as possible. However, when talking, I almost always refer to it as Bangla out of habit from hearing it said all the time.]

*He mentioned how Bengali was the most studied language in South Asian studies departments in England before World War II. After the war, however, when Britain’s worldwide empire was dissolved and Pakistan and India were founded with the national languages of Urdu and Hindi respectively, Bengali seemed to “miss the boat” and fall out of the international realm and was not perceived as important without a national language status. Although it is the fifth largest language in the world (5th to 7th depending on the source), Bengali was lacking posts in most Western universities, with as few as just two posts at one point. Its growth in the last few decades came after Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation in 1971, and Bengali was the national language.

*He gave five reasons why he thinks Bengali will grow as a studied language in the future, most pertaining to Bangladesh as a country emerging more and more into the international spotlight. They included:
-global warming: Bangladesh starts to go under the seas as they rise
-significant migration of Bengalis to other countries (especially when the seas rise)
-the increased importance of the growth of cities (Dhaka second fastest growing in the world)
-enhanced opportunities worldwide for leisure activities. By this he meant people using the internet to explore educational interests that they like, and thus Bengali could be more understood by curious individuals.
-a move from actual travel to virtual travel. Due to a desire to lower carbon emissions and a disappointment in the tourism industry, people will “travel” virtually more often. Thus Bangladesh, which is hard to reach, will be explored and accessed more frequently.

Two of these points seem to point to the internet as important for Bengali’s growth and two others point to natural disasters!
[see blog title for my opinion on #6]

*Lastly he covered what he thought should be done to help Bengali grow as an institutional language. This included a widely published and well written Bengali to English/English to Bengali dictionary, better Bengali teaching materials, increased literary scholarship and translations, and having educated Bangladeshis pursue Bengali as a university subject instead of the sciences.

I thought he took this talk as a real lecture, and not a speech. He definitely traveled his fair share of tangents, but listening to him talk was like being back in a classroom. Really enjoyed listening to him.

One aspect about events like this, and other performances, is they always seem to have television coverage. And when there is television coverage, there is one thing the cameras love to focus on: foreigners in the crowd. And many times, it is the shots of foreigners enjoying something Bangladeshi that makes the newscast. Common thought seems to feel that if a foreigner came to hear a talk, watch a play, or listen to a musical performance it affirms the importance of the event (for the same reasons, many billboards here feature foreigners modeling a product.)
To get these shots of the foreigners the cameramen aren’t bashful. They walk right in front and aim the camera right at you, a big bright light sometimes aimed at your face. Right in the middle of the performance! This goes on the entire time, I had the camera pointed my way six times during the one hour lecture. And if they’re not aiming the camera at the foreigners, the cameramen love to be right up in front of the speaker filming the audience or the speake, many times obscuring the view of the speaker, or just being generally distracting.
Well sure enough, tonight I got a text from my friend who saw me on the evening news, as the foreigner who was watching the lecture. (pics: cameramen during the lecture obscuring the crowds view of Dr. Radice by standing directly in front of him, cameraman aiming a camera at me while I listen to the lecture)

After, all the teachers and students of my language had the chance to have a private discussion with Dr. Radice. It was hear more of what he had to say, and field questions from students who use his book every day. He had interesting answers for almost all our questions. My favorite part was hearing his reasons to include or exclude different things from our text. (pic: AIBS teachers and students with Dr. Radice after his lecture [myself, Rafat, Erin, Farrah, Laurel, Santa, Jen, Megan, Shakil])

On the way home from the bus stand tonight I stopped by a store which I saw had pipes and the like. Asked them if they had materials that I could use to repair my stove’s gas leak. Said they could come with me to check it out and repair. I asked how much and the price didn’t seem too much. One came back with me to my home, and he checked out the pipe connection. Tried to reconnect it and finally decided I’d need new parts, included in the repair price. I didn’t mind, he left to go back to the store, got some parts and another repairman, and together they fixed it. Checked it out, no more flames bursting out! I feel safe again.

But not for long! When we first walked in this evening I saw ants all over the floors. Hundreds, going every which way. I have no clue why they were inside, couldn’t find the source. I tried sweeping them up and stomping on the swept up pile, but there were still so many. Finally I went and bought bug killing spray, and then did the same process of sweeping but sprayed the pile instead of stomping. Ants were all dead quickly. Swept them all up and threw them out. Had a few more random ones, but nothing a quick stomp couldn’t solve. Still not sure what attracted them all.

Lastly want to mention my friends’ blog. Jen and Ben Lamm’s blog has been posted to my blogroll. Jen is a fellow Fulbright here and Ben is her husband who is along for the ride. Just found out about their blog this week when I saw them, and I’ve found it very enjoyable.