25 April 2008

Week 33: Returning from Srimangal only to find no running water

33rd-1st in Srimangal 4/16

We got a bus to visit Lowacherra Forest Reserve, is just outside of Srimangal, amongst the many tea gardens. The area is quite hilly, and covered in dense jungle. I imagine making it through the forest without a path would be very slow going. Luckily we have paths though. Getting off the bus at the park’s main entrance, we hiked to where the many (unmarked) trailheads were. At this point, the Bangladesh Railway passes through the forest. And just our luck, a train came by just as we arrived, and so we got to see the densely packed train plow through he jungle. (pics: Bangladesh Railway train engine traveling through Lowacherra Forest, people hanging off the front of the train engine)

We started on a trail that we thought should take three hours. We probably made a wrong turn here and there, and ended up at a farm. Backtracked and then proceeded through the forest for two and a half hours. The biggest highlight was seeing a troupe of monkeys in the tree tops, likely gibbons. They made a huge racket, and we stopped to listen and watch for ten minutes. (video: Gibbons making noise in Lowacherra Forest)

Farhan was definitely tough today. This was a long hike, and as a first time hiker he handled it well. Although he did get a blister. We really liked roaming the jungle. Saw that the protected forest is still very much in use, as people use it for daily activities. Had lots of fun on the trail: played with bamboo, saw lots of butterflies, the monkeys, lots of little lizards, and a construction crew pumping water. (pics: people walking bamboo through the jungle, Farhan with the jungle's growth dwarfing him, myeslf in Lowacherra Forest, Farhan playing javelin with the bamboo)

We emerged out of the forest on the edge of a village. Wasn’t sure if we made a wrong turn or not, but we just walked to the main road through the village, about 3km. Farhan asked every villager we saw if we were still going the right way. At one point we had to cross a bamboo bridge, and Farhan was hesitating feeling uncomfortable. Then a young boy popped out of his home, sprinted daintily across the bridge, grabbed Farhan by the hand, and led him bravely across. Finally got back to the main road, Farhan felt exhausted. (pics: village area we emerged out to from the jungle, Farhan being assisted across the bamboo bridge by a young boy)

Went back by bus which we caught where we emerged from on the road just by signaling to first local bus which passed.

In the afternoon, we headed out to a tea shack on the outskirts of town which is famous for its layered tea. The tea has anywhere from two to five layers, depending on how much you want to spend. We bought the five layer one at a cost of Tk 50. The five layers from top to bottom are coffee (okay, not tea, but still good), milk tea, green tea, white tea, and lemon tea. They stay separated, but not if you stir it up. We drank carefully. It was fun, as the flavors changed as you drank. The inventor of the drink has his picture all over the tea shack. (pic and video: five layer tea in Srimangal, Farhan explaining the layered tea and my bad joke that follows)

We then roamed through some of the tea gardens near the tea shack on Finlay’s tea estate. Took some pictures in the gardens, including some that Farhan had wanted to take all trip: our heads popping out of the tea gardens and our hands popping out. Sun was setting, and people were roaming the gardens with us. Couldn’t find a rickshaw back after, so we walked all the way back into town, about 1.5 km until we could find one. Told jokes along the way. I thought of my first Bengali joke, which I think doesn’t sound funny in English, but only when I tell it in Bengali. Farhan and I cracked up. (pics: myself popping out of the tea garden, Farhan's arm popping out of the tea garden, myself/Farhan in one of the irrigation ditches of the tea garden, tea garden in Srimangal)

33rd-2nd in Srimangal 4/17

Today we headed out to Madhabkunda waterfall. This is just northwest of Srimangal, a very short trip, a definite must see my friends said. Well, this trip was nothing but short. We left around 10 am and didn’t arrive at the waterfall until 2:30pm. I was very frustrated. At one point we were considering just calling it a day, going back to ensure we caught our bus home. However, Farhan finally said lets go see the waterfall no matter if we miss our bus home or not. We had to take a bus, a tempo, another bus, and then a CNG to reach the waterfall from Srimangal.

We finally arrived at the waterfall, and only had a short time to see it, as we were paying our CNG only to wait an hour, and the walk from the gate to the falls was 15 minutes. When we finally saw it, after all our troubles finding this place, it was like finding buried treasure.

I wanted to go in and play in the water, but soon after arriving, the most amazing thing happened. The waterfall, just a small flow when we first arrived, started making rumbling noises, and all of a sudden the volume of water flowing over the edge started to increase. The water was rushing faster than before, some sticks were pouring over the side. People playing in the water ran out as big waves started forming. Those standing next to the falls retreated to farther distances. The water kept increasing and increasing (see compiled photo below.) Must’ve been twice the original flow. Water turned a bit brown. A second flow started just to the right of the original falls. Then later a third lighter flow seemed to fill up the middle. I’m guessing a blockage upstream must’ve finally burst and all the waters came flowing out. (pics: myself with the jungle growth up above me, Farhan in front of Madhabkunda Waterfall, the setting of the Madhabkunda Waterfall,compiled photo of waterfall growth (click to enlarge))

It was very impressive and moving. Incredible because we never would’ve seen this if we’d arrived the few hours earlier like we wanted. Felt very luck to experience it. I waded into the waves for a little bit, just up to my knees. We had to leave after a short time we had to get back and try to get new tickets for a new bus home.

The ride home was less than half the time. We somehow got on a city to city bus that made only a few stops, instead of purely local bus which stops every few minutes. It definitely helped in decreasing travel time. Next time I make trips like this, I will definitely ensure a bus I get on is not a local bus, but a city to city bus. We went through Moulvi Bazar and then back down to Srimangal. Incredibly quick. Rushed to the bus station upon getting back, where we were able to get new tickets and catch a new bus. Only 2 hours later than we were supposed to leave.

33rd-3rd in Dhaka 4/18

Landlord knocked on my door this morning to let me know they will be doing maintenance on the water pump and water tank today, so I should not expect water until the afternoon. Advised taking my shower now and filing a bucket of water for the rest of the day. I didn’t mind too much as I’d be out all day.

April is the hottest month on average in Bangladesh. The heat is incredible, and the high humidity doesn’t help. Days are now averaging in the low 100s, and heat indexes are reaching 120+. For this the reason I’m always sweaty. The heat will be less next month as some rains come, and then the heat will break more in June when the monsoon rains arrive and cool things off.

This morning I met up with Megan and Shakil to go on a hike. We’d been planning this for awhile, to go up to either Madhupur National Forest or Bhalwal National Park. Madhupur is farther but has better hiking. We ended up going to Bhalwal on Shakil’s request. It is only an hour or so away, the closest National Park to Dhaka. At the bus stop to leave, I told them the joke I'd written in Bengali, Shakil laughed, Megan rolled her eyes.

We hopped off the bus at the park’s entrance, and paid our entry fees. Close to the entrance of the park are brick paths, a big pond, an observation tower, food store, a mosque, and some pavilions. At these pavilions a bunch of programs were happening, with singers voices being pumped out through bad speakers. But we started meandering randomly into the park to explore, and soon all these visitor aimed things disappeared and we were left with just us and the forest, although we could still faintly hear the singers. But we ended up using these loud sounds to find our way back out of the forest later, as their were no markings for any trails.

We saw some wildlife in the forest. Large lizards were the coolest thing, likely a Bengal or clouded monitor. They were about 3 feet long and really thick. Most ran away quick from us, but one only slowly walked away, so we got to snap pictures of it. It looked small, so we thought it was young, rather than injured. We also saw cows roaming in the woods but they weren’t wild, as their owners would come behind them. Interesting to see cows roaming the woods though. The woods themselves reminded me of the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, except without pine trees. The soil, land structure, and fields, however, all looked very familiar. (pics: myself/Megan in Bhalwal National Park, cows roaming in Bhalwal National Park, monitor scampering across a field, monitor in the woods)

After roaming the woods for two hours, we emerged and took a look up at the top of one of the observation towers. It was only after this that we saw a sign warning people not to enter the woods for safety reasons. This is supposed to be because of dangerous characters roaming the woods.(pics: Shakil and Bhalwal National Forest behind him as seen from the top of the observation tower, sign warning people not to enter the forest which we saw after we came out of the forest)

Megan and I were quite pleasantly surprised at the quality of hiking we got in. I thought it’d be all paved paths, but we really got to go exploring into the woods.

In the evening I went to a birthday party at Mohan’s house. Today is his birthday, which was weird since I never knew our birthdays were so close, despite being roommates for two months. He invited me to come over. All his friends from Cadet College were there, including guys I know well: Shibly, Saifullah, and Bapi and whole bunch of others I’ve seen many times. Plus their wives and children.

We had cake and watermelon first (desert first!) The guys sat and talked in one room, while all the wives sat and talked in the other. No mixing happened all night. Mohan’s wife cooked all the food along with her helper. The two young girls, Sadia and Sara, who I met in Bandarban, were running from room to room laughing and playing with a blow up ball. They liked to take pictures with my camera, and I blew up that ball for them at least three times. After dinner Sadia, Saifullah’s daughter, was telling me how she likes ghosts and wanted to know if I knew any. When she left with her parents, she ran over to me and gave me a kiss.

I never really interact with kids in the US much, and in fact I’d have to say I’ve interacted with Sadia more than any kid ever. Also, I think I’ve held more babies and talked to more children of friends here in Bangladesh than I ever have in the US. I think it’s because none of my friends in the US have kids, and that many friends I have here are older and have children. Odd that my first time interacting with children, I’m the one with the smaller vocabulary, and I’m having to do it in Bengali. (pics: Mohan (far left) and Saifullah (far right) with their Cadet College friends at Mohan's birthday party, Sadia/Sara before they grabbed my camera and took their own pictures of the party, Mohan with his son Rehan)

Came home. Still no water. A bit upset. Wanted to shower, I was so gross. Need to save my remaining water in the bucket for washing hands and flushing the toilet. I now understand why it’s so frustrating to lose water when a hurricane hits. It’s so hot too, I was sweating and really would’ve liked a way to cool off. It’s very depressing to open a tap and see nothing come out.

33rd-4th in Dhaka 4/19

Water still off. Sitting at home and working on blog and journal. Don’t’ feel like leaving house, getting sweaty, and not being able to shower.

Some news items I’ve been wanting to mention:

First is the food crisis. You may have read about it on the internet or perhaps in US papers, but the problems over food are very serious. Rice has exploded in cost, and people are having to stop buying certain food items just to afford the staple food of rice. The leaders of Bangladesh have asked that people start using potatoes instead of rice in their diets, as there is an oversupply of potatoes right now. People complained saying that those leaders should start doing the same if they expect the public to do it. Well at a recent meeting about the food crisis, the leaders served only potato dishes. There's also hard held feelings about giving up rice, because of a similar decree by the West Pakistanis when they were in charge. This article explains that, and the potato menu, very well.
The lines for rice are a long at subsidized food centers, much longer than they used to be. People wait for hours to get rice at a fair price they can afford. Most of the people spend the majority of their income on food.
Going to give Moweena a raise to match the rising prices. (pics: rice distribution that has been set up in Azimpur near BUET, rice distribution with long lines on Bishwa Road in Middle Badda)

There’s also a new train from Dhaka to Kolkata. It’s a big deal. Hasn’t been train service in over four decades since it was shut down by the governments when Pakistan was fighting India. But the first trains ran last week between the two cities. And there was much rejoicing on both end stations. Big send offs. But there were also problems. Some leaders in India don’t like it, saying that it’s only going to bring problems, bringing Bangladeshis to India. They don’t like the idea. There were even small bombs placed on the tracks on the Indian side. Hope things settle and it really becomes a good thing for both countries.

Also, on that same line of thought, looks like with this project, and another between Iran and Pakistan, a train line could stretch all the way to London.

Lastly is the push to have Cox’s Bazar and the Sundarbans on the new list of the Seven Natural World Wonders. The push is fueled by the nationalism of the Bangladeshi people, and promoted by the government. They have set up internet voting stations so people can vote for those two sites to be on the list. Likely due to their efforts, Cox’s Bazar tops the worldwide list, and the Sundarbans are just outside. If these two places make the final cut, it was the spirit of the Bangladeshi that got them there. I’ve been asked by people if I’ve voted yet…of course! (pic: sign outside the Bangladesh Trade Fair in January urging people to vote for Cox's Bazar and Sundarbans for the Seven Natural World Wonders)

After meeting with Diya this afternoon for a bit, I came back home and the water was on, and I took a much desired shower.
Soon after the water stopped again. Just in time I filled up a half bucket of water for hand washing and toilet flushing. I went to bed without another shower, so was sweaty and gross getting into bed.

Finished reviewing Stanford University tonight, and then did the comparison review of NC State. With that, my grad school initial review is complete. I finally have an idea of what I’m looking for in schools, and what schools satisfy that. Right now I’m looking at three tiers of schools from the initial review. First tier, ones I’ll definitely apply to are: Texas, MIT, Berkeley, and Georgia Tech. Second tier, ones I might apply to are: UIUC, Northwestern, and Purdue. Bottom tier, ones I won’t apply to because of a lack of transportation program or not a strong one: Stanford, Michigan, Cornell.

33rd-5th in Dhaka 4/20

Water still off today. We got it back for a few hours, just enough to fill up two buckets of water, take a shower, and wash some much needed clothes. Then it went off again. It seems they just can’t find a way to fix our water pump. It’s kind of gross. I always feel a little down when I turn the handle and nothing comes out.

Today I spent most of the day at home just processing through data. I found an online stopwatch with a lap timer and decided to try using that for the processing. It cuts a little bit of time from my old method, and I’m going to try it for awhile to see if I like the results. It helps me to produce the same data in less time.

Tried buying a domain name of donaldkatz.com today but couldn’t get the order to process. Talked to Saket a lot today too about resumes, jobs, college. It was lots of good conversing, and his knowledge on all of it is extremely helpful. I also spent some time looking into Virginia Tech’s civil program to see if I went there, could I also be part of the Metropolitan Institute. Keeping some broad options open, things I may not have considered originally.

33rd-6th in Dhaka 4/21

Another day without water. There was a bit of a dribble at 6am when I woke up to use the toilet, and I filled up two buckets then, and it was off soon after. If I hadn’t done that, I’m not sure how I would’ve lasted the rest of the day.

After my 5pm lunch, I went out to the buses. Rode two this evening, both short routes. Got to see a new bus fight!

Bus conductors usually take their liberties at showing their dominance of being on a bus to nearby rickshaws. They yell at them, tell them to move, and sometimes hit their rickshaws with their hands/feet. Usually the rickshaw is in the way or riding too close. But tonight our conductor flipped the hood of a nearby rickshaw while we were crawling through traffic, while the rickshaw wallah was just sitting on the side of the road at a tea stand, minding his own business. Well the rickshaw wallah was insulted (as he should be) and decided to take out his anger in the best way possible. He ran after our slow moving bus, started beating on our bus conductor who is standing at the door. He manages to pull him off the bus, and onto the ground. This fight was intense. They were on the ground, rolling, kicking, flipping, it looked like a cartoon fight when the fight turns into a big rolling ball of dust. About five people spilled off the bus once they realized the bus conductor was missing, and chased after the fight to break it up. Meanwhile other passengers told the bus driver to stop. The fight got broken up, with some cursing and yelling at each other. Then the conductor came prancing over to the bus grinning, laughing to himself, while the rickshaw wallah stood alone on the curb angry. The passengers on the bus were laughing. To top it all off, the conductor, as the bus was moving again, seeing his sweaty torn shirt, rips it off in a glorious fashion and tosses it to the street side. (pic: how a conductor does his work hanging out the door...and hits rickshaws)

Looked into the cost of buying a license plate. I’d found a license plate on the side of the road in South Africa, and took it home with me. I feel like I won’t have the same luck here, so I’ve seen shops selling them and went to check it out. Like most things, about six shops all in a row sell license plates. It didn’t seem like there was any regulation on them. They’d just be hanging on the wall and you could just walk up and buy one. I asked the guy at the store how much they cost, and he said Tk400. After a few minutes, he cut the price to Tk350. I wanted to know how the numbers are assigned, and I think he told me I could put whatever I wanted on it. Not sure if he was just playing me or if that’s how license plates really work here. I am going to buy one though.
I’m really confused about this system. How are the numbers assigned, is each plate different from the next? How does this system ensure that each plate is distinctive? Is each store assigned a list of numbers it can give out. If so, why can the guy give me anything he wants?
About license plates, each lists the district in which the car is registered, followed by six numbers below. They are white letters on black writing. Cars get them on metal or plastic, and attached to the car. Buses and CNGs paint their license plate information onto the vehicle itself (that way when they go bashing into each other, it doesn’t fly off!) (pics: standard Bangladeshi license plate, fancy Bangladeshi plate, painted license plate on a tempo, painted license plate on a local bus)

Also found out today that my college senior project is getting considered for implementation. My group and I designed a bus bypass shoulder system for I-40 in Raleigh for TTA, and now it looks like TTA might be pushing it forward. They have lots of meetings with experts and NCDOT ahead, but it could happen. They also might consult us for some explanations!

33rd-7th in Dhaka 4/22

This morning I finally completed the purchase of donaldkatz.com and hopefully within the next week I’ll have a page up, with Saket’s help of course. He offered to help me host it. It won’t be anything complex, just a place to post some information about me for when someone googles my name. I’ll link this blog obviously.

Today was a close call for all my research resources while riding four buses. I almost ran out of five things all at once: paper, voice recorder memory, voice recorder battery, cash for bus tickets, and lead for my mechanical pencil. How did all 5 things come to a near end on one day!?!

Checked into ticket prices today for the flight from Kathmandu to Delhi that Travis and I are taking in July. Emily already has a flight so I’m trying to get tickets on there, but it might be a bit expensive. Will perhaps look for another flight at a similar time but at lesser price.

I know understand the water situation. After talking to the store owner in front of my house, I asked if everyone was having problems (Megan had mentioned it) and he said many people are having water shut offs to preserve water. Well he offered to let me get some water from his store’s tap so I brought down my bucket to fill it up. As I was walking back, my landlord saw me, and he looked upset that I had gone behind his back about water, asking why I didn’t say anything. I said I didn’t know to, figured we all were in the same situation. He told me, and his wife came later to reiterate, the following:
Our house had problems for awhile, because of the pump. But after two and a half days, the pump was fixed, and the reason I wasn’t seeing water was because they were only pumping at certain times. No one told me about these times until now though. They are pumping at 9am, noon, and 9pm. The water lasts for about a half hour before it’s drained. So fill up buckets quickly and shower quick. This has been going on for two days and I had no clue. It explains thought why sometimes I had mystery water coming out of one tap when I opened it.
Since I stay out working all day until 10 pm, I never got any water because I missed all the water times. I'd come home and it'd be all gone. Well now I know the water times are 9am and noon and 9pm so I’ll make sure I’m home for two of those to get what I need to do done. Plus if I ever need it, my landlord told me he has a barrel of water in his flat for emergencies.

1 comment:

Greg said...

Donny, I am so proud of that joke. You are the man. Glad to hear Bangldesh (other than the no water thing) is pretty awesome.