30 April 2008

Week 34: Bus jealousy, when my bus is empty and your bus has people hanging out the door

34th-1st in Dhaka 4/23

Today I used my water responsibly. I stayed home for the 9am and noon water times, and showered, washed clothes, washed dishes, and got other water related activities done.

Headed to BUET where I did some database work, but also had a really good meeting with Dr. Rahman. I had printed out a sample of my spreadsheet with bus data on it. He had lots of questions, and it was a good chance to dive into details of my project. Asked me questions that made think about the project in a new way. We also talked at length about academic paper writing, report writing, and getting published. He showed me some of the work he’s gotten published, and told me about other students who have published under him. It was comforting to know about his experience with it all. He also said that about 90% of everything he’s ever submitted has been accepted.

Had a Fulbright dinner tonight and five out of eight of us came. Shaheen, who’s in charge of us at the American Center, brought her husband and daughter. Plus Harvey and Jo Ann Sernovitz came as well. Talked to them a bit about the new Fulbrights, including my friend Samantha who got it.
The highlight of the night for me was telling the joke I’d created in Srimangal to Dr. Ahrar Ahmad (Fulbright Scholar), Shaheen, and Shaheen’s husband and anyone else who understood Bengali. After I told the punch line they all cracked up, which made me feel a bit of success that I’d written a good Bengali joke. (pic: Rafat, Julia (non-Fulbright), and Karen at Fulbright dinner)

34th-2nd in Dhaka 4/24

I’ve noticed that the streets seem empty midday when it’s really hot out. They’ll have people until about noon, but soon after, and until the late afternoon, people seem to retreat inside under the heat of the sun.

Took my camera around today to get some shots of things I’d been meaning to try and capture on film. Got a good shot today, a mother letting her kid urinate in the middle of the sidewalk while everyone just walked by not disturbed by the event. This is not rare. (pic: mother letting her child urinate on the sidewalk near New Market)

Today was a day of bus riding. I left early and thought I could easily get four to five buses done with time to even make it to BUET midway through to see a presentation being done on transportation safety and be home before the 9pm water time.

I did two routes before heading to BUET for the presentation. But again I had bad luck with a BUET presentation. The transportation portion of the lectures were in the morning, and the afternoon was talking about emergency response and trauma care. This was not nearly as interesting to me. I stayed for about an hour but then left to collect more bus data.

At some point during one of the presentation, an Australian doctor who was talking asked a group in the audience to please refrain from whatever they were doing since it was distracting to him. I’ve mentioned before how the TV cameras can be interrupting during a speech, but the audience usually has an similar level of etiquette during performances or speeches. From what I can gather, it is not considered rude to talk on one’s cell phone during a presentation, at whatever volume. Many people talking on the phone during cultural performances and professional speeches. It is also not impolite to get up and leave midway through a speech or performance. People are getting up and down at every moment during the presentation to leave or move around the room. Talking between each other, even at loud volumes is also not considered rude. For example, with Arjun and his friends, I might whisper something to them during a show, and they will respond to me at full volume. The exact incident which disturbed the talker today was that there was some candy that had been distributed, and it was being passed noisily around, with a group of men bickering about who received more. As well, behind them, there was a group of students loudly debating something about the program. (pic: gentleman casually talking on the phone during a presentation)

Got some good shots of this today: motorcycles using the sidewalk when traffic is bad! They veer off the road, and start barreling down the sidewalk, forcing pedestrians to jump out of the way. However, people selling things are still barriers for the motorcycles, and are things to go slowly past! This is obviously a huge safety issue, but hard to control. There already is a lack of traffic enforcement, (mentioned today at BUET as one of the biggest things missing in Bangladesh for traffic safety.) (pics: motorcyclist making use of the sidewalk in traffic, motorcyclist navigates his bike past a man selling dates)

Took two more buses after this. I took one bus past where I usually get off, as I knew it left the city limits. Didn’t know exactly how far it went, and wanted to see. It went far! Farther than I expected. In fact, I never saw the end as I got off early because it was getting late. Took buses back, one which stopped early, refunded us a part of our fare, because it saw traffic was so bad it didn’t feel like sitting in it.

34th-3rd in Dhaka 4/25

Moweena and I worked out how we are going to handle this water situation. She comes before we have water, and has to leave for other homes before as well. I’m going to buy a big bucket for holding lots of water, so she can cook and clean with that, and still have water buckets for washing and flushing in the bathroom.

Ayon, Farhan, and I decided to hang out in the evening. We met up at my place, stayed there looking at pictures and movies, then headed out to Dhanmondi Lake, where we strolled for awhile, watched fishermen, I told Ayon my Srimangal joke, waited around until a program started at the outdoor theater, then took a rickshaw up to Shangkor where we got a snack. They are both very interested in my project, asking me lots of questions and looking through my work with honest interest.
Tonight also bought Arnob’s new CD “Doob.” Also Dipto, Ishita’s older brother, recently released his new solo album, and so we had the CD store put the album in so we could listen to it. (pic: Farhan/Ayon showing off Dipto's new CD)

I’ve mentioned how hot it’s been. Well the heat is coming down a little bit this week, into the low 90s. It feels very refreshing! But during this heat, I made sure to take photos of the many ways to stay cool as best as you can. The number one way, and easiest, is to have a simple piece of paper (newspaper, folder) and block the sun. A lot of people walk around or sit on the bus like this. Another option is to drape a rag over your head. A lot of men like to do this as most men seem to carry a rag for wiping their brow. (pics: man walking along the sidewalk using a sheet o paper to block the sun, rickshaw wallah with rag drapped over his head)

Umbrellas are also popular, but obviously more expensive than a rag or a piece of paper. While in traffic, people pull their rickshaw covers over their head. And while stuck and not moving, rickshaw wallahs will get off their rickshaw and sit in the shade of the rickshaw in front of them. If you have nothing at all, just pulling your shirt up over your neck is effective as well. (pics: man using an umbrella to block the sun, two girls with an umbrella to add some shade, rickshaw wallah stuck in traffic has gotten off his rickshaw and is sitting in the shade of the rickshaw in front of his, man pulling up shirt to block his neck and back of head from the sun)

Businesses, to block out the sun, hang sheets in front of their store. This may be as simple as just letting it hang in front, or creating a canopy with poles. Fans are also popular and cheap to buy. (pics: shops near New Market form a tent complex with poles and sheets, a sheet hanging in front of a store to block the sun, newspaper clipping with photo of a man selling hand fans)

34th-4th in Dhaka 4/26

Today was a work day, and boy did I get work done. I got five buses processed in the morning, went to campus got those five buses databased, and then got two and a half more buses processed after that. This new method using the internet stopwatch is definitely adding to my efficiency. I’m doing the data processing (my least favorite) part so much faster.

This morning, as well, I set up donaldkatz.com with Saket’s help. It’s now up and running and you can go and visit it. It’s going to work as just a central place for all things about me on the internet. I hope to use it frequently, but not daily, nor even weekly. I’ll maintain for it employers to see who I am, and for people who google my name to find information easily.

I also signed up for LinkedIn, something my father suggested I do years ago. Well now I’m there joining the rest of the professional world. Made a profile and made the site as best as I could.

34th-5th in Dhaka 4/27

Data collection was frustrating today. Neither bus got crowded, and that always feels like a waste of time since I already have plenty of non-crowded routes collected. I always feel like all the other buses I’m not on are always more crowded than mine. Who thought I’d have bus jealousy!

Checked into flights again today for my flights in and out of India and Nepal. The travel agent ran a quick search and produced some high values. Ultimately he said my best option is just to buy through Jet Airways. Realized later that I can get probably get airline miles by flying then rather than a Bangladeshi airline, and checked into it. Discovered that I can earn miles on my American Airlines flight miles account.

Emailed some professors today at Virginia Tech, UIUC, and Northwestern. Starting to get in contact to get more information and find my way at places. Some neat opportunities I think will arise.

34th-6th in Dhaka 4/28

Today was a tiring day on the buses. I rode five, which is the most I’ve ever ridden in one day. And each had its own share of issues. First off, I learned that today buses across the city were allowed to increase their fares if they desired. This is a motion but forward by the bus owner’s association. A few companies didn’t, but most did. Some as much as 33%. Such a high rise is due to the rising prices of CNG in the city, and the difficulty and time needed for refilling. Lines at CNG stations don’t ever go away it seems, even late at night. In fact, they might be even longer at night as all the hired drivers of people’s personal cars are told to refill CNG when the car isn’t needed. Thus lines build and build. So in response to rising prices, the ticket prices of many buses went up. To combat any outbursts from angered bus riders, police were stationed near major bus stoppages. In fact, I found most of the information of price increases from the police officers when I asked why they were here today. (pics: line for CNG at a station south of Uttara, CNGs line up for a refill in Kuril)

Actually, before I found out about the ticket price raises, I could sense something was different today. Couldn’t place what it was, but I could sense it in the air, that everyone knew something I didn’t. That something was happening that no one told me about.

The buses all had their problems today, for some reason they all had a reason to be frustrating. Bus #1 skipped some of its stops for no apparent reason where lots of people would’ve boarded, meaning it didn’t get as crowded as it could’ve gotten. As well, there was a rare long line to buy the ticket today, perhaps people were fighting the higher ticket prices. Bus #2 skipped stops as well, and didn’t get even close to full. At least bus #1 got a bit crowded! Bus #3 wasn’t starting from its usual spot, and that’s when I talked to the police officers to see what was going on. The bus is no longer running to that stop because it’s trying to reduce its CNG usage, so I had to take another bus to go up one more stop to catch the other bus. Bus #4 was packed when it came to pick us up, and thus I had the choice to stand the whole route and risk being told to stand in back and not see the door (where all the action I record occurs) or take a seat at the front on the flat area over the engine. I had to take that seat to be guaranteed a sight line to the door the whole time, but the seat was scorching hot as the engine was below, but I had to just be tough through it. Still, I lost sight lines at some periods and it made data collection difficult. Bus #5 was the most frustrating. I had to wait 40 minutes for it, which usually isn’t a big deal to me. But then to reward me for my waiting, the bus that showed up was one of their three buses which has an odd bus shape that I’m not studying (so I had to wait for the next bus another 15 minutes.) Then, to reward me for even more waiting, this bus got caught by the bus behind it, meaning both buses were hitting the stoppages at the same time, and neither bus got the ridership it would if they traveled separately. Meaning the bus got only slightly crowded, instead of the jam packed level I know it can achieve. (pics: example shots of an uncrowded bus and the same bus with moderate crowding)

Funny story today, I was sitting in a hotel eating my lunch, and I see a teenage boy in a school uniform walk into the restaurant. He walks straight up to my table, grabs one of my water glasses, gulps it down, puts it back on the table, and turns to leave. I wasn’t sure what to say. Well a guy at another table called the kid over and yelled at him, giving him a “What do you think you are doing boy?” talk. I really can’t tell what possessed the kid to do what he did, nothing like I’d ever seen before. The guy at the other table told him to go pay the Tk1 for the water.

Today I saw a fire truck outside a building with all the residents/workers of the building standing outside. I could only assume the building was evacuated for a fire alarm. Either way something was happening, and people were supposed to be out of the building. They were all staring on, and a huge crowd had gathered. However, there was a classic “what is wrong with this picture” when I saw someone else staring curiously at the fire truck: someone on the fifth floor of the building who didn’t seem to be in too much of a hurry to leave the building. If this was high school, he’d get detention.

34th-7th in Dhaka 4/29

Went shopping with Diya at New Market. She invited me out and she was buying A-level practice tests. At Nilkhet you can buy old test papers for real cheap. The A-level tests look very similar to AP tests, but are required for all graduating students! And there are a series for each subject, a stressful situation for the students.
After I then went and bought some material for three new shirts that I’ll have tailored.

I’ve come to find out that the lady that Moweena always talks to through my window lives in another house she works at. Not sure if it was always like that, but Moweena said for two months now she has been working there. She also works upstairs of that place too. So really all three places she works could be reached by the same fire escape (if such a thing existed) as the buildings jut right up next to each other. As it is, Moweena has to walk way way around to reach their apartment building which is on another road.

After New Market this morning, I went and got a haircut. Then got some passport photos taken for the many visas I’ll have to apply for in the coming months. Also printed out the Indian visa application.

Went to Kozmo Lounge this afternoon for lunch and stayed there answering emails and working on fellowship applications (just beginning the work.) Also did some data processing. Nice to be working in a new environment, and I was a bit more productive.

I made a promise to myself, I’m going to get up early and run tomorrow.

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