28 May 2008

Week 38: Playing shollo guti in Narayanganj's Sona Khanda Fort

38th-1st in Dhaka 5/21

Moweena came early so I could leave early to make it to the Nepal Embassy on time. I got there just as it opened, and there was a long line out front. I stood in it for about 20 minutes, it wasn’t going anywhere. Some guy then come up to me and asked me if I was a foreigner. He told me that I should be able to bypass the line since I’m not Bangladeshi. So he brought me to the front, told the security guard I was a foreigner, and sure enough, they opened the gate and I was allowed right in. Inside, I was given a form, I filled it out and then they processed my passport first, in front of the fifteen people sitting there waiting. This kind of special treatment always makes me feel a bit self-conscious.

I then did 3 local buses, all #6 between Gulshan and Kamalapur. Nothing exciting. Was very tried after the third local bus. Decided to call it a day around 7pm instead of doing one more route. On the bus home two men talked to me almost the entire time. They live near me and were providing very good conversation. One of the guys actually lived on my street.

My computer has been really slow. I tried cleaning it up in every way I knew, spyware, adware, temp file removal, defragmenting, etc. still having problems. Finally diagnosed that it was Gmail, only in its standard view, which was slowing me. In its HTML only view, things were fine. So for now I’m just using the HTML view.

Also noticed that there were big signs all over town welcoming Prince Aga Khan. There were many arrangements of the Bangladesh flag and a flag which I would find out to be his royal flag. Didn’t know who this was, and even asking some people, they thought he was the prince of another country. Well I came home to find out and saw he was very important figure in the Muslim religion, the Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. He was visiting for a few days and had a bunch of things he had come to accomplish, including laying the foundation for the new Aga Khan Academy. The Aga Khan School is already one of the best schools in Dhaka. Neat to see the huge welcome he received. The biggest signs were in Farmgate, but I missed getting a photo of them. (pics: signs in both English and Bengali in front of the President's complex welcoming Prince Aga Khan, alternating Bangladeshi flags and the flag of Prince Aga Khan on Airport Road)

Thought I could mention how to ride bikes together here. Men ride with men, women ride with men, but women rarely ride alone…never seen it actually except for Kristin Boekhoff, a past Fulbrighter. Men straddle each other while riding. Women however, don’t straddle, it’s improper, so they ride sitting to the side, legs on the same side of the motorcycle and grasp the man with one arm. Seems very dangerous, but remember you’re never going too fast in Dhaka traffic. This is for motorcycles. If you just have a bike, the same rules apply. There’s a little carrying shelf on the back of all bikes, and your passenger straddles the back as you ride. (pics: school boys sharing a bike with one straddling back rack, men sharing motorcycles, girl sharing a bike with a boy by sitting sideways on the back rack)

38th-2nd in Dhaka 5/22

Today didn’t turn out as I’d planned. First off, by the time I finally started riding the buses, I discovered my voice recorder was broken, and this was around 5:00 in the afternoon. What took me so long to find out? Why did I start so late? Let me explain

First I had to post the blog. Always important. Then I headed out to gather all the visas for the Rangamati trip we’re planning on taking when Ben Gaddy is here. This included printing out Gaddy’s, picking up Jen and Ben’s from their flat (stopped to talk to Ben there too), and then to ICDDR,B to get Aaron’s.

I then ran over to the Nepal embassy to pick up my Nepali visa. All is well, and it was very easy, the guy was even nice! Also, dropped by Naira’s after to have lunch and conversation for a bit over an hour.

Lastly, swung over to the travel office in Banani and dropped off all these documents I’ve been collecting. They are nice a group of people at Bengal Tours and I’m glad they’re helping us get the clearance to go to Rangamati.

Had a hard time finding the #3 bus’ starting point. After about an hour, finally boarded.
Well I did it for six stops, then went to listen to the voice files because we were sitting in traffic to do some pre-processing, and it wasn’t producing any noises. Got worried. Didn’t know what was wrong. After playing with it for a few minutes, deduced that the microphone was broken and wasn’t picking up my voice. So my plans for working the rest of the day were shot. I got very frustrated, a whole day without work.

Took the voice recorder to the repair guy I went to a few months ago…even though he couldn’t repair it last time. Well this time he did a good job. The microphone was an easier repair task than a USB port. He had tons of spare microphones, he put in a new one, and things were working fine. Was very happy. I can start working again on Sunday.

The landlord’s grandson came by my flat tonight when I came home. He always is talking to me, but today he came for the first time and hung out in my flat for a bit. He discovered my electric razor. Despite my warnings that he could cut himself, he still played with it. He even tried to shave, although he is about a decade away from having facial hair. Then he thought it’d be fun to actually shave his hair a bit. That’s when I grabbed it back from him. His mother, the landlord’s daughter also came by tonight to let me know we’re going to have less water these next few days. Her son was with her. He found the razor again while I was taking to his mom about the water restrictions, and ended up shaving a bit of his hair off this time. Luckily she didn’t care. (pic: landlord's grandson and his new favorite toy...my electric razor)

Decided with the computer, under Saket’s suggestion, to use an email client. I downloaded Thunderbird so I can now email with ease without the worry of Gmail being slow. Also downloaded Google talk so I can still chat when I want to.

38th-3rd in Narayanganj 5/23

I’ve been itching to get out of Dhaka. I’ve spent almost all of May working, and I wanted to get out for a day. I got in contact with my friend Toma, and asked if she would want to go to Narayanganj for the day. She was up for it, so around noon we headed out from Dhaka. I’ve been wanting to see Narayanganj as it’s the largest city close to Dhaka, with over 240,000 people. The city lies along the bank of Shitalakshya River, just north of where it meets the Buriganga and heads to the Meghna. It is the oldest river port of Bangladesh, and is now known for being a center of industry. Along the banks of the river I saw cement factories and ship repairing. (pics: Narayanganj street scene just west of the river port and bus station, cement plant on the Shitalakshya River, ship repairing yard on Shitalakshya River, major Narayanganj intersection at dusk)

We arrived by the AC bus Asian. There are several buses we could’ve chosen, but I’ve always wanted to take the AC Asian bus because it has AC and because their bus line was imported from Japan, and are unique. When we got off the bus, we had no clue where to go. We walked for a bit, got some fruit to snack on. Finally decided to ask a rickshaw to take us to the river.

The river was industrialized, not a place to really hang out. Took a boat across the river to see what was on the other side. After walking for a bit we asked a guy what would be a good place to go see. He suggested Sona Khanda Fort. We had a rickshaw take us there passing through many thin twisting streets through towns to get there. (pics: streets of Narayanganj)

Sona Khanda Fort was fairly empty, and no information on how old it was. Asking someone about its age, he said maybe 200 hundred years old, but really had no clue. We walked around it but it wasn’t huge. I found out that the most use is people playing cricket and soccer on its large open space. A game even started up while we there. The fort is technically across the river from Narayanganj in the area known as Bondhor. (pics: myself in Sona Khanda Fort, Toma in front of the main gate of Sona Khanda Fort, fort's large open inner space mostly used for cricket and soccer, view east from the raised area of the fort)

We decided to just sit on the steps for a bit and I suggested playing shollo guti. The game, which I first played in Comilla and haven’t played since, is very simple. Shollo guti, literally means “sixteen pieces” and is just like checkers. You jump over someone to capture their piece. You follow the lines drawn on the ground for movements, with the goal being to capture all your other pieces. It also can be played anywhere, as long as you have some dirt to draw a board in, or a hard surface to scratch a board out with a rock. The board has a neat shape which creates some interesting situations, with a big square and two triangles on either end. Also a note on games like this, in Bangladesh they don’t say you “capture” a piece, you “eat” an opponent’s piece! (pics: Toma/myself playing shollo guti in Sona Khana Fort, shollo guti playing board and pieces)

After the fort, we took a rickshaw to the nearest place on the river we could catch a launch. The building seemed to be leaning into the water. The launch actually came quickly, but we weren’t aware that it was the launch we were supposed to get on. It left without us. Confirming after it was the one we were supposed to be on, we were told another would come in a half hour. So we sat on the riverbank and watched boats go by. Small ones and big shippers. It was nice, I didn’t mind the wait, and we weren’t on a schedule so we were free to relax.
The launch ride was fun. The boat was tipping the whole time because the sun being on one side of the boat was making everyone sit on the other side of the boat. No one wants to sit in the sun. We arrived at the Narayanganj port, walked through it and the nearby bus station, and found a restaurant, despite it being 5:00, for lunch. (pics: dock for waiting for launch leaning into the water, Shitalakshya riverside showing farms and industries on opposite banks)

Then walked back through the streets in town to find another bus to go home. Passed a funny sight, a rickshaw sitting at a gas pump. When I first saw it I did a double take. Noticed only after that there was a guy with a gas tank in it filling it up. But the photo is still pretty humorous. (pic: "Fill 'er up!" "Where?")

38th-4th in Dhaka 5/24

Found out that the Rangamati permission is not going to be allowed to be performed by the tour agency. I had a feeling something would go wrong, that’s the case a lot in my planning of trips. Today, upon them telling me that they were not being allowed, I quickly drafted a letter to request permission myself, went across town to their office, picked up the copies of the visas and passports, and then headed over to Gulshan-2 to fax it all over. Will have to send it all by courier service tomorrow, then call back to see if they received the papers. Then hope that they give the permission papers to the check post so that we are allowed into Rangamati.

The reason I need all this permission is because Rangamati is in the hill tracts and due to conflicts there with tribal groups, foreigners need to request permission, for liability purposes. They want to keep track of any foreigners in the region.

After this I headed over to Leigh’s house, where a birthday party for a guy I would meet, Devon, was being held. The main reason I went though was for the foosball tournament that was going along with the party. I had been invited by Aaron. The tournament was supposed to be doubles and Aaron said he thought twenty people were going to show up. Well only twelve did for foosball, but the tournament was still fun, double elimination. My partner was Leigh and we won our first game, lost, and then in the loser’s bracket, won our first match and then lost to the eventual champions.
The rest of the night was fun too. We played a game called 25 Words or Less and I proved to be pretty proficient at it. Would play it again. Snacks and foods were all American fare, and I thoroughly enjoyed it all, haven’t had sandwiches or hot wings or tortilla chips and salsa for awhile. Plus there was birthday cake. (pics: Ifte/Aaron vs. Devon/Sarah in championship game of foosball, Devon blows out his birthday candles)

38th-5th in Dhaka 5/25

Went to the courier service’s office and to send out the copies of our passports and the permission letter for Rangamati. I was then very nervous to call the Rangamati Police Department and Government offices to tell them I’d sent a fax yesterday, and confirm they’d received it. My telephone Bengali is not very good, and I usually have a hard time understanding theirs. Was also worried I’d be a nuisance. But things didn’t go too bad, but not perfect. It took them awhile to understand me, and me to understand them. But finally verified that the police received my fax and had given permission to go to Rangamati.

Met with Dr. Rahman at BUET for about 45 minutes. Discussed the data collection, the differences between ticket and local buses, and graduate schools. He wants me to start analyzing data now so that I can find any data gaps, and I’m going to try doing that more.

Had dinner at Jen and Ben’s. They had invited me over to their flat for some Mexican food. I arrived and they were finishing cooking. I got to help by flipping the tortillas. The food beats out any attempt of Mexican food by any restaurant in Dhaka. We tried out some new grain that a friend of theirs had sent to them in the mail.

38th-6th in Dhaka 5/26

Somehow woke up at 4:30. I decided to stay up, no use lying in bed and being frustrated over not sleeping. I started adding pictures to facebook and also working on a new page for donaldkatz.com. It is a music page, pretty much a discography of all the music I’ve helped make.

I then thought, if I’m up this early, I might as well go catch the sunrise over Dhanmondi Lake. So I went out with my camera at 5:10am and headed to the lake. The streets were already stirring. The lake had many walkers, there were people selling vegetables, and beggars were begging. Stood by the fence and took photos as the sun rose over a mosque and the fancy boat-like house. Some guy stood and talked with me about the entire time. By the time I left around 5:45, the streets were very lively. Tons of walkers and joggers, bus #13 was running. Amazing how lively things are so early, much more than in the US when I’d get up to row in Raleigh or Philadelphia. (pics: Sat Masjid Road at 5:15am busy with activity, vegetable carts at Dhanmondi Lake just before sunrise, mosque and fancy boat-like house at Dhanmondi Lake, sunrise over Dhanmondi Lake)

Later in the morning, I talked to parents on skype. We chatted for about an hour, first time in awhile.

Today, after the morning, took some turns in the other direction. First, it poured and I wasnt ready. It really started coming down when I was in a tempo heading to visit Farhan at his university, and the whole left half of me got soaked. Then I had to walk in it umbrella-less and without my rain shoes, so the other half got equally soaked.
I was meeting Farhan to see the (his) new campus of Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology. The campus was incredible. It is well designed, with the one building campus facing inwards on a massive courtyard. Thus it feels like it’s a much bigger campus than it actually is, and gives the impression there are more than just the one building. If I had an urban campus in a big building, this is what I’d want. All the students hang out on the breezeways and face each other. Big whoops and yells are constantly happening, and although it disrupts classes a bit, it seems like the students are having a blast there, and enjoying their new academic home. Today, because it was raining, kids were playfully slipping, sliding, splashing, and rolling around in the water. (pics: Ahsanullah University's new campus' front entrance, students hanging out on tiered breezeways
, Farhan looks out over his new university, Ahsanullah University's campus entrance area)

The labs all seemed really well fitted, although the civil engineering labs have yet to receive their equipment. Cafeteria is also still without furniture and its kitchen. Some other things are yet to be ready too, but it’s good the students are here, it brings new energy to their studies.

Realized while I was touring the campus that I had left my gas on back home. Had to go back to turn it off before doing other things today. That kept my mind busy for the two hours until I could get back. Lots of traffic because of the rain. While at home to turn off the gas, I changed into dry clothes, grabbed my rain sandals, and an umbrella. Then headed out to the buses now prepared for whatever conditions.

Bus riding was fine, was exhausted form getting up at 4:30, but still ready for the challenge. All this was fine until the last bus. This last bus only did half its route, and left me far from home. It also filled up for gas while I was riding. All this compounded to me missing a bus I could’ve taken after the mid-route finish. Had to invent ways to get home, none of which proved very efficient. By the time I got back to Jigatola, it was 11pm. Then had to figure out dinner and buy groceries. An exhausting end to a very long day.

38th-7th in Dhaka 5/27

Called the Deputy Collector of Rangamati this morning. They said they never got my fax. They hung up on me mid-conversation too. Wasn’t too comforting. I’m going to resend the fax tomorrow and then call on Thursday. By that point I think they’ll have received the courier package, and I can inquire about both.

Took my first bus today from Kamalapur to Gulshan. Then had to go by the American Center to pick up an invitation. Tomorrow night is a July 4 party hosted by the American Embassy. Yes I know it’s May. The Fulbrights were invited, but the invitation never arrived at my house, so I had to get it from the Center.

Had lunch at Pizza End, at 5pm, the last pizza place in Dhaka I’ve yet to eat at. Pretty good. I’d put it 4th or 5th on the list after DPavement, Pizza Hut, Bella Italia, and maybe ahead of Shawarma House.

Second bus was from Uttara to Gulistan, the #3. I found it’s starting point and the bus got really packed. Was glad. But by the time the bus ended, two hours later, I was exhausted, had no energy to do a third bus and it was dark now. I explored the area the bus ended in, Banga Bazar in Fulbaria because I was told I might find scout patches there, no luck. I took the #7 bus home.

I applied to some jobs on Careerbuilder.com tonight. A whole bunch of entry level transportation jobs.
My dad told me about Weezer’s new album. Don’t know how I missed reading about it. Excited after hearing the single.

And I just noticed while posting this blog: Bangladesh's Google Map is now updated!!!! It includes roads, parks, area names, and everything else!

21 May 2008

Week 37: Saving money not buying toothbrushes, keep it for the litchis (saying goodbye to some US returnees)

37th-1st in Dhaka 5/14

Met up with more people today than I’ve met up with in weeks. I didn’t work much at home, only getting some data processing done. Spent majority of the morning posting the blog which included a virtual tour of BUET.

For lunch, I met Nafisa, who leaves in less than a week, at American Burger. As her Fulbright is ending, we had plenty to talk about: our projects, reports, Fulbright itself, leaving, and of course her engagement and wedding. It seems like she’ll be coming back next year to work for a bit after her marriage to her husband. However, she is looking forward to seeing her family at home in a week. We also talked a lot about our graduate school planning. We’re both at the same point in our processes, and we shared stories of letters we’ve sent and advice we’ve received.

In the evening, I headed to Gulshan, where Naira and I had planned to meet at Time Out. We ordered a certain mango drink which is only available now, during the peak mango season. As well, I decided to order a dosa for a small snack before dinner. I had no clue how big it would be though; dosas are huge as I’d find out. Though it’s very thin and you eat a lot to fill you up. It was delicious, found a new Indian food favorite.

After this, I met up at Arirang for Megan’s goodbye dinner. She leaves tomorrow. Well we thought she did, she told us tonight that she changed her flight to Saturday, so she has a bit more time left. Korean food was good, and we ordered a few dishes for the eleven of us there. I was the first to arrive by about fifteen minutes. We were there pretty late, late enough that when Karen and I headed back to Dhanmondi, I began worrying even the local buses had stopped. But alas, one finally came, and despite it making many stops (being very local) on the way home, we made it back, and my faith in buses was upheld. (pics: L to R Erin, Ben, Jen, Rebecca, Farrah, Ifte, Leigh, Megan, myself, Aaron, Karen at Megan's goodbye dinner)

37th-2nd in Dhaka 5/15

Today’s goal, as I received Travis’ visa last night, was to finish the purchase of plane tickets. Almost didn't happen. When I first walked in three weeks ago, and again one week ago, I asked if it'd be okay to purchase a ticket for him, and they said yes. Well even today, when I walked with everything we needed, they still said yes.

But alas, they found a problem. They were concerned since I didn’t have a copy for his ticket out of Delhi that he might try to illegally stay in the country. They wanted a copy of his ticket. After deciding this was moot, they said he needed to be present to buy the ticket. Sometimes it feels like they are trying to encourage me not to travel.
Well I sit there steaming. The agent sits there looking blankly at the papers I'd given her, and the computer. She then goes next door, comes back, asks for my credit card, and starts processing the whole transaction.
I never got an explanation of why things all of a sudden were "okay" but I just sat there with an unchanged expression, hoping that being angry was fueling the process. Well another hiccup was on its way. They were out of the credit charging papers, and thus couldn't charge my credit card. They tell me they can't do the purchase today because they don't have the papers. Frustrated, I ask if their other office (across town) has them. They make a call, and find they do, and they tell the office I'm coming over. So I take the bus two hours across town (granted, this is a very short distance, but traffic is horrible, I go about one mile in 45 minutes at one point) to the other office. I finally am able to purchase tickets because they have a credit card form. Purchased! The total time invested in buying tickets is now around eight hours!

To give a good example of what I’ve mentioned before as all things gathering a crowd, today our bus watched a concrete mixing machine. We were sitting in traffic, and to our left, at a building under construction, a concrete mixer started up. Instantly, everyone’s head spun to watch the interesting sight! And it wasn’t just a “oh what was that” kind of watch. It was a “this is the most interesting thing I might see all day” kind of watch. Some people, who were on the far side of the bus, even stood up to get a good view! In total of the 34 people on the bus, 18 of us (including me) watched the concrete mixer do its thing for the few minutes we were sitting there in traffic, and three people had at least stood up at some point for the better view of the concrete mixer.

After riding three buses, I went to Bashundara City. Opu had invited all of us out for a birthday treating. His birthday was two days ago, so he was going to treat us to food at the food court. Nipu, Ayon, Farhan, and Saquib were there along with me. We got some shawarmas and Sprites, and later some watermelon juice. Hung out there for about an hour and a half. Saquib told us about his new part-time job at an advertising/design firm. He was all dressed up and even had to take a call while we there. (pics: Ayon/Farhan at Bashundara City for Opu's birthday treat, Saquib/Opu at Bashundara City)

Right after met Diya in Dhanmondi for 40 minutes for some roadside tea. We talked for awhile. I mostly complained about not working as fast as I’d like, and she complained about her A-level exams. Rode one more bus after, and I was really worried that because it was getting late, it wouldn’t get crowded….wrong! It was gloriously crowded, and it made me happy to end the work week like that.

37th-3rd in Dhaka 5/16

This morning, Moweena cut herself while cooking. I didn’t know it until I saw her putting some of my toothpaste on her finger. I had no clue what was going on, so I asked, and she said she cut herself, and this would cover the wound…

Mohan came over at some point, he picked up the rest of his stuff, and stayed to chat for a bit. Later, he called me saying I should come over for dinner tonight as his mother is in town, and she would like to meet me.

I headed out to visit a slew of people. I visited Megan in Baridhara to say goodbye before she leaves tomorrow, Tamzid in Uttara, and got a snack with Ragini after in Dhanmondi.

Later I went to dinner at Mohan’s. Got to meet his mother, she was very sweet. The television was on so conversation wasn’t flowing as we kept getting distracted, but we did talk about her job as a teacher, her students, and her daughter who just got married. She asked me some questions too, but nothing out of the ordinary. Dinner was simple: eggs, rice, spinach, and potato and mutton dish. They said the mutton was actually goat head, and it is my first time eating that, at least to my knowledge. His mother served us and watched us eat.
After Mohan and I watched TV for a bit. First time watching Bangladeshi TV in a long time. I was understanding more than I have since I last watched, even the comedies. Humor can sometimes be lost with me because it can be a silly topic, and I always doubt that the ridiculous things I’m hearing are really the right thing, or just a misinterpretation. Tonight’s example was that the main character was being told by his boss to go get to the streets and get into fights to see how beat up he could get…that is why after I asked Mohan for verification on this.

37th-4th in Dhaka 5/17

A morning of processing, and an afternoon of databasing. A very typical Saturday for these past few weeks. I spend the morning at home processing as much data as I can, until I have to go to BUET to database them all. Usually getting lunch someplace fun.

In between lunch and getting to BUET I dropped by New Market. Had to return, for the second time, some of the jeans I had bought. Again two pairs were too tight. Exchanging is a bit tough, they don’t seem to believe me when I say they don’t fit.
As I’m nearing the end of my ticket buses, its time I finally get to compile a fun piece of data I’ve been collecting: people selling things on the bus. Now the list is quite long for the types of items you can buy, but let me touch on a few things before I give you the numbers. All of this information will ultimately be in the report I write from her as bus sellers and beggars affect a passenger’s comfort level for riding buses.

First, I’ve defined bus hawkers to be people who actually come onto the bus to sell their goods. This does not mean they also don’t sell things in the street, and in fact, they likely spend more time selling things on the street walking between buses. However, they were counted as a bus hawker when they boarded the bus to get sales inside. (pics: bus hawkers selling water between buses, bus hawker selling a newspaper on the bus)

The most popular items such as water, cucumbers, popcorn, ice cream, and newspapers are almost constantly seen walking between buses, and are just some of the many sellers who come inside the bus. Many items, such as toothbrushes, dictionaries, razor blades, or face wipes are only vended on the bus, and are usually preceded by a speech before being sold. The seller will stand at the front of the bus, try to scream above the engine’s noise, and give a small bit trying to talk up their product. This speech generally has a common pattern with a description how life is bad without the product, demonstration of the product and how it’ll improve life, saying how expensive the item would be if you bought it in the market as opposed to from the seller, and then talk about how great a deal they are getting. (pics: cucumber bus hawker, water bus hawker)

The other people I kept track of are bus beggars. There are different categories of beggars, the most common being a beggar with some form of physical problem such as blindness, missing appendages, burn scars, and distorted figures. They come onto the bus and make an effort to show their problem to bus riders. For example, if your arm is twisted in the wrong direction, you would roll up your sleeve and then put that arm in people’s faces. Or if you don’t have an arm, you would walk up and down the aisle of the bus stating simply repeating “I don’t have an arm.”

The other kinds of beggars include beggars with credentials. These beggars all are healthy, but have proof for what they are begging for. Perhaps it is a handwritten story of a family member with a problem along with a photograph or simply just a hospital bill. Other beggars come onto the bus and sing a song, usually praising Allah. These tend to be old men.
Although most beggars are men, there is one type of beggar which is predominantly female. This beggar type has a typed letter which they hand out to each person describing what they are begging for. They don’t say a word, just hand out the letters walking up the aisle, and then walk back down the aisle collecting the slips back and any money that’s been donated. Sometimes they provide a piece of sucking candy as an incentive to donate. It is polite not to throw away their piece of paper, and simply hand it back to them.

Bus hawkers and beggars are only permitted to come onto the bus if the conductors let them. Conductors certainly use their discretion. Some let no one on, some let all on, some only allow sellers and no beggars, and some allow no sellers and only beggars. However many scamper on unnoticed by waiting in the line of boarders, taking a seat, and then when the bus starts moving, standing up and trying to sell their item or beg. This is mostly for the smaller items that can be concealed in a bag or beggars who don’t have a physical problem. Conductors usually don’t try to pull them off the bus once they are on and starting to sell, sing, or beg.

So on to the numbers. Not all hawkers are represented here as I only kept track of those who came on the bus while I was collecting data. So those who were selling Bengali-Arabic dictionaries, cell phone screen covers, carrots, or peanuts somehow did not come on in my many rides and did not get recorded. Other items, such as cough drops, only got sold twice while riding, although I feel that they are sold a lot more often than that. Otherwise, I think the list is pretty comprehensive for the period I was recording. The first column is the name of the item, second the cost, and third how many times it was observed. I assumed a donation of Tk2 to each beggar, as this is the smallest bill and easy to give away. But I commonly see donations of Tk5 and Tk10. In total, if I had donated Tk2 to each beggar, and bought from each seller who came on the bus (data was collected over 70 bus rides), I would’ve spent Tk1195 total, about Tk17 per bus ride!


Price (Tk)








Beggar w/ credentials



Beggar w/ injury









Beggar (just begging)



Folding toothbrush






Shaving razors



Ice cream



Book about plants






Dontation letters slip



Cough drops



Hand towels



Breathing masks



Face wipes (4)









Beggar w/ song



Pens w/ lights



Tiger Energy Drink



Music CD



Sweat rags



Toothbrush w/ changeable heads









Bengali-English dictionary



Push pencils



DVDs about Koran



37th-5th in Dhaka 5/18

Tried to leave the house early, but Moweena was late and worked a lot this morning, so my goal of getting to the Nepal embassy to get a visa didn’t work out. I was a half hour late, although had not known what the office hours were. But now I know what time to be there, the one hour span of 9:30-10:30. I’ll try again on Wednesday.

Today I started the local bus portion of my research. I’ve realized it’s a good thing I waited to do these after the ticket buses. The ticket buses, a more controlled environment, gave me practice for the odd things that happen more regularly on local buses. It helped me build a process for doing the data collection quickly, as well as confidence. Today, I was ready for the local bus data collection, and I think this first one went well. Local buses are ALWAYS crowded, and thus my second half of the data collection will have a huge feeling of satisfaction attached to it.
One interesting thing to note about the difference in buses, is that the passenger types are a bit different. Those on local buses, seem to be a lot more interested in what I’m doing. In just this first ride I got asked three times what I was doing! It took about a month of ticket bus riding until I got asked even once.

On the last 3 buses, it was nothing special. I had one Trans Silva bus and two Midway bus routes to complete to say I was officially done with the ticket buses. The best part of these routes is that ticket sellers on these routes know me, and always tell me to sit and chat. The Midway guy actually bought me some petha and gave me a sweet while I sat there.

37th-6th in Dhaka 5/19

Discovered that the Pizza Hut lunch special, which says is for two people, and won’t be served to any other party size, can be served to one person, and is just perfect for a hungry guy like me. If they weren’t going to serve me it, I had already prepared what I would say in my defense. Assuming that whoever was serving me would not have been the one to write the rule, only enforcing it, I would showing them how that rule only makes sense for parties of 3 or more, and with parties of one you are losing no money. But didn’t have to happen. Everything was fine, and tasty.

A ferret lives downstairs in our garage.

Today was a holiday, so no working today. It is Buddha Purima, one of the holiest day for Buddhists. The day commemorates the day the Buddha was born, his enlightenment, and attainment of nirvana. All of these happened on the same day (note, happened on his birthday.) Read the following article to see what is happening in Bangladesh for Buddha Purnima.

37th-7th in Dhaka 5/20

I was unfamiliar with litchis before coming here. I only knew of this fruit because I’ve had litchi juice before, but never seen the fruit itself. Here in Dhaka, it is sold in bunches of 50 or 100. They still have the stems and leaves attached. In fact the sellers leave the litchis in big bags of the leaves.
The outer prickly peel is easy to remove. You crack the shell and it comes off in big chunks. The inner white fruit is what you eat. Pop the whole thing in your mouth and work the fruit off of the big seed at the center with your tongue and teeth. Then spit the seed out, its pretty big, and impossible to miss. Litchis tastes a bit like a green grape, with almost the same consistency of a peeled grape. (pics: litchis bought from the street, litchi's shell, litchi's fruit inside after removing peel, litchi's seed after sucking the fruit off of it)

Today I met up with Jayita to hang out for a bit. Haven’t seen her in several months… that’s what happens when two people really start working. We took a rickshaw from Shahbag to BUET and just chilled on campus talking. She told me about a new store she, her sister, and another partner are planning on opening in Banani selling exclusively Bengali gifts, especially cards. I was pretty amazed at such an endeavor. Said the store should be open by June. We also talked about her recent engagement, the weddings which will happen in the next yearz: hers, Annita’s, and Altaf’s. Found out that Anwar and Sanjana will be coming in for two weeks, although Ben will be here at the same time. Perhaps we’ll get to meet. After this we headed to Baily road and got some lunch at Helvetia.

From there, I went to ride the local buses. However I took a side stop at Gulistan in search of a Bangladeshi flag patch. I figured if I could find a place selling scouting materials, I could find it, as they wear that patch on their uniform. No such luck. After about an hour of searching, being misinterpreted for saying “skating” and being directing to a sports store, I gave up.

The first local bus I rode didn’t get crowded at all, and I got frustrated. Local buses, notorious for crowded conditions should always be crowded! Well I realized mid-way through the route that this bus was providing service which was advertised as “sitting”…which means they don’t aim to crowd the bus, just to get enough people to turn a profit and finish the route quickly. If crowding happens, so be it.
Well I took it to the end since I knew where it stopped, in north Mirpur, several local buses started. The next two routes turned out well. I rode the #9 bus to Azimpur and back and had some crowded conditions. I am learning a lot more about local buses and how they work in just these first few days of researching them. So different form ticket buses and it’ll be fun to compare them.

Was exhausted when I came home. A long day out, and didn’t sleep well last night. Tomorrow I have to get up early to go get my Nepal visa.

I can’t complete this week’s post without including this music video I found. It is of Tishma, a popular teen singer for the past few years. But this purposely unserious video is hilarious to watch. It also gives a good video of some Dhaka street scenes and interactions which are pretty true to form. The best is at 2:25 with the man interacting with a CNG driver who doesn’t want to go anywhere. She then sings about how they never want to go anywhere, and if they do, the meter is always “broken.” I complained about that long ago in my blog, before I stopped riding CNGs (for the reasons mentioned in the song.)