14 May 2008

Week 36: BUET Virtutal Tour and first time at the American School

36th-1st in Dhaka 5/7

Moweena hasn’t come in a few days, likely sick. So this morning I had to do a lot of dishes and a load of laundry to catch up on from the last time she came. I like washing clothes manually, I get to play and splash.

I made grilled cheese this morning for breakfast. I finally bought some butter, and using pohnir cheese, I treated myself to grilled cheese sandwiches! I rarely cook in my kitchen beyond reheating food Moweena makes.

Found out The Office is back on the air, so watched an episode today. Can’t believe how much I’d missed the show. I’ve been watching How I Met Your Mother as well, and am up to speed on that sitcom. Always nice to have these online so I can watch a bit of TV; I don’t watch Bangladeshi TV because I don’t have a connection.

It rained this afternoon. I could feel it in the air that it was going to. When it did, I turned my music off and just listened, it sounded so nice. And with the rain came refreshingly cool air. My room dropped several degrees, and the whole city just seemed much more pleasant.

I’m glad cockroaches are always scurrying about...because I have faith that when they scurry into a pile of things of mine, they'll scurry out sooner or later

Some guy called me tonight 20 times. I picked up on try three, just to see who it was, and I didn’t recognize the voice at all. So I hung up, he then called me 17 times more! People are persistent about reaching other here. Although this is a record, having about ten miss calls over the period of a few minutes from a strange number is not rare.

Speaking of miss calling, there’s a bit of a culture of miss calling that arises because of the prepaid phone calling. Miss calling is free, and thus why it is such a popular way to communicate, especially when low on credit. In fact, the culture has developed so that a certain number of miss calls means different things. I’m sure this is not standardized between friend circles, but I’ve heard it from different people, so its decently established. One miss call simply means “I’m thinking about you.” Two miss calls me “Call me.” Three miss calls means “Call me, I’m low on credit!”
Please distinguish between a miss call, and a call which was actually missed. A miss call occurs when the caller lets the phone ring once and then hangs up. A missed call would be a call someone wanted to actually make, and I just missed it. You can’t distinguish if you’re not at your phone, but as long as your phone is on your person, you’ll know the difference.
It is impolite is to answer a call too early at any time, just in case the person was trying to miss call you. A received call charges the caller, when they didn’t intend to pay for anything.

36th-2nd in Dhaka 5/8

I rode five buses today. Some were crowded, some were very crowded, some only mildly. I almost dozed off on the fourth, found today’s bus riding to be very exhausting for some reason. End of a great data collection week though, collected 18 buses this week! This is by far a new record, most before this was more around 12 or 13. I just focused hard this week and put all my efforts forward to getting data.

After the first bus I went by the Jet Airways ticket office with all intentions to buy my tickets for Kathmandu-Delhi and Delhi-Dhaka. I had passport copies of Travis and I, a credit card, my flights picked. But things, as usual, didn’t go as planned. First thing when I walk in, the woman who told me two weeks ago to wait to book in case better seats came up, said in English that the plane was full, no seats left. I was appalled, speechless. Well, things were more likely were lost in translation, what she meant is that no seats were left in lower price bracket. Well she tells me there are seats at higher fares, fine, we knew those before. So I asked to book them. She then tells me for the first time that in order to buy plane tickets to India you need Indian visas. Why she didn’t tell me that two weeks ago when I asked what I’ll need for purchasing is beyond me. If I had known I would’ve jumped on getting my visa quicker, and pushed Travis to do the same.

I get my Indian visa on Monday, Travis gets his soon. As soon as I have them both in hand, I’ll be back there as quick as I can to book and pay. Don’t’ want to lose these seats.

In the evening, I met up with Aaron, Megan, and some other friends at a Greek restaurant in Gulshan before heading over to the American International School (or wiki) for the musical Little Shop of Horrors. The American International School system is a worldwide system of schools which cater to expatriate students, embassy children, and even locals who can afford the really high tuition. The place is a bit of America in whatever country it is in. Dhaka’s AIS is supposedly the best in South Asia, and many embassy officials choose assignments in Dhaka because their kids get to attend such a good school. The school really is an American oasis in the midst of the Bangladesh. The school looks like you’ve walked into any modern American school. However, outside it is guarded by armed guards and has big gates you have to go through. It is forbidden to just “drive past” the school. Giant walls prevent you from even seeing inside. Inside though, it is decorated and designed in the fashion that any school in the US would be. It is several storied but has tall atriums that make the school feel very open. They have all grades form pre-school to high school. They have proms and middle school dances. The kids are set to have every experience that any kid in the US would have. Their playing fields are of the best turf, and well maintained. Expatriates are allowed to use the field for sports after school is out. In fact the school becomes a center point for the American community, hosting sporting and art events. Today, an adult drama group was putting on the play.

The whole experience for me was a bit overwhelming. To see so many Americans in one spot in the first time in a long time was mind blowing. Little kids running every which way, parents trying to tell them to behave, an intermission with brownies, cookies, and cake! Just like I would’ve seen at any school in the US. I feel like for 2 hours I was warped back to the US. I guess that’s what the kids and their parents get to feel everyday.

The play itself was great. Very entertaining, and it was the first time I am consciously seeing the show, after seeing it many times as a kid but only remembering Rick Moranis and a big plant. So I was observant to the plot like it was my first time.

36th-3rd in Dhaka 5/9

Today I planed to get a lot work done, but I got none done. Instead I ended up turning a simple pick up of shirts from the tailor into a several hour shopping spree. I went to New Market and walked the aisles, stores, and street side vendors. I wasn’t holding back, figuring I’d be saving a lot just buying here than in the US. In the end I bought Tk6000 worth of clothing which purchased me: 7 pairs of jeans, 3 collared shirts, 2 pairs of shoes, and 10 t-shirts. Bargaining was essential. Trying on the jeans when I got home found that four of them need to be exchanged/altered.

I looked into opportunities today at the Brookings Institute and other related Washington planning think tanks. Hopefully one of those could come through with an offer, but I doubt it. The job search is plaguing, and no fun at all. Especially from over here when uploading resumes and cover letters takes several minutes. I’ve really had to master multi-tasking here, jumping from webpage to webpage as things load.

36th-4th in Dhaka 5/10

I’ve recently been thinking about how much I’m going to miss Bangladesh when I’m gone. Reading about India and my travels after make me think how comfortable I feel in Bangladesh, and how traveling elsewhere intimidates me a bit. I read about things in other country and judge them based on how Bangladesh does it. Although you would think the disorder and low standards of cleanliness and comfort would make me desire to be elsewhere, I am comfortable with it all and thus perceive it as better than what any other country could offer.

This especially happens when I read about Kolkata. It’s because I’m reading about a place so similar and close by, but still a strange land to me. I’ll likely spend more time there than other places in India just because I can read the signs and speak the language.

There are two things I like to share during chit-chat with strangers here which helps to create a bond. First, when they ask me what state in the US I am from and I tell them New Jersey, I get to share with them how it is the most densely populated state in the US, just like Bangladesh is the densest in the world. I tell them I know what it’s like! Second, I like to share an analogy which I’ve realized here. When talking about Bengali and English, I tell them that American English is to British English as Bangladeshi Bengali is to Kolkatan Bengali. The latters both think the formers are crude and destroyed versions of the language they treasure. This always brings a smile to their face, as we both get to revel in the fact that our native languages may not follow every proper rule of the formal ways, but we love them anway.

Today Megan and I met up. She just got back from Nepal pretty much, and leaves this week. So it was a bit of a goodbye lunch, even though I’ll see her again this week. We had delicious pizza at DPavement. Talked about her past trips and where I’m going.

36th-5th in Dhaka 5/11

Data processing, data processing, my life is full of it. But it’s very important and I need to get it done. Did so many buses today, before lunch. Headed to BUET for a few hours and put all those processed buses into the database. I took pictures of what it looks like when I’m processing on my computer. I know it’s not interesting, but if Saket gets to post pictures of his circuit boards, I get to post pictures of my nerdy stuff. (pic: my desktop while I'm data processing. Clockwise from top: voice recording of the bus stop's events playing, online stopwatch I used to mark each board and alight, and my spreadsheet of each bus stop and the times of each board and alight)

My bus broke down on the way home tonight from BUET (wasn’t researching, just going home.) This is not a rare event. I’ve been on about 5 buses now that have broken down in these few months, granted I ride a lot.

BUET VIRTUAL TOUR: I have taken enough pictures of BUET over the past months where I think I can make a decent virtual tour. I didn’t plan on doing this beforehand, so all the pictures are ones I happen to have taken. So apologies if you keeping having to “turn around” in the tour. But I’ve drawn the route on the Google Map in the sidebar, so you can follow it a bit there, and the bolded photo numbers correspond to markers on the map (look for purple cameras, an click on them for Photo numbers)

We start on the street outside of BUET, at the northwest edge of the campus, near Polashi Mor (1). Kataban Road splits the campus into the academic and residential halves. The wall on our left is the campus wall of the northern academic side, and we’ll follow it until we reach the campus’ main gate. The white wall on the opposite side of the road is the residential part of campus. Rickshaws are always going down this street, but without many cars, and thus a good place to have a rickshaw repair station as seen in the picture (2). As we near the main gate, we see the overbridge of BUET which goes over the main intersection in front of the gate (3) (read more on that later.)

We come to the main gate and see the seven story civil engineering building rising above the trees. Just outside the gate is the Shahid Minar of BUET (4). Students enjoy hanging out on the steps of the Shahid Minar. A quick turn left and we see the gate and the campus ahead of us (adorned here during the Civil Festival.) (5)

As we walk through the gate, we can look to our right and see the road that goes between the Civil and Mechanical/Electrical buildings, anchored at the end by the Registrar Building. (6)

Walk a little farther in, and look behind you, you’ll see the gate. (7) When facing this way, the civil building is on your left, and the auditorium is on your right.

Turning to the auditorium, we walk inside the main student gathering area (during a quieter part of the year) and see the auditorium to our left, and the canteen straight ahead of us. (8) A little bit more lively when festivals are happening. (9) Here students gather to talk and play cricket, but I rarely see people doing work or eating. All eating and work doing is saved for indoors, such as inside the canteen (taken when I had Iftar in BUET’s canteen.) (10)

Walk out of the canteen, and back through the gathering area, look to your left towards the north wall of the campus, and you see the brick Accident Research Center, the newest building at BUET, and the garage, where university buses wait to bring students home at 1pm and 5pm. (11)

We sneak behind the Civil Building’s backside, passing through the Civil teachers’ parking lot (12), and go into the Civil Building. Upon entering, we see the stairs right in front of us, giant columns where people post fliers for events, and the elevators to our right. (13)

We take the elevator to the top floor using the “Teachers Only” elevator (students elevator stops below the top floor, and we would have to walk a flight of stairs after.) We go to one of the buildings gaping windows and look north. In front of us is the entirety of Dhaka University, and past that, Shahbag. (14) If you look straight down, you’ll see a beautiful gardened area with “BUET” spelled out in some shrubbery. (15)

Walk across the building to the south side, and look out the window and we see the Mechanical/Electrical Building with Old Dhaka behind it. (16) If you crane your head out the window, and look to your right, to the west, you’ll see the new Electrical Engineering Building under construction, (17) soon to be the biggest building on campus.

Walking back to the elevators, you can look down through the stairwell. (18) The Civil Building usually stays quite cool, and I believe it is because of the air movement in the fairly open feeling building. We walk out the back of the Civil Building, and take a right. We are passing in front of the Old Engineering Building (don’t know the real name, but that’s what I know it to be, one of the original buildings of BUET which now is used for Chemistry, Physics, and some labs.) As we go down the road, we look behind us and see the old engineering building on our right. (19)

We walk through the east gate of the campus only enough to see the BUET playing fields. (20) This is where full cricket and soccer matches are held.

We walk back in the gate, and make a left, heading south. We pass in front of the Registrar Building. In front of it, we look behind us and see the red brick Registrar Building on our right, and the squat Exhibition Building on our left. (21) Turning a few degrees counterclockwise, we see the Civil Building again, surrounded by huge trees and many shrubs. (22)

We start to walk between the Civil and Mechanical Buildings, and look behind us to catch another look at the Registrar Building. (23)

We walk down the road, make a left through the main gate, and cross the intersection below an overbridge which no one uses. We head a little bit into the residential area before turning around to look at the intersection. (24) The big truck carrying pious men is a common site. The overbridge with no use is a testament to bad engineering and planning. The overbridge spans too short of a distance and the road is not nearly busy enough to warrant use of the bridge.

We head into the residential area on our left, and catch a view of one of the seven residential halls. Five are for Muslim men, one is for Hindu men, and one is for all women of all religions. The one pictured is for Muslim men. (25)

Near the end of our tour we reach the gymnasium, and look inside to see a basketball court and a few weight stations scattered around the perimeter. (26 and 27)

Lastly, we walk back out of the residential area back to Polashi Mor, and then head west on Azimpur Road. On the north side of this road, if we look to our left, we see the brand new Electrical Engineering Building. (28)

36th-6th in Dhaka 5/12

Had to go pick up my Indian visa today. Moweena came late today, and since I had to wait until she left to leave myself, I showed up at the visa office 20 minutes later than I wanted to, but still on time. Luckily there was no hassle, after a bit of waiting, I got to walk in the office and just get my passport and go.

Then did four buses. Some weren’t as crowded as I would like, but two were good, and I was happy with it.

Farhanaz called me while I was at home late this evening. She asked me to come over for dinner with her family. Tonight was her last night staying with her family before she moves back to her in-laws across town with her now two-month old baby. She also wanted to give me my birthday present late; she bought me a Bangladeshi t-shirt.

36th-7th in Dhaka 5/13

Finally got one plane ticket this morning, for Delhi to Dhaka. Still waiting on Travis’ visa to finish that up and buy our tickets from Kathmandu to Delhi.

Some photos from this blog that I took in the Sundarbans got used on this website, Living On Earth, on their weekly radio program! I also put the link on the sidebar.

Bus riding today was succesful, a midday storm caused some interesting dynamics. I will have to get used to that as I start doing local buses next week. Also since I sit by the window and have to keep sticking my head out, I get wet. But it is refreshing.

The rains are definitely coming. It is a great feeling of anticipation. Also lychees hit the streets this week. Learned how to eat them, very peculiar. They will be very popular starting in June as prices drop. Mangoes have been out for about a month now, but their two-month peak is fast approaching. And I'm already eating about one and a day!


Saket said...

hey donny, finally got some time to go through the tour. That campus looks quite nice! I liked the part about the useless overbridge. Excellent job linking that with Google Maps...I took a closer look at your Google Maps tagging and I'm really impressed. I really wished now that I did something like this when I was in Lund!

Hope the visa issues are settled out. I was talking to a friend of mine today from India who has had issues. He said that Indians still have to get visas pretty much everywhere they travel...Americans get a free ride in most places. So it's kind of like tit-for-tat.

What is your full itinerary like? It's fantastic that Travis will be rendezvousing too.

And props on the Living Earth photo credit! See -- people are already starting to take notice. Keep it up. :)

By salvi. said...

my new site.

Donny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donny said...

Travis, Emily, and I will be heading north out of Bangladesh to Darjeeling, India. Then head west into Nepal and spend 7 days there. We all fly out of Kathmandu together to Delhi, but while Emily goes back to NC, Trav and I are heading down to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.

but Ben comes in under 2 weeks! I'm really looking forward to his visit

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