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!


Daniel said...

Hey man, I know you are really busy, and possibly you mentioned this already, but what software package are you using to process your data?
I had until recently been conducting a not too dissimilar project on the people who come to crabtree valley mall during the day and the few of them that valet. I'm at about the same point as you, just beginning to analyze. I wrote a bunch of macros to keep totals and percentages up to date based on my spreadsheet I've been continually entering data into.
I know Excel has a pretty powerful stats package, but was just curious to know what you were using before I buckled down on my data. I like the website by the way.


Ben G said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Donny said...

Right now I am only using Excel. I don't have experience with even the things you mention, and a lot of time analyzing the data will be learning how to write macros and use packages Excel offers. I also am using Access to store portions of my data, and collaborating with the two will be necessary.