15 July 2008

Week 43: Emily and Travis arrive, but so does the monsoon, so we bolt for Nepal

43rd-1st in Dhaka 6/25

Today was my last day to work at BUET before friends start coming tomorrow. I gave Shegufta some data sheets that I simply wanted entered into excel, no analysis, just needed them digitized. She had a bit of a hard time reading my hand writing, but after she grew accustomed to it, she seemed to work a bit faster.
I spent the time loading data into the database, but realizing I didn’t have my flash drive, I’d have to rely on them being saved on BUET computers to keep it all. Also gave copies to Shegufta to save for me on her home computer. I always seem to forget critical pieces at critical times.

I met up with Farabi at his house. We headed straight out to Banani’s Road 11, a pretty hip place with lots of neat restaurants. We headed over to the Moo Barn, a new Tex-Mex restaurant. I had high hopes for it, really wanting it to be a delicious cheesy Mexican feast. Far from. Nachos were a bit better than I’ve had before here but still not enough cheese.
We then got some gelato at Club Gelato. We also roamed the road for a bit, checking out a few stores and restaurants. I showed him Sub City and was looking to prove to him that they never have anything they say they have, including turkey. But today I was gladly proven wrong. The owner said they have all the ingredients now, including the turkey breast, as he said “just like you’d see in Subway in America.”

From there we went back home. Going to Banani and back I took Farabi on the #6 bus, his first time bus riding. Showing him the ropes.

Back at home we played cards until dinner, where we stuffed ourselves so full, and then ate mango. His aunt is a great cook and always seems to have a delicious snack ready for us. I spent the night there so I could be in Gulshan for an early morning data collection at Gulshan-1.

43rd-2nd in Dhaka 6/26

Woke up at Farabi’s and headed out to collect data. On a whim I asked him last night if he wanted to help collect data. He surprisingly said he would. So I taught him the basics of how to do the curb side data collection, orientated him on which bus was which since he couldn’t read the Bengali names, and then watched as he practiced a bit. He was feeling good, so I wished him luck as I headed down the road to a different bus stop to collect similar data.

I did my hour of data collection, making friends with the bus ticket sellers. This also included a photo session when they saw me using a camera to snap shots of the buses. When I came back to Farabi, he was confident with what he collected, and said he had a good time. Said it really helped to recognize buses and understand more about the bus system, just standing and watching it for awhile. (pics: ticket sellers who befriended me during my data collection; one of the buses I am collecting data on, the #6 Banani-Motijheel bus)

We headed back to his house and ate a breakfast of parota and fried eggs, and then played cards for awhile. We went back to Banani for lunch, back to Sub City. They had the turkey they promised. Although the sub came without oil and vinegar, which I really wanted, the sandwich was pretty delicious, and was worth the high price I paid. (pics: Farabi playing the card game Shed with his cousin, Farabi inside SubCity with signs for Quizno's and Subway above him even though those items aren't actually served there )

I did my second data collection at 2:30 pm. It was really hot, and I kept standing in the shade because the sun was beating hard. But I got the data collected, and survived the heat. I came home and bought some vegetables and fish on the way for Moweena to cook up for a dinner for Emily and I.

At 7:30pm I headed across town to pick up Emily at the bus office. When I got there, I inquired about the arrival time, and they told me not until after 9:30pm. So with an hour and a half to kill, I went and got a snack at a local restaurant. Ended being more of a meal, as I ordered a half chicken.

Emily arrived just after 9:30. We hugged, smiled, and then quickly got a bus back to Jigatola before the buses stopped for the night. Fed Emily a dinner of rice and fish curry, and she enjoyed it, getting food she didn’t usually get in India.

43rd-3rd in Dhaka 6/27

Today I took Emily around the Dhaka University campus area to show her the sights there. We saw many of the statues to the freedom fighters, the academic halls, and the canteen in which many of the language movement decisions were made by students. We stopped at the Teachers Students Center for a break, and then headed on to Shahid Minar where we spent a good amount of time watching other people there and looking up close at the monument. Then we meandered over to Curzon Hall and explored that historical part of the campus, sitting by the lake there for some time chatting. We looked at some crafts that are outside Curzon Hall and then walked through the Supreme Court’s complex, before taking a rickshaw to Baily Road for a late small lunch. (pics: Emily at Dhaka University, Emily in front of Shahid Minar, Curzon Hall on the campus of Dhaka University, Bangladesh's Supreme Court).

From there we took a bus to Bashundara City where we looked at each floor at the things we could buy, and also exchanged some money for her: Rupees to Taka. We also got a chance to go out on the balcony at Bashundara City, something I’ve never done before. And the Azan was giving the call to prayer at that exact time, so we looked over the bustling city while that happened. (pics: myself/Emily on the balcony of Bashundara City, Emily looking out over Dhaka from Bashundara City)

We came home and had dinner at home again, the food that Moweena cooked in the morning.

43rd-4th in Dhaka 6/28

Moweena came for the second day in a row at a very very early hour. All last week I wanted her to show up early so I could get to work on time, but now when I’m on a break with a guest here, she’s showing up earlier than the entire last month. Thus today for the first time I turned her away and told her to come back later, which she agreed to do.

Today Emily and I met up with Farabi and Anisa at Gulistan to head down to explore Old Dhaka. Before they showed up to meet us, Emily and I circled the hockey stadium and found some cricket jerseys that looked really cool. I wanted to buy one, but we decided to come back later.
When Farabi and Anisa came, Anisa really wanted to go see where rickshaw art was sold, and so did Emily, so we headed down to Nazira Bazar where I brought my parents and Ben earlier. The girls were able to buy what they wanted, and then we started walking west across Old Dhaka. We zigged and zagged, looked into shops selling a variety of items, choosing our ways by what looked the most crowded and exciting. After a bit we stumbled upon the Star Mosque, a famous mosque in Old Dhaka that I’d recently read about, but had not see up to this point. I was glad to stumble upon it. At first I thought it was any ole’ pretty mosque, but then I noticed the fence had starts in it, and the fountain was a giant star as well, I knew immediately then what we’d stumbled upon. A little boy from the school next door offered to show us around inside, so we let him lead us around to see the mihrab and where everyone prays. (pics: Farabi/Emily/Anisa in a shop selling rickshaw art, Emily surrounded by a crowd somewhere amongst the streets of Old Dhaka, myself in front of the Star Mosque, Anisa/Emily/our guides/Farabi at the Star Mosque)

From there we wound our way and found ourselves in Maulavi and Chak Bazars. I hadn’t been here in many months, and it looked much different from the last time I came, which was during Ramadan when it was packed with Iftar food items. We started looking for a place to eat, and asked around for a good restaurant. We got pointed and pointed and until we came to Royal Restaurant, where we had some chicken roasts and naan.
We meandered over towards Lalbagh and ended up emerging right in front of the fort. Not wanting to take too much time, or pay the entry fee, we simply took pictures at the gate. Then we continued on, but saw that you could also sneak a peak inside the fort from the fort’s mosque’s entrance, so we did. It was a cheap man’s tour of Lalbagh Fort. We headed down to the river, passing by the wall of the fort from below, something I hadn’t done, and only seen from above. (pics: Emily/Anisa/Farabi snapping photos of Lalbagh Fort from between the gates, wandering in Maulavi Bazar, Farabi/Emily "inside" Lalbagh Fort, Lalbagh Fort's front side as seen from the street below)

The river was a great trip as usual. This time I took them one way downstream from the west side of Dhaka all the way to Ahsan Manzil, about a 40 minute trip. A bit of drizzle came, but we had umbrellas. They enjoyed it, for all of the them it was their first time. (pics: Anisa/Farabi during the short period of rain on the Buriganga River, Emily/Anisa/Farabi on the Buriganga River)

Emily and I then headed up to Gulistan with them, and got them on a bus. We went and bought cricket jerseys. After swinging by to see Baitul Mukarram, the national mosque, at prayer time, we headed home, and later got burgers at American Burger, as Emily was craving a bit of beef after being in mostly Hindu India. (pics: Bangladesh cricket jersey which I was interested in purchasing, Baitul Mukarram at prayer time)

43rd-5th in Dhaka 6/29

Today was a pretty easy one for Emily and I. We took a tour at ICDDR,B, the cholera hospital in Bangladesh. Emily had requested only one thing to do here, and this was it. Being a medical student, and just spending the last month in India doing medical field work, this was very exciting for her. My friend Luke, who works there but was out of town, had suggested we go there and just ask for a tour at external relations. We showed up and asked for a tour, and after them deciding on who would do it for about 20 minutes, we were taken a tour from a woman who specializes in public relations. She showed us the wards, gave us information about the hospital’s history, and answered our questions. Emily was really moved by seeing the HIV unit of the hospital and seeing all the patients there. She had a lot of questions as this is her field, I just enjoyed getting to hear all about the hospital that many of my friends here have played a role at.

Big event of the day was on our way to the hospital, Emily fell in the mud. We were getting off a tempo, and I had gotten off first, but just as she was getting off, the tempo started going forward. There was no helping her, she lost balance as she got off because of the vehicle’s movement and she fell backside into the mud. I helped her up, then proceeded to yell at the careless driver. He pleaded with me to forgive him. Meanwhile a large crowded as we tried to clean her off as best as we could. Some people came with water to help clean the mud off, but it really wasn’t possible. They were so helpful, and everyone was really kind. Emily was really happy at how we were treated in this very embarrassing situation. We found our way to the closest mall and bought her an entire new outfit from a storeowner who was very kind to us and didn’t give us any hassle about giving us a low price. She changed in the bathroom and everything was better.

On the bus home, and I made sure we took one that went past the lumber yards on the east side of the city. Emily wanted to snap photos of these to show her father who works in a saw mill.

We had a dinner at a Bangladeshi restaurant which serves nicer cuisine, and we took seats in front of their giant television which had a cricket match. I then explained to Emily in detail the rules of cricket, she was real excited to understand in full

43rd-6th in Dhaka 6/30

Got up very early to pick up Travis. Was at the airport an hour before he arrived, and when he did, I just walked inside the gated area and we embraced, shared a laugh. Then I brought him back by taxi to Jigatola, but not before he could be surrounded by four kids begging for money.

After he got back to my home, both Emily and him took naps (not sure if Emily just kept on sleeping, maybe she got up for one hour.) Meanwhile I waited for Moweena to show up. She didn’t, so I made my two friends French toast, the first time I’ve really cooked in my kitchen for anyone. (pics: Travis just after arriving in Dhaka, Travis napping after his long flight to Bangladesh)

After they woke up they enjoyed their breakfast. We then set out and took a bus to the Parliament building area, and checked out Chandrima Uddan, the Parliament building, and shopped at Aarong. We also got some snacks at Café Mango and took a walk around Dhanmondi Lake. It was raining a bit all day. I told Travis that he brought the monsoon with him when he arrived. (pics: Emily/Travis on the bridge at Chandrima Uddan, Travis/Emily with Chandrima Uddan and Parliament in line behind them)

For lunch and dinner we at the same restaurant Emily and I ate at last night. It’s hygienic food, so I hoped their stomachs could handle it just fine.

43rd-7th in Dhaka 7/1

Today the rain was real bad. We woke up and the road in front of my house was already flooded. But we had already made a plan to go see Sonargaon today. We treaded through the gross gray water in front of my house and several other bits of it around Jigatola. Got breakfast quickly at a hotel, and boarded a series of buses to get to Sonargaon. (pics: Emily/Travis making it through the flood in front of my apartment building, rickshaws plowing through the flood waters in Sonargaon)

The rain never really let up, and it did partially dampen the mood for the day. We did explore the museums at Sonargaon but it was too wet to really walk around the gardens there. We took rickshaws through the old Hindu mansion-lined street area, saw the old rajbari, and Goaldi Mosque. By the end we were soaked despite whatever rain gear we had with us. We got snacks and took buses home to dry up and relax for our long journey ahead. (pics: Emily in front of Sadarbari in Sonargaon, my rickshawwallah plowing through the rain behind Emily and Travis' rickshaw between the old Hindu mansions, Travis/Emily at Sonargaon's rajbari, Travis in front of Goaldi Mosque)

Bad part of the day was finding a family of cockroaches (about 20) living in the boots I had planned to bring to Nepal. I spent 15 minutes trying to get them, and all their poop, out. Also inside the boots was a gecko, who probably was enjoying the cockroach buffet my boot was providing him, he was the last to come out.
Also Travis pointed out to me that I had mosquito larvae growing in my emergency water supply I keep in my front room. It was really gross to see all of them swimming around. I never noticed many mosquitoes in my place, but Trav and Emily said there were a lot, and this is probably why. So I emptied out my emergency water supply and cleaned it out. Trav suggested in the future I add oil to the top of the water because it makes the larvae unable to breath. Still very upsetting that I had a mosquito farm in my house. (pics: cockroach poop I dumped out of my boots, gecko left in the boot after all the cockroaches had left)

In the evening we left for Nepal. We boarded a bus in Kalyanpur bound for the border with India in the north. It was a nice AC bus that we hoped we could sleep well in. I sat next to a boy who has been going to boarding school in India for 14 years, and does this trip over ten times a year. We talked about how we had wanted to go to Darjeeling, but the security situation there now wasn’t too stable. He insisted it was safe, and I figured I’d still consider by hearing what was the news in Siliguri, India the next day. (pic: Travis/Emily on our bus ride to Siliguri in India)

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