02 August 2008

Week 47: If only visas were sold at places like Bashundara City

47th-1st in Dhaka 7/23

Saw workers chip sealing parts of the roads today. The process was intense. Giant barrels over burning fires to heat the asphalt cement! The workers face some intense hot conditions! (pic: workers chip sealing a part of Sat Masjid Road by heating the asphalt cement over giant fires)

Today I went to BUET to work, but found out the hard way that all the computer labs I use were restricted to only students registering for courses. In fact the computer labs are all reserved for registering students for the next 4 days! When I went by one time, it was empty, and still they wouldn’t let me in.
To kill the many hours until my evening meeting with Dr. Rahman, Shegufta and I went out and took the measurements of three buses that start nearby to BUET in Azimpur. She was bothered by the heat and the sun, but she was still a great sport and stuck with me the whole way.
I finally was told to go to a computer lab I’d never been in before, and had to ask the moderator there how to log in, as it’s a whole other system from the other labs I use (each lab seems to require its own log ins, no central network.) They just let me log in as an administrator after I complained saying I need to do some work today! (pics: myself in front of one of the buses I ride, my assistant Shegufta helping me collect data)

Met with Dr. Rahman today about my paper. He had a few comments that I should make sure I clean up for the final submission. It was good to hear that he thought the paper was looking good, and that I should be proud to have it at the conference.

On the street today I found bite-size fuchka! This really excited me for some reason. (pic: bite size fuchka)

I sent an email to all the new Fulbrights letting them know I’m selling my furniture, and also to let them know about my flat in case they are interested in moving in.

Tonight my store owner and the guy who fed me jackfruit came by my place. The jackfruit guy wanted to check out my fridge. He also looked at my DVD player and my ceiling fan. He was very insulted that I wouldn’t just give them to him at whatever price he named. He complained that he’s a poor man and can’t afford so much, and I told him my prices stand as I like, and I’m not going to lose tons of money just because he wants to tell me he’s poor. He doesn’t have to own a DVD player. My store owner also guilt tripped me to try and give him my bed. Although I’m supposed to be getting 75% back for it from the store I bought it at, the store owner told me give it to him because he’s a friend and actually knows me. The cost of this friendship, 50% less for the bed! I wasn’t falling for these tricks.

47th-2nd in Dhaka 7/24

Recently I’ve also been plowing through the Southeast Asia guide book. That trip is one I’m very much less ready for, and don’t even know what I want to see and do. But the book is extremely helpful for helping me pick my highlights and my modes of transport.

Today was my first time collecting data on buses for a long time, and for my return I did a hard day of four local buses! By the end I didn’t want to be on them at all anymore! I rode the #13 route four times in a row, breaking for two tea breaks and a lunch break in between, none of which were very long. The buses all got very crowded, the last one the most because it was during the post-rush hour period. But it felt very good to accomplish so much. So many people talked to me today, and I realized if it wasn’t for these strangers, I might go all day without talking to someone.

No real highlights from the day’s work. One man stayed to talk to me after the route because he was so excited to meet a foreigner. I also had my photo snapped, and I walked up and asked him to see it, and his friends teased him.

47th-3rd in Dhaka 7/25

I visited Bashundara City with Santa for some lunch and shopping. The place was very empty. We had Taco Bell, which was the best Mexican food I’ve had in Bangladesh. Please take note that this is not a real Taco Bell, they just stole the name, menu, and pictures. They gave plenty of cheese and sour cream, and even gave it attractive displays for only being in a mall’s fast food court. Santa also liked it, it being her first time eating it. (pics: the best taco I've had in Bangladesh at the Taco Bell in Bashundara City, Santa eating her first ever Mexican food)

We shopped at Bashundara for awhile looking at shoes. I ended up buying two new pairs, and even bargaining one down immensely. The other was from a fixed price shop with low prices. She bought two pairs of sandals. (pics: shopping at Bashundara City, buying shoes)

Remembering the clothing under my bed, seeing the cockroaches in my boots a few weeks ago, and always seeing cockroaches scurrying for the safety to the nether regions of my bed, I decided it was time to check out what was under there. I looked through my things and checked for new cockroach civilizations. Well I pulled out a few bags of clothes, and although there was some cockroach poop here and there, nothing look infested. Then I came to the boxes of shoes. Well it seems cockroaches have their preferences when it comes to inhabiting things. One of the pairs of shoes I’d bought months ago had many cockroaches living inside. They were pretty good at finding the shoe, it was pretty buried in the stack and piles of things. After dumping them out, killing some, and sweeping the poop and eggs into the garbage, I put all the clean good stuff in my suitcase to stay safe from cockroaches (and the mold which seems to be getting everything.)

47th-4th in Dhaka 7/26

This morning I spent time trying to organize my trip to India. Choosing between airlines and trains, and when to actually take these between city trips. In my searching around at flights, I stumbled on that Air India Express has a flight form Dhaka to Bangkok, and its cheaper than what I bought on Best Air last week, although I’d have to quickly switch planes in Kolkata. $60 cheaper is a lot of money though.

Went to Bashundara City to meet with a girl who had contacted me through email and had wanted to know more about my work. She had found my blog from NC State Engineering’s main page, and contacted me to learn more about what I was doing here. She graduated from BUET earlier this year, and has since been working for an engineering design firm, but is thinking of switching careers to transportation from structures. We had a good conversation ranging from my work, transportation issues in Dhaka, traffic management ideas around the world, and the application process of American graduate schools.

After I went to New Market to get the last of clothing ordered. I bought the fabric for a camel sport coat, and three more shirts, two with French cuffs for the cuff links I just had ordered to be made. Will have all this finished in a few weeks. While leaving, I found a snack called pakora, which was fried balls of spinach. Was delicious and had gathered a huge crowd who were getting it while it was hot!

Tonight my mom called me to tell me that they had to put my cat Archie down this morning. Over the past week his health had deteriorated, and today it reached a point that was causing him immense pain. They made the choice to put him down. I cried when mom told me. Archie was only two years old, and very sweet, very friendly.
My boua came after mom called. She was telling me she was going back to her village for the week. Her sister is sick. She saw I was crying. Her advice to me, “Don’t cry. Pray to Allah and ask for good healthy and safety. He will provide. Don’t cry.” It was very sweet of her.

47th-5th in Dhaka 7/27

Today might have been my most successful day of bus riding. Although a new record for number of buses was not set, I rode a bus four times straight, with only a short break for a lunch and a quick hop off for a tea and an ice cream later. I rode the same bus all day long, so I was with the same group of employees for all four routes. Essentially, I got to see how life is like for them, as I was only taking the breaks they took. Well, they stayed on the bus except for the lunch break.
On one of the routes, I struck up a conversation with one of the workers. He told me about their work schedule, apparently it is a 24 hour work day, and they work alternating days. They have a breakfast, lunch, and dinner break, and then a four hour nap break from midnight to 4am when the buses don’t run. Otherwise, it is continuous work, at least 17 hours of actual work! Every other day.
The day was tiring, but I only dozed off shortly on the second bus ride. Was fine for the third and fourth. The guys were helpful, not annoying, and didn’t bother me when I was working. The routes were long. This is the most bus riding I’ve done in a period of time. In 9.5 hours I rode a bus for 8.5 hours. Rear end was sore at the end.

Apparently there was an earthquake last night. I can’t lie, I didn’t even know about it until I read about it in the news tonight at home on the internet. Apparently it was bad enough it shook people out of bed. I was to find out later that even some of my friends had felt it. I slept right through it I guess. I am also the boy who when I was younger slept through the smoke alarms in my house. However, I would still call myself a light sleeper, as I wake up several times every night.

47th-6th in Dhaka 7/28

I went to Gulshan today to pick up my visa from the Vietnam Embassy, but to also do work at the bus stops on Airport Road near Banani.
The working went fine. I found a good spot for observing where I could sit. I had to develop a new system for counting, as there were many buses passing by. In fact it was 350 per hour I’d found out! I resorted to only recording arrival and departure times for the buses on my research list, and simply counting the other buses as non-crowded or crowded, without recording their names. It worked out well, and I enjoyed it a lot. Glad to have a system for these busier stops established now. I collected at Kakoli in the AM peak period, and at Kakoli and Banani during the midday period. I meant to collect at night, but after the issue with my visa, see below, I decided to postpone for a day I wasn’t so frustrated.

In the morning I went with Farabi to Ferdous tailors, where he got a tuxedo made a while back. He was there to help me out, let me know what he chose, and to maybe ask about why the price was so much higher for me than him. It appears that prices had just gone up. They are one of the most renowned tailors in town, and they know people will pay for their work. But it wasn’t too high compared to other places I’d looked into, so I went ahead. We chose the fabric for the shirt and the tuxedo. I chose which details I wanted, declined a bowtie because they would only make it pre-tied, and I want to have one where I can tie it myself. But did get a cumberbund. I get to see the sample within the week. It’ll be nice to have my own tailored tuxedo. I’ll never have to pay expensive rental fees again, and never have to use a tuxedo that hundreds of other guys have worn before me. I even think the price to get this made is equal if not less than just one tuxedo rental in the US!

In the afternoon, Farabi was with me, and he came with me to the Vietnam Embassy to pick up my visa. I remember telling him beforehand, “I hope nothing is wrong, and I can just get it and go.” I think I say this little thought to myself every time I pick up something, from clothes to visas.
Well I got the visa after submitting my receipt, the guard brought it down from the Vietnamese Embassy (apartment) and I checked it out. It looked great, wait, no, the dates are wrong. They gave me all of September until October 1, but I’m traveling in October! Uh oh! I point out the mistake to the guard, and he looks at me and says this is what I receive. The only thing he would do for me is give me the phone number I can call to complain.
I called the number, and a nice woman picked it up, and I started describing my problem. She listened, and asked me to tell her again. After repeating, she asked who I was looking for. I said who is this? She told me it wasn’t an embassy, it was a home number.
I told the unhelping guard he’d given me the wrong number. He looked at the paper, and realized he’d written an “8” instead of a “4” somewhere in the number (despite my anger for wasting my time, I can’t blame him because a Bengali “4” looks like an English “8” and I’m sure that was the mistake he made in his head.)
Called the number, the ambassador himself picked up. I described the problem, and told him I was still downstairs. He told me I had asked for those dates, and that’s what he gave me. Said they even sent the application to Hanoi to verify everything. He then sent down my application to show to me that there had been confusion over what I wanted. I could tell why, because over the “10” I had written for October, a giant “9” was scribbled over it. I didn’t remember doing that, and can’t imagine why I would. I told the guard, who told me to call the number again, and explained it to the ambassador. I told him I didn’t do that, but he insisted I did…and I realized that no matter what I said, whether they did it or not, I was stuck. The “no I didn’t” “yes you did” would go on until I angered him. So instead I asked him what I had to do to get the dates I’d wanted, how we could change it. He said the only way was to buy a whole new visa, and re-apply with a new application. Luckily I didn’t have to submit all my bank statements and photos again.
During this whole time, Farabi was fighting with the guard about the application, fighting for me, saying this isn’t fair, you can’t just give an incorrect visa time and again just so you get more money.
I put in a new application. After waiting and waiting for the ambassador to get out of a meeting, the guard finally brought the application up. And came back down to collect my new visa fee, an additional Tk3700.

Here is how I broke down the situation, and why I did what I did. I had 3 choices.
Refuse to get a new visa and pay an additional visa fee. This means I would never travel to Vietnam as I would not be able to make it to Vietnam before the visa ended on October 1. I’d be out my first Tk3700. It’d be paying that much money to NOT travel there, seems pretty silly. Plus, Amy, my travel partner, already successful got her visa, and I couldn’t put her out like that.
Get very angry on the phone and fight with the ambassador about who really wrote the 9 over my 10. This would put me in bad favor, and he’d likely just say “don’t call again” and I’d never get a new visa, and I’d still be out my first Tk3700. And still put Amy in a bad situation.
I could just accept it and put in a new application and pay the additional Tk3700. At least I’d still get to go to Vietnam (pending approval of course)
Another way to reason it out was: pay Tk3700 to not go to Vietnam, or pay tk7400 to still get to go. This stuff happens, whether at my own fault or someone else’s. I’m not the only person ever to have these kinds of problems, so I’m just dealing with it. If you want to read about worse problems, my friends Jen and Ben have spent tons of money and lots of time trying to extend their visas to stay in Bangladesh.

47th-7th in Dhaka 7/29

I skyped with Sandee in the morning. Been a bit since I talked to her, and we had plenty to talk about.

Our area is without water today. They said with the heat we are having, the water lines are dry since everyone has used all the water up.

I met with Dr. Rahman, and we went over some graphs that I had produced recently. He provided comments, and we discussed what the results are saying. Before and after this I did curbside data collections at Kalabagan.

I also dropped by Aziz Super Market midday, and looked at the selection of Bengali t-shirts. Some have long poems on them, but others have short sayings, and I wanted to pick some up before I leave. This proved to be easier said than done. There was so many choices, and I couldn’t choose. I’ll have to come back, I only bought one today.


Muhamad Lodhi said...

Santa is an exemplary case of a beautiful Bengali woman.

Euro Tailors said...

She is beautiful!