15 August 2008

Week 49: After being on these buses so long, I can't wait to ride my lifelong love again soon: TRAIN!

49th-1st in Dhaka 8/6

Spent part of the day updating my paper for the conference. I had gotten some comments from Dr. Rahman, and some others from when my dad had read through the paper. I worked through what were issues, discussed some of it with Saket and Samantha online, and produced a piece which I’m very proud to submit. I went out to get the copyright form and registration form printed out.

In the afternoon, after spending the majority of the day doing all this, I went out and rode two buses. I did the #13 two times, and the ride back was the most I’d ever seen the bus get crowded. It was great data! I had a good time collecting despite it being really uncomfortable on the bus…it’s crowded remember?

49th-2nd in Dhaka 8/7

I woke up with a bit of heartburn, and a pain in my stomach. Didn’t want to do the morning data collection. Somehow I convinced myself to get up and go to Kalabagan though. It was only one hour, and I thought I could handle it. I did, it wasn’t fun, but now it’s out of the way. At home, I rested. Was not feeling good. Had some breakfast, despite the heartburn, of rice and fish.
I then organized myself to go submit my paper to the conference. I got the paper printed out three times somewhere, burned the CD, and got the materials to send to India. I went to Sundarbans Courier Service last night and they said they send to India. So I went back today to send. I wrote the envelope out, and put everything inside. They then picked it up, looked inside, and told me they can’t send CDs. While they were discussing amongst each other why they can’t do this, I grabbed my stuff and walked out.

I ended up having to take all these things to DHL. They were willing to ship it, but it is expensive. Had to pay, no other choice as far as I can tell. While there, I asked them again about prices to ship things to the US. It is also very expensive. I really need to figure out what I’m doing about all this stuff I want to bring home. Especially since it costs so much just to bring it on the planes.

I saw these guys on the street in Azimpur. Always tried to get a shot of the guys with the bees! (pic: these men sell honeycomb, but they keep it fresh with lots of bees...and then walk around with this bowl full of honey and bees on their head) [and I have to add that I have been singing this song since I saw these guys because of the second line "I've got bees on my head, but don't call me a bee head": the theme song from the Andy Milonakis Show (didn't post this originally but my friend Ben sent me the youtube link so I decided to post)]

I then rode the #9 bus, and boy did it fly through its route. The bus got super packed too! Buses like this are exact reasons why my original hypothesis was wrong.
During and after I was feeling sick still. Perhaps it was lunch, maybe stuff lingering from the morning. But although I wanted to ride one more bus, I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and instead took a bus straight home.

At home I was sick, maybe the worst of all my times. I drank saline and ate crackers, but that only helped so much. I tried watching movies, but all I had were boring, and I ended up falling asleep.

49th-3rd in Dhaka 8/8

Still not feeling too good today when I woke up. Stomach pain. Hungry, but afraid to eat. I had enough energy though to make it over to Auvi’s place. We had been planning for me to come back over for lunch sometime, as he wanted to serve me the beef I loved when I ate there last time. We also had plans to discuss our trip to Chittagong sometime in the coming month.
I had lunch there, which his mother encouraged me to eat. I took rice and some vegetables on my plate, and she also insisted I eat some beef and chicken. Nothing spicy, nothing oily. Just foods to fill me and get me back to a normal diet.
After lunch we hung out in Auvi’s room. His friend Zarif was over too. They are in the middle of their final exams of their last semester at university. Zarif was studying for an exam. They also have a final project due next week, they have to build a line following robot. And they haven’t even started. Auvi tried explaining to me why, and what they’re going to do, but I still never really understood how there was any way anything was going to happen.
We worked out our Chittagong trip dates. We’re going to travel two weekends from now. Next weekend I’ll be in Rangpur with Ayon and his university friends. I’m excited.

After spending the afternoon there, Zarif and I headed back to Dhanmondi together. I watched “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” I liked it a lot, enough to go back and watch the original afterward. I ate dinner at home of crackers and soup as my stomach still wasn’t 100%

49th-4th in Dhaka 8/9

Moweena took a giant bag of recyclables today. She said she’ll get Tk15 per kg at the scrap junk place. Bottles and paper and plastic, she’ll get money for all of this. The bag was half her size! She collects all the stuff in the kitchen. When I realized what she was doing, I stopped throwing things away and put them in the kitchen instead, so she wouldn't have to go through the garbage later. (pics: Moweena with the bag of recyclables, all the items we've saved over the past two months)

The places in which you sell this stuff confused me for the first few months. Even when my father asked me what it was on my parents’ visit, I didn’t know at the time. The places look like stores selling garbage, or perhaps nothing at all.

I’m feeling a bit better today, but rice and fish for breakfast wasn’t very appetizing.

Diya picked me up in her father’s car and we went to a movie screening in Gulshan. Her friend Adnan had produced with his friends a film about historical sites and history of Bangladesh. They called it “Finding Bangladesh” and they were motivated by their lack of knowledge about their own country. They had the Westin’s ballroom reserved, with lots of chairs set up in front of a giant screen.
Geared to students, and light on the seriousness, it had them exploring the best sites of Bangladesh, in an effort to educate kids about what is really out there. The film was funny, they did a great job editing, and although there were points where it was a tad awkward, it was a good production. If I had to make recommendations to them, it’d be to remove some of their personal sentiments. Their input about repainting Ahsan Manzil pink as disheartening, or that the government isn’t doing a good job maintaining certain sites, made the film lose a bit of credibility as an educational tool. Also, I would recommend them to get all their facts straight. They dated some buildings several centuries too early, especially in Sonargaon where they labeled a group of 18th century buildings 13th century. As well, they said one old temple was 100 meters tall! That would make it the tallest building in Bangladesh! It looked more about 10 meters tall. I’ll forgive them for their spelling mistakes that showed up on film.
The best parts were definitely recognizing that this is the first film of its kind by students in Bangladesh. Very impressive. They have no budget, yet took the time to visit the places and see all the sites. Then edit and make an hour plus long film. And then get it out to the public so well!
They have two more films to go, as they split the country up into thirds, covering two divisions in each film. Was very glad Diya invited me along to this. (pics: Diya and the invitation to the movie screening, the giant screen and stage before the screening of "Finding Bangladesh")

Diya’s mom picked us up to go home. On the way back we stopped at the BDR shop, a supermarket of sorts, her mom needed to get eggs. Diya wanted to wait in the car, but I was glad to go in with her mom. Being there, looking at the few shelves, and watching her with the shopping cart, made me think of being with my own mother at Foodtown. I just looked at the shelves and bought some things too: spring rolls, chocolate chip cookies, juice. Diya came in as we were checking out. I had wanted to help bag, but there were many gentlemen there to do that for us. The resulting outcome: I miss helping my mother shop for food, and look forward to it when I get home! (pic: Diya and her mother at the BDR shop)

I watched a movie tonight, and was eating dinner during. But the audio and visual tracking lost each other, and it was annoying to watch after that. Turned it off and went to bed.

49th-5th in Dhaka 8/10

I went to Auvi’s around lunchtime as we were going to go to Kamalapur Station to buy our train tickets. We had lunch there as well. But things didn’t turn out so well when we went to the station. The tickets aren’t on sale until two days from now, which is surprising as the trip is only 11 days away. It seemed a bit ridiculous to both of us.

Had raw guava for the first time today. Didn’t know the things that everyone were eating like an apple were guavas! Probably never would’ve tried it if Auvi hadn’t handed me a piece. I’ve only had it in juice form, and I think I recall it being pink then, while this was entirely white.

After this, I went to Tejgaon where I did two evening data collections, one on either side of the road. It was raining, and so I had to stand underneath an umbrella the entire time. Luckily I had something to rest my clipboard on so I could still write and hold the umbrella at the same time. No one bothered to talk to me tonight because no one wanted to be in the rain, of course if they wanted to stand under my umbrella, I would’ve been totally fine with it.

After I went and got a snack, which ended up being my dinner, at a bakery. I found a fried roll with pasta inside! Very interesting, that I ordered an extra. However, despite its tastiness, what I really wanted tonight was a Grease Trucks’ Fat Sandwich, the wonderful food sold at Rutgers University. So filling, so tasty. Texted Chris, an RU alumnus, to let him know.

49th-6th in Dhaka 8/11

I left my house early to head to Tejgaon again for the morning data collection. For some reason it was really hard to get there! A pain! Took a half hour to cross to Dhanmondi. My first rickshaw went a bizarre way and I had to leave him and take another as we were stuck. Then the bus was stuck in a massive jam, and I was crushed like never before inside.
I honestly feel the jams have gotten worse in Dhaka since I arrived. More frequent and longer waits.

I did the first data collection. The ticket guy near me recognized me from another place another day.
After that I headed up to Gulshan. Got breakfast at Coffee World, and had a waffle.
Saw that A&W got closed down. Asked a guard across the street what happened and when. He said it was one week ago, and it was because they had not paid their rent in 3 years! I guess I won’t be having Iftar there this year.
Went to the Jet Airways office to check out airfares. Decided against flying them, I’d only be doing it for flight miles, and it’s too much for what I’d be earning. Will fly budget airlines for sure.
Went by UPS and FedEx today, and very surprisingly they are much much cheaper than DHL! 3 times as cheap. My calculations tell me that for a 25kg package through DHL, it would cost $650 to ship to the US. UPS is only $260 and FedEx is $198! Bizarre a little. Both UPS and FedEx have a 25kg box special that is a great deal, the prices above. I pick up the box from then, fill it up, and ship it, up to 25kg. So I’ll be doing that for sure. Only catch is the box is a fixed size that isn’t too big, so I want to make sure I put my heaviest things in it, to make sure it hits the 25kg.

Went back to Tejgaon to do two more midday data collections, one on either side of the road. Nothing exciting, it started to rain a bit again and I had to use the umbrella. (pics: my simple tools for counting buses, the best picture I've caputred of a crowded bus and people running to the door and cramming every last spot)

Later I went to Ferdous tailors to pick up my tuxedo! I was very excited to see the final product. I got there and they gave me piece by piece to try on, starting with the pants, then the jacket then the shirt and then the cummerbund. It all looked great. Fit perfectly. Was very impressed. Now I just need an occasion to wear it!

At my evening data collection tonight at Banani bus stand I saw a foreigner buying a bus ticket! I never have before seen this. I’ve always been the only one, unless I’m dragging someone else on the bus with me. I kind of wanted to talk to him.

After I met with Toma at Bella Italia, where we had great pizza (kind of like Federici’s in Freehold) and seafood pasta. Had been craving it for awhile. Then we went across the street to Andersen’s Ice Cream for a sundae. Her driver picked us up, and he dropped me off at Sat Rasta, from there I took a rickshaw to Farmgate. This was much faster than taking the #6 to Farmgate. The driver said I went through a “dangerous” place, but I feel like people would say that about half the places I go or do here. (pics: Toma having seafood pasta at Bella Italia, myeslf and a delicious ice cream sundae)

49th-7th in Dhaka 8/12

Worked on planning my India trip this morning. I’m throwing around different itineraries to see what best fits what I want to see. My friend Megan has been giving me advice on Kolkata, but for the rest I’m searching internet sites and books to see how much time I should spend in each spot. The train times I want never seem to exist, so I have to work within what is there.
I think I have a schedule I think I like, now that I’ve decided to take the train from Dhaka to Kolkata on the 7th. Emailed the conference organizers to affirm that I need to be there on the 12th, so I don’t show up for something unimportant. They confirmed that I really should be there.

Went to Rampura bus stand to do a midday data collection. The ticket collectors there were the most interested about my work than any others before. They didn’t leave my side, except to sell a ticket or two on their infrequent buses, the entire hour. They asked lots of questions, and I had no issue entertaining them as long as I could still work. The road was easy to count as traffic moves so slow there.

After this I took a bus down to Kamalapur Railway Station to wait for Auvi so we could buy our train tickets to Chittagong next week. I was also going to buy my train ticket to Kolkata. I had lunch at the station. After lunch, I headed to the Kolkata ticket counter. The ticket buying requires a passport and visa, and I got stuck behind a guy registering his whole family of 15 people. A long wait. I filled out the form meanwhile, and then just stood there. He at least provided me good conversation. Auvi showed up during this time, and after I finally got to buy my ticket to Kolkata, we headed to the window to buy our Chittagong ticket. It took less than a minute. I felt a bit bad that Auvi had come all the way down there. But he didn’t mind, nothing else to do he said….coming from a guy in the middle of exams!
We also talked about our itinerary too, and how I have a fantasy football draft that Sunday! He has a wedding that day too. We’ll try to arrange both. I’ll be brining my laptop for sure.
Buying the tickets to both these places made me more excited to go there. Especially India.

I then rode two #6 buses from Kamalapur to Gulshan. I didn’t get off in between, and it took about 3.5 hours to do them. Both had lots of crowding and a few interesting people to talk to me. Conductors always talk to me after they see me stay on the bus between routes.

At night I bought the plan ticket from Kolkata to Chennai in September. I will fly the budget airline SpiceJet.
Ayon called, and we chatted about our trip to Rangpur this weekend. He told me all about his past trip to Sylhet, sounded like a blast. Lastly, he told me he’ll be coming to Chittagong. Uh oh, we bought our tickets today though, he better go soon and get his.

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