03 November 2008

Week 52: I FINISH MY DATA COLLECTION, and some packing and goodbyes

52nd-1st in Dhaka 8/27

I woke up early this morning to do my fantasy football draft. I was real excited to finally have the season start up again. I had been waiting for week. However, there turned out to be some problems. An unexpected issue on how we had organized the league turned up, an issue with how certain players were retained by our squads. Many of us left the draft with sour spirits, and felt they were cheated by the system. Others were ecstatic. Ultimately, enough complaints were made that I emailed ESPN.com who we run the league through, and they advised us we could reset the draft. So we did this, and set it up for a few days from now.

I did two data collections this afternoon, both on Bishwa Road in Rampura. After the first I headed to get lunch, and called up Farhan to come by and meet me. He agreed to come meet me at a hotel near where I collect my data. I had almost finished eating when he arrived, and it was raining, so we got some Sprites and a small snack and sat and chatted.
We then roamed the area for a bit before it was time to do my next data collection. To my surprise, he offered to help. He stood there with me the entire hour I was collecting data, helping me when buses came by too quickly that I couldn’t catch their names or times. All the ticket counter workers who know me well were excited to talk to him as well, and they got in some intense discussion about jobs and education in Bangladesh.

From there both of us took a bus down to Malibag. He got off first, and I stayed on a bit longer to get to Shiddeshwari. Tonight I was meeting Anwar and Sanjana at her home. Meeting them was great, as I’ve mentioned its been months that I’ve known them but had yet to have a real conversation. I had a great time talking about my experience, where they stay in California, graduate school, and a slew of other topics related to Bangladesh. I also gave her father some bumper stickers, as he is also a BUET Civil Engineering graduate. When they headed home, they offered to drop me, so we had another half hour at least of conversation in the car as we had lots of traffic to get through. It was a great time getting to know Anwar and Sanjana better. I promised them I’ll visit when I finally make my way to northern California.

52nd-2nd in Dhaka 8/28

In the morning I did a data collection at the Rampura bus stand. The ticket collectors on both sides of the road in Rampura are definitely the most friendly of all the ones I’ve gotten to work next to in Dhaka.

Today I did the #6 two-door Motijheel-Banani bus twice. Very hard. I saved this bus to the end of my research because of how hard I’d knew it be. It combines the challenges of a two-door bus, meaning counting two doors at once, and a local bus, which has people hopping on and off at all points of the route and long stops where people show up unpredictably. Very VERY hard. And it lived up to my daunting expectations. There were times were my head was spinning trying to keep track of everyone, and all that was happening. The bus has itty bitty seats, so I was cramped and uncomfortable too. Honestly, I chose the hardest way to finish my research, but the truth is I could not have handled this earlier on.

I had some great meals today in Gulshan at places I hadn’t eaten a meal at before. I had breakfast in Gulshan at Words n’ Pages. It was a two-story bookstore, but to my disbelief (and surely my librarian mother’s) they turned the second floor from a small cafĂ©/additional bookspace into a full restaurant. So now it’s a one floor bookstore with a restaurant upstairs. Anyway, I went to see if they had anything I can eat for breakfast. And I ended up getting an egg and cheese and a tomato and cheese sandwich. Looking forward to a bagel though.
For lunch I tried out a new restaurant in Gulshan-2 called Tarbush. I was the only one there at 4pm, but the manager was at a nearby table, and he freely shared with me how he decided to make this restaurant, and what he’s been up to for his career. Also shared his thoughts with me on Dhaka’s problems. Good lunch conversation. But the food was incredible. The mango-banana smoothie was out of this world and was a large size for its price. The french fries and onion rings platter was delicious, and very cheap. And the sandwich, although a bit more expensive, was big, and was served on bread baked right at the restaurant. The best bread I’ve had in Dhaka. This place gets two huge thumbs up. Except for the “deck” overlooking Gulshan-2 though, the place looks pretty boring. But as long as you sit on the “deck” you have a good time, the seats and tables are “logs”.

On the way home from the last bus, some guy talked to me the whole time. At first it was nice, but then he began asking me to “take [him] to America” and was very insistent on it. No matter how times I told him he needs a visa, and that attaining one is difficult, he insisted I could just take him because I can just say he’s my friend when we arrive at the airport. These types of conversations never get resolved.

Tonight I talked to the guys downstairs about how we’ll handle the money for the things they are buying. They came up to my room later on my invitation, and we laid out how it would work. I hope they commit well.

52nd-3rd in Dhaka 8/29

With Friday off from work, I wanted to go and make the gifts for my tailor and the owner of the store out front of my apartment building. They were both very friendly and helpful for the tasks I asked of them during my stay, and I wanted to say thank you in a lasting way. I had managed to get photos of both through my time here, and so I wanted to bring them to a framer to give as gifts. I would write a thank you message in Bengali in black marker in the white space between photos. For my store owner and his nephew Hamid I was additionally going to include a one dollar bill inside, like you see hanging on the wall inside the stores of American small businesses.
I couldn’t find a frame at Rifles Square, and disappointed and I started walking back home. On my walk I inspected each shop closely to see if they had frames, and it was then that I noticed a framing store I’d never seen before. I went in, and they were glad to make it, and it was much less than what even the tiniest pre-made frames at Rifles Square cost. I asked them if they could turnaround the tailor’s frame in an hour (I wanted to give it today), and they said sure. So I gave the photos and they set to work doing what I described.
I went back to the framing store, where I had to write the message inside, and then they could finish the framing process. I brought it to my tailor on what was to be my last time seeing him. However, my friend Amit had also requested a summer beach shirt like Ben and I had got, so I knew I’d be seeing him at least once more, but probably when I was too stressed to deliver his gift. On arriving, I got my clothes, and tried on my last suit and my sportcoat. I gave him the order for Amit’s shirt, and he said he would get it done before I left for India. Then I gave him the frame. He smiled and thanked me, and I hope he hands it in his store. (pics: the framer in his shop preparing my gifts, the frame I got made for my tailor as a gift)

I dropped by Diya’s at some point and picked up a weighing scale that I would use to weigh all my boxes before I shipped them.

Ayon, Farhan, and Hridoy came over in the afternoon, and we hung out for awhile before heading over to Kozmo Lounge. Tonight, Dipto (Ishita’s brother) was performing a concert in promotion of his new album. We arrived at 6pm, as the lounge advertised this as the time. We knew he’d start later, but I just hoped it’d be before 8pm, when I had to leave for a dinner invite. The four of us were met also by Saquib, and the five of us had a fun time hanging out for two hours. All got some coffees and/or cake. Dipto showed up around 7pm, so I was hoping I’d get to see him play. But alas, as I was leaving at 8pm, he was just getting on stage. So I missed the entire performance despite waiting 2 hours to see it. Felt bad. (pics: inside Kozmo overlooking Dhanmondi Lake just after sun set, Ayon/Hridoy at Kozmo waiting for the show, Farhan/Saquib at Kozmo waiting for the show, Dipto doing a sound check for the show I missed because I had to leave for a dinner invitation)

I had been invited to Mohan’s home for dinner, my last time to see him. His wife prepared an excellent meal which I had several platefuls of. Mohan’s brother-in-law, who I visited once at his leathermaking college, was also there, and it was great to reunite. As well, Bapi, who used to live upstairs, was over, along with his wife and son, who I’d actually never gotten to meet as they were frequently at his village. Lastly, Shibly came by, and I got to see him one last time. A great evening. We enjoyed watching some Bangladeshi TV shows, as well some Mr. Bean episodes. I took some photos of Mohan and I, as well as his wife and her brother. Mohan and his wife spent the entire time trying to get her brother to spend the night, despite his insistence that he had to go back and study. (pics: Mohan with his son Rehan, Mohan/myself, Mohan's brother in law Mamun/Mohan's wife)

52nd-4th in Dhaka 8/30

This morning my boua became strongly insistent about my floor fan, saying she wanted it and would pay whatever the guys downstairs wanted to pay. Well I told her a promise was a promise, and I gave a promise to them first. One half hour after she left, she came back with Tk300 in her hand! She insisted I take it. I politely refused. Finally she took my hand, stuffed the cash inside, and left. The whole time she had a huge grin on her face. During and afterwards I could only grin too.

I dropped by Nando’s to ask about what they will be serving for their Iftar special starting in a few days, but they wouldn’t tell me. I tried guessing, but she wouldn’t budge on her stance of ignorance. Obviously they know it, but are keeping it a secret. Wily.

This afternoon I met up with Toma for lunch. She had suggested a restaurant on Road 27, inside this art museum. She had gone there for merely a snack before, but she said it was nice. Well it was nice inside, but the food and the service were horrible. Worst restaurant I’ve been to in Dhaka. For Tk120, we received just four small pieces of chicken inside way too much curry for the two of us. I was insulted. I made sure they had gotten the order correct…and they had. Four cubes for two people.
We then headed to Aarong, where I picked up some gifts for friends back home. The rickshaw wallah commented on the way over that I knew how to get around Dhaka better than Toma did. We stopped by the framing store after and I picked up the frame for my store owner and wrote the message inside before they sealed it up. (pic: the frame I got made for the store owner and Hamid in front of my home tailor as a gift)

I worked on getting ready to leave, packing up some of my stuff, and moving what I knew I would ship. The place is becoming quite messy with just a week to go.

I went over to Tamzid’s home for dinner. His mom served us dinner, even though his father hadn’t made it home yet. I couldn’t stay too long as I had to get a bus back. After dinner I waited to say goodbye to his father returning home, and meanwhile we watched The Daily Show, which I haven’t seen all year. They were reporting on the Democratic Convention, and it had me bent over in laughter.
I took the #3 bus home, and to my nice surprise, the bus conductors and driver were the ones I had ridden with recently for my research and had had lunch with. He recognized me quickly, although it took me a few seconds to place the faces. It was very cool to “know” the bus staff, I felt “in.”

52nd-5th in Dhaka 8/31

I did my last curbside collection this morning, in the blaring hot sun that had me sweating as it beat down on me.
I then swung back to Farhan’s home, where I would have breakfast this morning. I took a bus down to the Malibag railroad crossing, and decided I would try walking down the train tracks, just like most people do in Dhaka. Despite Farhan warning me not to do this, I figured there was nothing bad that could happen, except getting hit by a train. I knew the portion by his home was not cramped with squatters. Well it was difficult to walk on the rail sleepers as they were spaced oddly and I couldn’t take normal steps, only short ones as long ones were way too long. And I missed his street, as I had gotten into a rhythm of walking on the sleepers, so I had to backtrack (no pun intended.) Breakfast was delicious: parota, omelets, and cheese as well as some sweets left over from the last holiday. He showed me the video of him performing at his university last week. (pics: train passing by while I was walking on the train tracks with people riding on top with giant pots of food, people walking with me on the rail sleepers, train coming down the tracks near Farhan's home, train pasing by as I walk next to the tracks)

After this I left and rode the number 6 bus twice. It was hot, unbearably so. I felt horrible and did not want to be on the bus. I noticed my heartbeat was racing because of the heat. Plus there’s the bodily stress of having to lean out the window the entire time. It wears on me. Luckily this bus I rode twice wasn’t cramped for the seat I’m in. But the pain from leaning out the window was still bad.

The best part of the afternoon was having lunch with Toma at a restaurant in Mohakhali. She works nearby so we first went to Citycell to transfer over my wireless card account to her and her sister who will take it over. We reduced the amount of monthly data allowance as they won’t use it as much as me.
We then headed to the restaurant called “The Newsroom.” Its just east of BRAC University on the second floor. It was clean, modern, and had great decorations. The food was out of this world, with a lot of neat selections that I’ve never seen before in Dhaka. It’s neat to still be finding new great restaurants popping up. Apparently this owner is also the old owner of A&W, and he said A&W will reopen soon. (pics: the inside of the great new restaurant The Newsroom, the food there looks and tastes great...I really liked the place)

I spotted these boys flying kites in a field with construction materials. I’ve been trying to capture this very popular Bangladeshi pastime for awhile. (pic: boys flying kites in a field of construction materials)

I had dinner at Nafisa’s Aunt Sylvy’s home. I hung out with Ishfaq and Ishraq and her before dinner. She told me about Nafisa’s paternal uncle and his family and how they are faring in the US. It was good to hear an update on everyone. She informed me of Nafisa’s plans to return to Bangladesh, how her husband is, and the like. Dinner was delicious as usual, and she sent me home with some cake that she had made just for me.

Tonight I spotted a lizard eating one of the cockroaches in my house. I was so proud of it, I took its photo. (pic: lizard running away with a resident of the cockroach motel in my boot)

52nd-6th in Dhaka 9/1

Today I finished my work. And by that I mean I collected my last bit of data, a relief after all the time I’ve spent on it. I have what I feel is satisfactory to write a quality paper on the bus system and its overcrowded conditions in Dhaka! I had two bus rides left on the #6 bus, and today they weren’t nearly as bad as yesterday. I think because I was excited, I finished quickly and without feeling sick.

Besides that, today was also a great day. It started with my fantasy football league’s redo of the draft. And this time everything went okay. I think I have a great team and am excited for the season, even though I’ll have to play on my travels and find time to tweak my rosters. One of the best parts is my friends Greg and Will have joined the league to replace members we booted out for not playing regularly.

I spent some time this morning working on my presentation for the conference, just a bit of formatting and arranging of my thoughts, jotting notes on each slide…and deciding the color scheme. As well I had to write a conference biography that will be used to introduce me when I speak.

After posting my blog in the morning, my last time posting in Bangladesh, as I don’t’ have the time anymore to write in my journal, I headed up to Gulshan where I met Shaheen and Harvey for lunch, which doubled as a debriefing of my time here. There was also a new woman there, who has taken over Harvey’s responsibility that pertain to Fulbright. So meeting me was a transition experience for her, as she got to hear how my time went and ask questions. We went to a buffet, which allowed me to really fill up! I said my good byes to them. I really appreciated all they did for me while I was here. I felt I always had a friend at the American Center knowing they worked there.

I headed to Rampura to do my last data collection between bus routes. I said good bye to the counter workers who had been really cool every time I saw them. Then I did the second #6 bus. Everything worked out well.

After all my work, I went to Naira’s home. She had invited me out for dinner one last time. We headed to the new Cofi 11 in Banani. It’s much bigger than their old place, although it doesn’t have the cool outdoor patio (not like I used it anyway.) Still there is outside seating, and the food is just as good. It was a great way to end a great day. I took her back with a taxi and then took that taxi home myself.

52nd-7th in Dhaka 9/2

I spent all of day working on my presentation for the conference. There was some data I realized I needed to complete for the presentation, so I set to work on getting it processed. I had to bring it later to Ayon’s for Iftar to get it done by tonight, so I could use it tomorrow.
I went to Ayon’s home for Iftar, tonight is the first day of Ramadan. I was excited. This holiday really is a landmark for me, as I was here for all of Ramadan last year, and now I really have a market to gage how long it’s been.
One thing that’s different between last Ramadan and this one is that last year I really couldn’t pick out the differences between Bangladesh during or not during Ramadan. Obviously closed restaurants are easy to spot and understand, but how the schedule of daily life changes so drastically during this period is noticeable. It was too early for me to note anything last year. But now I see it all. I can tell that things are different. I notice which restaurants are not open when they usually are. I can tell when the streets are more or less busy with shoppers, and I can tell when the highways have more traffic. I notice how people shift when they go to the market and ride the bus (of course) As well, the general atmosphere in the air, it just feels different. (pic: temporary stand set up to sell the popular Iftar foods, a tea/snack stall covered with a blanket for those not fasting to eat during Ramadan and not disturb those fasting)

Anyway, Iftar. I really didn’t think the roads were that bad on the way over, not the stuff of Ramadan legend. I got to his side of town at least a half hour earlier than I intended to show up. So first I went to the bus offices at Arambag and inquired about their times for when they travel from Kolkata. To my dismay, they don’t have any night buses, as the border is closed at night, and Kolkata is very close to the border. So that throws a bit of a wrench in my plans. I discussed it all later with Ayon, and we made a matrix of options I have for my India trip, so that helped a lot.
It was fun, relaxing being there with Ayon’s family. Hridoy was now in town, and he talked to me a lot. We had Iftar on the floor of the drawing room, with lots of delicious Iftar goodies that I remember from last year spread out in front of us. I was excited to eat again all the familiar tastes from last year. (pic: at Ayon's for Iftar with his newphew)

After leaving Ayon’s, I had only minutes to catch the last bus home. As we got to Motijheel, I saw what I thought was the last Mega City bus home, so I ran after it yelling “Oy Mega Mega! Oy Mega!” just like the bus conductors do. Not sure if it was necessary, but I did make the bus. I spent the rest of the night at home working on my presentation, until 1 am.


Anonymous said...

You should have left a tiny framed photo for the lizard so she could show her mother.

Saket said...

way to finish strong man, well done!