Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Eid Mubarak!

Last Tuesday, I woke up to the sound of pounding from below.  The steady beat went on, and I hid under my covers trying to go back to sleep.  The day before, the residential streets of Dhaka were filled with a variety of animals, cows, goats...even camels.  People were buying these animals from markets...not as pets, but to sacrifice for Eid.  This particular Eid signifies Ibrahim sacrificing his son Ismael to Allah.  For those Christian readers, this is the story of when Abraham sacrifices Issac to God.  Anyway, the morning of Eid, people all over the Muslim world kill the animal that they have bought.  One third of the meat goes to family, another third to relatives, and the other third to the poor. 

There are specific rules as to how to divide the meat as well as what can and cannot be eaten.  As you can probably imagine, the city becomes pretty bloody after this mass sacrifice.  Being a vegetarian, I tried my best to hide from all of the bloodshed, but it was much harder than I thought it would be.  The water that ran down the streets were bright red with blood, and the animals that crowded the road were no longer.  By the afternoon, there were carts of cow skins on their way to leather factories and street children with bags in their hand looking for people to give them meat.  The image reminded me of American children with their Halloween bags, asking for candy.  But oh, what a different story.  

Most offices were closed for three days, right in the middle of the week.  But that didn't even seem to matter, because most Bangladeshis took the whole week off, if not more, to go back to their home villages to visit family.  The streets, for once, were not congested, and we could move from one part of the city to another in less than 30 minutes...something that is definitely not possible during other times of the year.  

Many people took pride in how much their animal cost...I heard that some animals even had their price hung from t
heir neck.  Although Ibrahim sacrificed his own son to show his love for Allah, modern day Muslims just go and buy an animal the day before, an animal that they have no attachment to, and have fun killing it on the day of Eid.  My opinion, but it seemed to be a wide-spread feeling.  Many of these cows are imported from India, crossing illegal borders from a country where killing cows is seen as sinful.  

But everyone seems to enjoy it, even though most of the meaning has been lost.  I guess that happens with many holidays...like Christmas and Easter.  I did enjoy the lack of traffic, however.  

Here are some pictures (those who can not stand the sight of blood...you might want to pass):

Friday, December 5, 2008

I'm here I'm here

Ok, I am SO sorry for not blogging earlier.  I know I said every Sunday, but I've been so busy!!  But people have been wondering if I am still alive, and yes, I am.  I am here.  

So, there has been lots of things that have happened since my last post.  There are so many that I will just write a little bit for each thing that I want to write about.  And on Sunday I will post pictures of my life here in Dhaka.

In the apartment, I kept on hearing things coming from the air conditioner mounted in the wall.  I was sure that there were just insects that have been procreating inside of it and the unit just hadn't been cleaned in a long time.  I didn't really care that much because I knew they couldn't really get around, but it was still kind of weird.  So, I got it checked out, and a guy came and cleaned it out one day while I was out of the house.  That night, as I was falling asleep to an episode of The Office (my nightly ritual), I thought I saw something flying around in the room.  But I figured it was just a shadow of a bird outside, so I didn't really worry so much about it.  But then the thing kept on flying around, and I realized that it was actually inside the room...and when I did, I ran outside into the hallway and into Kristin's room.  The two of us were too scared to investigate the situation, so I ended up sleeping with her for the rest of the night.  The next day, I didn't see anything in the room...so I figured the thing was gone or that I made it up in my head.  However, that night as I was about to brush my teeth, I saw a small mass on the floor of the bathroom that didn't seem like an insect, but perhaps that of a tiny bat.  I ended up sleeping with Kristin again, too scared to be sleeping in the same room as a bat-like creature.  The next morning, our maid had a good look at it, captured it, and let it fly outside.  She used some word to describe it...but I didn't understand it.  After talking to my parents and to some people here, I figured out that it was indeed a small bat creature.  Except that here, no one really fears bats.  Weird, I think.  So apparently, a bat family was living inside my air conditioning, and when they came to clean it out, they all flew out except for one.  So now Kristin and I are getting out post-exposure rabies vaccinations, just in case.  2 down, 3 more to go.  Funnnnn.

I had my first Thanksgiving away from home this year.  The Saturday before the actual day, we had a makeshift Thanksgiving which turned out to be pretty good.  No turkey here though, only chicken.  And it didn't even matter, since I am not eating meat anymore.  But all of the food I could eat was pretty good.  You can check out pictures on facebook if you able to.  On the real Thanksgiving, I woke up to the news of the hostage situation in India.  I knew that there were awful people in this world, but I don't even know how to describe these actions.  I feel like not enough people were talking about it; I feel like it will be forgotten soon.  Which it shouldn't.  I hated the fact that it was still going on for so long and nothing really could be done about it.  That as I was going through my day, there were people stuck inside those hotels not knowing if they were going to make it out alive.  I think being kept hostage is one of my biggest nightmares, and as I sat later on in the week at the lobby of the Westin hotel to eat gelato, I found myself looking for exits closest to me...just in case.  I feel so bad for all of those people affected by those events, and am still not able to comprehend how human beings are capable of such evil.  I just don't get it.  Anyway, we were invited to go eat at the house of the American Center's director, Amy, which was absolutely lovely.  I ate so much and did not pace myself very well.  I also felt really sick that day, which made it worse.  I came home to rest, and later, went over to Reaz's for a mini Office marathon and dinner.  

Since last time, both Marci and Hans have left to go back to the States.  It's weird not to have them around anymore, and I think about the others that will come and go during my stay here.  I feel like the kid in camp who has to stay for the whole summer while others come for maybe two weeks and then return home.  I organized a early birthday party for Hans at El Toro, which is probably the only Mexican restaurant in Dhaka.  It wasn't too bad.  We had goodbye nights for both of them; watching our little group of friends quickly dwindle was not pleasant.  But we will see who comes in the weeks and months ahead of us.  

I have finally moved into my last and final apartment (I hope).  It is a great apartment right down the street from Reaz, and I really like it the best out of all the places I have lived since I moved to Bangladesh.  It's so weird that I of all people, a person who has been living in the same house since birth, who has absolutely no idea of moving really, would move four separate times in less than four months.  It's kind of crazy, really.  But whatever...I am happy where I am and couldn't ask for a better place.  Maybe I'll take pictures of it to share.  

I've also gone on some adventures as well.  Last weekend, Lea Ann, Kristin, and I made it to the Liberation War Museum.  It was pretty informative, but also pretty rough to think about how it wasn't very far removed from us.  I mean, I remember going to the Holocaust Museum on our 8th grade field trip...which of course was very scarring, but it still seemed  a little removed and distant.  But with this museum, it was crazy because I have been hearing stories my entire life about this period of time...and to think that they were a part of it all...it's just weird.  That distance was no longer there.  Anyway, another day Reaz and I decided to go down to Dhanmondi just to be as he says, "with the people".  What ended up happening was several hours of us walking around being lost.  But that's what adventures are all about, right?  We met up with the rest of the gang who decided to go there as well and ate at Mango Cafe and later shop at Aarong, BRAC's famous fair-trade store.  

So I have been to the engagement party, wedding, and reception of a couple that I had never met before.  The groom is my uncle's wife's cousin; I had met his sister once before.  I brought Kristin along for the engagement party, and everyone loved her!  It was pretty hilarious watching the photographers and video camera crew following her around as if she were the main event.  And all of the little kids wanted to dance with her.  It was a pretty fun night.  The wedding, which was held at 2:00 in the morning on a work night, was very interesting, as I followed the groom with the rest of the wedding party, while he was being led around on a horse.  I made it until about 1:30, when my uncle then decided to take me home because it was getting too late.  Which it was.  So i didn't get to see the actual ceremony, but oh well.  I did get to follow around a horse for about 2 miles in the middle of the night.  

On December 1st, Sara and I led a quick presentation/discussion at the American Center for World AIDS Day.  It was fine, but it made me sad because this was the first year in a long time that I didn't prepare something huge for the event.  As most of my college friends know,  I used to spend Thanksgiving break making thousands of red ribbons and passed them out to students throughout the week that I marked as World AIDS Week as school, along with condoms and educational pamphlets.  I set up panels and worked with other organizations to plan events for the week.  And this year, the year that I am supposed to be studying this epidemic in depth, all I did was have a little presentation.  At least I did something, right?  

Well there is some good news.  I have started working at ICDDR,B.  I have my own desk; it's great!  It does mean that I wake up at 6:30 in the morning and don't come back until 6:30 in the evening...but I don't care.  I like it a lot.  On Thursday though, I couldn't find a CNG that would go to Gulshan, so I ended up walking back with my heavy backpack.  I was so tired, but I stopped into the small supermarket close to us to buy some chocolate, Pringles, and a Coke.  Mmm, confort food.  I then came home, ate, and fell asleep by 7:00.  And didn't wake up until 8:00 the next morning.  It was the best sleep ever.  

So I guess that's it for now, really.  I am sorry again for being so MIA earlier.  I will put pictures up as soon as possible.  

Sunday, November 16, 2008

3 Months In

Three months ago, I left Memphis. A third of my time here is over. After my meeting at ICDDR, B...I pretty much waited to see what would happen regarding work since Dr. Azim and Dr. Rahman are good friends, it was up to them as to where I would ultimately work. Marci, Hans, Sara, and Reaz finally came back to Nepal...didn't think I would miss them so much after only a week. On Thursday, I went to dinner with Ana and Emily, who I haven't seen in so long...so it was great to catch up with them. Talked to Ana about going to to public health, and what I should do for next year. Afterwards, I went over to Reaz's, where I ate a second dinner and got to see all of the pictures they took in Nepal and heard their oh so adventurous stories. Kind of sad I missed out...oh well.

Friday I went to New Market, which is super far away, to take my Puja clothes to the tailors. To make me 4 dress sets and fix two blouses cost 650Tk, which is about $9.30. Pretty sweet deal. We went and ate at Pizza Hut afterward, which is a totally different experience that it is back home. The Pizza Hut is huge (there is a much larger one in another part of town), and it seems like it is considered as a place for a nice dinner. I couldn't stop laughing.

Not much really going on. Everything is starting to work itself out, I think. I finally met with Dr. Rahman, and it seems like if I stay at IUB, then I would actually get stuff to work on. Kristin is moving in tomorrow, and this upcoming week is actually pretty busy. I can finally start writing things in my calendar. I've missed that.

Oh, and I fell out of a rickshaw today onto a major road. Haven't seen a single accident since I've been here, and then I was involved in the first one I witnessed. I wasn't sure whether to be angry or just laugh. I did the latter, but then realized the enormity of the situation as my ankle started hurting so badly that I couldn't walk very well. But, I'm glad I didn't die or majorly injured...which sadly, could have happened as there was oncoming traffic. Guess I'm lucky.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Promise on the Horizon

I am in my new (but temporary) apartment finally.  I'm not getting attached since I will only be here for a month, but it's nice to finally have a place to come home to.  A few people went to Nepal for the week, and as much as Hans tried to figure out a way for me to go with them, I decided it would be better to stay in Dhaka and adjust to the new living situation.  But then I realized that I would be all alone for an entire week!  However, Ana emailed me telling me she met a girl who is looking for a roommate.  Excellent, just what I was looking for!  I was given Kristin's contact information, and we met up at the gelato place in Banani on Friday.  She is great fun to be around, and hopefully everything will work out regarding housing and such.  Good thing I didn't go to Nepal, or I might have missed out on this.

I haven't found a cook, so my uncle has been staying here and cooking for me.  I think it's interesting; my mother always told me that Bengali guys take pride in not being able to cook.  Now I think she's only talking about my dad.  My uncle cooks really well, actually...and we've had some interesting dinner conversations as well, one of which I will share.  Somehow, we came to the topic of female/male relationships in Bangladesh.  Apparently, there is no real concept of "friendship" between girls and boys here; even though it may start out that way, 99% of the time, something sexual is implied.  Of course, this shocked me as several of my good friends during college were boys, and I will always know that those relationships will be platonic.  But that doesn't happen at all here.  A boy will befriend a girl, and then will pressure her into something more.  To stop him from his incessant pleading, she finally gives in.  But the other thing is that these relationships are looked down upon in this society, I feel like.  If a boy and girl are seen in public, both of them will get harassed about it later, whether it be from other friends or family members or whoever.  There is so much restriction that everything is done secretly.  And of course, I think that's dangerous.  Any thoughts?

I finally had my meeting at ICDDR,B.  What a huge hospital!  I was a little frightened at first because there are patients lying in bed in the entrance.  It looked like the pictures from one of those advertisements you would see on late night television asking you to donate money to some third world country.  I guess it very well might be in a commercial.  I kind of cringed, watching the mass of patients in the open room.  The idea of privacy does not exist.  And to imagine that this is an internationally renowned hospital, and the conditions are like this.  I can't even think about how the other hospitals are like.  Regardless, I had my meeting and hopefully if all things go well, I may be able to start work there.  In a different wing of the hospital, I had my meeting in a lab that looked like it could have been at Vanderbilt or any other university in the States.  

I remember when I was applying for the Fulbright, I kept reading the word "independent".  I realized in the past few days that they were not joking about that.  I am lucky that I have few family members here, but other than that, this is really the first time that I've done anything on this magnitude by myself.  I have no idea what I would do if I didn't know any Bengali; I feel so lost sometimes with the Bengali that I do know.  I have moved three times in 2 months, with another move to come.  For the first time, I have made a set of friends from scratch and have used public transportation in a foreign language.  I've found an apartment on my own and am searching for a new job.  None of things I have ever had to do, as college was just a place where students are spoon-fed and absolutely everything is handed to them directly.  I am pretty proud that I am getting around just fine; I'm almost impressed with myself.

Now that everything finally seems to be working out for the better, I am going to be more focused on getting outside the Gulshan & Banani area of Dhaka and explore outside territory.  I think it's about time I get to know this city.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sick and Homeless

I'm going to try to keep this short.  This is late because I've had no access to internet for the past couple of days.  Last week I was pretty sick, first with some sort of coughing illness and then some thing went wrong with my stomach and everything was achy.  One doctor said it could be typhoid, even though I got my vaccine before I left.  I'm not too fond of healthcare here.  I'm feeling a little better, but it was just annoying having to find an apartment and be sick all at the same time.

This is was the first year in my entire life I didn't celebrate Halloween, which is probably my favorite holidays.  I didn't have a single piece of candy.  I didn't even think about candy until way after midnight, which made me feel really old.  But we did have a fun movie night instead.  

For the past few days, I've been staying with one of my second cousins who was nice enough to let me in until my housing situation was fixed.  I must say, I really don't understand this country sometimes.  I finally got an apartment (so I thought), met with the owner, signed a contract, did everything...had plans to move everything in the next day, THEN, the owner says that I can't move into that apartment for some reason.  It was the weirdest thing ever.  I still don't quite understand what the situation was.  So now, he has to move me into another apartment in another building for one month, and then will find me another apartment to live in for the next 5 months.  I don't know.  I just want to be able to take my clothes out of my suitcase.  That's all.

Anyway, I'm happy about the result of the election.  Ok, happy is such an understatement.  I woke up super early on Nov 5th, and I was just glued to the television screen.  I think it is so interesting that the world is so dependent on American politics, and thus everyone everywhere is actually very knowledgeable about what's going on in our country, maybe even more so than many Americans themselves.  And how little Americans know or even care about other countries.  But Bangladeshis seems excited about Obama.  I am curious to see how well he executes his plan.  

Enough about that.  I'm not going to write anymore just because I'm still not feeling well and there is not anything too exciting to write about.  But, as always, please update me on your lives as I am always interested in what's going on with you!  

Sunday, October 26, 2008

On the Hunt

It's been a long week.  But probably one of the most fun I've had since I've been in Dhaka.  On Sunday, I found out that Sara was interested in moving out of the apartment as well, which I guess makes it easier since I don't really like the idea of living by myself AND because she is pretty awesome.  So we talked about potential places to look at and how to go about finding another apartment.  That night, I went to the American club to see if I could find new episodes of The Office online.  The internet in the apartment is wayyyy to slow for anything like that to ever work.  I was semi-successful.  Before bed, I had the most awful migraine and had a mini-breakdown.  This place can be pretty stressful.  I just didn't know how I would ever find another apartment before the end of the month or when I would ever actually start working.  My only two worries.  The next morning, Sara and I started our apartment search.  We weren't really sure how to begin, so we just started walking and looked for "To Let" signs.  We were pretty successful: she would call the number, if the person didn't understand English, I would try in Bengali.  We saw a few places; I was pretty proud of ourselves.  We also used only rickshaws to get around.  I felt pretty self-sufficient.  For our lunch break, we went to the Westin (the nicest hotel around) for lunch in the cafe.  It was delicious, and we tried to become friends with our waitress.  Hans met up with us there, as we started Part Two of apartment searching.  My only problem with the places we saw is that they are wayyy too huge for two people.  Some way along the road, a little boy started following us asking for money.  He stayed with us for about 30 minutes or so...relentless.  Then we called a number and somehow got directed to a Century 21 office.  It was the most random turn of events ever.  All of a sudden, I found myself seated in front of a real estate agent who said he would help us find something within our budget.  So we went with him to visit some places.  It was getting pretty late, so we told him we would meet up with him the next day.  I don't think we did too bad though, for our first day of apartment hunting.

In the early morning on Tuesday, Sara and I headed down to Gulshan 1 to pick up a package sent by Mommy and Daddy through a gentleman whose daughter lives in Memphis.  He had just returned to Dhaka from being in Memphis for a couple of months, and was nice enough to bring me some things.  It was a little awkward because I didn't have much to say, and he didn't have much to say...but we did have some tea.  And now I have all seasons of The Office on DVD.  And a new raincoat, apparently.  Plus a water bottle and Afrin.  Pretty cool.  Came back home, and then called the real estate guy.  He wanted to show us this one place, but the building manager (after knocking on the door for 10 minutes) told us to come back later because he didn't have a key.  Weird, I know.  So we looked at some other places, but I wasn't really pleased with his performance on helping us find a place.  Felt like we were doing pretty well on our own the day before.  On Wednesday, we got to eat lunch with Tiffany, another Fulbrighter, and it was awesome to finally see her again!  We went to the Westin, again.  Delicious, again.  Afterwards, we went to Aarong, a popular clothing store.  Didn't buy anything.  Met with with Real Estate Guy (REG) again.  He was starting to piss me off.  We told him that we had a budget, and he keeps on taking us to places that are we above that.  I don't get it.  I don't like it.  I wish we never met him.  Sara and I came back very tired and not pleased. 

Thursday morning, we meet up with REG one more time to see one more place that he just KNOWS that we will love.  I am actually not so crazy about it.  Neither is Sara.   And it is huge.  Way too huge.  Like 1800 sq. ft. huge.  Do two young people need that much space??  I don't think so.  Later, we went to Pink City Mall and I helped Sara pick out a new outfit.  I even bargained the price down a lot!  I think my Bengali may be getting better without me really realizing it.  Cool.  Oh, I'm also getting sick.  Really really bad cough.  May be something serious.  After I got back from the mall, I just napped throughout the afternoon.  For dinner, Sara and I were invited to Lisa's house and Marci was there as well.  Marci is coincidentally from the same Michigan town as Sara, but they just met here!  Crazy small world.  Lisa and Marci are both working at BRAC.  Dinner was great, and we stayed for awhile.  I forgot my phone though, and when I came back, there were about 15 missed calls.  Frustrating.  I drank so much water that day...I don't think I've ever had that much water in one sitting in my life.  On Friday, I decided to be more proactive about my work and started looking for other potential places.  I contacted ICDDR,B...and got an immediate response.  Will set up a meeting time soon.  I'm exciting about that.  At night, Hans, Sara, and I went to a Vietnamese restaurant, Le Saigon, for dinner.  Sara knows the owner's wife through a friend of a friend, and there was a life music + dinner event going on.  It was actually pretty amazing.  A funk band, in Dhaka.  Yes, and they were great.  The food was awesome as well.  And the people there were like the most open-minded most liberal Bengalis I think I will ever meet.  It was pretty crazy.  I think I caused a car accident though afterwards.

Saturday, it rained.  It was the first time in a long time that I have actually felt the cold.  And it felt amazing.  I loved it.  I didn't even care that it was raining.  The fact that it was cold in Dhaka was great.  Probably not a good idea to run around in the rain though since I am sick.  Marci, Hans, Sara, and I decided to go shopping in Banani.  And to go to there on a rickshaw.  And to walk everywhere.  It was sweet.  We got pretty wet though.  I did wear my new raincoat that I got!  We ended up at the cutest gelato store though.  I had a piece of chocolate cake and some coffee.  Also good.  When I got back, I went to the hospital for my illness, and apparently I have some sort of lung infection.  I am now on a cocktail of antibiotics.  I got my blood drawn, which really scared me (really?  is the needle safe?).  I rewarded myself with buying some pizza for dinner.

We still need to find a place to live.  I need to find out what I want to do with my life.  But for right now, it seems like I'll be coming home in December for a little bet.  Yep, get excited!   

Monday, October 20, 2008

Two Months In

Dear Avid Readers, 

Sorry for the delay on this post.  I had a major migraine last night (and also did not have great internet access) and was not able to post this.  But here you go.  Last Sunday when I got back from my two week vacation from visiting my family, I wasn't really exciting about coming back to Dhaka.  I had a really great time with them, and a part of me just wanted to stay.  I took Sunday off from work and just stayed in, I was still really tired from the lack of sleep from the bus ride from the day before.  The next day though I built the energy to walk the 30 minutes to the IUB center.  The walk is really nice, most of its along Gulshan Lake, going into Baridhara.  But the heat here is ridiculous and by the time I get there, I am soaking wet.  I am not really one to sweat, and I wonder how most of the people here get by.  Once I get to work, I don't even really know what to do as I still do not really have an agenda.  After a couple of hours, I knock on Dr. Haque's door and I see that she is working on the spousal transmission report still.  I helped her with the wording for awhile but I felt bad because I had to leave early to meet up with Reaz.  I was happy to see him for the first time since I had gotten back.  We planned on going to Bashundhara Mall, which is where Daddy and I went when we first got into town.  It took forever to get there, and it was kind of uneventful...but still fun.  Afterwards, we went to eat at a restaurant that David has been raving about since we have been here, but it wasn't that great at all.  After dinner, we got dessert at the American Club and tried to play games...but I think it was pretty uneventful.  

Tuesday was a bummer day on a personal level (nothing related to anything here), but I noticed how beautiful the view of Gulshan is from Baridhara on my walk to and from work.  I found out that Dr. Rahman has dengue fever, something that apparently is extremely epidemic here; I guess that's why he hasn't been emailing me back.  I never know what to do at work.  I just sit in front of the computer and I guess look up things that would relate to what I want to do.  But I want to start doing research.  I feel like I'm back to square 1.  I'm not really hungry and I never ended up eating dinner.   I tried to go to sleep early but I got interrupted several times.  On Wednesday, Dr. Rahman finally emailed me back saying he wanted to meet before he left for his conference in California on the 20th.  After "work", I decided to explore my surroundings and walked around Gulshan.  I went to the market to look around.  I don't understand numbers very well in Bengali (they are very difficult) so I couldn't buy anything which made me sad.  I also walked in to a restaurant nearby the apartment that I have been eyeing for some time.  I just sat down and had a meal.  They didn't take credit card though and the lights went off and some point.  Typical in this country.  I was pretty tired by the time I came home.  I had to start moving my things to my new room because Sara was coming in the next morning...very early.  I also let David know that I am thinking about moving out of the apartment in general because the lack of my room not having an AC is a major factor of the huge rash across my stomach.  I just don't feel comfortable in that apartment.  

I woke up a little bit before 6 to prepare for Sara's arrival.  I finished all of my transfers just as soon as she rang the doorbell.  First we watched the presidential debates...I don't really know how I felt about it except that McCain has a stick up his ass.  Sorry.  I really didn't mind him that much until about a couple of weeks ago, and I really wish that I were in the States for all of this.  History is changing and I'm not there to witness it!!  I went to work afterward and came back to an empty house.  Guess David took Sara around the city.  I called Reaz and Hans to see if they wanted to grab some dinner, and also I wanted to go to the American Club to cast my absentee ballot.  I know it doesn't count, but it's the principle of the matter. (I don't care who you vote for, but GO VOTE!!)  Reaz was coming to pick me up, but then I realized that i was locked in the apartment because I still don't have a key.  Yes, after two months.  Another reason I kind of want to leave.  Finally got that resolved, voted, ate dinner.  Mediocre night.  Definitely decided I was moving out though.  Came home early though because I needed to get something done, and the rest of the group didn't come home until after 1, so I crashed on the tiny couch in the living area because I still didn't have a bed in my new room.  My sleep was interrupted many times that night.  No fun.  I realize that this marked my two months since I moved to Dhaka.  Wow, 7 more to go.  I hope I can make it.  

The next day I went to visit my second cousin in Dhanmondi.  I ate lunch, took a nap, and ate dinner at her place.  Played with her daughter who still can't talk.  I've decided I like kids who can talk rather than ones who can't.  The daughter did take a nap with me though, which was cute.  My relatives are so curious about my life in America.  Girls in this country do not get very much freedom it doesn't seem like.  They just go from the parents' house to their husband's house with no sort of independent stage in between.  I think their perception of American girls are ones who have promiscuous sex, drink incessantly, etc.  I told them they were wrong, but now that I think about it...it's not really that far off.  At least college girls.  Not all of them, but a good chunk...compared to the ones here.  Regardless, it was funny to have that conversation.  I didn't really want to go home because it was getting late so I was able to spend the night at the other second cousin's house.  She has a daughter who can talk...which proved to be much more fun.  The next day I was fed well, but I was itching to go home, but I couldn't really leave by myself.  I waited for my uncle to come pick me up, but he was running very late.  They made me take a shower there, which I wasn't happy about since I clearly didn't have another change of clothes.  I feel like these relatives don't think I can do anything on my own, which kind of makes me angry.  I don't know how to tell them that I'm actually very independent.  

I finally left and went to Reaz's aunt and uncle's apartment, where they had invited all of us over for tea and dinner.  Their apartment was absolutely amazing/gorgeous.  Reaz's uncle is an art collector, and his pieces are all over the apartment.  I don't think there is a place like this in all of Bangladesh.  And they were so welcoming.  It ended up being David, Sara, Hans, and a girl named Katherine that I guess that everyone had met while I was on my trip.  She was really nice though.  The food was excellent, as was the conversation.  We probably stayed longer than we should have, and Reaz walked me home afterwards.  We don't live too far apart which is nice!  Sara and I had a really nice talk once we got home, and I'm so glad that she's finally here.

I feel like I've been saying this forever, but I just want to be able to start work.  I want to devote my time and energy into something productive.  I also need to find another place to live.  I'm getting kind of tired of this. :(  I want to be able to unpack my suitcases and call somewhere home.  I still haven't been able to do that.  

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I am back in Dhaka after what seemed like a very short two weeks.  I stayed with the part of the family that is completely vegetarian, so I was finally able to get good food in large quantities.  I probably gained some weight which is good because I was looking pretty unhealthy before I left.  Relatives came from everywhere for Durga Puja, some of which I hadn't seen in over 10 years!  It was great having such a full house.  I got pretty sad the night before I left, which reminded me of the times when we would come visit family when I was little and I would never want to leave and would just cry continuously on the plane ride home.  Although I wasn't sobbing this time, it was still pretty hard to leave.  Anyway, here are some pictures from my trip!

This is the sign above my uncles' pharmacy shop.  For those who can't read Bengali, the sign reads "Sarkar Pharmacy" horizontally and "osudh" at the top and bottom, which means "medicine".  I thought it was cool.  :)

For Durga Puja, it is customary for people to go visit different pandals showing the Goddess Durga.  Communities build pandals starting a couple of months before the festival, many with really cool themes.  This picture is a typical pandal depicting Durga in her greatness.   

A picture of 8 out of the 9 cousins that Daddy grew up with.  Their mom is in the middle, and two little kids jumped into the picture at the last second.  This was the first time in many years that all of them were together.  The last time I saw all of them together was 14 years ago, when I came to see my uncle's wedding.  The uncle on the extreme right (wearing a black shirt) is the one who lives in Dhaka and who I have referred to before.

There were so many people in the house that we all ate upstairs on the floor of a room that under construction.  At the height of the festival, my aunts were cooking three heavy meals per day for over 25 people.  This was major family style dining! 

A picture of some of my cousins (actually my second cousins) and me.  This was taken the last night that we were all together, which is why some of them may seem a little bummed.  

My aunt on my mom's side and one of my cousins' 2.5 year old son.  Although he is a baby, he talked like an adult.  It was so cool!  Apparently he started to learn how to read as well.  Very very cute.   

I sadly lost my memory card which had pictures of my first month here.  But hopefully I will be taking more and more pictures, so look out for them!  That's it from me for now, check back next week!

Friday, September 26, 2008

So This is Research

So I've already broken my 'on Sundays' rule.  But since next week is Eid and I have a holiday break from work, I've decided to take the next two weeks to visit family.  But I thought I would update the world on what's being going on.  So this past Monday, I woke up early for my meeting with Dr. Rahman at IUB.  He said to meet him at his office at 9:30.  Always being the punctual one, I left around 9:00 but misjudged the traffic, arriving at about 9:05.  Better early, than late.  As I waited in the lobby of the building, I wondered how different campuses are here in Bangladesh compared to the ones back home.  I know so many people who base their college decisions on how beautiful the campus is.  That would never be a factor here. Anyway, I finally met up with Dr. Rahman, who soon cut our meeting short because he had another meeting with someone from the CDC.  I was told to wait in another room, which I did patiently for about an hour.  I was called back in to his office, where there were 3 MPH students, another professor, and a guy from the CDC.  I wasn't really sure what was going on, but from what I gathered, the CDC wanted to make some sort of link with IUB.  The CDC representative coincidentally been a Fulbrighter in Bangladesh a couple of years back.  I think I had come across an article about him in the past year...you know, me and my random google searches of "bangladesh" and "fulbright".  Afterwards, Dr. Rahman told me to go with the MPH students (two of whom were doctors) to another building.  There, I just saw where I would be working from now on and got some articles to read.  I  am pretty glad that I am finally able to start work.  Later that night, we got to meet up with Reaz, another Fulbrighter who just got in country last week.  It was nice to finally see him!  We went to the American club for dinner (blah), where we met two other recent American undergrads who are teaching in Dhaka for the year.  

On Tuesday, I went back to work.  The thing is, that all the articles that were given to me I have on my memory stick.  Also, the internet at the university is pretty awful.  Think about dial-up ten years ago.  So, I was thinking it might be easier to get things done at home, but it is actually nice to get out of the apartment.  I was given some extra articles and reports to go over, which is going to take me forever to get through.  Also, I talked to the program manager about getting me a desk and computer.  He said he would get everything fixed by the end of the holiday break, which is next week.  Everyone is so nice and extremely helpful.  Right now, I work in the computer lab and not in an office, and it's funny to see other students coming to check their Facebook accounts.  I guess some things really are the same wherever you go.  I've noticed that it takes me forever to go to sleep...around 2:30 to 3:00, and now because of work I try to wake up around 8:30 or so.  I guess I'm back in the college routine of getting about 5-6 hours every night.  When I got home on Tuesday, I was so tired though...I ended up sleeping through most of the afternoon and into the night.  

Work on Wednesday was a little pointless.  I didn't even get anything done, and ended up talking to Reaz on Gchat for a couple of hours.  I was surprised that Gchat even worked on the computers, but I was glad that it did.  I tried to make up for it by doing some reading when I got back home, which didn't work out as well as I hoped.  That night, I tried to be as productive as possible by working on my handwriting in Bengali.  This was much more of a fun project.  The next day was the last day of work before the big holiday break.  We had a meeting with Dr. Rahman on the report that will be submitted soon on spousal transmission of HIV.  Pretty much, married women are considered to be "innocent victims" if they are being infected because they are only partaking in sanctioned sexual activity (i.e. only being with their husbands).  So this report is calling for the need of female condoms and education for this subgroup.  Something that must be done, despite how difficult it will be.  Later that day, we ate at the American club, met a nice boy, Hans, who just graduated from high school who is doing research at ICDDR,B and will be here for the semester.  I don't know if I would be able to go so far away at his age.  Afterwards, David, Hans, and I went to a party at the U.S. Marine house.  Saw the ambassador there.  It was fine, got to meet some other people who are working here.  I did assume my regular position in such situations by just ending up sitting in a corner talking to Hans.  Oh, I did get to play some air hockey...which was nice.  

Today (Friday), I decided that I needed to walk around and to understand my surroundings.  Also, my phone had no money left in it, so I needed to take care of that.  I first walked to the Banglalink (my cellphone carrier) store which is not too far away.  But I couldn't put any money in it because that part of the store was closed since it was Friday.  Almost nothing is opened on Friday...no fun.  Afterwards, I decided to walk to the American club because I needed to talk to someone at the office about my bill for September.  I was always under the impression that it would take 20 minutes to walk there, but really...it's just a 5 minute walk!  And a nice one, at that.  My errand didn't take that long, but I was feeling pretty happy with my new found independence, that I treated myself to a coke and a slice of pecan pie.  That is something I miss the most here: dessert.  After that, I ended up talking to a man who spent much of his life in America, but recently moved back.  We talked for awhile, and by the time we finished...it was pouring outside.  Soo, couldn't really walk home.  I decided to wait a little, and then I bumped into Ana who was working on stuff.  So I just sat with her for awhile, and Emily came a little later.  By the time the rain subsided, it was pretty dark outside.  I wanted to be brave enough to walk back home by myself, but as everyone who knows me well knows, I'm completely afraid of the dark.  And there aren't any street lights here, so I couldn't see that well.  So I hailed a rickshaw, and the driver couldn't tell that I was a foreigner (since he asked for a pretty low price)...and that made me happy.  It started raining more on the way back so I gave him a little more than he asked for...it ended up being equivalent to 25 cents.  

These have been my adventures this past week.  I will be gone for two weeks; I don't have an exact date of when I'll be back.  So you can wait for a post until then!  

Also, thanks to everyone who has been sending me emails and such.  They make me so happy!  Please keep them coming.  : )

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Getting Out of the Apartment...and Dhaka

So for those who are reading this frequently, ok...so the 2 or 3 of you who are reading this frequently - I've decided that I'm going to start posting on Sunday nights.  I'm going to try my best to stick with that.  Since last time, I've actually had a lot of things going on!  Last Wednesday night, we had dinner with Ana and Emily, the two Fogarty Scholars who are doing research here at ICRR,B - the big cholera hospital in Dhaka.  We ate at Bella Italia, a cute little Italian (obviously) place in Gulshan 1, not very far from where we live.  It's so strange to have so much to talk about with people you don't know at all.  Ana was a Fulbrighter in Malawi after she graduated from UC Berkeley, and Emily goes to Vanderbilt...so there are clearly many common things between us.  Anyway, the food was good (I got a great vegetarian pizza), and afterwards David suggested that we stop by the Westin, the new 5-star hotel in Dhaka.  After attempting to bargain a price with a CNG driver, we squeezed ourselves into the back of the CNG...which proved to be less difficult then we had thought.  Once we got to the Westin, Ana decided that she wanted to go home, and I was so amazed at her Bengali skills as she told the driver how to get back to the apartment.  I keep telling David to start learning Bengali; hopefully he will soon.  So Emily, David, and I went into the Westin...it was like entering a whole different world.  I didn't even know I was in Bangladesh anymore.  And that kind of made me angry and upset a little bit...that there was this ostentatious hotel right in the middle of a city where screams poverty.  Regardless, Emily and David went to sit down while I went to look for a bathroom.  As I looked for the flush for the toilet, I must have pushed or pulled the wrong something or another, and fresh water started spraying all over me from the top of the toilet.  It was quite embarrassing, as I became soaking wet.  Emily and David soon came to help me, and even with the three of us, we could not figure out how to flush the toilet.  Very, very embarrassing.  As I was drying off (as much as I could), we started to have a conversation about how safe this country is and what precautions we should take and whether or not precaution inhibit experience.  I'm still trying to figure that out.  

On Thursday we were supposed to go to Bagha again for a picture exhibition, but I wasn't really up for it.  The day before, Ana and Emily invited us to go hiking with them on Friday in Srimangal, which is in Sylhet (another division of Bangladesh).  I knew we had to wake up early, so I didn't want to really stay out too late.  David had a meeting with Dr. Rahman, who told him to tell me to call him on Sunday to figure out work stuff.  Finally.  Some news.  I was worried there for a little bit because he hadn't answered my emails in awhile, and I was wondering if it was a mistake coming to Dhaka on such a whim.  On Saturday, I woke up very early, 5:25 to be exact, and packed my backpack with things I thought were necessary for a hike: first aid kit, Off! spray, juice packs, snacks, etc.  We met up with Ana and Emily and we were ready to go at 6:30.  We had to first drive to the bus station, which was pretty far away from where we live.  The girls we kind of worried that we weren't going to make it, but we got there probably 30 seconds before the bus left.  Let me back up a little bit though with my story.  We were going on this hike with another guy, Rafat, who is Ana's friend of a friend...but who is also a Fulbrigher from the 2007-2008 year.  He came last October, and is here until January.  Ana told us about Rafat at dinner the other night, and I had seen his name in emails that Shaheen had sent out, but I didn't meet him until the day of the hike.  And what a nice guy!  We took a bus from Dhaka to Srimangal, which took about 3.5 hours, with one rest stop.  I tried to sleep some on the bus, but I don't know how well that worked.  Once we got to our destination, Rafat introduced us to his friend, Dhellur bhai (bhai is a respectful term for men older than yourself).  Dhellur bhai helped us get a CNG to take us to the forest, and then we squeezed the 6 of us into one CNG!!  It was crazy...and of course, I was the one who was sat on a lap.  Once we entered the forest, we felt the temperature drop, which was such a relief.  We decided to take a four hour hike...although I was kind of under the impression that we were doing something low key.  But I am never the one to wimp out in a group, so on we went.  Also, since other people in our group were fasting because of Ramadan, I decided that I wouldn't eat either.  So, our hike was pretty strenuous, especially since I've been pretty lazy staying in and doing absolutely nothing these past few weeks.  Even more so because of the humidity.  Rafat really wanted to see some animals, especially some hulu gibbons (something close to a monkey without a tail.  We did see many huge spiders (I mean GIGANTIC) and interesting flora.  This area of Bangladesh is known for its tea plantations, so one can imagine what kind of things are grown here.  At one part of the hike, we some some tribal houses...it's crazy to think that there are people who live in such remote places in the world.  I mean, sure, you read it in National Geographic or see it on late night television...but to actually witness it was another thing.  We got to some wet parts of the hike where we caught some "friends", or leaches, who didn't so much want to let go of us.  I got a good number of them...and both of my ankles bled quite a bit.  I really didn't think I had it in me to finish the hike, but as I was telling someone the other night...there is something about hikes, you can't really quit them.  It was quite a relief to see our ending site.

We decided to leave Srimangal right after our hike because Rafat said there wasn't much to do especially since it was still during Ramadan.  We waited around for our bus a little, and I of course got a migraine having been out in the sun for too long.  The bus came about 25 minutes too late, so by then, we were ready to leave.  We said by to Dhellur bhai, who had been such a great help and who I walked with most of them time during the hike) and went on our way back to Dhaka.  Right before sundown, the bus stopped on the side, and everyone got off to break fast.  I finally got to see what a celebration Iftar dinner is.  And it was such a hole in the wall place where we stopped...we still don't know whether that was a planned stop or whether the drive just saw a place serving food and decided to stop there.  Who knows.  We arrived in Dhaka at about 8:00, and got  back to the apartment about 9:00.  I was exhausted, and after my second shower of the day, my ankles were still bleeding.  

The next day, I was so sore from the hike I just didn't want to get out of bed.  So I didn't...for a long time.  A little after 4:00, my uncle came and picked me up and we went around to see parts of Dhaka.  We went to a park where people apparently go to a lot, and it was actually really nice.  It was the first time though that I noticed mosquitoes biting me, though.  My cousin and her niece came and joined us a little later, and afterwards we went to a chinese restaurant.  Her niece, Priyatha, was very amused by the fish in the pond at the restaurant.  It was very cute.  After dinner, we went to Aarong, a department-type store...but it was very crowded since it's the holiday season.  So think Macy's on December 22nd or so.  No fun.  Afterwards, I came back to the apartment and talked to lots of people from back home, which was nice.  Today (Sunday), David and I went to the U.S. Embassy to see if we could register for absentee ballots.  It didn't take very long, but while we were there I saw all these people in line for something...probably to talk to someone about something important, and I'm sure they were going to be in line for hours.  I felt a little guilty finishing my business in less than 10 minutes.  Afterwards, we went to some stores so David could buy some souvenirs for friends and some art for the walls on his room.  Pretty successful, I think.  For dinner, had Chinese again..another restaurant though.  It was pretty good.  I have a meeting with Dr. Rahman tomorrow, which is a good sign!  I guess that means I'll start work soon.  I'll guess we'll see next Sunday.  :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Finding Expats

I need to find some sort of routine for my blog, so I've decided that this will be the last unexpected time I will blog.  Also, due to many requests, I have changed the color scheme so that it is a little easier to read.  I hope it worked!  David and I have remained pretty sedentary since we STILL haven't started working.  But we have been out and about some.  Last Monday, David finally got the boxes his mom sent him, which was nice because not we finally have wireless!! It's not perfect, but it is definitely something.  I've been using Skype some, and it's been nice to be talking to some people back home.  We also visited the US Commissary, which has a grocery store with American products.  It was pretty sweet...I tried to get a membership, but it didn't work out because I didn't have the right forms.  But I did get some Morning Star veggie burgers, Philadelphia cream cheese, and some other stuff too.  

On Wednesday, we went out to buy David a yoga mat.  The store was in the Gulshan 2 circle, not very far away from us.  I wondered if we were getting ripped off, which we probably were.  i really need to work on my bargaining skills here.  Later that night, we went to dinner with Geoffrey at the American Club.  Harvey, a guy who works at the Embassy, came and joined us.  I really need to find new places to eat!  But the dinner was nice, and it was good to catch up with Geoff.  Thursday was pretty dull, but we did go up to the roof of our building and were able to see a great view of the city.  Also on the roof, someone has place lots of plants and flowers...it's like a garden.

On Friday, I received an email from Emily, a medical student who is here on a Fogarty Scholarhip.  I met her roommaate Ana (also a Fogarty Scholar), earlier in the week at the ARA.  Emily goes to Vandy for med school, and Ana at Tufts.  We will be meeting up with soon, hopefully.  David and I ordered pizza for dinner from a place called Spaghetti Jazz - it was decent.  Later, we were getting pretty restless, so we decided to call Catherine, one of the FSOs (foreign service officer) who works at the embassy, to see what she was up to.  Catherine is only two years older than us, and is fun to be around.  She told us about a party at Bagha, the British club.  She came and picked up; I was pretty amazed by how many expats were there.  We finally met a whole bunch of people out age who are working in Bangladesh for an extended period of time.  It was great just talking to people about what they are doing here.  What I did noticed is that everyone tends to have the same idea about Bangladesh: not the greatest place in the world, but you kind of just deal with it.  I really hope that by the time I leave here, I have a positive attitude about the country.  Everyone seems so negative to just neutral.  Regardless, I had a great time at Bagha, and I'm sure I'll be there again.

The next day I was feeling very tired all day and I didn't do anything productive.  David and I did finish watching the first season of the horror show Dexter, which I think will give me nightmares for the rest of my life.  I slept with all of my lights on.  On Sunday, I woke up absolutely sick.  It was my first time being sick here, which I guess was inevitable, but it was no fun.  It could have been worse, but I stayed in bed all day.  On Monday, I had to back to the doctor so she could check up on my rash.  When we got to the hospital, they told me I didn't have an appointment, and that I would have to wait for an opening.  Turns out, the doctor just hadn't come in yet.  So I waited for three hours, and she saw me for about....oh, 4 minutes.  That was a little annoying.  And, she prescribed me petroleum jelly.  Yep, Vaseline.  Because I didn't bring enough of it with me from home.  Oh I don't know if I mentioned this earlier, but my rash from underneath my eye has spread sporadically over my body, which is not good.  So apparently Vaseline is the answer?  I don't think I'll be taking that advice.

I finally got my sponsor letter from IUB, so hopefully that means I'll really be working soon.  Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing here, and I remember that I'm supposed to be research!  I really want to start working, but I guess it's not really up to me at this point.  Hopefully in the next week or to.  Definitely by the time Ramadan ends.  We shall see.  

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Looking for Adventures

Well, since I last posted, not too much has gone on.  On Wednesday, I had my meeting at the American Center.  I was pretty intimidated to go out by myself, but I think I did pretty well.  I'm surprised that I can get around the city with my Bengali...the only thing I need to learn are numbers.  One would think that this would be pretty easy, but I can't see a pattern in the Bengali numbering system.  I'm sure it's there; it just has never made itself apparent to me.  On my way to the American Center, I hopped on a CNG (baby taxi); the driver said it would cost 40 Tk (1 US dollar = 68 Tk).  He didn't realize that I wasn't from around here until halfway there, so he asked for more money when I got to the center.  But I gave him the 40 Tk and left.  At the American Center, Shaheen brought in a guy who works for USAID to see what I could do for my project.  It was kind of helpful, but I insisted that I keep my affiliation to IUB.  This man (who got his MPh from Hopkins) had never heard of Vandy, so he lost brownie points from me.  Some people might think that would be normal, but ever since Yunus got the Nobel Prize, most Bangladeshis know about Vanderbilt since Dr. Yunus did get his PhD there.  Regardless, on the way back, CNG drivers were asking for 100 Tk from me.  I guess they saw me coming out of the American Center, but I bargained one driver down to 50 Tk.  It was probably still a rip off. 

David and I have been going to the American Club frequently.  The food there is decent, and I guess it's nice to hear people speaking in English.  It also has great wireless, which is a plus.  There are many small children who play there, and I wonder what it would be like to be living in this country as an small American child.  As much as I would like to think how awesome that would be, I feel like they are missing out on so much in America.  I don't know though.  David has also taught me how to play darts, which I feel like we will be playing a lot of this year. We are also trying to meet other Americans our age, just to have other people around.  We met a girl today who is on a Fogarty grant...she's a med student at Tufts and her roommate is at medical school at Vandy.  

One night at the American club there was an extremely intoxicated girl who was unknowingly embarrassing herself.  I was amused because this kind of seen is so typical in Western culture (especially college culture), but I almost felt uncomfortable watching her because I knew that was definitely not a social norm in Bangladesh.  I feel like I'm sharing this story because it's weird knowing that you have to act a certain way when you go to other countries.  

I kind of feel bad not having any more interesting stories to tell.  I haven't really had the chance to go explore yet, but hopefully soon.  As for my research, I need to get my letter of support from IUB, and then I guess I'll start working after that.  Oh, and we finally got wireless in the apartment (yay!!).  So I can finally skype! 

Speaking of which, if people want to call me or send me letters and stuff, let me know and I'll give you my contact information.  And I think that's it for now.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

In Dhaka

I'm finally in Dhaka.  I haven't quite settled in, but it will happen soon.  Everything has happened so quickly, I haven't even had a chance to think about what happened in the last few days.  I am really sad that things didn't work out at YPSA, and I wonder if the decision to leave was influenced by everyone telling me that my living conditions were awful.  But I feel as though I'll be able to conduct "real" research here, even though I don't really even know what that means.  So right now, I'm living with David in Gulshan, a pretty nice part of town.  Daddy left on Monday night, which I think was also the start of Ramadan.  So I'm really kind of alone now, having to talk to people with my very broken Bengali.  I feel like I will be getting ripped off a lot for transportation too because people can tell that I'm a foreigner.  I might have mentioned this before, but I really feel like I've been here forever.  I can't even imagine what it will be like to be here for 9 months.  

I'm also really disconcerted about my environment.  This is a country where (I feel) that women are treated as equals, nor should they feel like they should be.  Clearly, as someone who went to an all-girls school for 14 years growing up thinking that women were of course equal, if not better than men, this bothers me a lot.  People also stare at me a lot, which perhaps I've mentioned as well.  I just don't get it.  I guess this is where "cross-cultural understanding" comes in.  Today, I went to the ARA (American Recreational Association) to become a member.  I saw all these American kids running around playing with each other, and I thought about how interesting it would be to live in different countries as a child.  Most members are in some way related to the Embassy, which I guess is why all of the Fulbrighters are allowed to join as well.  

I met the cook, Rita, today as well.  She seems really nice, and it's funny because she speaks to me in Bengali and to David in English.  But we are paying her a lot, which I don't really agree with, but whatever.  My cook at YPSA cooked for me as well as for the entire staff (about 25-30 people), and she only got an equivalent of $25 a month.  Rita is getting paid $120 a month, most probably because of her experience with foreigners/ability to understand English.  

I'm feeling really useless right now, especially since I'm not doing any work.  Tomorrow I have a meeting with Shaheen at the American Center to discuss my project.  Apparently, they have a problem with my affiliation with IUB and want me to work with some other organization.  I don't think they realize that a huge reason for why I came to Dhaka was so that I could work with Dr. Rahman as IUB.  I'm going to have to explain that to them tomorrow.  I'm also nervous about having to travel by myself to the meeting because I'm not really sure how to get to the American Center.  

So I guess I'm a little lonely and distressed just because I don't know what I'm doing here.  I've really tried these past two weeks to be super upbeat about everything, but lately I've found it a little more difficult to keep that up.  Hopefully by the time I write my next entry things will have worked out positively.  

Thursday, August 28, 2008

So Much in One Week!

I'm pretty sure that as I was writing the last blog, I got a call from Shaheen (the Fulbrighters' contact with the US embassy in Dhaka) telling me that there was going to be a reception in Dhaka on Wednesday and she really wanted to me to be there. Well, I didn't want to give a definite answer right away because it takes about 6 hours to get to Dhaka from Chittagong and I felt bad because Daddy is leaving on the following Monday. Besides that, Janmashtami was a much bigger deal than I previously thought. Even though there is only one government holiday for it, it is actually celebrated by Hindus for three days straight. It's really crazy. So on Sunday (where I left off), we went to a parade, which was fun...but then I got an awful migraine afterward I guess because I wasn't wearing my sunglasses and it was super hot. So that lasted the rest of the day, which kind of sucked because we were invited to go to dinner at someone's house and I wasn't a particularly lively guest. But I felt ok in the morning, which was good because I got to go to one of the clinics YPSA has for their sex worker clients. It was super interesting...I sat in on one of their classes as they taught them how to tell whether someone has an STD or not and that even if a person looks normal just walking around, they can still be infected. It still amazes me that this kind of progressive education is happening in such a conservative country. I feel like so many people in Tennessee alone wouldn't be able to give me one fact about STDs. Anyway, once I came back from the clinic apparently my work for the day was done. We also had decided to go to Dhaka on Wednesday, so I let Shaheen know of that decision. We went to another Janmashtami celebration, but a weird thing happened there. As my dad, uncle, and I going in the line to get to where the actual stuff was going on, everyone kept yelling at us. I clearly did not understand what was going on, but then we soon realized that we were walking in the "boys" line, and I was not welcomed there, and I had to walk in the "girls" line. Daddy was not particularly happy about this, and I was just completely confused. Different lines to get in the same place?? So we just went through enother entrace because their barrier system was so ineffective. It was completely ridiculous. Anyway, I didn't really understand what was going on during the actual celebration, but it was fun nonetheless. The next day we went to the Head Office of YPSA to get some administrative stuff out of the way. While I was there though, I got to see my file they had compiled, and I noticed that they had listed me as an International Volunteer. I thought about that for a little, and that kind of bothered me because as a Fulbrighter, I'm supposed to be doing actual research, not volunteer work. I was afraid something like this would happen, so I mentioned this briefly to my "boss" whose name is Kochi, but she assured me that everything would be ok. Regardless, I was still a little worried. Afterwards, we tried to get the internet situation fixed, but no one apparently deals with macs so the cool phone connection I was going to get didn't work out. So now, the new plan was to share the internet line that the office is using...or something like that (i'm not sure why we didn't think of that before). Regardless, once that ordeal was done, it was way night time. The next day we had to get ready to leave for Dhaka again, but this time we took the train instead of the bus which was a cool experience. Once we got there, we went to check in at the hotel and then went straight to eat lunch at one of my uncles' in-law's house. Random, I know. But they were really nice, and had a cute toddler. I can't even comprehend how awful the traffic is in Dhaka. Even though we got there at 1:00 and the reception party was at 7:00, there was no way we could actually get anything done besides lunch in between. So I got to the reception, and it was really nice seeing everyone again. I saw David, who got in a couple of days after me, and we started talking for awhile. After some time, David's sponsor for his research, Dr. Rahman came over and talked to us, and he seemed pretty interested in what I was doing. Anyway, to make this short, he seemed to say that if I wanted to, I could come to Dhaka and he would give me a sponsorship. I don't know if I've been relaying this enough, and it's not that YPSA has not been generous, but the living situation isn't swell. It's on the 7th floor, there isn't an elevator...and that's a lot of climbing to do even for an active person. The electricity goes out ALL THE TIME, which is really annoying. And not for like 1 or 2 hours, it can go out for 8 or 10 hours. And as work, it doesn't really seem like I can get legitimate research done. So after the reception was over, I discussed things over with Daddy and I decided that this move is probably for the best. So today (Wednesday), we had to tell everyone at YPSA that I was planning on leaving not even after a week of staying, and they were not so thrilled, obviously. I mean, I'm even upset about it because I've been in contact with these people for over a year now. But in Dhaka, it will be a better living situation (I would be living with David and Sara) and hopefully a better research situation. So I should leave, right? What is done is done though, and now we are set to pack our bags again and leave for Dhaka on Saturday. I'm so tired right now, my sleeping schedule is still not on track. I really have only so much energy right now...I hope that everything works out. Hopefully by the time I write the next blog, I'll have something exciting, yet stable to say.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Never Ending Journey and Finally In Country

I finally made it! I made so many observations, hopefully I can remember them all as I type. For those who don't know, I am traveling with my dad who thinks I can't do this on my own...so he is staying with me for two weeks so I can get settled in. Anyway, we left Memphis on Saturday afternoon and soon found out that three out of four of our suitcases were over the 50 pound limit. I really didn't think I packed that much, but apparently that wasn't the case. But we shifted things around a bit, and the only things I had to leave behind were my rain boots (big mistake!) and soon enough, we were on our way. Our first flight was from Memphis to Atlanta, where I was able to get my last bit of American food. Then we went from Atlanta to London (Gatwick), which was not so bad. Food was a little dry, and there was the typical crying baby in the row across from us. The movie 21 was on, which I had been wanting to see for some time, and it kept me entertained for a good 2 hours. The flight took much longer than I had expected, and I was disappointed that we had two long flights ahead of us. From London we flew to Dubai, and it was interesting to see the different types of people changing from plane to plane (I'll explain a little later). The Dubai airport was sweet...it looked a little bit like Las Vegas at first. And what a melting pot of people! I mean, more so than the other airports that I had been to in the past 24 hours. Then, it was finally time for the last leg of the journey. The gate to Dhaka was a sight. I'm guessing that it was 85% male, most probably going home for the first time in 4 or 5 months. Something I noticed is that there is no idea of "personal space". This is something that is very much valued (I think) in Western culture, and was no where to be seen in the airport, in the plane, anywhere. Sleep had also been out of whack since the first flight, but I was relieved when we finally landed at Zia International in Dhaka. The Embassy had told us that someone would be there to greet us and take us through customs, but we didn't see anyone once we got off the plane. I got a little nervous, but once we got downstairs, there was a guy who had a piece of paper in his hand with my name printed on it in bold caps. Getting our luggage took FOREVER. The personal space issue again came into place then as well. An embassy car came to pick us up, but an uncle (dad's cousin) and two second cousins I don't ever remember meeting and one of their little girls came to greet us at the airport as well. They brought flowers, which was nice, but we only said hi to them for about five minutes and went off in the embassy car. We stopped by the embassy to pick up a packet with some information and off we went to the hotel, where we were able to settle in for a bit. This is now Monday Dhaka time, so it really took two days to get here. Monday we didn't do much...I just slept all day, tired from jet lag and lack of sleep from the flight. At night, we ate at one of the hotel restaurants...not that impressive by any means, pretty bland actually. Tuesday we went to a mall and bought a phone and some clothes for me so I can keep a low profile and not stick out like a sore thumb. The mall was huge! I've never really seen anything like it before. I should have taken some pictures of it, it must have been ten floors or so. That night, we went to the house of daddy's friend who had been taking us around the city. The food there made my stomach feel a little bad, and his wife told me straight up that my bengali was awful...which is true, but come on now. Which brings me to another point: people are very straight forward here. Where in America people might think a comment is very rude, here is considered very normal. Yay for cross-cultural understanding! Anyway, the next day (Wednesday) I had the security briefing with the embassy and a meeting with Shaheen at the American Center. I'm a little sad that I won't be working in Dhaka and be around the other Fulbrighters. I got to see Geoffrey Hiller (one of the Fulbright Scholars I met in DC at orientation) which was nice. That night we went to eat at one of the second cousin's (who met us at the airport) house and I got to play with her 2 year old daughter. It's crazy to think about all these people I'm distantly related to and I don't really know them. The next day (Thursday) we woke up early (about 5:30) to leave for Chittagong. The only reason we stayed in Dhaka for so long, or at all really, was that I needed to complete the security briefing at the embassy. But now that was over, it was time to get to the actual destination. We took one of my uncles with us (my dad's cousin's husband) who actually lived in Chittagong for a long time and knows the city pretty well. The bus ride took a good 6.5 hours, but I was able to catch a glimpse of the Bangladeshi terrain along the way. Once we got off the bus and we were taking our luggage out, a woman came up to me and asked me if I was studied in America. I told her, "Yeah, I was born there", and she laughed a little. I realized then I have to really try to mix with the people. We took a little minibus to where YPSA (pronouced "eep-sha", not Y-P-S-A) and I finally got to see where I will be working and living for the next year. Not bad, I will post pictures when I get a chance. I live on the 7th floor, but there is no elevator. I have a little room, maybe the size of a big double in a Towers suite at Vanderbilt, maybe a little smaller. I have a bathroom, but not much else. Since I'm at the top, I can get up on the roof of the building really easily, which is nice. I'm in a nice part of the town, which I was told earlier, but that's really not saying much. Everywhere you go, it's dusty, muddy, and the sun is just beating down on you. We went to a market, and I made the mistake of wearing jeans and a T-shirt. Everyone stared at me. It was slightly uncomfortable. We also went to my uncle's friend's pharmacy store. His friend is much of a philosopher type. He thinks that I don't understand Bengali, so he keeps talking to me in English...but I don't understand him when he speaks English...it's much of a problem. Friday is the "weekend", and is the only day that I get off, but daddy didn't really want to see the city because it was too hot. That night though we had to go see another family and eat dinner there. They had two sons, the older one apparently a genius. He came and talked to me, and it was nice finally being able to speak in English to someone (he goes to an English-medium school). They want to send him to Engand or maybe American next year (he's in 12th grade now) to go to college and then later medical school. For hours all we heard was "oh he's brilliant", "oh he's at the top of his class" blahblahblah. Anyway, I found it a little inappropriate that they did not even introduce us to their younger son, but those of you who know me well know that I can empathize with that younger son. The next day was my first day of work (work on a Saturday?? craziness!!) , but I really didn't get to do much. It was more of an official thing. I went to the head office, and made sure all of my information was correct in my file. After that, we looked for some sort of internet situation for me (right now I'm using the office internet), but I'm going to have to wait for a few extra days. Finally, today (Sunday) is a national government holiday, so no work today because of Janmashtami, which is the celebration of Krishna's birth. I guess that should be somewhat analagous to Christmas, but it's not as big of a holiday (it doesn't seem like). Nonetheless, there is no work, and we got to see a parade on the street and I'll put those pictures when I get a chance. Ok, sorry this entry is so super long but I will update sooner from now long since I will hopefully get internet soon!

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Thanks for visiting my blog!  I will be using this blog to write down my thoughts and some of my experiences during my year in Chittagong, Bangladesh.  For those of you who do not know, I will be conducting research with the NGO Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) and analyzing HIV/AIDS preventive methods that are being implemented in the country.  I have no idea what to expect, but I am hoping that the transition will not be too hard.  Right now, I am furiously packing and getting everything together as I am leaving in less than two days.  I will write again once I am in the country, and I will hopefully provide more contact information (phone, address, etc.).  

Also, please feel free to email me!  I want to know what everyone is up to, and I promise to email you back!