Sunday, September 21, 2008

Getting Out of the Apartment...and Dhaka

So for those who are reading this frequently, 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 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 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'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.  :)

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Just letting you know that even though I'm a horrible friend and never contact you, I do read your blog regularly...this gives me a little happiness knowing that you're doing well. I got my parents to mail my headset so skyping will be in order soon...