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'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!