Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Fulbright Blog
Date: October 18, 2006
Place: Dhaka

After a few more Biman delays, I did eventually get on the plane to Dhaka. Here are a few interesting observations about my flight:
  1. On the plane, before the safety instructions, they played a prayer to Alla in Bangla (with English subtitles).
  2. On the Disembarkation Card, I had to enter either my husband's or my father's name.
  3. The girl sitting in front of me vomited everywhere. Why do I keep sitting next to vomiting people?
  4. They played a video at the end of the flight with very explicit instructions of what to do after landing - how to fill out the forms, where to go in the airport, what transportation is available into the city, where you can shop, etc.
  5. 90% of the passengers on the plane were male; 85% percent of the people in the airport were male. In a country with 140 million people, there have got to be more women somewhere! I am making it my mission to find out where they are hiding!
  6. People kept bringing their children up to me and asking me if I would look after them for a couple of minutes while they went to get a cart, etc.
When I arrived in Dhaka, Sajal, a representative from the US Embassy, met me. He expedited my passage through immigration and customs, which meant that I did not have to wait an hour in line to get my passport stamped nor did I have to pay a large duty to bring all of my electronic equipment into the country. (Thank goodness for Sajal!)

The traffic on the way to Shefali's house was really bad - like New York at rush hour - because it is still Ramadan and everybody leaves work between 3:30pm and 4:30pm to be home for the 5:40pm meal. (I arrived at 3:30pm.) During Ramadan, Muslims eat breakfast around 4:30am and then fast until sunset. At 5:30-6pm they then eat fried foods (apparently for the calories.) The big feast that ends Ramadan is in a week on October 24th...

After having to ask a few people for directions, we were finally able to find Shefali's house. Apparently, she owns the whole building, and lives on the top floor. Her family leaves on the 3rd and 4th floors, and she rents out the second floor to students. She was still at work when I arrived, but I met the two other women who live in the apartment that I will be living in (until I can find my own place) - Emily and Hanako. Hanako is Japanese and she is simultaneously learning English and Bangla. I spoke a few words of Japanese to her and she said that she would help me with my Japanese and Bangla.

Emily's friend Kaylie also stopped by for a visit. Emily and Hanako made us dinner and then they shared some tips and tricks with me on how to get around in Bangladesh and where to find things. As they were preparing dinner, the lights went out. Apparently, the electricity goes out 4-5 times a day here. (It went out again this morning too...) It came back about 20 minutes later though. We ate dinner by candlelight. I joked that it was very nice of Emily and Hanako to provide a candlelight dinner for my arrival!

Around 8:30pm Shefali came downstairs to meet me. We were both very happy to finally meet in person! As I was very tired, we only talked briefly, but she invited me to have breakfast with her this morning.

At 8am, I went upstairs to her apartment and we had a lovely talk about our goals and living in Bangladesh. She took me to her office with her. I initially thought that there might be some difficulty getting me access to the internet, but I just misunderstood as they were speaking in Bangla instead of English. I was actually just waiting for my office to be cleaned! Shefali has kindly given me my own airconditioned office with a computer! I am quite happy!

I just downloaded Skype onto this computer, but I need to get another headset, because my old one was damaged in transit. (Actually the guy at the airport hotel that I stayed at dropped the suitcase with all of my electronics that I had very carefully carried with me all over southeastern Asia! I was very upset. I am hoping that the only thing that was damaged was the headset...)

Anyway, this afternoon I am just getting settled in. Then Shefali is taking me shopping! I got to wear one of my saris today. Airport security confiscated all of my safety pins, however, so when I went up to Shefali's for breakfast, she gave me some pins and helped correct the fit of the sari. I really like wearing saris! I feel so pretty!

This week I will work on putting the rest of my photos from my vacation together...

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