Thursday, October 19, 2006

Fulbright Blog
Date: October 19, 2006
Place: Dhaka

Yesterday was such a great day! After breakfast, Shefali and I went to the office together. She put me in a room with three other women and then started talking rapidly in Bangla so I didn't understand what she was saying. I had asked her if there was a place where I could check my e-mail, and she took me to that room where there were three computers. I thought that I was supposed to use one of them, but there were three women in the room using those three computers. One of the women let me borrow her computer to send off a quick e-mail to everyone to let them know that I arrived in Dhaka safe and sound. After that though she had to go back to work, so I just sat there a bit confused.

About a half an hour later, another woman came in and told me that my office was ready. I had no idea that I was even getting an office, so I was pleasantly surprised to not only get an office to myself, but to get a corner office with air conditioning (which is rare here)! So I now have easy access to a computer and the internet...

I spent the first half of the afternoon getting settled in, and then a woman came by and told me that lunch was ready. Apparently, for about 50 cents a day I get a nice, home cooked lunch by the office cook! The food was fantastic! Initially when they took me downstairs, there were only about 6 or 7 men there eating. I was surprised that anyone was eating since it is Ramadan and Muslims are fasting. Perhaps the men were Hindu... As I was finishing my lunch, two women came down to eat too. One, Yasmin, is Muslim, but pregnant, so she is allowed to break the fast. The other, Teresa, is Catholic, so she doesn't observe Ramadan. They both spoke English, so I chatted with them for awhile. They both said that they loved my sari. In fact, my saris have been getting quite a bit of attention. Apparently a sari is a more formal outfit here and is worn mainly by older and professional women - it is the Bangladesh equivalent of a suit in the business world. Most of the younger people wear shalwar kameez...

After lunch, I went upstairs to work for another hour, and then Shefali stopped by and she took me shopping! I only brought three saris with me (thank you Thevaki for helping me buy them!) and only one of my blouse pieces was wearable (one other still needed to be sewn and the other one was too small in the arms...) I intended to also buy a few shalwar kameez too, but I was just really drawn to the saris. The fabrics were so beatiful. It is funny, because I said that I really was looking forward to wearing bright colors, but when I look at the saris (6!) that I brought home, they are all still kind of neutral colors. The store that we stopped at did not have a very large selection of brighter saris. All of the saris that I bought were cotton, which is very practical for daytime wear. This weekend I think that I will buy more saris and a few shalwar kameez...

The lifestyle here is actually fantastic! Having servants will take a bit getting used to though. The doorbell rang yesterday and I went to answer it when my boua (maid) rushed in front of me to get it. Shefali asked me if I wanted a ride to work yesterday. When we went downstairs to her car, she got in the back and her driver opened the door for me! When I arrived at work, a woman was waiting there to get me some tea. Another one took my order for lunch, and a third person went upstairs to clean my office. It is actually really nice to have help with all of the little stuff. Not only has it helped ease my transition, but I can see how it would make me much more productive. I think I could get used to this VERY easily!!

Some cultural observations for the day:

  1. Everybody here eats with their right hand (not the left, because that is used for washing in the toilet).
  2. Talking with your mouth full seems to be culturally acceptable
  3. There are THOUSANDS of people here!


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