Monday, November 13, 2006

Fulbright Blog
Date: November 13, 2006
Place: Dhaka

The political situation is dicey again... The Awami League has decided to blockade the country to protest the caretaker government. There are rumors that the army might be deployed today to help maintain order. The BNP also made an announcement that they would not let the blockade go on, so they might decide to take to the streets in the next few days too which would mean utter chaos!!

What is interesting to me is that the election is just a month and a half away, but I have not heard any campaining or talk of candidates yet! They just keep arguing over the neutrality of the election commission...

Because of the potential for riots, all of the cars and buses are off the streets again today (as they are usually targets for violence), which actually makes it quiet and peaceful around here! I take a rickshaw to work anyway...

Speaking of transportation, I thought I would give you an overview of transportation in Dhaka... There are several ways to get around here:

Bus
The large public buses are so beat up that it looks like they are wood boxes covered in tin foil. They spew a noxious black smoke into the air and are generally so crowded that you can see legs and arms sticking out of the window.

Mini Bus
These are like the songthaews in Thailand except they are white instead of red. I am not really sure how they work as I have never taken one, but I do see them on the streets all of the time...

Private Car
Upper class Bangladeshis all have their own cars with drivers. You will often see groups of drivers talking together outside of the parking garages while their employers go shopping...

Yellow Taxi
These are air-conditioned, metered taxis. Usually the meter is "broken", however, so you need to bargain for the fare. Sometimes if you offer to give the driver the meter fare plus 10 to 20 taka the meter will be miraculously fixed...

Blue/Black Taxis
These are smaller, not-so-nice, unair-conditioned taxis. These are also metered and the fares are generally less than the yellow taxis, but the "broken meter" rule still applies...

CNGs/ Baby Taxis
These are little green three wheeled vehicles that run on natural gas. They are kind of like a cross between a rickshaw and a car. The fares for CNGs are even less expensive, but in the month that I have been here, I have only found one where the meter "works"! Also, after the security briefing at the Embassy, there is no way that I would take one of these alone at night!!

Rickshaws
My favorite mode of transportation. These are tricycles with a seat at the back driven by a rickshaw wala. Each one is painted with a unique, brightly colored design. They have a little canopy that you can put up, but I am too tall to use it, so I always ask them to keep it down. I like rickshaws because you are more connected with the city than you are in a car. The only trick is staying on them, as some of the seats slant down quite severely and the roads are very bumpy here. I found that if I push my feet against the foot rest and grab the sides when we turn, I manage to stay on quite well though! I take a rickshaw to work everyday. I also use them to visit my friends in nearby Dhanmondi. (Since they are man-powered, it is not practical to take them very long distances...)

I have decided to remove the photos from my earlier blog entries to show you some pictures of Dhaka here.

CNGs, a bus, and a yellow taxi

Rickshaws

A fabulous little vegetable vendor in Dhanmondi. One advantage of living here is that I get really fresh vegetables every day!

A typical Dhaka street...

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