Monday, December 11, 2006

Place: Dhaka
Date: December 11, 2006

I spent the last two days hunting for a new apartment. I decided that I want to live in the Dhanmondi neighborhood. It is a nice residential/commercial area that is rickshaw distance from my office. Most of the wealthy Bangladeshis live there. Most of the expats live in the Banani and Gulshan neighborhoods which are in the northern part of Dhaka. It can take about 45 minutes to an hour by taxi to get from Dhanmondi to Gulshan...

I ultimately decided to rent instead of buy because most of the "ready made" (i.e. already built) apartments that are for sale are not as nice as those available to rent and the cost per month to own would be significantly higher. While foreigners can own real estate in Bangladesh, there is a 25% transfer tax (for everyone, not just foreigners) on all real estate purchases. Since I don't know if I will be in Bangladesh for more than a year, I decided that renting makes more sense at this point.

I looked at about 20 apartments yesterday and narrowed it down to three that I liked. I visited the first two thinking that it would be the third one that I would like the best because I had a good impression of it from the day before. When I returned to the third apartment, however, it was much smaller than I remembered and there was not as much light as I thought. None of the three apartments screamed out to me. I saw almost every available apartment in the nicer parts of Dhanmondi yesterday, however, so if I want to move I must chose from these three. (Renting apartments is not nearly as common here as in other cities in the world...)

The apartment that I am now leaning toward is very large and is across the street from the Dhanmondi Lake. The apartment that I am looking at, however, is unfortunately in the back of the building, so there is not a view and not very much light. The ceilings are very high though and there is a lot of space. Plus, the kitchen has room for an oven (most don't) and it looks like some very nice closet units come with the apartment.

The other apartment that I am thinking about (I think I have eliminated the third choice) has lots of light and is on the top floor. It has a view of a courtyard garden and the entry way is very nice. It only has one large common room, however, instead of a separate drawing room for guests like most of the apartments here have. (The drawing room is like an American living room, except that it is actually used when guests come over! The family room is generally where the TV is.) It is a bit smaller than the one across from the lake, but still quite spacious.

Unfortunately, I had to run back to Mohammadpur for my Bangla lesson, so I didn't have time to make a decision. I think that I will go back to both of the apartments that I am considering tomorrow and hopefully I will be able to make a decision then.

My Bangla lesson always begins with a conversation in Bangla. Today my apartment search was the topic of our conversation. I told her about the locations and the number of bedrooms of each of the apartments that I am considering. Then I wanted to tell her about the light so I said "ota apartment onek alu". Sadly, "alo" is actually the word for light so what I really said was "that apartment has a lot of potatoes." My Bangla teacher almost fell off of her chair she was laughing so hard! The words are so similar, however, that I kept making the mistake, so after about five minutes of conversation we were both rolling on the floor laughing thinking of apartments filled with potatoes! Ah the difference a letter makes...



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