Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fulbright Blog
Place: Dhaka
Date: December 31, 2006

Hooray! I finally have my own apartment! After losing two apartments in Dhanmondi, I finally found a lovely (and HUGE) apartment in Gulshan! I have been living in Mohammadpur (another Dhaka neighborhood) in Shefali's guesthouse since I arrived. I am glad that I had an opportunity to stay there because I was able to experience a side of Dhaka that I probably would not otherwise have been able to (it is a working class neighborhood and I got to know Shefali's family very well), but I am glad to be finally getting my own place. I was originally hoping to live in Dhanmondi because I really like the neighborhood and it is close to work. I found two apartments that I liked there, but the first landlord (bariwala) wanted a five year lease and I ended up losing the second apartment because I spent too much time trying to obtain the first.

After speaking with my friends I decided to open up my search to include Gulshan - the nicest neighborhood in Dhaka and the place where most of the expats live. Initially I didn't want to live there because it is very residential (as a New Yorker, I like the "city feel" of Dhanmondi) and because it is so far from my office (with traffic it can take over an hour to get from Gulshan to Mohammadpur). In the end, however, my current apartment is so noisy that I actually won't mind the quiet of Gulshan. Plus, I can do most of my work from home if I get an internet connection. Finally, the American Center, the American Club, and other expat clubs are located in Gulshan so I will have more of a social life by living here...

My apartment is a lovely three bedroom, three bathroom place near Gulshan Park. It has lots of light and I have coconut trees outside of my window. The drawing room (what Bangladeshi's call the living room) is enormous - bigger than many New York studio apartments - and I also have a large open dining/living/family area. (Most Bangladeshi houses are separated into a public area and a private area where only family is allowed. A practice with ancient roots and modern relevance in devout Muslim families where the women are only allowed to be seen by family members.) My apartment also has four air conditioners (a HUGE plus since it is very hot here most of the year and air conditioners in Dhaka cost almost $1,000 a piece), hot water, light fixtures, and fans. Plus, my apartment has a generator, so I will no longer have to go hunting for candles in the dark every night.

You Americans are now probably thinking, "Wow! Hot water and light fixtures! What luxuries!" (in an extremely sarcastic tone in your head), but they actually ARE luxuries here. Most apartments do not come with them. Most people in Dhaka boil water to have hot water for their bath; the wealthier ones spend a few hundred dollars for a water heater. (The first few weeks I was here I could have gone without hot water because it was so hot, but it does get much colder here in the winter - especially early in the morning and at night - and taking an icey shower is not really comfortable in 65 degree weather. Trust me! I have been doing it for weeks!) Tenants also buy their own fixtures - not just refrigerators and stoves, but lights and ceiling fans too.

All in all, I am quite happy with my new living situation. My landlord is very nice and I apparently live on an international floor. There are four apartments on each floor. On my floor there is a Bangladeshi family, a Danish family, a woman from Singapore, and me. I met the Bangladeshi man and he is very nice. Apparently his wife is a famous Bangladeshi actress too! (Did I mention that my landlord is also a movie producer?)

I will sign my lease on January 2nd and will move in on the 3rd. Now I just need to find a new boua! (And a bed might be nice too...)


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