Sunday, February 25, 2007

I Go to Hamida's House
February 25, 2007

Today I was invited to go to Hamida's house. We took a rickshaw to Baridara (the neighborhood just east of Gulshan) where she lives. I was there last week too, but her children were not home, so she invited me back this week because they are there visiting. (Hamida's two younger children live in her gram with her mother. The oldest boy lives at home with her and her husband.) Last week when I was there they were building a new sewer, so the odor was quite terrible. This week, however, they finished building the pipe and the sewer line was all paved over.

Hamida's house is a bit nicer than Fatima's house was. It has two rooms with four cement walls and a corrogated tin roof. It is built on wetlands, however, so she has water on both sides of her. I am a bit worried about what will happen to her house when monsoon seasoon starts, as the water level is already quite high.

Despite that, the neighborhood is nice and open and there are many children playing there. Last week I brought pencils, erasers, and pencil sharpeners for the kids in the neighborhood and some bubbles, foam airplanes, toy frogs (from Heather), and a set of markers for Hamida's children. I felt a bit bad, however, because there were other children in the room when Hamida's son opened the present, so this time I decided to bring toys for everyone. I brought lots of small bubble bottles with me from the States, and today that is what I handed out to the kids. They LOVED it! As usual, the kids swarmed around me, dozens of hands grabbing for bottles. Hamida became worried for me, so she made all of the kids sit down before they could get a bubble jar. I tried telling them to get into a single-file line, but I didn't know how to say it in Bangla (plus queues are not part of the Bangladeshi vocabulary anyway!) In the end, even though I brought 30 bottles with me, some kids still went away empty handed. I have some stamps that I will bring with me next time (I have 100 of those), but I need to find a more organized way of handing them out! Maybe I will have them each take a number. Ha ha!

I also felt a bit bad when I arrived at Hamida's house because I had already eaten and she had gone through quite a bit of trouble to prepare lunch for me. She even made paesh (a rice and raisin pudding), my favorite Bangladeshi mishti (sweet). I ate already because I didn't know that she was going to cook for me (she didn't last time.) I tried to taste everything to be polite. I was a bit nervous about the safety of the food, however, because the standards of hygene in the slums are not the same as in a Gulshan luxury apartment. Hamida is very clean, but the cooking utensils and water that she has to cook with are not necessarily so. (Her water comes from a communal hand pump and she shares a kitchen with several other families.) Since she had gone through so much trouble though, I could not really refuse. Since I only ate a little, she said that she would bring me the rest of the food in a bowl tomorrow so that I could eat it at home.

Hamida's mother was also there and she gave me a bunch of bananas that she grew in her village. They are enormous! They are about twice as big around as an American chiquita banana and about 2/3 as long. I will have them with my ruti tomorrow and will see how they taste! Her mother also brought some coconuts with her that Hamida used to make my paesh. On my way out, Hamida and I went by her husband's store and he came out to meet me. (The best that I could make out is that he works with rickshaws, but does not seem to pull them. Perhaps he builds the rickshaws?)

Anyway, it was a nice visit. I just wish that my camera were working so that I could have taken some pictures!!


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