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...


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Fulbright Blog
Date: December 3, 2006
Place: Dhaka

This weekend I went to the New Market to pick up my blouses before the blockade started back up again. (It is on again as of this morning.) Saris have two pieces to them. The main part is a long, decorated piece of fabric that wraps around the body - that part is called the "sari". The second piece is the blouse piece that you wear on top. Some saris come with a "blouse piece" which is an extra length of fabric at the end of the sari that you cut off and sew into a blouse. Other saris don't have the "blouse piece" on the end, so you go to a fabric store and buy some fabric that matches your sari and then you have the tailor sew it into a blouse for you. Confusingly, the sewn blouses are also called "blouse pieces"...

Anyway, I have had quite a bit of trouble finding a good tailor here. Despite the fact that they all take my measurements, the blouses all came out too small in either the arms, the bust, or both. Consequently, a couple of weeks ago, I took blouse fabric to six different tailors in the New Market to see which one would do the best job. This weekend I picked them up, but sadly still none of them fit perfectly so the search for a good tailor continues...

The New Market is a HUGE market just south of the Dhanmondi neighborhood. The market complex is a huge labyrinth of stores that sell everything from household goods to silk saris to English books. The buildings all connect together and you sometimes need to go up or down a floor to connect to the next building over. I had quite a bit of trouble finding my tailors again because I had to enter through one building, go up one floor, move sideways to another building, and then go up to the second floor! Quite confusing!

While I was there, I happened to stop into one of the sari stores, and of course it is very hard for me to walk in to a sari store without coming out with a sari, so I acquired a beautiful new pink silk sari with lots of handwork that I intend to wear for New Year's... I also finally bought some jewelry. Jewelry is an important part of the "outfit" here, so I have felt a little underdressed without it. Bangladeshi jewelry is absolutely gorgeous and very reasonably priced, so I was quite excited to finally pick some up. Bangladesh is known for its silver work and pink pearls, so I bought this amazing silver necklace with pink pearls on it. Quite beautiful!

Anyway, I sadly did not bring my camera with me to the New Market this time, but I do have a photo of the little market next to my house that I will share with you. This market is the small little local place that I told you about in my Thanksgiving blog. It is where Fatima buys my food every week...