Sunday, June 17, 2007

Video Premier
June 17, 2007

I just saw that Blogger now allows us to post videos! How exciting! I will try to post a few videos that you might enjoy.

First, here is a test video to see if it works:

Bangladeshi Boys Playing in Savar

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Pink Chamelion
June 16, 2007

Yesterday I had a bunch of my girlfriends over for brunch. There were crepes, great stories, mimosas, and a bit of silliness.

In my pink room I have several pieces of fabric draped from my ceiling for a tent-like effect. After making the drapes I had a bit of fabric leftover, so I had it sewn into a kurta (shirt) and dupata (scarf worn with a kurta). I was wearing the shirt yesterday when my friends came over. After a few mimosas we decided to see if I could blend into my own wall like a chameleon. As it turns out, I do have chameleon super powers...

(Photos taken by Tuni Chatterji.)

My Pink Room

Pink Chameleon
Me blending into my pink room.

The more mimosas we drank, the more I seemed to blend with our surroundings.

Me exercising my super-human chameleon powers.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Kathas, Bighas, Lakhs, and Crore
June 14, 2007

One of the challenges of working over here is that they have completely different measurement systems that are every bit as crazy and nonsensical as the American "foot" and "acre". While I do have some idea as to how big an acre is, I am afraid that I can not say the same for "kathas".

Land here is measured in "kathas" and "bighas". A katha is 720 square feet and a bigha equals 20 katha, so it is about 1/3 of an acre.

Numbers are often measured in "lakhs" and "crore". A lakh is 100,000. So 65 lakh is 6,500,000 which is usually written as "65,00,000" in Bangla. While at first the concept of a lakh was quite baffling, I have found that it is actually useful. Since there are about 68 taka in one dollar, the numbers here are much bigger, so it is easier to think about "65" instead of "6,500,000". I now know that a new three-bedroom apartment in Dhaka costs about 100 lakh, so that helps me put building prices into perspective. We are trying to create homes for the garment workers that cost about 2 lakh taka. A crore is 100 lakh or 10,000,000.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Lost Shoes and Monsoon Blues
June 13th, 2007

Well, I just realized that I have been a bit delinquent in my blogging lately, so I will try to make up for lost time. First off, I bought a motor scooter! I love driving on them, and I have been wanting to get out of Dhaka City, so now I have the means. It is also useful for me to use to get around my neighborhood, since the police have now closed most of the main roads in my neighborhood to rickshaws. Previously I could take a rickshaw and run all of my errands for the day, but now I have to get off of one rickshaw, cross the street, and then take a different rickshaw to get around. Both annoying and very inconvenient, especially if you are carrying groceries! I am also very sad since I really love rickshaws! I think the decision to take them off the road is foolish, especially now that monsoon season is here. Rickshaws are really the only vehicles that can get through the flooded streets... Plus, they are very environmentally friendly and provide jobs for many poor people.

So yes, monsoon season is here! Technically it doesn't start until Thursday, but the rains have really started coming this week. Normally it rains quite heavily in the early morning and at night. In the afternoon it will drizzle, sometimes turning into a full downpour in the late afternoon. Even though everything is soggy now, and my hair will be frizzy for the next two months, the rain does cool down the air, which is a welcome relief from the 100 degree weather we have been having. The trickiest thing about the monsoons is the flooding. The streets can become impassible with knee-high weather in short periods of time. This aggravates the already horrible traffic conditions here and makes it virtually impossible to get from one part of town to another.

On another note, I have recently noticed many abandoned shoes lying around in the street. Every time I see one I wonder how is it that somebody could just lose one of their shoes and not stop to pick it up?! Well, I now have the answer. I was driving back from my Bangla class on my scooter the other day in the pouring rain. It had rained so much that the street was quite flooded - I could barely get through on my scooter. At a stop, I put my foot down to stabilize the scooter, but when I lifted my foot back up out of the ankle deep water, the current took my shoe away with it! I was on the road in traffic, so there was no way for me to get off my bike to look for my missing shoe. I guess that my flip flop is now joining the ranks of the other hundreds of abandoned shoes lost in Dhaka. I hope that don't lose anymore though, because they don't sell my shoe size here! (Bangladeshi women have tiny feet and I wear a size 10!)