Sunday, February 10, 2008

New Attorneys
February 9, 2008

I have been trying for months to set up the Bangladeshi companies that will own my resort. I have gone through a series of attorneys and accountants; some of them were ridiculously expensive (I was definitely charged "bideshi" rates), some didn't return my calls, some would only answer one third of the questions that I asked, some would show up an hour late for our meetings, and one of them actually hit on me!

Then I found Fatema and Nawshad. I had actually met them a couple of months before at my friend Borhan's art exhibit opening. I was complaining about my latest attorney and whined that I wanted a female attorney. Fatema happened to be sitting across from me and she said that she was an attorney! Unfortunately I did not call Fatema right away. I had already made some progress with my attorney at the time, so I decided to stick it out. I wish that I had made the call right away, however, as I would have saved myself two months of trouble!

Finally, after my last attorney drama I happened to find her card again as I was cleaning out my desk drawer. I gave her a call and complained about my legal woes and how I had to set up my companies right away because I was getting close to being ready to purchase land. She invited me to her office right then and I spent two hours with her and her partner, Nawshad, going over the company formation details. By the end of our session, we had outlined my documents, they had hired a firm who would do the actual document processing for me (drafting the basic documents, waiting in line at the registry office, etc.), and I had a cost estimate. In two hours they accomplished more than all of my other attorneys had in two months!

As if that weren't good enough, I really get along well with them personally. They are both very smart (Nawshad went to Harvard and Fatema teaches at the Bangladeshi branch of the London School of Economics) and have a great sense of humor. Plus, they paint in their free time for stress relief! When I saw the canvases set up in their office I knew that they were the perfect attorneys for me!

Unfortunately the firm that they hired was not so perfect; the documents they prepared had several errors and I had to go down to Fatema and Nawshad's chamber in the Supreme Court building to fix them. That in itself was an interesting experience though. Bangladesh's legal system is based on the British system. The barristers even still wear the long, black robes.

The courthouse building is pretty typical of Bangladeshi architecture. The chambers all open into open hallways and courtyards to promote air circulation. The ceilings are very high - maybe 12 to 14 feet. All of the chambers are small and narrow and are stacked to the ceiling with folders, papers, and books. I have observed that in Bangladesh they don't use filing cabinets like we do in the U.S. Instead they use long, legal sized folders that are tied shut with string; the papers are fastened inside with brads. These folders are then just stacked on shelves or sometimes in cabinets. I have looked for Pendaflex files here and have not been able to find them (I personally prefer the American filing system...), so I have had to adopt the Bangladeshi filing system.

Anyway, I finally submitted the signed versions of my company formation documents tonight so my companies will hopefully be formed by March 2!

Fatema and Nawshad
This photo was taken (on my super fancy new phone that I won at the American Club's New Year's Eve party) at their chamber in the Supreme Court Building. Note the Bangladeshi filing system in the background! (Their office in Dhanmondi is much cleaner and very modern!)

Friday, February 08, 2008

On the Buriganga
February 8, 2008

A few days ago I took a river trip on the Buriganga River which is in the southern part of Dhaka. It sounded like such a charming, romantic idea, but the actual boat ride was anything but. The water is extremely polluted (it could give the East River in NY a run for its money!) and the river banks are lined with garbage. Aside from it being terribly unsightly and a horrible health hazard to the animals who eat it and the small children who play in it, it emanates an unbelievably nasty odor.

Unfortunately garbage like this is very common in Bangladesh. People just throw their trash anywhere (out the windows of buses, into the river, in the middle of the street...) It makes me sick and angry whenever I see it. I have often stopped to yell at people or pick up their trash after them.

I am hoping that the environmental education program that I intend to create as part of my resorts will help raise environmental awareness and encourage people to recycle (or at least use trash bins!) in the areas where I develop.

Natasha in the Boat
A photo of my friend Natasha as we are leaving the main dock.

Cows Eating Garbage

Cows munching away at the enormous pile of garbage that lines the Buriganga River.

Women in Garbage
I am REALLY hoping these women are recycling this plastic.

Children in Garbage
There were lots of little kids playing in the garbage and water.

More Garbage
The garbage is EVERYWHERE. The entire riverbank was covered with it.