Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh

Sightseeing, shell suits and signing on

Been in Dhaka for the last few days, and I am beginning to actually kinda almost quite like this city.

I’ve always been a little anti-Dhaka, but you know, there are actually some interesting people here and also some interesting things to do. Julie’s leaving party was fun. Lots of wine, my kinda party. Was having a wonderful evening until I got a phone call from the person I’d locked out of the VSO flat. Man, the one night I’m out on the town (so to speak) in months, and I have to cut it short. Damn. But I did get a lift back with Julie’s driver, who was also taking her office boy (I’m sure there’s a more PC term for his role…) home. Having Bangladeshis at a party with an open bar always makes for fun viewing. It reminds me of teenagers at a elder sibling’s 21st party. You know, hanging around the bar, surreptitiously refilling their glasses as often as they can, looking slightly guilty, looking around to see who’s watching, having no idea of the measure involved, having a shot of beer and a pint of vodka. The office boy smuggled beer home in an empty gin bottle, hiding it in his jumper so (Madame) Julie wouldn’t see. And was most chuffed with himself in the car, hanging out the window, shouting directions and getting us lost. Obviously I am zero help in a lost-in-Dhaka situation. After 7 months here, I still don’t know my way around, mostly because the whole urban sprawl of Dhaka just all looks the same to me. Any road always looks a hell of a lot like any other road I’ve ever seen here. But Faisal got me home safe and sound. Good boy. When I die and go to heaven, I’ll have a driver.

And managed a walk of old Dhaka yesterday afternoon (after a good hangover feed at Nando’s first). We were late for the walk, which started without us and we had to catch them up, sheepishly pulling up alongside them in our CNG about 25 minutes late. To a group of clearly punctual foreigners who seemed a bit irked by our tardiness. But really, who heard of anything in Bangladesh starting on time? Outrageous.

Did Bongo bazaar this morning to get a my one concession to winter dressing, a cardigan. Options for cardi’s in my size (or anything in my size) are limited, but I did find one. But it ain’t pretty. My shopping partner, Tony, reckons I just need to team that up with a shell suit, and my application for Job Seekers Allowance (a.k.a the dole) will require no additional verification. I’ll fit the profile perfectly. Ah yes, I’ve officially decided to ‘sign on’ when I’m back in London for a few months after Bangladesh (before moving back to Cape Town). This decision has helped cement my decision to shop lots here and ship it back to CT to furnish my flat. Ok, so I know that’s not (really) the point of the dole, and I’ll have to pretend I’m looking for work, when really I just be dossing around using the dole for my beer tokens. But then I can use my savings for shipping costs, and the dole for my London costs. Been having a bit of an ethical debate with myself over this. It’s wrong, right? Or it’s right, wrong? Should I feel guilty for playing the system just a little bit for my own benefit? I’m not going to be a lifer or nothing, just a few months. I mean, I NEED a reclaimed teak dining table*. Don’t I?  But I’ve decided to lose the guilt, because the amount of tax the UK has got out of me in the last 10 years is the REAL crime.

* yet to actually find the reclaimed teak furniture place in Dhaka. Was meant to go today, but was Dhaka’d out after Bongo bazaar. MUST do it next time I’m in Dhaka.


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