Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh

Archive for Dhaka

Daylight savings: Cancelled

Found out yesterday, the government has decided to scrap daylight savings here in the Desh. Bangladesh DST, the time that never really was.

A potentially good idea to introduce daylight saving here, but a crises, what a disaster from the get go. Badly thought out, poorly implemented (I use the word implemented, but a lot of people didn’t even bother to change their clocks in the first place) and then cancelled a few days before the next official clock change (originally scheduled for 31st March). I appreciate that the government was trying something new to deal with the energy crisis, but a little forethought, consultation and understanding of potential issues would have gone a long way. And would have saved a lot of time and money.

Speaking of energy crises, the availability of power is sharply on the decrease as the hot-as-feck season approaches. Power only seems to be on for about an hour-ish between sunset and my bedtime. Which admittedly is pretty early these days at 10pm, but really, who is interested in hanging around in the dark anyway. But we’re really really REALLY lucky here in Rangamati at the moment, as we haven’t yet reached the full all out sweat-athon being enjoyed by the rest of Bangladesh. Reading Facebook updates other volunteers are having a pretty shitty time out there. Especially in Dhaka. It sounds like it’s an oven up there at the moment. An oven that won’t be cooling down for about 6 months. Meanwhile here in Rangamati, Tony was wearing a jumper a breakfast yesterday. A jumper. At the end of March. In Bangladesh. Unheard of. Doing our best to enjoy it while it lasts.

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Random musings

Random thoughts from my day, while travelling around Dhaka, from Lalmati to Apollo hospital to Old Dhaka (agaaaain) and back.

– what percentage of Bangladeshis can actually afford the state of the art Apollo hospital? 5%? 1%? 0.01%?

– why are there always rows of people curiously looking through the railings of the Saudia Arabia Airlines building everything I drive past?

– leaving the house with wet hair, then subjecting yourself to a 1 hour CNG drive across Dhaka in winter is not a good idea

– Bangladesh’s Supreme Court is built in the shape of a mosque. Doesn’t exactly scream secularism does it.

– what would happen if the traffic suddenly starts moving while my CNG driver is still taking a leak by the side of the road into Dhaka’s ever flowing stream of piss?

– fellow volunteers have spent more money on their Bagha bills than I’m spending on my amazing table, chairs AND lazy boy chair. It’s totally worth it.

    There’s always one

    … person who vomits on every bus I’m on in Bangladesh. And on the Rangamati to Chittagong stretch, through the windy hills with a bus driver on suicide mission, there is always more than one. It’s just so pleasant.

    Bangladeshis do appear to have the weakest stomachs ever. And make the most noise when vomiting. Much like the spitting, they really put their backs into it.

    And now I’m back in Dhaka, having survived the night bus. Just for a few days, then onto Cox’s Bazaar for the annual VSO conference. Cox’s is apparently the longest beach in the world, and the pride of Bangladesh. Can’t say I’m expecting toooo much, given the Bangladeshi standards for ‘so beautiful’ and ‘amazing’. But I do plan a little swim, even though it’s winter. A bikini swim this will not be. Lordy, can you imagine the chaos if if a group of us foreigners turn, and strip off. I shudder at the thought. No, this will be a salwaar kameez swim. What fun.

    Blerg.

    Happy New Year (times two)

    Had one of the most fun NYE’s I’ve had in a long time last night. Went to a BYOB roof top party in Gulshan, where ‘space cakes’ [sic] were being handed around as we arrived. I can’t say for sure what was in those space cakes, but the photo below sums up my evening pretty well.

    There was also a full moon, and a partial eclipse, which could explain some of the peculiar behaviours last night…

    Moon (top centre) photography is not my strong point

    And now, here we are, in 2010. It’s going to be a good one. I can feel it in my waters. Really. I think 2010 is going to rock.

    4:20am

    Is the time I was woken up this morning, by the sound of something chewing in my room, here in the VSO flat. Was convinced it was a rat chewing on the chocolate and biscuits I’d recently received from my sister. No, turns out it was wood termites in the desk in the room, going about their business of eating the desk from the inside out. They make enough noise that they can wake me up at 4:20am, with earplugs in and over the general and constant noise of Dhaka. You can actually HEAR them eating away, munch munch munch. Niiiiiice. Remind me NOT to store any furniture I buy in this flat.

    Speaking of furniture, I’m off to find the reclaimed teak furniture place here in Dhaka. Part two. I tried this yesterday, headed off to old Dhaka with just a shop/school name but no idea of what area the factory is in (not entirely sure how I thought I’d find the place). Called a friend whose boss has been before (in 1982….) for directions, who told me to back to where I had just come from (Mohammadpur). Got out of the CNG, couldn’t find another one going in the right direction, caught (and was ripped off by) two separate rickshaws, walked the last bit to find out that I had originally been heading in the right direction (old Dhaka) in the first place. Doing things in Dhaka just don’t work out the first time for me, so trying again today. Armed with at least a basic knowledge of where I’m supposed to be going. Always helpful.

    Still considering the haircut: part two. I’ll see how lucky I feel later.

    Damage control

    Have decided that ‘the shaggy’ looks like a mullet. Or like a bob from the front, and long hair from the back. Business at the front, party at the back. NOT good. Problem in Rangamati is that while I do have a mirror, it’s in a very badly lit place, and using it and my hand mirror to see the back of my hair is difficult. I have had this mullet suspicion for a while, but couldn’t say for sure.

    Have obtained 2nd and 3rd options here in Dhaka. One friend said ‘well if you were going for the beach look (?), you cooooould get away with it’. ‘Getting away with it’ is not an option when it comes to a haircut. So I’m taking my chances to get it corrected here in Dhaka tomorrow morning. The clear and present danger is, of course, getting it even more fucked up….

    The Hills* are alive…

    … with the sound of nothing. Sweet, sweet nothing. Just the odd frog, some crickets and the occasional chirping bird. Nice birds, not the squawking, nails down a chalkboard, fresh off the set of ‘The Birds’ birds that seem to surround me in Dhaka. Maybe ‘The Birds’ birds only hang around Lalmatia, and perhaps only when I’m trying to get some sleep. It certainly feels that way to me.

    Sometimes I do think that I’m sensory sensitive, and that’s perhaps why Dhaka really grinds on me after a few days. Mostly it’s the noise. For not one minute in Dhaka do you hear silence. There is ALWAYS noise, coming at you from every angle. And it’s not the sound of butterflies and floating petals, it’s hard, heavy, man-made, machine-assisted NOISE. I hate not being able to control the sound levels around me, or at least drown them out. If I watch TV (a strictly pre-Bangladesh activity) I can only watch it if I have the remote control in my hands. At all times. It’s not to channel surf, it’s to control the sound, which annoyingly changes between TV shows and ad breaks. It freaks me out if I can’t control it, and if I can’t I’d rather just not watch it. So I’m taking about unnecessary, inappropriately loud and uncontrollable noise which really does stress me out, makes me feel almost physically assaulted and just a little bit crazy. Which is exactly the kind of noise that dominates in Dhaka. So I guess it’s no surprise then that Dhaka hits about a million nerves in me, and that I run screaming for The Hills after a few days.

    Now that I think about it, Dhaka hits all of my senses. In a bad way. As discussed, it’s hard on the ears. And it’s oh-so-hard on the eyes too. There is literally nothing aesthetically pleasing about that city. I never realised before how important beauty is to me. You know, something easy on the eyes, something that you can stare off into while your mind wonders and takes a little time-out. Ja, no sights in Dhaka will induce a mini-mind holiday. Everything you see brings your senses screeching back to the realisation of exactly where you are. And it’s no picnic for the nose either. I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone that Dhaka stinks. Literally stinks. Open sewers, pollution, and weird smells of indeterminable origin that waft around and catch you off guard. Plus the millions of people, all spitting and snotting and generally trying to clear all internal organs of any and all mucus, all around you, all the time. And the men peeing by the side of the road. Everywhere. And the staring. And the ‘what country are you from’. And, and, and…Wow, it’s a wonder I don’t completely loose my marbles after too much Dhaka-time. I really can feel assaulted by the external environment here, and just want to take refuge in a quiet, private and safe space after too much exposure.

    But you know, other people don’t mind it/hate it quite as much as I do. So it must be me. Millions of other people can live there and not lash out at complete strangers on the street. So really, I must be the weirdo. Or the sensory sensitive one. Do you think that would stand up in court during my assault charge trials?

    *The Hills = Chittagong Hill Tracts, a.k.a my kind, gentle,  q      u      i     e     t   refuge from Dhaka. Shhh. Nice.