Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh

Archive for Fashion


I feel like a baby hippopotamus right now. This is what happens when one swans around in loose fitting salwaar kamezees for 8 months. The salwaar kameez a.k.a jammies. It is like wearing your PJ’s all day, every day. Draw string trousers: not your waist line’s best friend.

Who comes to Bangladesh and picks up weight…you might well ask. The answer: most women. Men shed kilos like I shed sweat here in summer, it just FALLS off them. I’m guess it’s the severe beer rations in Bangladesh that does it for them. But most of us ladies actually pick UP weight. Which is achieved by a complete lack of exercise, eating oily fried food daily/hourly, and eating sweets that could melt your teeth there is so much sugar in them. And the salwaars, I blame the salwaars. They have a lot to answer for.

For the last few days while in Dhaka, I  rocked the jean pant look. Except my jean pant is now much tighter than last wear. Nothing tells you you’ve picked up weight like a 9 hour bus trip in suddenly tighter jeans. This was especially true of the return journey, after eating my body weight in mango bars and ginger Christmas cookies upon returning from the Space Cake New Year Party. Note to all: eating an entire bag of mango bars is NOT a good idea. Stomach wise.

And check this out, a gift from one of my sisters (along with Christmas cookies, Marmite etc. Amanda you rock). Is this the best t-shirt ever?


Gratuitous chest (and belly) shot






It’s official

I need to buy some winter clothes. No warm clothes made it into my backpack when I left London, as I didn’t believe that Bangladesh got cold.

To date, I only own one top with long sleeves. Which is from a Korean garment factory that donates its rejects/off-cuts to the children of Moanoghar. Not many children (or adults) in my size here, to I was gifted one. This top is, under no circumstances, worn outside of my house. It’s one part of my ultra sexy nightwear, the other part being a pair of old salwar bottoms. It’s all just so high fashion here in the little blue house with green shutters next to the mini-hospital on Moanoghar campus, Rangapani, Rangamati (you know, I think if someone sent a letter using that as my address, it would get here. Actually, I think that IS my address…)

So I need a cardigan (or two), to wear with my (daytime) salwar kameezes (never sure what the pural for kameez is). And socks. I need socks. Turns out two pairs of socks aren’t not enough. I am rocking my socks and sandals look every morning in the office, which results in sock hand washing more often than I’d like (my preferred frequency of sock washing by hand is never). For all the times I thought (knew) I looked hideous in the heat and sweat of summer, I think it’s possible that I’ll look even worse in the slight chill of winter. A long, baggy cardigan, worn over a long, baggy, shapeless salwar kameez, teamed with socks and sandals and, if it gets cold enough, a non-matching scarf. My only consolation is that everyone else here looks as badly put together these days. Anything goes.

But despite my wardrobe limitations, I am LOVING winter. Really, it is by far the best of Bangladesh’s 6 seasons. I’m already upset that it is only 2 months long. But autumn and winter together does make 4 months. Which is a great respite from the suffocating heat of summer/every other season here. My energy levels are well up there, I’m even doing a walking tour of Old Dhaka on Friday. I haven’t, in my 7 months here, even ventured into Old Dhaka before. It all just seemed too much like hard work in the heat, sweat and tears (mine) of full blown summer.

I do wonder how much more fruitful my placement would have been, if Bangladesh was this temperature all year round. Really, I’d be able to do five times as much if I didn’t have to suffer through the heat. It’s incapacitating, suffocating and revolting. I’m only signed up for a year here with VSO, so I’ll be skipping outta here at the end of April. Which itself will already be hot, but I’ll be escaping before it gets unbelievably, scratch your own eyes out, hot. I don’t think I could face another summer here.

So in the mean time, I’ll be loving every minute of winter. As soon as I get some warm clothes.

Socks and sandals

My new look at work. Tres sexy.

It’s not particularly cold during the day yet, but my office is a little nippy and my feet are usually always cold, no matter what country I’m in. While I do have trainers and hiking boots here (clearly I thought I was going to be a trifle more active than I actually am….) it’s always easier to just wear sandals, because of the ‘no shoes in the office rooms’ rule . So its always sandals, and now, socks and sandals.

There is an unspoken rule in the office about where you wear your shoes, and where you don’t. So the rooms with carpets are no-shoe-areas, while the concrete corridors are shoe-areas, and so are the stairs. But then there is a carpeted room down stairs that is a shoe-area. I never get it right in that room. Anyway, so to get from my (carpeted) room across a corridor (of say 3 strides) I put my shoes on as I leave my room, walk the required 3 strides, then take them off before I enter say the accounts room (which thinking about, isn’t carpeted, but does have a rather fetching linoleum, which is also deemed a no-shoe area). Then I put my shoes back on when I leave the accounts room, walk the 3 strides back to my office, and take them off again. This is easy with sandals. Slip on, slip off. But must more effort with trainers. I have experimented with no shoes for the shoe-areas, but this just resulted in very dirty feet.

Mostly I get the shoe/no-shoe rules right. But there are anomalies. For example, all houses here have concrete (or mud) floors. The inside of any house is always a no-shoe area. But the mini hospital, which also has a concrete floor, is a shoe-area. This one I don’t understand.

I am not the only one rocking the ‘socks and sandals’ look, plenty of the monks are doing it too. And I’ve also spied some funky orange hats amongst them too. Always orange, as monks only wear orange. I’ll do a Rangamati AW 2009-10 photo spread soon. But disappointingly, no goats in shorts and t-shirts will be featured. This appears to be a purely north-of-Dhaka fashion.

So Bangladesh does get cold

While incessantly bitching about the heat for most of my time here, I made a little promise to myself that I would never moan about being cold again. Ever. Cold must be the best feeling in the world, after sooo much heat and sweat.

So I won’t moan about being cold. Well, it’s not really that cold, in the big London-in-February scheme of things. Or other places much, much colder than England. It’s still nice and warm during the day here (warm, not sweltering = loving it), but it’s getting pretty chilly at night now, especially in a house that has massive gaps under doors, around shutters (of windows that have no glass in them) and is just generally not insulated. At all. It certainly doesn’t help that I don’t own a single thing with long sleeves, and that I have no hot water in my house. Since I came back from Dhaka, it’s officially become too cold for cold showers. Most of the time during summer I felt the cold water wasn’t cold enough. But now in (almost) winter it’s plenty cold. Thank you very much. I have been putting off the whole boil-water-for-a-warm-bucket-shower-in-the-mornings for quite a while now, but after yesterday morning’s freeze-fest, it’s officially time for me to start doing just that.

But today is Eid, so I officially don’t have to get up or be anywhere anytime soon. Luke warm bucket shower can wait. Tonight I’m eventually meeting up with the other foreigner in town, who, somehow in my 7 months here, I have never met, bumped into or even seen on the streets. I also really do need to go shopping for winter-like things today, such as a decent blanket, something with long sleeves, and perhaps a shawl of two, but being Eid I expect not much is open.

Also I must take some pics of the winter fashions here in Bangladesh. In Sirajganj I could easily have got confused and thought I’d ended up somewhere else, somewhere else REALLY cold. Everyone at the local tea shop was draped in blankets (well the men were, no women to be seen out on the streets up there), with scarves wrapped around their heads, including lengthways around the face and under the chin. Like cartoon characters with toothache, as Julie described. While I was sitting there in my short sleeve salwar kameez. I guess for bodies acclimatised for such extreme heat in summer, it’s the (very short) winter months that they find the hardest. AND I saw goats dressed in shorts and tee shirts. Seriously. Honestly. Potentially one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. I must try get a photo of such dressed up goats, there are bound to be some here in The Hills. Must keep them goats warm.

There is hope for me yet

I’ve been hearing for a few weeks about a French women who is in town (village) for her marriage to a Chakma man. Obviously as a foreigner, I am immediately alerted to the presence of A.N. Other foreigner.

Yesterday after work I went for a walk to visit one of my colleague’s house. On the way, I bumped into the French woman. Obviously it was very easy for us to ‘recognise’ each other. She’d heard of me, I’d heard of her, we’re both white etc. Turns out they are already officially married (paper work etc) and will have the Chakma ceremony soon (ish, I think). Thought they make a lovely couple, so sweet together. In 1986, after the Bangladeshi military destroyed an orphanage (affiliated with Moanoghar), 72 children from the orphanage where adopted by French families. So I assumed hubby was one of these 72 children, and husband and wife hooked up in France.

Not so. They met on the 21st. Of October. Two thousand. And nine. As in 3 weeks ago. Wowza. Turns out her brother is one of the 72 French adopted Chakmas, who came out to Bangladesh a few years ago to find himself a Chakma wife. Which he did, and now they are happily married, living in France. Last year, wife of adopted Chakma man asked her French sister-in-law if she would like help finding a husband. Sure, who wouldn’t? Email addresses were swapped, emails pinged back and forth between France and Bangladesh for a year or so, and the happy couple finally met each other 3 weeks ago. Two weeks before their wedding day. No spice.

I’ve been wanting to attend a Chakma wedding for a while now, and herein I see my chance. I’m sure I’ll swing an invite, albeit to wedding of a non-conventional couple. But most importantly, it’s good to know that if my own personal husband-hunt (currently in very bad shape and not looking good at all) shouldn’t work out for me, I will always have the option of heading back here for a (almost guaranteed) hook up. Good to know.

In fashion news: Yesterday I was told that the outfit I was wearing was ‘not beautiful’. In other words, hideous. Just between you and me, NOTHING I wear here could ever be considered ‘beautiful’. Nevertheless, yesterday’s ensemble made the grave mistake of teaming the salwar (baggy, unflattering trousers of the salwar kameez fame) with a short top. By short I mean reaching to just below my arse only, as apposed to my knees. What WAS I thinking? Apparently a short top is only ‘beautiful’ with a jean pant [sic]. So today I’m wearing another one of my skimpy, just-below-the-arse tops with my jean pant. Confident in the knowledge that today I look beautiful. And I’m loving calling my jeans ‘jean pant’ just like they do in certain corners of South Africa.