Thursday, August 12, 2010

Daily Life in Bangladesh

So I can't believe it's been a week already!! I thought I'd just blog a little about what it's been like so far. There are a lot of things that are not what I expected or are somehow like what I expected but I just didn't know what it would be like to fully develop my expectations before arriving in country. Anyway, here are a few little things about daily life in Bangladesh....

-- The power goes out all the time! I read about this before coming but had no idea what the reality would be like...well some days the power goes out just as quickly as it is turned back on and other days it'll be out for an hour or more. At AUW you usually don't notice the difference because the generator kicks in shortly after the power goes out. At home while the power is out there's an annoying beeping until the power is returned but at least we have a light and fan in each room that function on the generator. Here's an article about Bangladesh's energy instability in the Daily Star, a local newspaper in Dhaka.

-- Don't drink the water!! I knew this beforehand and have done this when traveling in Egypt and Turkey but forgot how hard it can be to not open your mouth while in the shower (bad habit #1 to break!) or not to rinse your toothbrush with the tap water by accident. We're very lucky that AUW delivers water jugs to our rooms. Supposedly it will eventually be on a schedule but right now we seem to run out of water before getting a new jug...surely this will work itself out. Luckily our apartment has somehow timed it, so far at least, that we run out of water the same day new water is delivered.

(My extreme measures to make sure I don't drink the water by accident - notice the duct tape on the cold water knob -- that way I have to think about turning on the water since I don't usually use hot water)

-- There are bugs. Cockroaches are to be expected and I'm surprised/thankful there aren't more. We've had two big ones in our apartment so far...which we happened to name - Crunch and Phillip. One of them is dead -- I made a man from the apartment complex kill it when it appeared on my bathroom mirror while they were in our apartment working on the powerbox. As expected I'm covered in mosquito bites...the first few didn't swell up like usual but the other day at school one attacked my arm and they've all swollen up.

-- People stare/are curious. It's like we have a megaphone announcing our presence wherever we go -- van ride to AUW, shopping, crossing the street, etc. Men just start staring from miles away. When in the van we're an odd site so it's no wonder men stare -- we have a Bangladeshi woman driver, which to have a woman driver is an oddity in itself! then they see the van full of white woman and it's really weird! so they stare even more. Today we went shopping in a cute little shopping complex with about 10 stores all selling shalwar kameez outfits/jewelry/some household decorations. While in one store trying on a few outfits, the entire staff (about 12 men and 1 woman) were all staring at me and asking questions (Where are you from, What are you doing here, How long have you been here) and giving their opinion about how I looked in the shalwar kameez...and giggling when I went back into the dressing room. When I went to the neurologist the other day for my vertigo problems one of the women working at the office came and started talking to Pam (a nurse from AUW) and I, asking us all the usual questions. She was so interested and curious about us.

TANGENT -- My visit to the neuro cost approximately $6, yes $6! and he prescribed me 2 medications for vertigo (that hopefully start working soon) and I paid about $1.30 for a 10 day supply! crazy, huh? A massage or two is looking like a good investment in the hopes of aiding my relief of vertigo!

-- an understatement. I've never seen so many people in my life. The streets are packed with pedestrians, CNGs, rickshaws, and cars. However, stores and restaurants are very scarce and it's a wonder how they stay afloat.

-- Bangladeshis are crazy drivers. It's not like Germany where it was organized chaos or in the States where nobody really knows what they're doing/are preoccupied with their phones. No, after riding in a CNG today I'm even more scared for my life as a pedestrian on the streets. Bangladeshis supposedly drive on the "opposite" side of the road like the British but in reality they drive wherever their vehicle will fit - middle of the road, right side of the road, ditches, etc. In some parts of town the two sides are separated by a physical barrier (usually a small brick wall, 2 or 3 bricks high) but most of the time it's a free-for-all, wide-open road. There are no sidewalks here so walking around is a bit of a dizzying situation - dodging ditches/mud/trash piles, feeling the breeze from rickshaws and CNGs zooming around you, and constant honking. You just have to walk with a purpose and hope nobody hits you!! Our CNG ride this evening took us through a part of town I've never seen - side roads that our AUW van would never be able to fit down. The side road was lined with small shops and lots of people and full of ditches! ouch!

Traffic jam on our way home from the Chittagong Club (a members-only club). It took us almost 2 hours to get took us about 20-30 minutes to get there.

My first CNG ride at night!

Below are a few more pictures from the past few days and I've also added more to the picasa album.

The group of volunteers with Omar, Director of Operations at AUW, and his wife at the Chittagong Club


Karin, Shahirah, and I at the Teacher/Volunteer Tea - they have tea twice a day - 10:00 and 4:00

The group celebrating Calynn's birthday at Tava - a swanky restaurant across the street from our apartment. They have a Chinese, Thai, and Indian menu in one. You can purchase a main course, naan bread, and a drink for about $6

My name in Bangla!! We're taking language classes as part of our orientation....I wish I could say I wrote this myself but Mirah, our table's teacher, wrote this for me. Languages have never been my strong point...


kels said...

hey jess! i don't know if you remember me or not. we met in bangladesh this past year. i was teaching at william carey academy and will be returning in the fall actually. right now i'm working on making a presentation of sorts about bangladesh...and while googling something, your blog came up! crazy, huh? just thought i'd say hello. are you still in bangladesh? will you be there again next year? hope all is well with you!
--kelsi bortz :)

Jessi said...

Hi Kelsi! Yes, I remember meeting you! That's so funny that my blog popped up in your search! That happened to somebody else too - they were looking for Impala's contact info and my blog came up! I am home in VA for the summer but I will be returning to Chittagong this fall! We should try to get together :) Best of luck in your upcoming school year! :)