Saturday, June 1, 2013


I have made it and am alive and in Bangladesh and MUCH calmer than I was 8 hours ago when I wrote out the post below. Both of my roommates Kishan and Prabhat are here and we had a crazy first day going to the office and the market. I'll write more about that later. If anything goes wrong here it will be getting catapulted out of a rickshaw into the street. They are miniature little seats with barely any siding for two people, pulled by very skinny men who weigh MUCH less than me. They pull you through potholes and cracks and sewage so that every bump you are sure you are about to be launched out of your seat...or the rickshaw is about to split into two pieces...more on that later and my crazy day. Here was my first post I wrote out right when I got here. It was post-total panic alone in a new apartment....

"So, here goes. I’m sitting in my bed in what will be my room for the next two months. And I’m scared. I didn’t expect to be this scared. Flying into Doha was easy enough, the airport was foreign and I was surrounded by mostly middle-eastern and Asian people, but it felt familiar enough. I stuck out quite a bit but there were other people that stuck out more. My flight from Doha to Dhaka was easy, as well. I was nervous but mostly excited. I was one of the very few white people on a very empty plane. It was right before we landed that it all hit me. We cleared the clouds late coming in to land and looking outside I was shocked. I saw a sea of dirty buildings that look ready to collapse. Dense tropical foliage filled the tiny spaces between them. Every other building seemed to be crumbling or only half-built. Crumbling walls lined the runway. You could SEE the heavy humidity in the air. It was different than I expected. It made me nervous. 

I landed and made it through immigration just fine besides nobody understanding the concept of a line. People would randomly come out of nowhere and go up to the counter at the front of the line. Then onto baggage. Baggage claim was insane. It was one, small carousal with about 200 people crammed around it shoving to get closer as one bag came out at a time, slower than the next. It took two hours to get my bag, but I was just happy it made it. I ventured to go to the bathroom while I was waiting, which was the first big surprise of the country. Just a plastic rimmed hole. No toilets. They flushed interestingly enough. Not sure the purpose of flushing, but they flushed. 

Back to the carousal. I found my bag and was lucky that Alamgir, who was picking me up, was waiting right outside. I exchanged some money and got in the car waiting for us. Outside was a sea of people just hanging on the gates to the airport. The air was—is—heavy and thick and hot and sticky. There was no method to the madness on the road. Honking and cars going every which way. Two story buses teetered next to tiny rickshaws. People weaving through the cars as if cars weren’t about to hit them. Endless honking. We made it onto a wider road that was moving—the highway I’m guessing. We passed an “army golf course’ that was quite an entertaining sight. And a hospital. Huge, and modern and sparkling new. Comforting, but still not trying to end up in there. 

We finally came off to an area of narrow dirt roads with a blend of everything from nice looking buildings and buildings that had been reduced to a pile of bricks. Shacks lined the streets. As we got near I saw a naked little toddler, alone, smiling and patting his face on a little tree stump. We pulled into a very, very narrow street and up to our building. Looked nice enough. Alamgir was friendly throughout the ride, but I have a hard time with the accent. I feel like an idiot saying “Sorry? Excuse me?” every two seconds, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. He leads me through a garage on the bottom floor to an elevator. I am not thrilled about getting into this two person “elevator,” but we’re headed four flights up. We get to my apartment. A flimsy wooden door is the entrance. We walk in, and it’s nice. It reminds me a lot of Ghana. Bare and relatively empty: two couches, a chair, a table, a refrigerator, and a little kitchen area through a door to the side. We have a nice TV, which is random and the landlord took the time to show me how to use the completely standard channel and volume buttons. Music videos in another language are still playing in the background. There are three bedrooms each with their own bathroom (and full, real toilets), so that is a pleasant surprise. I have a low, flat, double bed and a cupboard and dresser in my room. The other two rooms look about the same. I noticed Alamgir took his shoes off coming in and forgot that no shoes in a household is a big thing here. I’ll have to remember that. 

Then Alamgir turns to leave. He has to go pick up Kishan (one of the two other boys who will be living with me) but says he will be back. I panic. I have no service on my phone and am stuck in a tiny apartment in the middle of Dhaka with no way of getting a hold of anyone or going anywhere if I need to. What if he doesn’t come back? My imagination runs wild. Panic. Finally, though, thank god, I get service to work on my phone. I call my parents and manage to calm down. I step out on the balcony as I talk to them and the view from our apartment is other tall, dingy apartment buildings clustered around us and even attached to the building. Everything is overwhelmingly close-knit. Metal bars close in our two balconies. I hear someone praying nearby, loudly. It is impossibly humid here and I suspect I’ll get used to having a constant layer of sweat on my skin. 

Sitting in my room now with a fan, I’m pretty comfortable. I must say I am pleasantly surprised by how nice the apartment is. But every noise makes me jump. The elevator is loud and makes me nervous. I feel isolated. I don’t feel very safe. I don’t know why I feel quite so skittish, but hopefully it will settle. Hopefully I can find peace for the next couple of hours and then will have company. It sounds like we are going to go shopping for things we may need when Alamgir and Kishan come back—sheets, water, etc. I am really hoping that they hurry back. But I at least feel somewhat less stranded with service. And  I'm getting more and more used to the constant noises all around me in this apartment building and the endless honking from the street. Ahhh here goes a pretty wild two months."

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