So after a quiet Friday, the weekend ended up being pretty good! Saturday I woke up with a terrible case of vertigo, which was unexplained, but after drinking hydrating salts (the grossest mix of salt and sugar and water ever), I felt better. Probably just dehydration.
Anyway, every year, a group of expats in Dhaka film a show called Itadi. It’s a mix of dance and acting (in Bangla) and is televised for Eid, which is the festival at the end of Ramadan. I guess it’s sort of a big deal, and hundreds of thousands of people watch it. The filming is next weekend and the first rehearsal was this past Saturday, so I decided to go. Ariadna was who told me about it, and she was going to go, but then decided not to, so I went on my own. I didn’t love trying to track down a location I didn’t know to do something with people I didn’t know, but I figured I’d at least get to interact with some people who spoke English for an afternoon.
It was at the Nordic club, which is one of the members-only clubs in Dhaka. There are several of them, and almost all of them are just for foreigners—Bangladeshis are not allowed. It’s sort of a weird system. In one sense, it’s nice for the expats to be able to “get away” and there’s a pool (where you can actually wear a bathing suit) and a bar (I guess it’s a popular spot for drinking, since there’s nowhere else to drink in Dhaka), an exercise room and game room, etc. and they host events (it basically acts like a country club). But, I guess they can be pretty oppressive towards Bangladeshis and there is a somewhat negative relationship between the clubs and local people. Up until recently, the clubs exhibited a lot of prejudice against the local people. They also perpetuate this large divide I’ve noticed here between the foreigners and the local people. I mean, the language itself starts it all. But talking to Ariadna, it sounds like it’s tough to connect even if you do speak the language. The cultures are just so different. So the expat community is sort of goofy. It’s a bunch of foreigners who have picked up and moved here to do development work for the country, while remaining very much removed from the country socially—sticking, instead, to themselves to form a small community of foreigners. I guess it’s not quite that simple, but it’s certainly a strange and very visible dynamic.
Anyway, the Nordic Club was nice (I was super jealous of the people in the pool), and we used their dance studio to practice. I was definitely the youngest woman there. So many foreigners though! They were everywhere and everyone spoke English, which I must say was a nice break from my isolating week. Everyone was friendly and we were settling in when I realized we were going to have to learn the dance (that’s what this rehearsal was for). In all of my excitement to meet and hang out with some other English-speaking people, I forgot the real reason we were there. To dance. I am terrible at dancing...so uncoordinated. As expected, it was pretty brutal to learn. I just can’t manage to coordinate the moves with my feet with the moves I am supposed to be doing with my arms at the same time. I usually focus on the arm movements, because it’s more obvious if I mess those up. Yes, I am that challenged at dancing. Luckily, I wasn’t the only bad dancer. And we all had fun laughing at ourselves trying to learn some traditional Bangladeshi moves. And the music was really good! Overall, it was quiiiite a sight. Also, I have barely done any physical activity here. I have tried to work out here and there in the apartment, but just in short bursts. The heat makes it tough. But this was three hours of dancing…I thought I was going to pass out. And it was HOT. But overall, it was a lot of fun and great getting to hang out with people! So, although I had felt totally awkward going alone, I am glad I did. It paid off.
After, I headed home and finally spoke to Ariadna about doing something. We decided to get take out and watch a movie. We got take out from a place near me that has DELICIOUS Indian food. I didn’t even know I liked Indian food, but it’s so good and it’s everywhere here. I’ve definitely been trying a lot of new food here and liking most of it. I would list what we ordered, but I don’t even know. Ariadna ordered it all. It was a mix of potato pastries and kebabs and naan and this yogurt chickpea thing. Not a good description. But it was delicious. We didn't end up watching a movie and just watched some old Modern Family episodes and caught up. I learned about how she ended up in Bangladesh (it was NOT her original plan) and what she wants to do after she leaves in September (she wants to do some of her own development research in Mexico, hopefully with the local government). And we talked about the many options for working in development and the different opportunities within IPA. It was good. I have become overwhelmed by the different education options geared towards development work. And there are endless ways to be involved in development work for any given level of education. It has all given me a lot to think about. Maybe more on that later. After dinner and hanging out, tired from a long day, I headed home.
Sunday was pretty uneventful. I went to work. But after, I went to a supermarket!! Yes, they do have supermarkets here. Ariadna showed it to me the night before. It is amazing, and even carries Jiff peanut butter. Yum. Although, a man tried to talk to me while I was shopping—asking where I was from, what I was doing here, if I came alone (sketchy). He said he was from California, but looked and sounded Bangladeshi. Hm. I just gave him short answers and kept walking until he left me alone. I didn’t go too overboard, because I had to carry it all home, but I was able to get almonds and Raisin Bran and chicken and oranges and crackers.
I decided I would try to cook that night. Ambitious. Cooking was slow. I have a two-burner stovetop, but one burner doesn’t work and the other one’s light blows out a lot and I have to relight it. I finally eeked out some green beans and carrots and chicken. It was pretty plain, but I was starving by the time I ate it, so I didn’t care. First time cooking something other than eggs in Bangladesh…sort of a fail. But it did the trick for dinner. And I am just happy to have a supermarket! It will be perfect for when the market is just a little more than I want to handle or when I need some of those specialty items I’m missing (peanut butter…).
Last night I woke up for the first time to the call to prayer. It was 4:30am. I must be relatively close to a mosque, because it’s pretty loud from my apartment. I was able to fall back asleep just fine, but I can’t believe people get up that early to pray every day. Also, I sort of thought the call to prayer would just be a siren or something. I think I saw that in a movie. But it’s a guy’s voice, which sounds like he himself is praying. And it goes on for a while. Also, apparently it all starts in one mosque in the city. And then once the next mosque hears it, it sends out its own call to prayer, and so on across the entire city until all the mosques have sent out the call. Pretty cool.
Anyway, on a different note, this Thursday, my Dad is coming to Dhaka! I can’t even wait. He has a meeting in Qatar, so is just going to travel that much farther to come see me. It’s pretty insane, but I’m not complaining! We are going to go to Srimongol, which is the tea plantation area of the country. There is also a national park there that’s a rainforest so we will be able to explore that as well. We should be able to see some cool animals and waterfalls. It’s the closest place to Dhaka worth visiting, and I think it’s worth traveling outside of Dhaka, since there really isn’t that much to do here. If my Dad’s coming halfway around the world, we might as well do more than get stuck in traffic and get stared at (aka being a tourist in Dhaka). He gets here Thursday morning, and ahhh I can’t wait! Oh, also, the boys are getting home Sunday now…of course. Will they ever come home? At least I have an exciting weekend to look forward to! I’m hoping to go out somewhere fun to dinner this week, too. Other than that, just another quiet week until Thursday. I’ll keep you posted!