Today was my first “independent day” per say, and it was HARD. Prabhat and Kishan are starting training, which is at a different location. They are overseeing a survey, so they are going to the training session for the people that they will be overseeing. They had to get to the office at 8am, which was well before I needed to be there, so we were on different schedules today. There’s no real schedule at the office. I tried to ask Ariadna about it, and she was like ehhhh come whenever or work from home--do whatever. We showed up at 9:30am yesterday and NOBODY was there. It seems like people start flooding in it at 10:30am and then leave at like 7/7:30pm. Weird schedule. Also, weekends here are Friday and Saturday, which will take a while to adjust to. It’s weird knowing it’s Tuesday and that I already get off for the weekend Thursday. Thank god, BIG plans for this weekend (just kidding...no plans...).
So, anyway, last night we went out to dinner with a group of people, because it was Ariadna’s birthday. We went to a Turkish restaurant in Gulshan, which is the nicest area of Dhaka. It’s still Bangladesh, but it is noticeably WAY nicer. The apartments we passed had shiny, fancy lobbies with lots of doormen and the shops we passed looked really nice too. Of course, scattered among the nice shops are pretty rough looking buildings, but the majority is really developed and lit up and nice. There are also a lot more beggars and people selling stuff on the streets. The restaurant we went to was so over-the-top and strange—really kitschy. The ceiling was very tall and a fake night sky with light-up stars and the walls had 3-d castle structures coming out of them to look like we were in a castle. Really it looked like we were in an oversized playpen (there was, in fact, a castle playpen in the corner for kids). The room was for like 100 people and there were maybe two tables filled. The food was great though, so I can’t complain there: hummus, kebabs, and fresh roti bread. We didn’t get home until 10:30pm though, which is SO LATE for us, since we are still really jetlagged. When we left Ariadna was basically like come whenever tomorrow. After pressing her more, she told me to come in after lunch (lunch is at 2pm here—what? So late. People break for tea at like 11am and 5pm though...love the tea). So I was able to sleep in this morning but was SO nervous about getting to work on my own! We haven’t walked yet, so that wasn’t an option—I would have to navigate the autos.
I woke up on my own pretty early this morning and was able to hang out for a few hours. I ate some of my peanut butter for breakfast (thank god it made it). We really need to go get some groceries. It will undoubtedly be exhausting and involve a lot of bartering. I already miss price tags. The electricity went out for a good hour so the apartment got HOT. When the fans shut off this apartment becomes an oven; it’s almost unbearable. I headed out to work pretty nervous, but I had learned the numbers I needed to know in Bangla, so I was hoping I could get by with those. Wow. Struggles. I head out and start walking towards the main road and you would’ve thought I was walking down the street naked. EVERYONE was staring at me. And the street midday is apparently all men and a lot of them. It was so uncomfortable. One guy started following me for little and then I think lost interest (thank god). That actually sounds creepier than it was; I think he was just sort of wandering around anyway but he turned and started going in the other direction with me. It took me awhile to find an auto, but I found one. My well learned “7” in Bangla was of no use (it’s “shah-ta” by the way). He didn't understand. But after a lot of repeating “road 7, banani, road 7, banani,” the guy finally seemed to know where I was going. THANKFULLY I made it.
Nobody was really in the office today, though. It was just me and a couple other guys. I realized I would have to leave work early so I could get home before it got dark (it gets dark at like 6pm here). I ate lunch on my own with the man who lives at the office and helps cook and clean. Him and the woman who cooks full time are so nice, but they can’t seem to grasp I don't speak ANY Bangla. They are always trying to ask me questions and I have to stand there like an idiot and be like what? Sorry no, I don’t understand. Today I was on my own at the table with the man (his name is pronounced “muh-moon” but that’s obviously not how you spell it…I suppose I will for this blog’s purposes). Well Muh-moon and I sat there while I forced down a HUGE place of rice, some potato/green bean curry thing, and an egg cooked god-knows how (think slimy brown hard-boiled egg). The woman (still working on even the pronunciation of her name…baby steps), tried to bring out more vegetables at one point; I was like ah no thank you. They serve SO much food! Well anyway, throughout lunch Muh-moon keep trying to ask me stuff. And not just once or twice, after I CLEARLY was confused what he was saying; he kept asking me like 10 different questions. Every time I had to be like ahh sorry no I don’t understand. It was a whole debacle. I finally managed to finish and went back to work. Apparently, he’s sort of creepy with the expats. He sneakily takes pictures of some of them on his phone! I think he's funny, though. He knows how to say long beard and there's an expat with a long beard so he will just look at him and brush a fake beard on his face and say "long beard, long beard." It's pretty entertaining.
We took a tea break at like 4:30pm, and I met two other guys that work in the office: Rory (the guy with the long beard!) and Philippe. They were really nice to talk with and had both been here about a year. One is from England the other from Spain, I think. It was a nice but unnecessary break to my incredibly short workday, and I headed home after to be safe with time.
Getting home was a situation. I walked a couple blocks to the main road (SO MANY STARES) and stopped an auto and he seemed to understand the road I was asking for but then just shook his head no. I tried to ask why but he was just like, “no” and drove away. So I talked to the next guy who was actually decent at English (well numbers, at least) and he tried to ask for Tk 200—TWICE the amount it’s supposed to be. So I had to walk away from him. At this point I was just uncomfortable and annoyed to be in the street still getting weird stares. The next guy knew where I was talking about after a good five minute conversation that involved me repeating “banana, road 17” again and again and him responding in long spurts of Bangla. I asked him, “Tk 100?” and he just smiled. And I asked two more times and he just gave me a weird smile, so I just figured whatever and got in. Well…turns out I live on road 24 NOT 17. Road 17 is a very busy, narrow street that is actually pretty sketchy. There are electrical wires everywhere and the buildings are very industrial and dirty, and yeah, it’s not where I live. So it took another five minutes to explain not 17, actually road 24 is where I need to be (I live in house 17 on road 24—I reversed them). Thankfully he just laughed at me and then took me to my building. It was pretty stressful for a little there. He was surprisingly fine with Tk100; I would’ve given him more for not kicking me out of the auto.
Well, having made it home, I finished up a little more work and have just been hanging out. I hate that it is so uncomfortable for me to go outside and get around on my own. Between being white, a girl and not speaking ANY Bangla (except the number 7…), it isn’t the easiest place to go out and about in. Hopefully I’ll get used to the staring and get better at having broken conversations with auto drivers. All in all a somewhat stressful day, but I made it. My roommates aren’t back yet, but maybe we’ll go try a new restaurant around here, since we still have no food. There is a North Korean restaurant here apparently where all the proceeds go back to North Korea. I guess it was in The Economist and is sort of a big deal. They even bring in North Korean women once in a while to do karaoke (what?). We will probably have to check it out despite how unpatriotic it would be of us. We shall see. I think that’s it for now! I never really know how to sign off from these blog posts…kind of awkward…bye?