Sunday, July 21, 2013

Friday, July 18th

Ahh so I’m writing from Nepal! I just enjoyed a delicious plate of fruit in bed after a longggg day of sightseeing, and I am feeling great.

Just as a recap of my week, because I haven’t posted ALL week (I had a good streak gong there…) it was a pretty good one. Sunday afternoon the whole office headed to a conference that one of the PI’s on my project was presenting at. He was presenting on a project that involved using the sanitation data I have been working on, so it was very neat hearing how he used a portion of our surveys to write a research paper regarding aid and political responsibility in the context of our sanitation program.  One other economist presented on a project currently being implemented having to do with empowering girls, and it was a very interesting conference; I’m glad we were able to go.

Monday was a normal day at work. We went with the PI to a meeting with WaterAid to end our contract and that went smoothly. Monday night a group of us from the office went out to Japanese for Iftar. A couple of the people in our group were actually fasting, so this was a legitimate Iftar for them. For the rest of us, it was just a delicious early dinner. The food was amazing! And it was such a treat to have sushi. 

Tuesday was a hartal. Actually, we have had hartals all week and they have gotten pretty heated in parts of Bangladesh (there was also one Monday—Monday through Thursday). Luckily, nothing too drastic has happened in Dhaka, especially close to us, but we definitely have not been hearing good news from the rest of the country. A couple of Jamaat members that were previously leaders received 90-year prison sentences this week. So the Jamaat are angry and have held hartals to protest this long sentence. A different political party have had a couple of hartals on the same days demanding a harsher sentence—they want the death penalty for these Jamaat members. So a lot of the violence has centered around clashes between the two parties striking for completely opposite reasons.  

Tuesday we stayed home. I spent the morning dealing with my Nepal plane tickets, actually. I discovered that I had been booked on the wrong day, so I had to go into the office and figure it all out, rebook the tickets, etc. Of course, one of the days I needed a flight on was sold out so I had to cancel half of my reservation completely, book half of my trip through a different airlines…ahh the whole thing was just a mess! BUT I figured it out. After that craziness, the afternoon was relaxing and we just hung out and did some work from home.

Wednesday—another strike. Hartal days the office is technically not open open and you are supposed to use your own discretion on whether to go to work, so there is a mix between who goes and who doesn’t. I just follow Ariadna’s lead. She tends to stay home or go somewhere else to work, I think mostly just to mix up the work environment. So we actually went and met at a branch of North End Coffee Roasters that is closer to my house in the lobby of a hotel. We spent the morning getting work done and I was able to get some real coffee (after not having coffee for so long it REALLY wakes me up).

Thursday was Nepal time! I woke up and had to get some work done and pack and make sure I had my tickets and money and everything in order. It was a sort of hectic morning. Alamgir helped me book a car, and I booked it WAY ahead of time just to be safe and luckily I did. It came over 30 minutes late…but I still was at the airport SO far ahead of time; I couldn’t even check in when I first arrived…still, I didn’t know what the process would be so I was more than happy to get there early. The security was such a joke I was shocked. There was just one security detector you walked through to enter the airport (shoes, belt, jewelry, etc. still on), a very quick pat-down type thing, and your bag went through a conveyor to get checked but no rules on taking anything out or liquids or anything like that. Something even came up in my bag on the machine but the guy was like do you have a mobile in there, and I said yes, and he was like oh just go ahead. The same was the case for the mini security we went through to get into the actual gate. It was so strange how lax it was…

There was a Lavazza at the airport so I just hung out, had some tea and read while I waited for my flight. There were no delays and no problems boarding. We actually left a few minutes early…unheard of apparently with these smaller local airlines. I’m not complaining. The flight was short and we stayed below the clouds for most of it, which was great, because I saw some really amazing views of Bangladesh and Nepal. Landing in Nepal was crazy. We were in the clouds until what felt like 10 feet above the ground—then we popped out of the cloud coverage and hit the ground. I don’t know how they saw the runway. I had no problem getting through customs (even though I had to fill out a visa application upon arrival) and had no problem finding my driver to take me to the hotel, even though I had a scare for a minute when I walked out from baggage claim and didn't see him. I also had no cell service at this point. But it turns out all of the drivers stand outside outside to wait, so once I was pointed in the right direction, I was fine.

The hotel I am staying at is BEAUTIFUL. I will have to post pictures, because I don’t even know how to describe it. It is a little compound of historical-looking, dark brick buildings with tons of floor to ceiling windows, tile floors and neutral colors all around. Everything is open and peaceful and beautiful. There is a great pool, a little bar/grill area next to the pool, a library to have tea and hang out in, a spa, and a couple of different restaurants. And the rooms are great. It really is such a peaceful setting in a pretty hectic city (nothing compared to Dhaka hectic…but still, you would never guess while in the hotel grounds you were in any city at all).  

Thursday night I just ordered room service and hung out. It was relaxing after all the travelling. I also took a hot shower, which actually felt AMAZING. I know I said the last one wasn’t THAT great, but I have missed hot water. This one felt great. And getting into a clean, ant-free, cockroach-free bed was pretty incredible too.

Okay, I know I had a full day in Nepal and should write about it, but I’m pretty exhausted! I woke up at 5:15am this morning to try and go to a mountain flight—just an hour flight in a small plane where they fly you through the Himalayas to see Mt. Everest and the mountain views. I woke up that early, went and waited in the airport for an hour and a half, and then it got cancelled….during the monsoon season (right now) I guess this is expected, so I went in knowing that. But still. I am going to try again tomorrow; hopefully the weather will hold out! We’ll see. But tomorrow (or the next?) I promise a detailed recap of my entire day and experience so far in Nepal. It has been absolutely amazing and I LOVE the country so far! And it has been a great break from Dhaka—the weather is cool, the city less loud, and SO many less people. It doesn’t feel so crazy and hectic. Also there is just so much history and culture and character on every street and at every site and view I see. And the mountains that surround the entire city are just beautiful even with a lot of cloud coverage hiding parts of the view. Okay, more tomorrow, but I am loving it so far! I wish I could stay longer than two days…

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