Saturday, July 13, 2013

Saturday, July 13th

So yesterday was a really good day! I didn’t sleep well (again), but I woke up and made some breakfast and just hung out for a while. Then, I packed up a swimsuit, sunscreen and a book and went to the Westin. A really nice rickshaw wallah took me who spoke some English so I took down his phone number. FINALLY a good go-to rickshaw if I need to travel somewhere complicated (the day was already off to a good start!). At the Westin, I swam some laps, which was a good mix-up from the monotony of a treadmill, and then hung out by the pool and read my book. It was sort of a cloudy, windy, feels-like-its-about-to-rain type of day, but it was still so relaxing. After, I took my first hot shower in almost a month. But honestly? It didn’t feel that great. It just sort of felt weird. I kept the hot water on to will myself to love it, but it wasn’t like I was cold and needed the hot water. I guess I’m getting accustomed to the whole cold shower thing? Maybe it was just yesterday, though. Most mornings I would LOVE to be climbing into a hot shower over a cold one.

After showering and using nice towels (ah it was all such a treat!) I stopped by Lavender on my way home (the supermarket—my favorite) and picked up some groceries. Once I got home, I had some lunch and the guys were up so we just hung out for a little. I was exhausted after barely sleeping the night before so Prabhat told me to go take a nap before we went out. I listened to him and did and it felt great. I also have been trying to plan this trip to Nepal! I am officially going alone, which is such a bummer. But Prabhat can only go next weekend because he’s going to the field and I can only go the weekend after that because of the field. So, I have been exploring some hotels and there are SO many great options! The city looks beautiful. I am going to try and find a tour company that does group hikes (or maybe through the hotel) because I reallyyyy want the chance to go hiking while I'm there. We’ll see what I’m able to work out.

So after my nap, we headed down to Old Dhaka to see some mosques. I was REALLY nervous about traffic after our last trip and the fact that it’s Ramadan (so the traffic is usually worse) but it was a miracle. The roads were CLEAR. It was shocking, unheard of, amazing. It took us like 15 minutes to get down there. I guess since it’s Friday people are at home with their families, praying, getting ready for Iftar (it was already 5:00pm when we left and Iftar is at like 7pm). It was SO nice though to not have traffic! The mosque we went to was really pretty and so peaceful despite being in the middle of such a crazy city. The grounds were a pretty good size. It was white with beautiful blue mosaic tiling and accents of green throughout the building. A big pond was to one side and on the other side was a graveyard. We went “inside” (it was a pretty open space with no completely closed walls) and walked around and people were hanging out and some praying. A group of young men on the far side were getting prepared for Iftar. The food was already out and they were starting to line up hundreds of plates. I guess a lot of people come to the mosque to break fast.

We hung out over in the far area by the pond for a while. One guy was looking at us very intensely and with a sad face. He started talking to us. He asked tons of questions about what we were doing there, where we worked, etc. He said he used to work for an NGO and had been unemployed for about a year. He seemed to have this permanent confused, sad expression on his face. One thing he KEPT asking and could not understand was the nature of our relationship. He kept asking if we were just friends and we were like yep all JUST friends. It’s turned into a pretty common (and funny) occurrence that people think I am dating Kishan or Prabhat (usually Kishan for some reason! Prabhat is just our older brother or something?). People don’t really understand the concept of girls and guys just being friends. Also, I think by my age here I am not really supposed to be single. But yeah, he was definitely confused and trying to figure out the nature of our relationships.

As we left, he followed us out on the street. He tried to tell us to come to his house for Iftar. Well, first he asked Kishan and when Kishan said no, he asked me. We were like no, no, no, no. He also could NOT say my name. He was going between “kitten” (a pretty common pronunciation among foreigners, actually) and “Clinton,” which, well, is just not my names. So he asked me, “Clinton” if I would come to Iftar. It was an interesting interaction. Finally we hopped in a rickshaw to go grab a CNG to go home. We were going to go to another mosque, the national mosque, but it was almost Iftar so it would’ve been PACKED. Actually, walking home from lavender earlier, the street it’s on has a mosque. I left at prayer time and the street was FILLED—completely filled you couldn't walk through—of people that were overflowing from the mosque and therefore praying out in the streets. It was a pretty incredible sight. I went the other way to go home, obviously. But anyway, yes, the national mosque would’ve been a HUGE scene, and we didn’t want to be imposing during such an important and religious time. The reason the mosque we visited wasn’t crazy overflowing is because it is a Shiite mosque and Shi’ites are definitely a minority in Bangladesh.

So, we grabbed a CNG no problem (again, incredible) and headed home on clear, empty roads. The whole experience was amazingly stress-free and the mosque had been so peaceful. I was shocked how calm I felt re-entering Banani. It was so pleasant. We decided to go get an Iftar meal at Star Kebab—a traditional Bengali restaurant in Banani that I’ve mentioned. It was PACKED. For the most part, restaurants set up stands outside with tons of food options to-go and people pick this up to take home and have Iftar with their families. But I guess it is also popular to eat out. Star Kebab is a big three-story maze. The first floor is like fast food/pick up. The second floor has one room where you can get kebabs and a different room that at least tonight was serving pre-created Iftar plates. Iftar items are generally ALL fried. Like tons of snack-food-type fried items and a lot of them. So that is what the plate seemed to consist of. The third floor was an even bigger room serving the Iftar plate.

We opted for the menu room with kebabs. It was also packed. They ended up putting two two-person tables together (that were already filled with people eating) and had us sit in between these two parties, with all three of us parties sharing the now big table. It was so strange, but everyone was completely fine with it, so it must be a normal thing to do. Can you imagine a restaurant trying to do that in the US? Everyone in the room ate in almost completely silence. We figured it was either because everyone was so hungry after not eating all day or a religious practice of respect (probably had to do with respect). So we ordered kebabs, jahl fry, naan, and paratha and basically ate in silence. It was a HEAVY meal. The jahl fry there is just chicken drowning in a very oily, sort of spicy sauce. And paratha and naan are always very filling, sine they are generous with how much they give you. We packaged up a bunch to take home, but we ended up just giving it to some kids outside the restaurant. We didn’t need all that extra naan and they were thrilled.

We walked home, which was nice after our huge meal, and sat down to find a movie. All the movies on, I’ve noticed (or most of them) or sci-fi. They must be really into their sci-fi here. BUT, with this day going so well and generally going my way thus far, my luck continued, and there happened to be a rom-com on, which I was absolutely thrilled about. Made of Honor. Not the best movie, very predictable, sort of whatever, but I was just excited to not be watching sci-fi! So we lounged and watched the movie and then I headed back to bed.

Sitting in bed, I suddenly saw a big black bud scuttle by on the floor. The cockroach! I crept out of the kitchen and grabbed a Tupperware and snuck back in and put it right down on top of it—I got him! We slid a bag under the Tupperware and took him outside. RIGHT after, we found ANOTHER one in the kitchen! We did the same thing. And thennnnn going back in my room to finally go to sleep I saw ANOTHER one. It was nice we were catching all them, but ugh just to deal with them is gross and the fact that there are SO many. And they are HUGE. We are going to buy some chalk and or spray. Chalk works wonders apparently. You just put it around your bed, in doorways, in the kitchen, etc. They won’t cross it.

Well, besides dealing with cockroaches (although that’s two less living in my room!), as you can see I had a really great day. Things just really went my way. It was relaxing and fun and easy. Not adjectives I use a lot to describe days in crazy Dhaka. So, I am up now, it’s Saturday, and I don’t know what we’ll do. We were going to try and go to Dhaka’s old capital—it’s supposed to be a really beautiful and historical little city--but we were going to take IPA’s car to do it (it’s an hour away, maybe more) and we couldn’t plan it so last minute. Maybe we can make it work another day! Although, depending on my field dates, which will probably be the end of this week, this is most likely my last weekend in Dhaka! So crazy! We should have big plans for today, but I think we’ll just hang out, maybe visit another mosque, and then go see the Liberation War Museum (which is supposed to be the best museum here). I also would love to go to a movie, so we may try and sort out buying tickets. We’re probably too late for a show tonight, but maybe we can get tickets for tomorrow. Okay, anyway, I think that’s all for now! I’ll keep you posted (so many posts lately, right? I’m doing better!). 

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