Thursday, July 4, 2013

Thursday, July 4th (HAPPY 4TH OF JULY)

So, Sunday we went to a wedding! Like I said in my last post, it was for a man that works in our office and everyone was invited. Women wear saris to weddings, so I asked Ariadna about getting one. She suggested I borrow one from Rafaiyat, who used to work on my project at the office as a Project Associate (the position that works under what Ariadna is, which is Project Coordinator). So, I asked Rafaiyat last week when we all went out to Thai, and she said of course. So, on Sunday I texted her to figure out a time to pick up the sari, and to ask for help tying it because I of course have NO idea how to tie a sari. She told me where she lived and that I could come by after work at any time. A random address in Gulshan 2….I knew this would be a struggle. Also, road 104—sometimes I can get lucky with numbers under 10 but 104?? Really?

So, I left work early and headed out to the street to get a rickshaw home to drop my bag off first. The guy that got me repeated the number 24 impeccably and then asked me how I was doing that day. Woah. I needed to hold onto this guy. So, when we reached my apartment I told him to wait five minutes and then I needed to go to Gulshan 2. He seemed to understand. I ran upstairs and when I came back he was waiting there and seemed to understand 104. Even though I wasn’t quite in the clear, I was so relieved. We set off, and actually road 104 is quite far (endless ways to get lost). We were going for a while and passed through some very, very nice areas with beautiful, big buildings. We made it right to her building with no problem. This truly was a miracle.

I headed up and Rafaiyat had the sari. I asked if she could help me put it on and she admitted she didn’t even know how to tie one, but her mother did and could help me. I went into the other room to put on the fitted blouse and petticoat. The fitted blouse is like an elbow-length, high-kneck scoop top that is very, very cropped. This one was also quite tight, and I was relieved that it even fit on me, because it was a close call (and that would’ve been very awkward…).  I put it on backwards at first and couldn’t get the clips up the back until I asked Rafyait and she was like yeah, it goes the other way…of course. So, finally I got the blouse on and the petticoat is just a heavy, full-length slip skirt that goes on bottom. Then, her mom came in and started tying the actual sari. It is SO much fabric. This sari was made of a sheer black fabric with a sequin/embroidered trim of dark red and little royal blue and yellow-y colored thread mixed in. It was very pretty. Her mother also gave me giant blue earrings to take to wear that were each like 5lbs. They were dangly and then also wrapped around my ear lobe. They were a whole contraption. I wore them for a little and then took them out because of how painful they were.

The sari seemed very complicated to tie, but after some folding and tucking and safety pinning, it was done. On the left side, my arm held up the extra cloth hanging off, so I had to keep my arm lifted to keep it from dragging. Also, the whole thing was heavy. Rafaiyat’s mother told me to keep the trim of the sari that drapes down the front right from twisting under as this is the “smart” way to wear it, and it looks bad when the trim twists under. Of course, the trim in no way wanted to stay up and was continuously twisting inwards, so I don’t think I was looking very smart for a lot of the wedding…

I am surprised by the cut of saris when they are worn in a part of the world that is otherwise so modest. My midriff was pretty visible through the one layer of sheer black fabric that covered it, and while mine was tied more modestly high in the back, I have seen saris that expose basically a woman’s whole back. Other than these points of exposure, though, there is tons and tons of fabric and it is quite uncomfortable to wear and to maneuver in. Prabhat worked at an NGO in India promoting women’s rights and said there is a big feminist movement that is against saris because they are responsible for a lot of women’s deaths in kitchen fires. They are such long strips of fabric, so intricately tied, that when a woman catches on fire, it is nearly impossible to get her out of the sari in time to save her. So, overall, some interesting things I was thinking about as I was getting wrapped up myself in this giant piece of cloth.

After getting dressed, Rafaiyat offered to drive me home with her driver, which I gladly accepted. I didn't know how I would get into a rickshaw in this thing and I would probably have gotten lost on my way home. So, I headed home and met up with the guys. We had to hurry back to the office to go with a small group leaving from there. It was raining and finding a CNG was a pain but after a good 30-45 minutes (actually) we found one. The six of us climbed into two different ones and headed towards the wedding.

The wedding was far away—it was pretty far south in the city. Upon “arriving,” it didn’t seem like we were close to a wedding at all. We were dropped off in a very narrow dirt (mud at this point) street lined with little shops (a lot like Old Dhaka)  and I could tell even the people who knew where we were going in theory were a little confused. But finally we headed down a little street off to the side and at the end were lights. For weddings, they use a lot of “Christmas” lights (I quote that because they are obviously not for Christmas but give you an idea of the type of lights I am talking about) in all different colors and they hang long strings of them down from buildings and/or over archways. This wedding had a long hall of lights you walked through to get into the makeshift tent they had set up for dinner.

A wedding in Bangaldesh, from what I gathered, is a three-day affair. The night before the actual ceremony, there is a small party with the bride and groom’s closer friends. It’s food and dancing and apparently a lot of fun. The day after that is the actual ceremony, where the two become married. And then the third day, the event we went to, is a dinner party that symbolizes welcoming the wife in to the husband’s home and “introducing” her to his friends and family. This is a bigger event that people they are less close to (aka the interns at the husband’s office...) are invited to.

So we entered the wedding and we were such a scene, as per usual. People were staring unabashedly. It was already pretty hectic with people shuffling around in such a small space and our group seemed to add to the chaotic movement within the tent. The tent was made with colorful strips of cloth, so it was all very bright. There were probably 4 very large tables and then at the front was a little stage with what looked like two thrones seating the bride and groom who were dressed quite ornately in gold and red and a few other colors. People were taking pictures left and right and were quite openly taking pictures of us. As we settled down and were seated, we recognized more and more people from the office who came and said hello and took pictures with us. Then, they started playing “background music”. Background music, I’ve come to notice in Bangladesh, involves either straight club music—dub step/techno/house music—or 80s/90s pop. Club music it was that night and LOUD. It created an interesting atmosphere…

Once we sat down, they brought out the food family style: big plates of chicken, biryani, beef curry and raw vegetables. The food was all very delicious and traditional. They also had this yogurt-y drink that a women from the office I was sitting next to had me try. After I generously said, “it’s good!” she poured me a HUGE glass of it. Usually, I am pretty good at sucking it up and eating/drinking whatever I need to out of politeness, but I just couldn’t handle this one. I took a few sips and then had to stop. It was a sort of sour yogurt vegetable drink, and I just couldn’t. Prabhat LOVED it. I tried to get him to drink mine but he was sitting too far away. Oh well. Nobody seemed to notice. For desert, there was sweet rice that was bright orange and had little sweet balls of a sticky sugary substance mixed in. The whole dish was a little too sweet and strangely textured for me, but I had a few bites. After eating, we got up and headed outside the tent to make room for other people to sit down and eat. We stood around with a few people from the office and talked and took pictures. One guy was spouting out little poems in Bangla, which Kishan and Prabhat understood (they are both getting quite good) but of course were completely lost on me. Kishan did broken translations to me after each one, but of course they sounded strange in English because they are only poetic sounding in the correct language.

After a little bit of hanging out outside, we headed out to find a CNG. Alamgir told us to leave early, because it is not the safest area and transportation basically disappears past 9:30 in Dhaka. There are very few CNGs at night and it is hard and more expensive than usual to get places. We headed out towards the main road and had to walk for quite awhile before finding CNGs. The area was bustling in spite of being late. A strip in the middle of the busy road housed stalls of food and snacks and dozens of rickshaws were parked along here. The other side of the street was a wide sidewalk with a fence on the far side and many people were camped out living along here. It was hectic and busy and we walked along looking for a CNG to take us back. Finally, we found one, and climbed in to go home.

When we got back, Prabhat wanted lemonade, so I walked with him to the corner store, but it was closed. Right around the corner from our house, though, is a fancy Arabian restaurant that is very modern and has cool d├ęcor. It has a koi pond and low tables and chairs outside and we sat to get a drink here and sit for a little. Mocktails are big on all the menus in Dhaka, since alcohol is not easily available, and I ended up with what I thought would just be a sparkling orange juice but tasted a lot like a non-alcoholic mint mojito. It was nice to sit out here and talk and hang out, although I was also happy once we got home and I could get out of my sari.

This week we have just been going along as usual, mostly. I’ve done a good amount of stocking up on groceries and have been cooking, which I actually have been enjoying. Also, yesterday was a hartal, so we stayed home from work. I ended up still going to the gym, since it’s close, and while it was noticeably more quiet out (especially along the main road) people seemed to be going about their usual business and almost nothing was closed. It sounds like there may have been some rioting activity in Gulshan, though, so it’s hard to tell. When they do stuff for the strikes, it’s usually on main roads so those are the ones to avoid. I guess this strike was a protest to demand the government release one of the party’s leaders who is currently in jail for war crimes. They have threatened to take more serious action than a hartal if the government doesn’t comply. As of now, the government hasn’t, so we will be watching to see what happens next.

Yesterday, we mostly hung out and cooked and watched a movie and did some work. It was a nice holiday-type day in the middle of the week. Also, today is Thursday, so it’s just about the weekend. I’m not sure what we’ll do this weekend; we currently don’t have anything planned. We want to check out this place called North End Coffee Roasters, which is an apparently nice coffee shop run by expats that has delicious coffee and cinnamon rolls. Today is the 4th of July and we wanted to see if the American Club was doing anything, but we can’t get a hold of them! We’re going to try again later, and maybe we’ll have some luck. If not, I think we are going to buy an apple pie at the bakery by our house and track down some sparklers and have our own mini celebration. But anyway, I’ll keep you posted on the weekend! Sad I’m not home for the holiday today!

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