Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Welcome to Bangladesh--Idiot! Part 2

I feel like I should explain my "Idiot!" part of the title.  I feel like I was an idiot coming here. Not that I was an idiot TO COME here. On the flipside--I had no idea of the level of poverty of Bangladesh and especially Dhaka, the capital in which we live. I am not sure the area that we live in should be billed as a Diplomatic Enclave.  It is definitely an "area" where I feel safe and there are so called checkpoints, but....

There is a separation, I suppose, but not really.  This might seem like a whiney point, but it is kind of a big deal when it is your first post.  Most seasoned foreign service people look at us with pity when we tell them this our first post and "no, we haven't worked for an NGO or done the peace corps."  They say, sympathetically that, "it only gets better," or "the next one will be nothing".

We are living in many of the same conditions that are prevalent in this country, yet can go to our nice apartments with electricity, internet, and running water.  When you walk outside you are confronted with all that is Dhaka. I have not done peace corps like many of my husband's USAID collegues.  I did live on a farm and grow vegetables (shoveled sh*t) and cut flowers to sell, and most of the time did it with horses and mules instead of a tractor, so I thought I was prepared.  Not so much. We had infrastucture. By infrastructure I mean, gravel roads that sometimes flooded and washed out, two lane highways that sometimes washed out, bridges that disappeared.  People weren't pooping and peeing directly in the gutters and we didn't use human and untreated animal waste to fertilize our crops. 

Even though our road collapsed occasionally it was functional most of the time. Here there are roads in the city and there are no rules of the roads.  None.  Did I mention we haven't even gotten to the rainy season!

We are here in the dry season, which I was surprised by because it brings mosquitoes because there are open nasty gutters along every sort of sidewalk you walk down.  It brings cold weather, that the people here are not prepared for at all.  No rain to move the water, either, thus the mosquitoes.  There really are no proper sidewalks.  I am constantly worried that we will get hit by a car, rickshaw, bicycle, motorcycle, taxi, or step on a dead animal.  I am not kidding.  I wish I could show you a picture of the dead rats or other random dead things I almost stepped on.

I am surrounded by wonderfully happy-seeming people.  This includes everyone.  Locals, expats, you name it.  Even the dogs wag their tails next to the dude sorting trash because he is happy he might get a scrap. 
This is a picture of a woman that wanted a picture with Isobel and her friend.
My kids are rockstars and if you don't know it you better move here.  Hollis (curly blonde not in the picture because he is not cool about pictures) is the one that they target because it is mostly men that are out and about, and maybe there is a cultural thing about accosting girls.  Isobel gets it sometimes, but the men have to feel comfortable enough to say in front of me that "she is pretty and her skin is like honey".  This was said by a very well-meaning man that we will interact with again.  He was super sweet and his intentions are "golden".  You have to understand, here and in India, there is a huge emphasis on light skin.  There are products and treatments that you can have done in salons and commercials promoting such things.  It sounds weird to us, yeah, but....but....we use tanning beds for our white hineys in the U.S. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Welcome to Bangladesh--Idiot! Part 1

So...I am finally getting around to writing my blog post after three weeks of being in Dhaka.  It took at bit to get to the point that I could admit that I was so far away from my loved ones and in a totally shocking place that yes, last time I checked is still on Earth.

Our trip here was very interesting and I should probably start there and maybe I will not feel like I have written to much after that tale to say what we have experienced in the last three weeks. Three weeks, really?  That's all.  It seems like months since I have left the U.S.  Call it culture shock or jetlag or suvivalism, but I feel like I have been here for much much longer than three weeks.

We had issues getting out of country.  Mainly they involved visas and people that are not really knowledgeable of travelling to or through certain countries, namely India.  Noone could tell us if we needed a visa and when it became apparent in the final hour that there was a chance we could get stuck in India without visas that would take at least 2 weeks to get, we went into survival mode.  No, we are not going that route and if you didn't tell us we needed visas when that was a possibility, we will fly a different route.  We had no home and were not staying in a hotel for 2 weeks to wait.  The eventual plan was not to go through Dehli, but go from D.C. to Japan (13 hours) for a quick switch, then to Bangkok (6 hours), sleep for 5 hours and fly to Dhaka (2.5 hours). 

We did it.  I got over my flying thing b/c security and making sure your bags weigh right and having children to keep happy kind of took precedence.  Dying in a plane crash was not on the radar. 

The kids were amazing flyers and did great.  Only Isobel melted down on the Japan to Bangkok trip because she was overtired and could not get comfortable.  This was about 8 am U.S. time and she had maybe had an hour nap the whole night. 

The flight included a drunk guy that had cussed at the flight attendant because she would not serve anymore because he was waayyyy drunk.  She came back with other flight attendants and who I presume was an air marshall.  He got handcuffed for a bit and passed out.  Then later I noticed him stumbling around.  He had to have brought his own hooch on because I am pretty sure I only was offered two drinks the first flight.  Then, of course he showed up on our flight to Japan, still stumbling but happy to pass out and sitting right behind me.  I then commented to Andy, "Wow, there sure have been a lot of single dudes on the plane to Bangkok."  He said, "Duh."  Oh yeah, that is something I hadn't really thought of...yuck! 

We arrived in Bangkok safely and went to the closest possible hotel, the Novotel that had a shuttle.  We were spoiled for sure, which was perfect because I couldn't have done anything for myself at that point, let alone my kids.  The carried our bags, got us to the room and showed up at 1am local time with room service.  All we could do was shower, eat and pass out.

This is our only photo of Japan.  Yes, were were there, really~

Then we woke up early to catch our flight to Dhaka.....oh the supense.