I ended up not going to the wedding. The ceremony was going to be just a dinner with the bride and groom sitting on a stage and everyone there (often hundreds) taking photos with them. I spent my weekend out with friends both evenings in various clubs. Friday there was a hash in the Botanical Gardens which was really lovely. The “gardens” were more like a forest with some open areas with flowers but it was beautiful and the quietest outside place I’ve been since arriving here. I started with the runners but it was a very hot day and I was already not feeling well. I had to stop, and wanted to join the walkers but after a small misunderstanding was led by the “forest minister” on his little motorbike through the vegetation eventually getting to the hash end point, which was a beautiful balcony overlooking the lake and open space in the botanical gardens. I was pretty embarrassed as they evacuated the whole balcony area for me (they would have later for all the hashers but as I was the only one there at the time I got a lot of looks) so I sat there in the shade until everyone came. It was a good hash in the end despite me sitting on my lonesome and missing a lot of it, the circle afterwards was a lot of fun. All the seemingly normal things to happen in a circle happened – you must drink a can of beer out of your shoe if you have new shoes (after you’ve run 9km in them in 36 degree heat of course), there were “down downs” for funny things that happened on the run, and c couple of the unlucky ones had to wear the tube on their arm (so you can’t reach your mouth with your cup – go figure). After the circle one of the hashers had kindly brought food for everyone as it was a day after the 4th of July. Unfortunately most of it was meat again. I really am having a lot of trouble not eating meat here, there rarely seems to be another option.
On Saturday I spent the morning in Newmarket, a probably the biggest market in Dhaka (inside and outside), with a girl I’d met the week before and her housemates. I went with apparently ambitious plans to find fabric, a tailor that spoke English, and explain what I wanted them to make. We spent a lot less time there than I thought we were going to so I came out with one bit of fabric, a bag of cardamom seeds that I think I was overcharged for, and no other plans. We stopped off for lunch at a really nice little place then I had some time to relax before Ultimate that day. I was still not feeling well but I had skipped it the last couple of times due to being away and doing the hash so I felt I should go, so dragged myself from my hour-long nap and went along. It turned out to be only 5 of us as most people are away for the summer and some were sick, so we threw around for a bit, played hot box Ultimate then finished at a coffee shop. That evening I started feeling worse and got really sick for the first time being here, not bad after a month! I spent the next day home from work but recovered quickly. I mostly slept during my day off but the housekeeper taught me how to make chapati so I have that under my belt now! Next she needs to teach me how to make this amazing pumpkin and prawn curry she makes.
I was back at work the next day, with yet another new location of my desk which I then asked to move AGAIN as I was right below the air conditioner and having that blow in your face all day makes you feel pretty ill, or at least it does for me. Ramadan started on Tuesday which doesn’t mean much for me but it does mean the office is now only open until 3.30. I’ve heard two reasons for this: for the employees who fast to go home early as it’s hard to work all day without food, and because the traffic gets crazy in the Ramadan evenings. Either way, fantastic news for me. Most people fast all day and then at around 6.52pm (this changes every day according to the sunset), there is iftar, when the sun is down and they can start to eat again. It usually starts with dates or a few fruits with some fried veggie items to get the blood sugar levels up then there is a big dinner.
I bought some DVDs this week and finally found a really great place to get them – English speaking shopkeeper who knows about many of the TV series at least, catalogue of everything they have (which seems to be everything!!), a good price and I was able to bargain, and so far everything is clear and works! I was probably more happy than I should have been to find the fourth season of Modern Family as I have finished the first three I found in the flat and then I got the first five seasons of the Mentalist (I’ve seen some but not many and they are great), the second season of Suits (first season I loved), the first season of Raising Hope (never seen it, trying it out) and the first four seasons of Parks and Recreation (seen all, love all, want all on DVD) – all for about 25 quid. Now I just need to watch them all before my masters starts..
On Wednesday evening us four housemates and a colleague headed to a mall in the south of the city where we had heard had a place with great momos, a favourite nepali food of my housemate – a type of steamed dumping as I understand it. We travelled for about an hour in awful trafiic (as it was the first night of Ramadan), then got seriously stuck and gave up and walked the rest, up the 6 or 7 escalators to the top floor of the mall of the food court, found the correct stall.. and they were out. We ended up having a very mediocre meal but it was a fun evening. I still need to try momos though..
On Thursday evening we came upon an opportunity to be in a bengali TV commercial for a calling card as they needed “foreigners”, courtesy of the expat group on Facebook. The scene we were in was a bengali man sitting in a coffee shop in “America” and wishing he was home – we were the people in the coffee shop and had to sit and chat, “gossip” as we were told, drink “coffee” etc. I’m basically a bengali star now, and it will start to be aired both here and on the Bangladeshi channels in the US in a couple weeks. It was a funny look into some serious disorganization and total chaos that comes with everything here. As always, it took much much longer than expected and instead of being dropped off home at 9pm to go to a birthday party of our neighbour, we arrived home just after midnight, turning up to the party extremely fashionably late. In the end it didn’t matter as the party finished just after 5am, and I even managed to throw together a Pacman costume for the 90’s theme (yellow dress + permanent marker).
I hashed again this weekend which was in an area north of here, in a more rural party of the city limits. I decided to walk instead of run as I’m still getting used to the heat. The walk ended up being a good work out anyway though as the “lead hare” is a runner so we power walked for the hour and a half hash. We went through fields, little villages, and past streets of people preparing iftar food. I was pretty hungry but had had breakfast – I can’t imagine how the people in the street could handle seeing and smelling the delicious food lining it ready for the evening. The night inevitably ended at a club (a new one for me – the British High Commission club, very nice as expected!), and then a hasher’s house but I took it easy as I had lots of plans for Sunday!
My housemates and I decided to spend Saturday together doing something as my Nepali housemate goes back to Nepal on Monday. After some research, we decided on breakfast in the morning at a club, then a boat ride in Uttara, an area above the city. We had a surprisingly good quality breakfast then headed up north. As our internet was yet again not working that morning I couldn’t look up exactly where we needed to go so our driver drove to where he knew which was a little further out. Upon arriving at the boat docks we were inevitably greeted with a crowd of men demanding a very high price for a ride on the boat. They were all very rude and it gave us a bad feeling, but we had travelled for over an hour so after a lot of bartering and discussion we got into the boat yard and picked a boat. We ended up paying about £1.50 each for an hour boat ride on the river, so it worked out very well in the end despite the heavy rain clouds that opened on us. It was a really fun boat ride and a nice way to see the river banks and all the activity that happens on it.
Our driver took us another way on the way home which ended up going through an area called Mirpur, that was home to the Botanical Gardens and Zoo. We bought our 10 taka ticket (8p) for entry into the Botanical Gardens and I led everyone to the balcony area in the centre of the park I’d been to last week. Despite constantly being followed by bengali men usually with just a curious interest of who we were (but stopped as soon as we told them to), it was a nice end to the day and the weather turned into bright sun. We also saw a huge lizard animal about the size of a dog – no idea what it was! Does anyone know? (Picture at the end). We took a couple hours rest at home before dinner where I discovered my plan to put sun cream on my face in the morning but bring it so I could do my arms in the car hadn’t worked as I’d forgotten the sun cream at home, and my arms are now pretty burnt. We went out for dinner at Shwarma house where someone had recommended a specific dish. For the first time in a long time I really did not like the meal and I left it, ordering something instead a falafal shwarma which was much nicer. I was not at all impressed by the food but they had a delicious mint lemon juice for about 30p so it wasn’t a total waste.
I was back in the office today, realising more and more as I start my sixth week here how little time I have left and how much I need to make the most of it. We have a new housemate starting this week so it will be nice to now be the experienced one instead of the newbie!