How to Crash a Deshi Wedding
September 17, 2004
My brother-in-law (the one in whose house I am living – heretofore known as Dada) got invited to the wedding of his office-mate’s only daughter, so of course we all tagged along. Bangladeshi weddings are quite the event, and people here spend relatively large chunks of their hard earned money to throw a big shindig. Today was the bride’s family’s turn to throw the party, so we went over to the community center. I think it’s a three story building, and there were three weddings going on simultaneously. We all got dressed up, and I wrapped myself in a green sari and began to perspire immediately and profusely. It was worth it though, except that my gut roll hung out a little. Anyways, we got there and really didn’t know anyone, but we sat down at a table and were served polau (yummy pilaf type rice), fish, chicken, and beef, with a side of salad and a dessert of doi (sweet yogurt). I didn’t eat the meat of course, which people thought was weird, but it was really good polau. Then I went up to see the “bo” (bride), and sat next to her and asked if she minded if I took a picture with her. I have no idea who she is and she has no idea who I am, but we made a cute pair anyways.
Settled in and ready to roll.
September 16, 2004
I just found out that last night in Debiddar (I’m not sure how to spell that but it’s a place near a river somewhere close to Comilla), a dam broke and 200 villages were washed away. So many people died – women, children, everybody. It’s been raining constantly and there is just no place for the water to go. What a tragedy. What is worse is the fact that three months from now there will be a huge food shortage. Right now, the market is flooded with fish that nobody wants to buy, but all the crops for this season have been wiped out. In my email today, I got a warning from the US embassy that houses fall apart during the flood and the electric wiring becomes exposed, creating an electrocution hazard. Apparently this happens to a lot of people.
My flood related discomfort is much less serious.
It’s been raining pretty much nonstop since we arrived here, but somehow we managed to get the apartment furnished. I really shouldn’t say “we”, because I wasn’t allowed to go with on the buying excursions. This was for two reasons: 1) because the streets were completely flooded and getting around was hard enough without the dumb white lady tagging along, and 2) because when the store owners see me they automatically increase the price of their goods. I stayed here and organized stuff and waited for the guy to come and hook up the converter for the DVD player. Isaac is now in DVD heaven. My bhabi bought him a “mora” (bamboo stool) today and he’s so happy about it that he won’t get off of it. He also got a bamboo bookshelf that has doors on it for his toys. The shelf cost 200 taka, or $3.45. He was so happy about it that he gave it a kiss. He’s still having dysentery issues, but hopefully it will clear up in a few days.
Because of the rain, none of the clothes that we have washed are drying. We hung them throughout the apartment on ropes, but they just don’t dry. It’s too humid. They are starting to smell really gross, so we strung some ropes up over the stove and left it on (gas is so cheap here – about 5 bucks for an unlimited monthly supply) and now they are drying out, no problem. Do I feel bad about the gratuitous burning of fossil fuel? Yes, but stinky clothes just won’t do.
I’m reading a great book that is helping me get through the scary moments that I have when I realize where I am. It’s called The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer. I happened to pick it up right before we left and started reading it on the plane. It has to do with surrendering to your destiny and allowing things to happen in the way that they are intended to, and also using your free will to create that intention. Sounds hokey, but it’s an amazing book.
Today I’m supposed to get my phone line, so that bodes well for the internet connection. I’m starting to really get down to business, although it’s hard to know where to start. I have a vague Idea but turning it into reality is not easy. I’m trying to take one thing at a time.
If you’re reading this, send me an email! I need contact from the outside world!
September 15, 2004
Men Spotted Peeing (MSPs) and other interesting details
Bangladesh is truly a man’s country. Men have absolutely no problem whatsoever to stop wherever they happen to be, squat down, and drop trail right then and there. It’s called Gono Batroom (the people’s bathroom). Women, on the other hand, have epidemic rates of UTIs due to the lack of public restroom facilities. The ones that do exist are usually gross, and it’s difficult to maneuver in a bathroom when you are wearing six yards of strategically wrapped fabric. So far, I have spotted exactly 33 men peeing in public. Yes, I am keeping count. (Masud just came in and asked me to add that not ALL men feel comfortable peeing in public, only some. And I would suppose that the level of comfort is correlated with the fullness of bladder.)
It costs 5 taka per minute to call the US using a calling card. So if 58 taka equals one dollar, then 5 taka equals about 9 cents. Not bad! Maybe I’ll be calling some of you after all!
People don’t use washing machines here – not because they have anything against washing machines, but they are kindof a luxury item and not all that available to the general public. Either they wash the clothes themselves (hard on the legs and back, take it from me) or they take the clothes to the laundry place. For each piece of clothing, it costs 9 taka to wash, dry and iron, or only 3 taka to iron. Masud dropped off a pile of our laundry to be ironed, and when he picked it up, he gave the lady 6 taka per item instead of 3 taka. She was so happy that she stopped and said a prayer for him right then and there. I can’t imagine ironing a pair of Masud’s pants for 3 taka. What am I saying? I do it now for free, I guess! Anyways, I guess I’ll be getting a “Bua”, which is a woman who will stop by my house once a day and wash my clothes and do some minor cleaning. I’m not sure how I feel about it. On one hand, she needs to work, and I need someone to wash my clothes. On the other hand, I feel like I’m exploiting her need to work. She’ll do this for about $20 a month. Cheaper than a washing machine, but hard on the ol’ ethics.
Some disturbing news that I keep forgetting to write down – when we stay in Dhaka, we stay at Iqram-bhai and Rina-bhabi’s house. Rina-bhabi got sick the day we left for Rangpur, and we have recently found out that she has contracted the mosquito-borne Dengue fever. There are two types of Dengue, one kind is not very serious and some people don’t even know they have it, but the other kind is very serious and causes internal bleeding. Sadly, she has the second kind. She’s in the hospital now and we are all hoping that she recovers soon. It’s scary to note that we were in the same house where the infected mosquito bit her…
September 14, 2004
Number of days in Bangladesh: 9
Number of puking episodes (Isaac): 3
Number of amoeba infections: 1
Number of festering mosquito bites (Isaac and Katie): approximately 30
Number of different potions, contraptions, and chemicals used to prevent mosquito bites: 6 (mosquito net, DEET, herbal insect repellent, Permanone, some sort of machine that vaporizes mosquito repelling oil, small solar powered device that emits a high pitched tone)
Number of the above mentioned items that are effective: 0
Number of bugs ingested: unknown
Number of ants currently running across my desk: 9
Number of strange men who have said “How are you?” or made cat meow sounds in a peculiarly high-pitched voice when they see me: 3
Number of scary bus riding moments: 1 (tire exploded on the way back from Rangpur)
Number of scary rickshaw moments: 1 – collision with another rickshaw, no major damage
Well, that paints a pleasant picture, doesn’t it? Something tells me I should try to focus on the positive. Let’s see what I can come up with…
Number of amazingly good deals on furniture and household goods: 5
Number of bags of Doritos found and purchased in Dhaka supermarkets: 4
Number of meaningful, heartfelt conversations with reminiscing husband: 3
Number of people who are genuinely happy to see me and willing to help me in any way that they can: Too many to count
Number of epiphanies I’ve had since I’ve been here: 6
Number of pirated DVDs and CDs purchased: 18
Number of times I’ve had to leave Isaac at daycare: 0
Number of times I’ve had to cook meals for the family: 0
Number of times I’ve had to clean the toilet: 0 (Ok, so there’s no toilet. But Isaac is pretty stoked that he learned how to “poop in a hole”. With all the amoebas, he’s an expert at this point.)
Friday, September 17, 2004
How to Crash a Deshi Wedding