Sunday, January 02, 2005

2 Jan 2005 : Jess in Dhaka

I wrote the entry below the night I arrived:

As i’m typing this, I’m waiting to see if the pump they’ve activated in the backyard will succeed in bringing water to my room. Yixin’s room is fine, so I guess it’s the bad-luck-Jess thing again.
What a strange day it has been. In less than 24 hours, I have been transported from first-world to third, and it only gets more surreal with each step.

At 34,000 feet with the air at minus 41 degrees Celcius outside and the plane moving at probably over 500 miles per hour, it just felt as if I was running away.

I don’t even know how to start describing what I’ve seen so far because I have not spent even a day here and yet...

I was thinking of writing about the flight and the unfriendly sterwardesses. Or maybe even about how Yixin and myself was two out of the four women on the flight. And how I’ve never been stared at so much in my life.

And it’s not even day yet over here.

Then I arrived at the airport, similar to Myanmar’s and even Thailand’s actually, and I saw a bit more.

The hoards of people waiting in the cold, wrapped like it’s winter, faces hidden under the scarves and the fog.

And I saw in the car on the way, how easy it was to built a highway and roads. And I saw for the first time people huddled around a fire by the road, like you see in the movies in the ghetto streets of New York. And a small boy, perhaps 11 years old? Rubbing his arms from the cold as he walked along the pavement alone. At 3 am in the morning, with no other living soul in sight and all the shops closed and hardly enough light from the solitary lamppost to see his face... I wondered where he was walking to. And walking from.

Water’s on. I’ll be right back.

Ok I just came back from my bath.

Shall stop my attempt at prose and just tell the facts like for those of you who are really that interested.

Had a bit of trouble at first witht the flight. Here’s a tip: Call the airlines before the flight to confirm flight itenary. Because a non-stop flight can become a transit flight before you even know it! So I ended up landing in Dhaka’s Zia International Airport at 1.05 am rather than 10.20 pm.

I spent the passing of 2004 TWICE in the plane. It was the most uneventful ccountdown ever.
The airport’s really not too bad, becauase I expected worse. But it reminds me of Bangkok and Myanmar’s. The DFS is just one counter though.

I alreadly love the people. Because not once did i have to carry my own lugguage. Someone always reaches out just as I have to lift it to help me. And they never ever meet my eye when I look at them to say thank you.

A guy at waiting next to me at the belt for his own suitcase told me in English “You just tell me which one is yours I help you carry.”

A guy whose suitcase was next to mine in the overhead compartment on the plane just wordlessly lifted mine down. Smiling a bit because I was so gleeful.

Everyone I met who exchanged words with me are super proud and pleased that we’re here. “Welcome to Bangladesh!”

Walking out of the exit hall I was confused as to which direction to head towards. then I looked at the huge crowd huddled behind the glass doors waiting for their friend, husband, brother, father, and I just burst into laughter. Because quite a number of them pressed against the glass was urgently signally me to continue walking straight because well, that’s the right entrance.
The people who picked me up refused to let me carry my carry on bag because the boot had no more space. He put it on his own lap when he sat in the car.

I am already in love with the people. Did I mention that?

And I am surprised that Bangladeshis look more like Northern Indian than those from the South. I’ve been getting it wrong when I walked in Little India. They have more refined features, like sharper nose, defined cheekbones. Plus they’re not as dark skinned.

I already spotted a couple of Vivian Balakrishnans lookalikes.

The place is smaller than I expected. There are onlyabout 8 or 9 rooms here,, plus a small common room with the computer and television and a kitchen which churns out three meals a day for anyone who’s hungry.

The rooms are amazingly furnished.Two pillows and a bolster, a damn thick blanket that looks like it can be a mattress by itself. A metal cupboard that’s way too noisy, a wooden desk with one pull out drawer and one black patent leather chair which is far more comfortable than the plastic ones they give in NTU’s hall. I should know, my butt is on it right now.

So I arrived, and I felt like I was in Malaysia, until I saw the people. Because in Malaysia you don’t see people pulling a wheelbarrow like structure loaded with logs at 3 am at night along a highway.

The only problem I’ve had so far is that I don’t know if boiling the water and filtering it with my bottle is sufficient. I’ll have to wait and see if my stomach acts up tomorrow.

And the cupboard has a layer of dust.

And the bed is a super single size, so my bed sheets are useless.

And the water, well, is actually brownish. At least I’ve water now. Poor security guard, had to wake him up twice to turn on the pumps for me.

And I won’t get to use the Internet much. No connection in the room. So well I guess i won’t be needing that web cam after all.

I’ve already met a group of amazing people who returned from one of the few New Year parties in Bangladesh.

Well, they’re actually Indian and not Bangladeshi, but I think I can get along with them pretty well, seeing that one was drunk and another was drunk and stoned.

So I’m going to go and sleep now, and I can hear prayers being broadcast from the mosques.

It’s going to be quite an experience.


mangomaiden said...

Woohoo! Sounds like fun!! Where are you staying? A student hostel? Work @ MTV starts in about 12 hours' time for me... *sigh* Post up pictures soon! Happy New 2005!

Anonymous said...

have a good stay!
regards to yixin as well


Anonymous said...

have a great time in dhaka and say hi to yixin for me!

huckerby said...

take care of yourself over there! and ps hello to alvin and jas, lol