Saturday, January 29, 2005

Kris Kahn

Thanks to Joce, got to read what prose that i would describe as sinfully pleasurable to indulge upon.


http://kristkahn.net/main.html


At the menu, choose "03. Letter Found"

Here's an excerpt:

"You are both five hours behind me and too many dreamscapes beyond. "

"In everything I have written, you struggle to find the implication of you though you never asked me outright: How could you do this to me?  Instead, I read it in your eyes: How could you do this to me, imprison me within your lines? 


My response is devoid now of any meaning it might one have had for I’ve done nothing, nothing of the sort.  I am only trying to make you, this, immortal."


Delicious.


Mary Fuckin' Poppins

The phrase above is from Sex and the City and I thought it was funny.

Been feeling a bit under the weather recently, for several reasons that I do not care to expouse upon.

But I did cave in to buy Sex and the City Season 5, after a brief mental tussle between SATC, Seinfeld and yet another season of Friends.

But I figured, I already have one Friends DVD... and I associate with SATC with certain emotions and feelings which I thought would be beneficial for me to re-experience.

I thoroughly enjoy SATC for all the reasons a fictionous television programme should be enjoyed for. Firstly, well, fiction. And indulgence in fantasies otherwise unattainable, a certain level of voyeurism and just entertainment.

But it didn't have quite the same effect as me as before, perhaps because there was no wine present and my dorm room a far cry from red velvet couches with indian ethnic rugs under my feet.

But somewhere along the way it occured to me how strange and mildly amusing it was for me to be looking for solace in fiction. It's the a common concept, flight from reality into fantasy - but why does a lie make us feel better?



Great. Now I sound just like Carrie, contemplating life's unanswerable questions in front of a fuckin' laptop.

But the answer is obvious lah. Fiction = Denial = Fantasy = Escape/Relief/Cure/Solution (albeit temporary)




Made a shopping trip of sorts to several places yesterday, although I did not truly enjoy the experience because my brain was still numb from the accidental overdose of coffee (how can two tablespoons knock me out like that) in the morning.

Went to a boutique called Aarongs clearly more suitable for expats with money to burn, a DVD shop which failed to arouse my interest and another shopping centre to look at more random merchandise.

I don't know why, being in the land of cheap DVDs, i just lost interest in watching movies. If I wanted a story, I'd rather read a book. If I wanted entertainment, I'd rather watch a mindless sitcom.

Ah hell I'm buying Seinfeld next.



And anyway, just want to say thank you to sweet 'ol Frankie in Aussieland because he's one of those who never fails try his very best to perk me up when I'm feeling out of sorts. You're such a sweetheart =) MSN can be helpful sometimes, I guess.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Did not realise how fucking expensive DHL and FedEx was until I tried sending stuff back to Singapore. It is ridiculous.

If there's one thing I dislike about Dhaka, it's the crime and the inequality of women.

The first few weeks or so I did not feel the pressure of being female and alone in the city. But now I have to muster up some guts before venturing out alone, and even when I do go out, I'm looking over my shoulder constantly.

It doesn't help that everyone else is as paranoid if not more so than I am.

Suddenly felt pissed off at having breasts and long hair.





Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Land of Contradictions.

Took an off-day to try and work the virus out of my body.

All the stereotypes of a third-world country is becoming apparent to me as my stay here grows longer. The poverty, wide income gap, influx of capitalism, crime, corruption, bureacracy, the slums next to the shopping centres..

And yet there are conflicting indications, like the free press, active political scene and a female prime minister.

And then you see the special "police" riding around in jeeps, rumoured to be the hit squad of the government, who will shoot on sight and thus cutting down on all the red tape. Apparently they were activated due to frustration from the corruption of police officials here.

Democracy is certainly no indication of progress, as Singapore has very clearly demonstrated.

It seems to me that Bangladesh is guilty of what Chee Soon Juan has been accused of - caring about the ideals, and not the practicalities of running a nation.

And right now, it does look as if democracy is over-rated, because the ability to vote does not translate into a better standard of living. And with the frequent changes in government and the volatile political scene, obviously politicians will be concentrating more on keeping their posts rather than catering to the rest of the population.

Bangladesh won its independence with blood on the battle field - Singapore was liberalised with a signature on a contract. Both countries have been independent for almost the same amount of time, but Bangladesh seems stuck in the exact same position. The only difference is that there are more of the rich.

It's scary to say this, but it seems like the only way to get any kind of "quick" results is to hire LKY and do away with this wishy washy prime minister who's just not ruthless enough to get rid of her opponents and gain full control of the country and its people. I actually do think it doesn't matter who runs the country, as long as he or she has absolute control. It seems that that's the only way things will get done.

Hiyah I don't know what I'm talking about. Just that Bangladesh has what Singapore lacks and vice versa - and if we go by total costs and benefits - Chee Soon Juan can go fly a kite.

Plan to piss everybody off by going off for a walk by myself later. I'm really sick and tired of having to go everywhere with someone, I won't bring out money and I'll stick to the main roads. Wow look how reckless I am. Here's a bad analogy - the Wright brothers didn't invent the airplane by staring at it in their garage.

But there are a couple of drug addicts I wanna take a picture off - this is the time of the day they're usually stoned out and asleep by the road.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Fifty Crows

Nice stuff to check out.

I like the one on Iran.

http://www.fiftycrows.org

Have finally landed myself in a state I was trying to avoid since I came here... developed a terrible cough somehow yesterday, when I woke up feeling fine and went to bed at 7 pm feeling the complete opposite.

But still I'm at work... hope to make the cough worse so I can take off tomorrow with no guilt. Haha.

The disgusting man is still as disgusting as ever, after he just dumped yet another project on us.

Admittedly, he did ASK if we wanted to do it, but a few questions to find out more about it somehow gave him the idea that we were willing to take it on.

It involves reading four books on chinese comics and analysing the comics and picking out those relavant to the theme of research.

"So you guys just look through these books... yadayadayayayada"

"oh ok, have you already started on it?" (since you've been holding them for so long and it would help us if you had something to start us off with)

"Oh yes I've finished. I've looked through all this"

*confusion and mild panic* (why are we looking through what you've already looked through)

"Oh ok, so do you have any written materials that we can use? Instead of starting from the beginning?"

"Oh nono, it's all in here" *taps head* "Any questions, I'll be in office till like 10pm today."

"We're not going office today."

The conversation was on the last day of our holidays. What a fine man to pick the last out of four days of holidays to tell us this.

Trying to act so bloody busy that he'll be in office, showing off in front of a colleague who had come to visit.


I think Yixin and I have made it pretty clear that we think he's an idiot. Which is why he gets all flustered and irritated when we start asking him questions.... like why can't these two bitches just shut up and do what i tell them to do.

His wife and son's dried clothes still in the common room for like two weeks, his own clothes on the clothes line for like almost a week, forever leaving huge mess of coffee stains in the kitchen for others to clean up after....

Zen zen zen...

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Flesh and Blood

Read my brother's blog, and it's scary to see my words of advice quoted not once but twice in his first entry... he may actually be the only one i know who's understanding the word "kitsch" the way I understand it. And that word's important to me, and now he's in JC... he's seeing it everywhere.

But the whole balance of helping him and letting him learn from his mistakes... I didn't realise that I was sheltering him from his mistakes till someone pointed it out... but he seems to be doing fine by himself in JC right now.

In his "description about myself" section, he said "I don't think 1200 is enough words to describe me, or anyone else for that matter."

Proud of my 16-year-old brother =)


Friday, January 21, 2005

EMJEM

EMJEM has finally outdone itself. I don't care if it was a publicity thing, or some insincere way to grab attention, but Shawn Ban has finally posted the posts of all posts, on a website I hesitate to call a blog.

Please do pay it a visit, eatmejusteatme.com.

It's kinda changed from what it used to be previously, but for the better. I always hesitated praising it even though I clearly enjoyed reading it because there always was too much arrogance and ego in it. And you guys know what human nature (or my flawed one anyway) is like.

But I don't mind saying it now, that what appears to be the last official EMJEM entry(s) is by far the best entry I've ever read online by a Singaporean.

Maybe it's his admission of the fallacies his site had previously when it was all about himself. Its just so out of character that I can't help but be sceptical, but it's the difference that makes me want to tell everyone to read it.

He knows he's smart, everyone tells him that, so I guess it doesn't hurt that I do it too. Can't change a fact, can you?

But he's always articulated issues that I had in my mind in a way I could never express, with such brevity and clarity that I kinda wish we were still on talking terms.

And that's the main reason why I'm writing an entry on EMJEM, because his last entry, or the second last page of it anyway, talks about the whole idea of a person being "fundamentally alone" (never thought I'd ever be quoting him) in the world, and how the realisation of that fact is the beginning of everything that we could ever hope for.

It's exactly what I've been thinking about for so long, and what I've been discussing with people, and what I want to do. I'm still far from it though, but there's always a first step eh? And now, FINALLY, anyone I broach this subject with... I can just tell them to go read it because it summarises everything that I feel but never could say properly.

Thanks Ban, you're one smart dude.



Before I left Singapore, I had high hopes of coming back different. I think it was foolish of me to expect that, as if a trip here would provide me with a miraculous answer to a question that I couldn't ask.

It's only been three weeks though, and it's also definately foolish of me to make any sort of definitive statement about the reasons for my trip here and what I hope to accomplish.

However, I can speculate.

I don't think it would possible for me to change my character just because I am in a different environment. Which was what I assumed would happen. Such foolishness. Six months is nothing.

But I think I can build on what I already have. And hopefully, finally understand and embrace that thing which I've been preaching without practicing. That I am fundamentally alone, and I have to accept that, and see that it isn't a harder choice, but the right one.

And do things without worrying about what other people think, and let people judge me if they want. I've always known that I was responsible for my own happiness, but I've never been able to accept that responsibility because it seemed easier not to.

It's terrible that I've not done what I've told others to do. And I won't say it anymore till I've done it myself.

All these promises to myself that I hope to keep. It's not the first time I've said such things to myself, and end up exactly where I started.

But if I can't even fulfill a promise to myself, what can I offer to others? Nothing.

So what's different this time? What's going to make it work? I've said this so many times, and I know it so well, words are just words.

I think all this time, I spent too much time thinking about it in words, spend too much effort in articulating it, without really doing anything. Maybe I felt as if I was doing something simply by talking or thinking about it. *sigh* such foolishness.

But since I've come here, I've grown tired of words, it's hard to explain, but sometimes I catch myself not talking when, in any normal circumstances at home, I would have. And it's not that I've nothing to say, it's just I've realised how useless talking is. No point, really no point.

And because of that, I think I realise that all my talk was really such a pathetic attempt to fulfill my own ego in some way. I don't know why it's different here, I'm certainly no less egoistic or more humble. I really can't say what's the difference.

I still love words, in the literary sense, I've always found them beautiful. But to use them on myself... entirely different matter.

So, this is the last entry about myself. I won't waste anymore time talking about myself. I don't know if it's because reading Ban's entry set off a little "eureka" in my head.. probably did.. subconsciously... either way, this has got to stop.










Goats and Cows

Was unpleseantly and prematurely roused from my sleep this morning by a combination of voices and... well.. "Baa"s.

There's a goat next door, I still can't see it, and it's driving me crazy with is Baaing. There's also an irritating goat of humanoid form next door, who thinks nothing of loud conversations at 9 am in the morning. On a HOLIDAY. Digusting.


Eid is here... can't remember the proper name for it... but it's the same form that u guys are having in Singapore, with more blood.

Will let u know what widespread blood-letting in the streets looks/feels like.

I just hope they keep the animals quiet. The sound effect would make it much harder to bear. But it's so nice to see cows and goats in the street. More stuff to avoid while walking on the street though.


Feel kinda out of touch with the rest of the world.. local english papers are more concerned with local news, and well i've been trying to watch more of BBC News... but i only just found out like two days ago that Brad and Jennifer spilt! I was like, Oh My God.


It's freezing. Wish I had a thermometer to know how cold it is... i'd say like 15? My fingers are numb.


And I hope i find that damn centipede in my bathroom that just disappeared under my nose. Why didn't I step on it when I had the chance... whywhywhywhywhyyyyyy.


Oh, and by the way, this was what I was talking about when I talked about analysis of speeches "The President's Speech focuses on Ideals, not Details." New York Times.




Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The most disgusting man ever.

I have not felt so repulsed for quite a while, until this bloke Malu appeared on the scene. He is so repulsive and disgusting as a human being that I cannot feel pissed at him, only disgust.

It's just so disappointing that someone who has supposedly read a lot of stuff can turn out to be the world's biggest asshole. I'm not exaggerating... The list of things that he has and has not done is extensive, ranging from arrogance and plain stupidity at the workplace to insensitivity on a interpersonal level.

He sucks up to the boss and ratted on our caretaker, saying that the dude beats his wife. Now we all suspected this, but we weren't stupid enough to do this without proof. And he of all people, is in no position to do as a wannabe womanizer.

He has a knack of appearing important and busy when in actual fact he has not done anything other than drink and slack. Always putting on this oh-so-stressed face that just pisses me off because I know he has no idea what he's talking about.

He has the audacity to brief us and delegate work on a proposal which he has not read himself.

He has no idea what broadband is.

In fact, I think it's safe to say he has no idea what he's doing at all. It doesn't help that his physical appearance induces feelings of disgust as well.

But he's good at pretending to be smart, so unless a person works with him or stays with him for long, they'll think he's some sorta maverick. And thus it's not a good idea for me to be rude to him, because he can just backstab me in front of the boss who i heard still thinks highly of him.

Work place blues,... who doesn't have them eh? It's worse cos i live next door to him, but thankfully i don't bump into him in hostel that often.



Other than that, I've cut down on giving money to beggars. It did get tiring after a while, because it seems like there are more and more of them. And they are persistant, believe you me. the vehicles we take are open-air, and they'll stand right next to when u stop at a red light and stay there till u leave.

I did expect to get immune... but not this fast.

It's just what this place shows you - that life can be real shitty, and that's just the way it is, and it's no one's fault.

From the cows and goats being led to slaughter, the half naked children lying on the dirty floor where men spit and urinate, the drug addicts curled up under their blankets in the middle of the pavement, the mothers with babies that look lifeless and half-dead, the boy who works at the cafe who has the eyes of an old man but the smile of a child...


You just feel that this is reality, this is the way things are, and to feel pity and sorrow is simply useless.

Sure, I wish things could be better for these people, that these children could grow up with proper food and clothes and homes... but wishing for all that and feeling pity that it's not already like that just cumulates in a overwhelming sense of utter uselessness. That there's really no point.

Last night in my room for some reason or other, I just kept thinking of all the children who can't get a good night's sleep... and all the bad things happening in the world. I know it's a super generalised way to put it, but I just mentally mapped out the world, and thought of all the problems in every region... the beggars freezing to death in New York, the people whose families have been massacred in... oh... so many so many places...

And in the past, when I had thoughts like this I would feel so sad, so much pity, and filled with some kinda yearning that all this could go away...

But last night all I felt was that I was wasting my time, that I was indulging in my own ego, that I was so insignificant in the big scheme of things that my sorrow would make no difference, do no one any good, but to satisfy my own self-indulgence. And it was a shameful feeling, and I won't do that anymore. In the past I thought it was good to remind myself of all the bad that's going on, so that I would be grateful for what I have.

But i've been lying to myself... i just felt more humane by recognising other pple's sorrows.. but i was exploiting them for my own self-gratification.

Ah well.

Gonna eat some cake now.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

It's all in the Family.

Just watched the Godfather Trilogy. Didn't manage to finish the first and second though, because of a faulty DVD which i will be returning soon.

But WOW. Utterly entertaining.

Big Boss coming back on Saturday... since Friday is our off-day.... Can't wait to get out of this department that's sending me to sleep....

But luckily he wasn't here, so I had a chance to go round to see what kinda stuff I want to do. hope he lets us have free reign over our choice of departments and what to do while we're here.

It's almost 2 weeks people. How time flies.

Something I've leant so far, is how to keep my mouth shut. There's a very satisfying feeling in being the only one not shooting off my mouth, keeping quiet. Sometimes I'm forced to, because i don't understand their language. Othertimes I've found it to be more rewarding to just shut up.


I wonder if I'll be like this when I get back. But I am suddenly seeing how irritating I must have been when I talked too much to other people. Silence is a virtue man... hope i learn it. Just think I learn more if I shut my mouth unless I need to ask questions. So "duh" right... why did i never realise this before.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Photos.

Finally, visual proof that I'm in Bangladesh and haven't run off to some place of decadent luxury to laugh at all of you while you slog in internship.

I was contemplating posting all the photos here, but that will turn my blog into a never-ending-ever-loading thing, so here's the link.


http://photobucket.com/albums/v239/elsija/


And for those of you dis/uninterested (can't remember which is right), but would view the pictures if they were here, here's just a few:



Abbas is in front. The one I like, Noinyl, is behind, looking stunned.




Just a typical street.


AND:

Just for Guiqing, who might be too lazy to click the link:




More stuff at the website.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

8 days: Char time.

It's almost time for tea or something. Someone should be here to ask me to drink soon

I just read ST interactive... a bit of it anyway... just didn't feel so interested in news after being cut off for so long. After reading Bangladeshi newspapers.. ST seems so stiff. Of course it has impeccable grammer (most of the time), and they don't use adjectives unless necesary.. but ya it's stiff as a rod conpared to all the corruption charges and incompetance accusations being made by the local newspapers here. Breath of fresh air. Although it's difficult like it much because it can be very un-objective at times.

I'm starting to count the number of days I've been here. Once it hits 174, i'll know I only have a week left before I leave.

There are three things which I love so far, and can foresee myself liking for the next six months:

1. Taking a rickshaw ride - when done in early morning (or like on Friday or Sat, when less traffic), this can be one of the most spiritully calming experiences ever. The weather here is cold you see, and it's something akin to riding a motorbike in the front because you get a full view of the street (and oncoming vehicles) and the full blast of cold air on your face. It's an unparalled sensation. My dad used to try and let me enjoy this, when I'd take my helmet off when we entered NTU campus on his bike.

2. Walking along the street - i like the street. I like the sand I can feel under my feet, the uneven pavement, the occasional stones. it makes me feel part of the place, just an ordinary person making her way back home. Hope to buy more salwars soon so I can blend in a bit more... I still get started at based on my clothes. I just want to BLEND and DISAPPEAR. It's a simple thing really, but I just find it immensely enjoyable. I like taking my own time to look at things and people.

3. Drinking char at a street corner - they have little makeshift shops selling snacks, cigarettes and hot tea everywhere. Tea, as i've mentioned before, is a very common thing here. I was apprehensive about drinking from one of the shops at first, cos i've a weak stomach...but the weather was cold and the tea was so hot and smelled so good... anyway, my stomach is fine. I used to dilly dally and take my time with drinks... always want to sit down... but i find this way perfectly fine as well. It's nice to just stand there with ur tea and watch people go by (and they of course watching me).


The most heartbreaking sight isn't the beggars, not even the child ones, but those working in waste disposal. I think they're working... cos they're shovelling the rubbish, but maybe they're looking for stuff. There's a big bin of sorts where people throw the rubbish, and these people come and shovel it and bring it elsewhere. The rubbish is always in a big pile around the bin, spilling over or just carelessly thrown. Passing by, you always see people and children squatting barefoot in the filth, picking through it with their fingers. I want to see what they're looking for, but I don't know if they'll hate me for staring.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Weekend.

The weekend is here... in Bangladesh Fridays are the only off days we get... it's their prayer day. So the week starts on a Saturday. Sucky huh?

Mosquitos are starting to irritate me... two bit my face while I was trying to sleep...

Took a walk along another side of the neighbourhood today... a significantly busier stretch.

This little beggar boy, who behaves as if he's 4 or 5, but only the size of a 3-year-old, followed us along the entire street, across roads and all, just to get more money from us. Gave him 2TKs, and a little girl 3TKS, but it wasn't enough for him. So he just followed us for like 200 m before I gave him another 2 TKs and he turned around and left.

The whole journey, I just smuiled and said "Na" to him (No in Bengali). And he smiled back, chattering away impishly, presumably asking me for more money. He was filthy, covered in a layer of dust and grime and barefoot.

He had so much life in him you know? He didn't look tired, or hungry, or sad. Just chattered happily and smiled hopefully at me. The only reason why I didn't give him more money at first was because I somehow knew he would be following us till we did anyway, and I wanted to see a bit more of him.

Then I wondered where he would sleep tonight, what he ate everyday that made him so small, what kind of happiness he found that gave his eyes so much life. I imagined if I could kidnap him and raise him by myself and give him a better life.

There are many others like him.

Another boy, about 12, crawled up on his hands to my rickshaw when it stopped at a traffic light, covered in plastic tubes so it seemed as if he was a cripple. But then I saw a man standing at the roadside looking on, and I knew that was his boss, and I knew he wasn't handicapped - all just a sham. But the sight of someone reaching up to you on his knees begging you... the lights turned green before I could find any loose change.

shalini told me "if u see a woman begging carrying a baby - the baby isn't hers". IT's difficult to remember that when she's right next to you.

Homesick. Kinda.

Feel a bit rushed, like I'm trying to settle in too fast. It make me feel dislocated. Actually I'm not trying to rush that... but maybe it's the people... and Shalini's many many plans to go to places starting with tomorrow. She's been rotting in her own boredom for the past 3 mths alone so it's understandable. But I just go here. I'd like to just get a bit more used to this life before doing anything.

The communist/druggie/artist intellecture called Mahlu has started to piss all of us of. He was worse before his wife arrived, bringing pple over to the hostel and having booze parties till late at night etc.

Yesterday he told Yixin and Shalini not to use the computer because it had a virus. Then he told us not to use the computer because he was downloading something. He's talking nonsense cos it seems like he wants to hog the thing for himself.

I'm starting to get homesick. Missing people and things. Hope this feeling will pass, or it'll get a bit difficult for me. Just want to hole myself up in my room with my music and stare at the ceiling. Culture shock i suppose.

Felt amused at myself today when I wore my bathroom slippers to work by accident. Seeing myself with the lapsup slippers, my pants folded up to keep it away from the dust and sand.. feeling the stones and gravel underneath my feet... haha I felt quite comfortable actually.

Have gotten used to the staring. I just take my camera and use it to stare back. Have finished one roll of film... to be developed later tonight.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Lost in Translation. Literally.

Finally got my laptop hooked up to the internet... so will be able to do a bit of slacking during office hours. Doing a bit of tedious admin work like cataloguing photos and helping in their process of digitising their entire library (it'll take years from the looks of its size and their frequent tea breaks).

See you on MSN hopefully.

Poor Guiqing. You can start stocking up on your liqour for when Jason gets back.

By the way, have tried smsing some pple.. but apparently Starhub can't receive.

Pls email me at:

xx.

It's tiring having to log into gmail, webmail and hotmail and yahoo mail. FUCK.

By the way

PROF SHYAM TEKWANI IS SAFE! According to Cherian George... Was in india or something.

Tata pple. Here are the entries written earlier:




Written on Jan 3 2005, 9.10 pm Dhaka time

(headings added after typing because i know some pple reading this will get bored. you know who you are)



As I’m typing this on a iBook that has turned somewhat greyish, my face is covered with what could casually be termed as “Green Gunk”. It’s actually an all-natural skin mask made of ingredients still unknown to me, kindly prepared by Shalini who lives upstairs and who is apparently appalled by the condition of my complexion.

It’s actually the same, which can be depressing for me I suppose, if not for the fact that she seems to have the utmost unspoken confidence that this organic concoction of hers will solve all my facial problems. If it works, good for me, firstly for obvious reasons, and seconedly because this will cost considerably less than any off-the-shelf products. I’m fairly sure the Indian/Bangladeshi population in Singapore has made these products available for purchase in Little India.

As Yixin said, it’s only been three days, but it feels like forever. She said that everything already seems routine for her. I know the feeling she’s having, but I’m sceptical because we haven’t travelled anywhere except between Pathshala and Drik. But she’s visited a church here so far, and she says the streets are way more crowded elsewhere.

Where I am it’s certainly not as crowded as Little India on a Sunday night. Most of the congestion is not human, but of the rickshaw variety. There are rickshaws everywhere here, and I think I can assume that there are more in the city centre.

One thing that I don’t think I can get accustomed to is the subservient nature of those working for other people. Peter Rozario, our cook, is a nice old man in his 50s with greying hair, a charming smile, and a certain gentle, silent disposition. Shalini has asked him to bring tea to her in bed in the mornings because “i simply can’t get up without my tea”. He’s more than just a cook or a waiter, he’s a servant of sorts. It’s because of the way he acts, the way he constantly asks us if we need something, the way he sits aside. And yet Shalini has a nice rapport going on with him, and they talk like friends. So I can’t reconcile treating him both as a friend and as a servant. In fact I can’t imagine treating anyone like a servant. It’s all very odd to me. I left my dishes in the sink tonight for him to wash because Shalini was there and I didn’t want to wash mine and make her feel as if I was implying something, and it was really strange.

Peter is a Catholic, and has four children and some grandchildren. The thing that occured to me is how even though he’s a cook, his own children and grandchildren can’t enjoy his food because he only returns to his village in the weekends. Life’s strange.

Finally made my way and talked a bit more to the people working at Drik today. The characters are intersting, but I’ve come to realise, also very unrepresentative of the Bangladeshi population.

Obviously, I would only be mixing with the educated and thus middle-incomed people. I need to travel outside before I see what shalini calls the “poor beyond imagination” people.

PEOPLE

For the sake of my own records and diary entry, I’m going to talk about the people I’ve met. This will unfortunately turn my blog into one of those super-boring “this is what i did today and where i’m going tomorrow” kindda things, if it’s not already that anyway, but er... you know what I mean.


Topu: the nickname for Tanvir Murad, a young guy who you’ll have problems as to whether to tag him as skinny or lean. He’s probably 26 or 27, and he’s the nicest person I’ve met so far. He studied anthropology at the university in Dhaka. He collects funny hats. His hats are really quite unique and would look good in some avant garde fashion catalougue. He’s funny, on my second day here he tried to scare me with a serious face about a ghost who lived under the mango tree in Pathshala. the thing that’s most intruiging about him is that he’s deeply religious. He keeps his beard long, and from his manner you can tell that he’s a conservative guy, albeit funny and nice.

I had certain reservations about his religiousness, no thanks to subconcious media influence no doubt, so it was a very very pleasant surprise to hear Shalini tell me in front of him how he has a hat that looks like a turban, and when he puts it on, he looks exactly like Osama. Topu was genuinely amused.

“So we tell him, take a picture with your turban hat and apply for a visa to America and they’ll say come come!!!! Come here so we can catch you!”

Topi Topu they call it.

Reza: A graphic designer/photographer who’s probably 35 but with those eternal youthful looks. He looks Pakistani. He’s funny. On the first day: “Ah so you are the two who will be chopping wood for us? We need lots of wood.” He’s also good-looking... you know the charming sort. His wife is beautiful, in my opinion, and his son too cute to describe.

That’s the thing about people here, they’re all funny. Everyone is cracking jokes, but I don’t know how to react because I don’t know if they’re joking. That’s if I even understand them in the first place.

It’s nice to know we’re entertainment though. They get a big kick out of asking us to repeat bengali phrases.

The Children

The children here are all really photogenic. They have those huge expressive eyes and they stare at you and laugh.

Only today, I met the first child that wasn’t laughing and wasn’t staring at me. Her mother was carrying her, and she was looking at me as we walked past each other. When my gaze me hers, she stared for a short while, before slowly looking away. Not looking down, like when kids do when they’re shy, but to the side, the kind of look that makes you feel as if this child has seen and felt a lot, and is too tired to meet the stare of a stranger. It was sad.

Going to wash the gunk off now and take a bath. Cross fingers for water supply. And hot water.

Back after a long while. It’s now 11. 49 pm dhaka time...ran into Koli at the kitchen and started chatting.. then Shalini came... and we talked about men and relationships and the future and our ambitions.... lighthearted stuff.

My Room

Anyhow, shall try to describe my room:

It’s square, and slightly larger than a single room in hall, according to what i’ve seen (no where near Swee’s of course) and the door is at the side of the wall. assuming the wall with the door is the south wall, the north wall has windows that take up half of it. The walls are made of brick, and its not painted. The floor is stone. The bed is pushed up along the north west wall. next to the bed along the west wall is a metal cupboard that makes a damn lot of noise when you open it.. its kinda like the ancient version of the one we have in chron room. along the south wall, next to the door is my desk. wooden desk with a drawer, quite small. the east wall has the toilet door in the middle. that’s it.

What a boring paragraph which could be simplified into one picture.

Listening to Stevie Wonder now.

Call Me

Oh. finally managed to get a prepaid card here. I can make local calls and send international sms but can’t call international. but can receive international calls.

My number is 0176794103. Country code is either +088 or +88 or +0088 (different pple tell me different things and i’m not in singapore to do trial and error) and u’ve to dial your idd number first which i don’t know what it is. apparently it’s difficult to get the right combination, so i’m not expecting any calls anytime soon.

posting my handphone number on the internet. who’d have thought i’d do a thing like that.

Photos

hope everyone else is having a swell time at their own jobs.

but i did learn a cool photo trick which i’d never come across (not that i’ve seen a lot anyway) but it’s done with long exposure (like a few seconds) and you zoom in and out the lens when you take the photo.

the results are quite nice... i just ccouldn’t comprehend how the guy did it till he told me.

and he had some prints which were 12 seconds exposure with like 8 or 11 f stop.... very intersting effects cos it’s taken at night and you get a effect somewhat akin to double exposures...

wish i could post photos. just located the office negative/slide scanner... so shall get started on it soon.

Impending Work

had an interesting proposal today, shalini wants to start on a project to obtain scholarships for underprivilaged women to study photography at Pathshala... sounds swell. plus other stuff she’s got.. i’m really impressed with the kind of passion she talks about such humanitarian activism... it’s not out of pity or symphathy... she’s doing it because to her it’s what’s needed to be done for the people here. practical things... not the high headed idealistic kind of talk.

guiqing. i really really honestly wish you were here. i plan to returnn in 2006 for Chobi Mela IV (which is a kick ass festival with internattionally reknown photographers coming down) to help out. and you’re coming with me.


Written on Jan 5, 12.17 am

About to go off to sleep, because I'm still quite unused to waking up early no thanks to the holiday debauchery.

It's strange that the first tears I shed (the ones at airport don't count) would be triggered not by a phone call from home or a picture or an sms... but music. Going through the collection which Darren compiled for me 9 (which up till now has been inaccessible because ibook no like wma files) and seeing some songs which i love just made me so happy and sad at the same time.

Got lost today on the way back. Fueled by some false courage of sorts, yixin and i decided to attempt to take a rickshaw back ourselves after doing a bit of shopping. apparently the address we gave was much too vague... and lucky for us the rickshaw driver was honest and smart enough to understand our limited bengali to bring us to the correct destination.

but at least he understood the little that we said which was just three sentences

"dhanmondi bolt-trish" (the vague address)
"koto taka?" (how much?)
"mirpur road!" (a bit more detailed of an address)

plus a lot of head shaking and laughing and guttural noises. Paid him 20TK, a hefty price for something which is usually just 6 or 7TK but it's still less than S$1. finding it hard not to overpay... they need the money more than I do, it's still ridiculously cheap even after tripling the price, and I don't care if it'll make a difference. it might, and that's all that matters.

Shalini wasn't too amused though. She's very paranoid about muggings here, which is scary because I'm not.

Feel quite safe, sans the stares and the security guards with AK47s... no one followed us around before... i know because i always turn around to look... but then again haven't been out much.. but shall play safe next time.


Played a bit more with Noinyl (don't know how to spell but that's the pronounciation), the 3 or 4 year old son of the guy who takes care of the place. probably mentioned this before, but his wife cleans our rooms everyday.

I'm in love with Noinyl's eyes.. which are a light shade of brown. And I think the term "impish" was coined just for him. It's lovely how the universal language of play can bridge all gaps, language and cultural. Just play guns with him and he turns into a squealing (and rather violent) little kid. I'm personally not going to buy my own kids any weapons of any sorts, but this makes him so happy I'm obliged.

And I just found out his father, Moti, is a caretaker cum photographer cum student at Pathshala after I say Noinyl playing with his father's tripod. Felt ashamed that i assumed Moti was nothing more than just a caretaker when he's so much better at photography than I am. But then again, his servial attitude and the way he conducts himself didn't really help me with the stereotyping.


Speaking of eyes, saw another exotic pair today at office. Nazrul is a student from Pathshala working at Drik. Probably 23 or 24. I still can't figure out what colour they are because I don't want to be rude and stare.. sometimes it's green, sometimes it's green-brown, sometimes it a very light brown. All in all, it's very exotic, and i'll be sure to take pictures.

They had a photo session for a fashion catalogue today so the studio was really crowded. The female models here are gorgeous (as expected) and the male models.. well... really himbotic-looking. It was so amusing that Topu, Nazrul and myself had to hurriedly excuse ourselves from the studio only to burst into laughter outside. That happened when the male model started posing.




goodnight people.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Just a quick note

Waiting for the guy in charge of my department to come and unlock the damn door so I can get some work done.

Have already written an entry yesterday night, shall upload it tonight if time permits (and network willing) but well it's a boring entry.

I'm still very happy here, though I do get a funny feeling in my stomach when Shalini starts talking about making trips and going places... as if she's already my best friend. I know she means well, and she's really the life saver.. but overfamiliarity after 4 days, plus a desire to just settle down before moving out makes me uneasy.

But i've really warmed up to Topu (who will be mentioned in the blog i've yet to upload), despite his religious slant. Other than him and Shalini, I have to put on a friendly smiley face most of the time.. but with the two of them it's finally become settled and natural.

What I do admire (ok i know it's only 4 days give me a chance to contradict myself) about him is that his strong muslim beliefs (according to shalini and himself he's very religious) is embedded in his character and personaility... he doesn't have to express it, just silently practices it. That's the kind of religion I like. Others are preachy.. or they like to talk about their God... and what's right and wrong... but he doesn't. Just seems like a regular guy with a long beard.

Interesting.

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.


Ami bhalo Achun

That's "I'm fine" in Bengali. It's not that difficult to learn, give me a week or so and I should be able to tell people they're over charging me. "onek dema!" (very expensive)

I've actually already done an entry the first night I arrived, but have not managed to get any access to internet till now, and my laptop isn't with me so I'll have to post it tomorrow.

I'm in love with the place, it's just very easy to fall into a routine here. I don't get the displaced feeling I get when I walk in Orchard Road.

The details i'll post in the next blog, and i don't want to repeat myself so I guess that's all for now.

I very much doubt i can lose any weight though, because the food is fabulous. ABSOLUTELY fabulous,. Everything i've taken so far is damn fucking tasty and spicy. Bunch of us might go jogging in the mornings (although right now i don't really see how feasible it is for me to wakeup early).

I just feel like i'm sitting on a wealth of experience and opportunities to tap into, and though the doors seem shut right now, i do have 6 months (choy mash) to work something out.

Yeah... will post pictures if i can.

MSN is kinda out of the question righ tnow also.

Take care pple.