Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I find it hard to describe how it feels when you realise all the money you've saved over the last couple of years will go up in smoke because of the events of a single night. The business of fixing the teeth is proving to be a lot more complicated than expected. Decisions, choices -- none of which are straightforward, none of which are cheap.

Given my rather dismal number of friends, I'm lucky to have a dentist and a doctor amongst them to turn to for help -- my only regret is that I have little professional expertise to offer in return, and my lifelong gratitude will have to suffice.

I removed the metal wire today, and thought to myself how strange it was that I had already gotten used to its presence after only two weeks. Every day, I discover new kinds of food that require the use of your incisors (noodles, chicken wings, anything on a stick) and I think I must look quite a sight, slurping noodles from the side of my mouth. Well, at least no one can say I lack determination.

I made my first visit to Orchard Rd today, and found the number of new malls to be, quite frankly, ridiculous. Gerry and I were trying to find each other and I felt it hilarious to be saying "Are you near Prada?" while I was feeling lost in front of Dior. Have a very strong urge to reread Debord's essay now, which I have stored in my laptop as a Word Document. Call me traditional, but I think essays like his should never be allowed to exist as Word Documents, but forever be read off brown parchment paper.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

It seemed to me that this was the whole point of travelling - to arrive alone, like a spectre, in a strange country at nightfall, not in the brightly lit capital but by the back door, in the wooded countryside, hundreds of miles from the metropolis, where, typically, people didn't see many strangers and were hospitable and did not instantly think of me as money on two legs. Life was harder but simpler here - I could see it in the rough houses and the crummy roads and the hayricks and the boys herding goats. Arriving in the hinterland with only the vaguest plans was a liberating event.

-- Paul Theroux, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star

Ho-hum. In case anyone thinks I'm getting reflective on my birthday, I'm also listening to Flight of the Conchords sing about Robots taking over the world. Shut their motherboard existence down!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Huddled under the shadows in Jaal cafe, I tried my best to position my opened book under the very inadequate lamp they had hanging up on the wall. Literally a hole in the wall, Jaal (meaning spicy in Bangla) is claustrophobic and dark - the latter being deliberately so, as it probably makes the place all the more popular with dating couples seeking respite from the public eye. Even in the daytime, couples can find a little privacy for some under-the-table action, resulting in many sheepish-looking teenagers leaving the cafe with slightly tousled hair and rumpled clothes.

Even though I would have preferred a cheerier, brighter place, Jaal is also less than a hundred meters away from my apartment, making it an ideal stop for dinner when I felt too tired or lazy to cook. I also enjoyed the privacy inherent in the place, but only if I managed to get that seat under that single, solitary lamp.

The waiters there know me very well after a year of semi-regular visits from me, and try their best to give me good service. Still, Dhaka will always be Dhaka, and I was told my favourite dish of grilled chicken wasn't available, only to be told 15 minutes later that, oh, so sorry, we missed it out in the fridge, we have it after all. When the meal was finally served, I had to send it back as the chicken was not entirely cooked. I felt sorry for the waiter - clearly, he wanted to treat me well and was exasperated by the comedy of errors. I believe it is extremely useful to have a sorrowful-looking face if working as a waiter here in Dhaka.

Familiar with the amount of waiting required in Jaal, I had come armed with Paul Theroux's Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, yet another parting gift from the wondrous Linda. The chicken finally arrive (again), and after some careful maneuvering, I had my book stuck open in front of me, pages held open by my plate in a style that I had practiced and honed over many, many years of reading at the dinner table (something that irked my father to no end).

The tables were mostly empty tonight. A boisterous gathering had just left, and for a while it was just me, my book and some English pop music that I didn't recognise. A couple made their way past me to the last booth at the back. I tried to sneak a peek a while later - two coffee mugs and a packet of cigarettes were placed in front of them as they chatted and smoked, the girl holding her cigarette as you would a pencil.

After my meal, I finished up the chapter I reading and asked for the bill which came up to 275 tks (S$5.60) for grilled chicken and rice with a glass of orange juice. A pricier place by local standards, but I suppose I am really paying for the chance to enjoy a slow, leisurely, book-filled dinner. In Dhaka, I always feel like I have a time limit when I eat in small, local restaurants. There isn't the usual hanging-around that I am used to. Food is served very quickly, and your plate is cleared the moment your hands clean up that last bit of rice on your plate. As you beckon for the bill, the waiter is already cleaning down the table and beckoning the next batch of customers to come over to the table.

I left a 20 tks tip - generous by my standards, since I don't usually tip. But alas, for selfish reasons: I think its about time some good karma flowed my way.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

From list of terms and conditions when you book a flight on AirAsia:

  • Guests can no longer carry guns and/or ammunition on flights to or from Indonesia.

Always useful info to have.
According to the ambulance driver - who heard it from the folks who were around the scene of the accident - a bus had suddenly cut into our path and forced us off the road.

Since I remember absolutely nothing from the accident, and I'm not a big fan of third-hand accounts, I'm not sure what to believe. I was actually quite happy not to know, since knowing makes me want to place blame, and I think its difficult to remain POSITIVE and OPTIMISTIC when channeling evil thoughts to a random bus driver.

Truthfully, I really don't quite care to know the details of the accident. Its over and done, and knowing doesn't really accomplish anything.

I've been on a diet of soft-everything: mashed potatoes, congee, minced chicken, boiled vegetables, half-boiled eggs etc. This morning I decided THIS IS NO WAY TO LIVE and chopped up little bits of sausage and had it with scrambled eggs. So there.

Enough ranting - back to work.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It finally happened.

After years of living my life as if I was invincible - indulging in the worst practices, ignoring health, forsaking safety, scoffing at precautions, I used to tell people that it was bound to happen eventually.

Not once in my twenty-seven months in Bangladesh did I ever come close to a close-call. Sure I had that sprained ankle two months into my stay, but it healed up pretty quick within a month (no heels for a year, but that isn't exactly a loss), and the occasional flu and fever, but nothing that could compare with the various maladies and accidents I had seen in my stay here.

Two nights ago (in the wee morning hours on the 11th, to be exact) I was in a road accident which left me unconscious, only to wake up in an ambulance wondering to myself if I was dreaming.

That I had made it out alive is pretty much a miracle. That no car/bus/truck had come along and ran over my body while I lay on the road, that none of my belongings were stolen/lost, that my head is still in one piece, that I have not been blinded or maimed, that I still have all my limbs -- I'm pretty fucking lucky.

I have absolutely no recollection of what happened. Not even the faintest memory of a crash, or an impending crash, or being lifted and carried into the ambulance.

The police and RAB happened to be at that corner in Bijoy Sarani, but it was a passing ambulance that stopped to help bring us Sorawadi Hospital nearby in Shaymoli. We were then sent off to the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital, where they did an X-ray of my chest and gave me a jab of painkillers, and was sent home in a CNG. I was likely still in shock throughout the entire process, and felt calm and peaceful.

The damage today is as such: severe abrasions to the face, hands, left hip and left knee. Three broken teeth, one missing tooth (it was such a clean extraction that it seemed that someone had pulled it out for me with a plier).

The skin will heal, as the abrasions are 'clean' and not messy. Whatever scarring is left will likely subside over time if I can reel in the urge to pick at the scabs.

Once the facial swelling goes down, I will have to tackle the biggest problem of fixing my teeth. Crowns? Dentures? What? I have no idea. I will do the preliminary checks and X-rays here, and head back to Singapore to get the permanent work done.

I am trying not to think about work -- but needless to say, everything is going to shit on that end because of this. I will manage it the best I can, but I'm not so sure people want to buy photos from a person with a face like this.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Tragic Excuse of an Update

I've been listening to Nutsie's automatic lists, such as "Top 100 Songs of XXXX", and -- if you can get over your incredulity at my ability to stream music on my 0.02 Mb/s connection -- I've realised that XXXX always ends up in the range of 198X to 199X. I am a musical dinosaur.

That very precise figure of 0.02 is thanks to Speedtest.net - a website that tells me what my actual connection speed is. The site took 10 minutes to load, and the irony is not lost on me.

Linda -- Finnish capoeira teacher and all-round extraordinaire -- leaves tomorrow for Christmas in Mexico with her boyfriend and then heads for a two-year contract in Tanzania. Sometimes, a little corner of my brain indulges in fantasies about fucking up so badly that I get fired and thus get to leave with no obligations. There I've said it.

Linda also gladly unloaded free junk on me -- a book titled Wayward Girls and Wicked Women, an unused light tube, assorted spices, an espresso thingamajig and a yoga mat. This was after I told her Chinese people loved receiving free shit. I'm not sure if that stereotype even exists (recalling long Hello Kitty queues make me think I may be on the right track), but I needed to blame my shamelessness on something.

I've also managed to succeed in obtaining a wireless router after a year of saying "I'll get it". I didn't actually head down to the store itself since the stores here close before I finish work. Bangladeshi corporate types would typically 'send a peon'. I typically 'freeloaded off a friend in the area'.

The word 'peon' didn't exist for me until I came here. I may have read it in some book before, but I certainly never came across it in everyday language. It really isn't the most glamorous word.

I need to get some things straight in my head, so do pardon the verbal dump:

How do I explain to a client that my predecessor was a fucked-up excuse of a salesman, and while it may seem that I'm raising the rates - I am actually updating prices which haven't been updated in 10 fucking years? How do I explain that my predecessor had no authority to release photos for exclusive usages? How do I explain why a photograph costs more if you want exclusive rights to it? Isn't it obvious? Do I really need to explain this?

I am so tired of paying for someone else's mistakes.