Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Let's Play Catch Up

It has been almost a month since my last post. When I started this blog I tried to keep away from making it a diary when I was not traveling. No excuses because I  believe that you can write about something every day. It does not need to be monumental, it just needs to be the truth. After all, "The truth is stranger than fiction but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't." -- Mark Twain must have had Bangladesh in mind when he spoke those words.

Let me ask you this. Have you ever seen something strange or out of the "normal" where you are and give it a "double take"? Then, after you see it a few more times it just becomes a part of the landscape and not really a "thing" any longer. That is NEVER the case here. Every day I am gobsmacked  (I have always wanted to use that word) by the world that is around me. Nothing surprises me because everything surprises me.  That reminds me a something Soneya, our office receptionist said to me the other day. "Ken, I never miss you, do you know why?" "Because I never forget you".  My world.

 The Korail Basti Slum  is very real
 The Korail Basti Slum  is very real
 The Korail Basti Slum  is very real
 The Korail Basti Slum  is very real
 The Korail Basti Slum  is very real
 The Korail Basti Slum  is very real

What odd little ditties have crossed my path in the last month. How about chickens being butchered on the street and the remains being pushed into a sewer. Commuter trains that are so full that people are hanging for dear life gripping open doors. For those who do not want to pay for a ticket, they sit on the roof of the train. Old, young, man or woman it does not matter. I should take a few photos of that hardcore reality one day but I am always staring in anticipation when the rail crossing comes down. Traffic as I have mentioned, still shocks me. It is nothing to find a car, motorcycle or CNG coming down the wrong way because their lanes are to packed. People fight for every inch in traffic. What should be 2 lanes is 4 and even 5, all with horns blasting. I have seen so many people with missing hands or limbs begging in the street. I am told this is from the factories. "People get hurt every day and nobody cares. There is always someone else to take their place" Anise casually mentioned to me. A guy working chest deep in the rancid sewers waters pretty much sums up Bangladesh.

I have wandered a few different and interesting neighborhoods. I did find myself in the largest slum in Dhaka one afternoon which caught me by surprise. What do you think of when you hear the word slum...well it is the same as what I thought. However there I was sipping tea with locals without a care in the world. There was nothing to be afraid. People are generally kind, smiling and in the case of  Korail Basti, a bit shocked to see me there. One police officer walking his beat smiled and gave me a welcoming"thumbs up" as he walked past.

Korail Basti banana vendor
Mom was happy to let me take the photo - Korail Basti
 Korail Basti - water mellon vendor
 Korail Basti - You can not escape Rickshaws in Bangladesh
 Korail Basti sitting surrounded by the produce
 Korail Basti clothing vendor

I work in Wari which is in Old Dhaka. Here the streets are narrow and busy. This also gives me the wonderful opportunity walk past the infamous chicken murders every morning. Nothing starts you morning better than headless chickens being tossed into a large clear tub and hearing them bounce around. I actually giggle at this every morning because it is so over the top. Oh, the heads go into a clear bag so there is that. However the butchers of Wari are always smiling and friendly, I think because they have just killed my appetite for the day. The best diet ever! Oh and the smell is lovely.

The other campus I go to is in Malibagh. It is a bit more modern and the main streets are wider which just makes the live game of Frogger more exciting. In any direction there are side streets that can take you back 100 years in just a few steps. All in all it is a nice area with everything you need, including a disgusting KFC. I just can not escape chickens!

Baridhara ladies shopping
Baridhara - How to take 20 years off your life
Baridhara kids would not leave me alone
Baridhara breakfast of simosas and shingaras
Baridhara OK just one more selfie

Near the Canadian Embassy is Baridhara. Here you will find the very modern Jumana Future Park. A massive shopping centre and mall including state of the art movie theatres. I usually take the bus here. It is easy, direct and cheap. Walk anywhere away from the mall and you get into amazing little neighborhoods of food stalls, tea shops and smiling faces.

It is Banani and Gulshan 1 and 2 is where you find the modern amenities and where most foreigners live and work. There are modern grocery stores and pharmacies. Things here a quite a bit more expensive than other neighborhoods. At times prices for items can be compared to the west. Foreigners make a good salary here and do not blink an eye at paying $4 for a coffee. There are bars, embassy clubs and health clubs. As is houses all the Embassy's  there is a very large security presence which include checkpoints going into and leaving the areas.


Anise with his new sunglasses
The end is near for these chickens
Time to remove the head, in front of our school
Welcome to the Wari campus. Would you like a fresh chicken sir?
A quick push of the neck on the blade and into the bucket you go.
Wari traffic on a slow day

I have had some impressive day long walks discovering some of the nooks and craziness of this city. However, some days you do not want to leave your apartment. The constants staring, idle chatter from random strangers, never ending selfies and the blasting of car horns wears you down. I am not alone with this sentiment. People I have met who have been here for years "hide from Dhaka days" to preserve their sanity. I am not sure that is logical but it is my reality. My reality has never ever been so weird.