Friday, March 22, 2019


It was a really nice surprise to receive this wedding invitation from Lisa, the Chief Administration Officer at the school. I was off to a Bangladeshi Wedding. I had been to a Mexican wedding thanks to Lilliana Gomez, a former student in Mexico. I was under no illusion that this Bangladeshi wedding would be anything like the madness that was Mexico. There is no chance a Mariachi band is going to make their appearance at 3 am escorted by trays of tequila shots. I figured I would just follow along.

First things first. I needed a panjabi. I did not know what to expect when shopping for a panjabi, choices of materials, colors and designs. I cannot even choose a pair of jeans at Walmart without screwing up and I have never been confused with having my own clothing "style". My room mate Domenic and I kept talking about it over the course of a couple of weeks and finally just did it.

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Now remember, Bangladesh is home to good quality and inexpensive clothing. You can buy from any variety of shops, markets or off a pop up cart on most streets. We headed out and decided Artisan was as good a spot to go as any. The shop was nice and the store personnel were excellent. They were patient with my stupidity, laughed at my lame jokes, and actually cared to help us. In the end I chose a maroon light cotton panjabi and bought a pair of tan Hollister pants that needed a bit of tailoring. Final price was just over $60. I could have taken an Uber across town to the massive New Market and paid $30 but this shop was close. I had the new black leather sandals so I was ready to roll. The thing is, the panjabi is probably the most comfortable piece of clothing I have ever worn. I fully intend to purchase a few more as time goes on. Yes, I will wear them to school...and as a heads up, I am going to wear them to the first pub back in Canada so be warned Wainfleet Cottage owner friends of mine. You know who you are.

We have a driver, Anisul, who takes us back and forth to school. He is a sweet guy with a smile that can light up a room. He has lived in Saudi Arabia and UAE but returned home for family. His favorite phrase when driving in the madness that is Dhaka. "These people are so stupid, no discipline" as he lays on the horn, cuts people off and turns "through" oncoming traffic. He is awesome! He is also our "go to guy" for anything we need. Well Anise picked up a bunch of us and off we went to meet the rest of our crew being shuttled by the other driver Shawon. As a person, Shawon is kind, gentle, helpful and always smiling. As a driver he is the "king of insanity". The phrase "Shawon, what the fuck are you doing" has been uttered more than once when I have been in his van. His response is usually just a knowing smile.


The wedding was located at Jamuna Future Park which bills itself as the largest shopping mall in South Asia. With the attached amusement park this place had the feel of being designed and built by the Chinese. Regardless, the convention center and reception room were stunning in their layout for the wedding. We entered and were offered coffee, which was freaking excellent. I had 3 cups which gave me the "wedding buzz" that I needed. I mingled with about 300 other guests, embraced the moment and took endless photos, as you do.

Here the reception is first for as many friends and family as you can feed. The wedding ceremony was the next day which is a smaller and more intimate affair. The groom is marched down the aisle to the head of the room to the sound of a loud bugle, horn, noise polluter - whichever one you choose. Ten minutes later, Lisa was carried down the aisle in a beautiful, lets call it a carriage, being held aloft by the grooms' family. With trumpets blaring, people cheering and dancing and cameras a flashing it was all over in about 5 minutes. They met at the front of the room and greeted everyone, posed for photos and looked like they were really enjoying the moment.

Our driver extrodinare, Anisul


It was then time to eat and I was ready, but but but, there were only enough tables and chairs for half the people. Trust me, as hungry as we all were the Bangladeshi knew the routine. They went from smiling admirers to hungry eaters in milliseconds. I never saw tables fill up so fast. I drank another coffee.

No worries, after about 20 minutes we sat down to a wonderful feast. Chicken, mutton, beef, biryani, incredible flatbreads and roasted veggies of every color possible.  There was one exception that was disgusting. A green drink that was promised to be delicious and good for the digestion. It was ginger, spicy pepper and soy milk. Delicious it was not and the only way it was good for the digestion was that you would drink it and puke up your dinner. I gave it a good try, a few times to be a good sport but it was not for me. Others were lapping it up. Well "happy digestion to ya" was all I could think of.

Part two of my odd Bangladesh journey came in the form of an invitation from the Pakistan Embassy to celebrate Pakistan Independence Day. Let's be clear, this did not come directly to me. It came to Ms Ayisha at the school, who is from Pakistan. She chose 4 guests to join her, one of which was yours truly. Yes siree, I was off to an Embassy Gala. As I said on my FB post, sometimes my life takes some very weird turns.
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Again Anise was our driver but unfortunately he could not come into this event. He sat patiently outside. So patiently that we woke him up when the event was over. He was sleeping peacefully at the wheel. It was a funny moment.

This crew was smaller. There was Ayisha and her husband Ziaul, who is the school recruiter. Garrith from South Africa, Nick from Australia and Jeff from England. Oh and the dignitaries that surrounded us from about 30 or 40 other countries.

The event was really low key considering. Security out front, although very intimidating was relaxed. We were welcomed by the Deputy General who walked us to the huge tent. Once inside we shook the hands of the Ambassador, the Secretary of the Army, who was in his full Class A uniform, and some other dude who meant nothing after the Army guy. The three wives stood stoically beside their men and nodded to us as we passed. This is a Muslim nation so there is no shaking of hands with the woman.

The room was nicely lit and the room was full of interesting people who were willing and eager to talk. I guess that's what happens when you have a room full of diplomacy. I was unusually subdued and just not trying to do something to cause an international incident.  Nick made an effort to meet that Ambassador from Australia which inspired me to hunt down the Canadian counterpart. I found his face online but came away empty handed. I am sure it was for the best anyways.

There were speeches made, and thank you's all around. The national anthems of both Pakistan and Bangladesh were played and then it was food time. Three long tables on three sides of the room were filled with various spicy meats, rice, and pastries stuffed with veggies and spices. As with the wedding, when it was time to eat, it was time to eat. I like that about being here. No pretentiousness when it comes to food and hunger.

Now, I did know that Bangladesh was once known as East Pakistan. It had fought a bloody battle for independence in the early 70s. It was not until I went to the Museum of Independence a few weeks later that I discovered the true history of that struggle. Now here I was, in the middle of a room with what was once the oppressors and the oppressed. The history of the world, especially modern history, and how little of it I know blows me away.

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