Sunday, March 3, 2019

Put Your Head On A Swivel

First impressions are always a bit skewed  when you hit the street in a new place for the first time. Dhaka is no exception. The first thing you must absolutely, positively be aware of is the sheer terror of trying to cross the street, any street. The traffic is a world class cluster fuck and nothing will ever change it.  Chaotic, insane, dangerous, outlandish, ridiculous, moronic and petrifying only scratch the surface when trying to describe it. If you don't keep your head on a swivel at all times and constantly look both ways before crossing the street you will meet your maker. Why you ask? Well sir, it is not unusual for a car to be coming down the wrong way on the road without a care in the world. Being eaten by a shark has now taken a back seat to getting killed on the streets of Dhaka as my biggest fear.  Traffic is too bad, drivers will go down the wrong side of the road without any reservations because it is faster. Pedestrians and oncoming traffic be damned.

Seriously, no words can do justice to the mayhem here. Even the pictures do not do any justice. On top of that the Bangla's have taken to constantly hitting the horn. That at least adds music to the symphony of the insane. If there are lanes for 2 cars there will be at least 4 cars and a bus fighting for a piece of the available space. I get a ride to work every day. My first day the bus next to us was no more than 3 inches away at any given time.  That being said, we were in a crawl at about 5 km an hour as everyone jostled for space. The intersections and roundabouts are horrors from your worst nightmares. The end results are noticeable on the sides of every city bus. The artwork created by the scrapes, scratches and dents give the situation a harsh reality. It is apocalyptic.

My first observations of the Canadian Trillium School are that it is a microcosm of the country. The effort is there but the confusion is untenable. It is unorganized, chaotic and accountability is nonexistent. The teacher retention rate is extremely low, usually one and done. It is not uncommon for a teacher to last a month, take their first pay and run away.  Most of the teachers I have met seem resigned to their fate while here, but remain in good spirits. "We suffer as a group" is the mantra. Not exactly uplifting but I got it right away. It is teach in Bangladesh, "Challenge Accepted"!

To start with, this is a moderate Muslim country which to me sounds like being a little bit pregnant.
You cannot stop in the pub after work for a pint to unwind because there are none. Run to the corner shop for a few bottles of beer, no sir (ah Mexico, you are in my dreams). Now do not be dismayed my good friends there are options. There is a huge market shop that only sells to EXPATs, locals are not allowed. Our desires in the adult beverage department are met naturally, they are outrageous. A case of beer is $50 - $60 depending on the brand. The result is that most people here turn to whiskey or vodka as a large bottle is half that price. I am not going to go down that road. I will pay extra for my case of beer and make it last a month, which if you know me that is not a problem. The last thing I want is to be 3 months in and sucking back scotch like it’s Pepsi.

Gulshan, near where I live, is home to most of the High Commissions including Canada, USA, Germany, Holland and Australia. There are social clubs within each, you just need to be signed in. Thankfully I work with a German, Dutchman, Canadian and Australian. Last night I was signed into the Australian club and sipped on Heineken as I worked the table getting to know everyone. Heineken was about $4 a can. The Dutch club is the oldest in town and we do have a few teachers from Dutchlandia. There is also an international club which is exactly what you expect it to be. Nobody knows about The High Commission of Canada so it is up to me to find out the 411 when I get over there and register with them….Yes I know Dutchlandia is not a place!!

There are western style supermarkets, coffee shops and tea houses, produce markets everywhere and great little restaurants with excellent food and great prices. My apartment is huge, my roommate is interesting, and my building is secure.

*** Happy Update***. I was taken to 11th street, which is bar and restaurant street. Guess what? It is a new attempt at helping Expats acclimatize and giving Dhaka a bit of an appeal. The Blue Moon Recreation Club is exactly a 12 minute walk from my apartment. Funny enough, the website advertises tobacco products but not their bar service. The beer is called Hunters, it comes in a can that looks similar to Fosters and tastes just as bad. It's my new favorite. As I have found out, there are quite a few places you can go for a bit of social time. They have western pricing, so teachers being what they are, they are reluctant to go "because they are so expensive". Sometimes hanging around teachers really sucks.

First impressions are exciting. The more I walk around the more interesting things become. An open mind, extreme patience and positive attitude are required in spades. If you fight it and don't embrace the madness your finished.Someone suggested the school is a money laundering front for the military. I don’t care, the paychecks won't bounce.

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