Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Recharging My Bangladesh Mojo

Mojo: a magic spell, hex, or charm broadly : magical power. It has entered the English language and  taken on an additional meaning of personal confidence and charisma.

A wander around Old Dhaka and the riverfront was exactly what I needed. Genuine smiles, random handshakes followed by "your country?", organized chaos, sensory overload at with every step including smells ranging from organically sweet to "I think something is dead over there". The beautifully disgusting riverfront and a chicken and rice lunch from a shanty side road restaurant. Delivered by as an insane CNG driver as I have had since I arrived. I would not have it any other way. My Bangladesh Mojo was ebbing and a trip to Old Dhaka absolutely restored it today.

There is something about getting out of Banani and Gulshan and getting into Old Dhaka, or any other neighborhood, to understand the enormity and history of this city. To read some interesting and somewhat eye opening facts about Dhaka, Click Here.

I like hailing a CNG and negotiating a quick price, jumping in and heading out, trusting my driver knows where he is going and will get me there safely. In my experience they have never gotten lost. A few times stopped and asked for quick directions but were in the right vicinity. I have also gotten there safely but we are going to give a lot of wiggle room to the word safe.

I was headed to the River Front but experience has taught me to get as near to Old Dhaka as possible and then jump out and walk. The narrow streets have high volumes of traffic, which include Rickshaws, CNGs, bikes, cars, trucks and people on foot, so it is easy to get out and venture along with the hoards. This was no different. If you stop for a minute, find a small safe area where you will not get killed by an variety of raging driver. Take in the kaleidoscope of colors all around you. That will bring peace to the mayhem you are about to be immersed in.

I find it impossible to tire of Old Dhaka. There is just way to much going on at all times. It is complete sensory overload. What is always charming are the wide smiles, the screams of "hello boss, whats your country?" and for me the general good feeling I get by being there. I get lost in my world of wandering and that is exactly how I like it.

My only goal was to get to Sadarghat and the old river port. Wandering the riverfront, chatting with the always curious locals and finding random food adds to the day. Watching the large ferry boats astounds me. The sampans and the oarsmen always calling down for you to jump on board. I have in the past and it is fun, I don't know why I didn't this time.

The day was sunny and warm and the air was clean. A rare combination for this time of year. It was also a Friday, the holy day here so the area was quieter than usual, but do not think for one minute it was peaceful. I found lunch in a side street restaurant of chicken rice and a boiled egg. With a small bottle of water it was 125 Taka, just shy of C$1.95. This was not your trendy neighborhood restaurant. This was a dockside hole in the wall that would absolutely scare most people. However, as my sister found out in Puebla, Mexico. That is where the good eats are.

Anyways, I feel recharged. The bad air is now a game of "guess the AQI" every morning as I did in China. The long hours in the van to and from school seem a bit easier. The mobile phone loaded music helps. Things just feel better all around. Sometimes a small recharge can bump you right back where you belong.

I enjoyed a CNG back to Banani. I went directly into my apartment and booked a flight to Sri Lanka. Thank you for the inspiration Old Dhaka. See you again soon.

* A funny little story about our van ride to and from school. I go to Wari campus in Old Dhaka, about an hour away depending on traffic. With me is Naureen, Sadia and Jeff. We pick up 3 teachers who work at the Malibagh campus, their names are totally unimportant. On the way to school the 4 of us nod good morning to each other knowingly, stuff in our ear buds and prepare for the trip. The Malibagh teachers start complaining from the moment the get in the van. The school, the management, the kids, other teachers, Dhaka, Bangladesh, Work visas, whatever. It just never stops.

We we drop these teachers off at Malibagh and pick up Rupa and Jafrin. Oh yeah, Andrew is with us from the start but he is not apart of the equation, his choice. On the return trip we all are chatting about the day, except Andrew who sits sullenly in the front seat mumbling to himself. We laugh mostly at the kids, parents, each other or just about anything. It is a great stress release. For the record Nuareen tells a great story. For about 20 minutes or so the van is lively and relaxed. We then turn the corner onto the street where the Malibagh campus. Like Pavlovian dogs that we have become, talking stops, we put in our earbuds and wait for the inevitable pickup of the black clouds.

These three clowns get in the van and as if on cue, resume the complaining from the mornings session. It is quite impressive really. We all quickly look at each other and smirk like little kids. Each of us then stare out the window drifting off into our little bubbles listening to our personal security blankets.

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