06 February 2012

Week 2 - What I've learned

  1. It's not the food in Bangladesh that I don't love, it's the food in Dhaka, or maybe mostly our hotel. Went out to the countryside last weekend where I had the best shrimp I've ever had, and chicken tandoori on the grill (I know, but they called it tandoori), and crab the size of a mastodon. All amazing.
  2. I don't know what's second, but cricket is first in terms of national pastimes, by a long shot. Everywhere there is open space, you'll see Bangladeshi boys and young men playing cricket, even if it's with a bamboo stick and a homemade ball. I've seen two badminton courts, one soccer pitch, and countless games of cricket underway - on the sidewalk, on the roof of a building, by a school, on the railroad tracks - everywhere.
  3. When drinking from a water bottle, don't put your lips to it, even if it's your own and it's small - that precludes you from offering a drink to someone else. (Drinking water from a bottle lip-free requires practice. I recommend trying when you're by yourself, so you don't blort water all down your front.)
  4. Eating with a spoon is okay at meals. They've all told me so. (Though I accept that might just be them taking pity on me after watching me flail as I try to eat with my hands.)
  5. Don't get lulled into a false sense of security from not having had any digestive issues so far; don't accidentally drink the tap water when brushing your teeth or rinse your mouth out in the shower or eat something that's wet.
  6. Although at times it can't be helped. When a farmer gives you a freshly picked fruit that's wet, what are you going to do? Only one thing to do, really - you dry it and eat it. When you walk back to the road from his farm, and you see the kids knocking the fruit off the tree into a small pond with goats standing around it that is roughly the color of the Chicago River on St Patrick's Day, well... you don't think about it.
  7. Plan ahead for digestive issues and pack your Tums, Pepto, and Immodium. And stay hydrated.
  8. The ubiquitous Nescafe does not have the same effect on one's digestive tract as, say, a cup of brewed diner coffee would, sadly. And the less said about all of this, the better.
  9. Give up your sense of personal space. It's crowded. When in a crowd and immobilized, hold on to the person in front, and don't be surprised if someone behind you touches your shirt or shoulder. You will also likely get asked questions, in this circumstance.
  10. Whoever invented Frogger probably tried to cross the road here (left) when the idea came. That inventor might also not have had the assist from the local that I got: after watching me for a couple of minutes look apprehensively in the direction of oncoming traffic, a man mid 60's, full beard and skull cap, live duck upside down in his right hand, took his left hand, placed it on my forearm and said "Wait." And then he got on the traffic side of me and said "Come." I waited and I went, and he and his duck went off wherever they were going once I was safely across. Without his help, I'd likely still be there. (And just when I'd thought I had mastered crossing the roads here, too.)
  11. Bengladeshis tend not to smile for photos. They can be beaming but once you aim your camera at them they often pull a serious face. The boy that was sure-footedly piloting our boat (that's the rudder on top of his foot) through the mouths of the Ganges for much of the day Sunday, incessantly wearing a big, toothy smile, would consistently look like this when I'd pull the camera out (right). He laughed as soon as I snapped it. (Looking back he may have just been having some sport with me. Fair enough. He was awesome.)
  12. Bus stops are sorta wherever the driver wants to slow down enough so you can hop on. You'll have better luck in numbers, it seems; even on busy highways buses will pull over and slow down if there are three or four people waiting. And notice I didn't say "stop" - they usually don't.
  13. Always have "small money" or 100 taka notes or smaller. No one can break a 500 taka note (about $6.50) - not at the domestic terminal at the airport, not at the coffee shop, not at the corner mini mart. In Japan I'd walk into a 7-11 and buy a pack of gum with the equivalent of a hundred dollar bill and they wouldn't bat an eye; here, get small money whenever you can.
  14. ATMs let you withdraw sums in 100 t increments. Always either go up 400 or down 100 so you have some walking around money.
  15. Dang, do I wish it would rain. This air could use a scrubbing.

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