September 1, 2003
Its 11:00 P.M. here, meaning its about 1 in the afternoon at home. Okay, here’s my temporary address for everyone who wants it (send me stuff!!) (subliminal message):
Attn: Adam Kaswiner (me)
Uttara Model Town, Dhaka 1230
I’d send postcards, but, well, Bangladesh doesn’t seem to have those. Its kinda like the Lonely Planet Bangladesh tour book I have, with a rickshaw seat on the cover. There isnt a whole lot that people would really want on postcards here, so its probably for the best that I havent found any.
Wendesday we’re going on site visits to stay with current volunteers (we are still just trainees). It should be fun and nice to get away from Shavar, just because things arent all that exciting around here. I am starting to get into somewhat of a routine, with working out, school (that’s what we call it, and esentially what it is), eating, etc. Someone asked me about my water situation. My family boils my water then puts it in a filter we are given by the PC. Good stuff. I don’t know if I have any funny quotes right now. But I have heard some pretty humorous stuff from other people im here with. This girl Sarah who lives next door to me (I think we are the only people who are actually ‘neighbors’, everyone else is pretty spread out, and this has really worked out well, shes really cool). Anyways, the showers here are freezing, b/c its just rain and well water, so yeah, cold. She said something to the extent of, “I think I even sweat in the showers here.” Then someone else had their name & dahl in a big heart on their notebook. We get a lot of dahl. And a lot of rice. And the power is out right now, so im somewhat delaying going to sleep b/c its pretty warm, and the fan helps me go to sleep. I don’t actually use a blanket, just my lunghi, which is like the male skirt thing here. We were given those by the PC too. They give us a lot of stuff. I don’t really wear mine, cus I just wear shorts around the house (my host dad on the other hand, hes always in a lunghi). They are actually pretty comfortable, they are kind of like ‘after-work wear’, unless you are lower class, then you just wear them all the time. So I use mine for a blanket, b/c I need something , and pretty much everything else is too heavy.
A lot of people are getting tired of the food, but I really don’t mind it. Hopefully ill include some pictures in this e-mail, but I cant promise anything. Except that. And that. And that. Okay, that’s enough. We got cell phones too, I think I told you that though. You plural. Ahh, random tangents. Going back to the food thing; I like it. We had beef tonite. It was spicy as all hell, which wasn’t incredlby pleasant, but im beginning to get somewhat used to it. Last night I ate a chilli by mistake and my family was dying laughing b/c of the faces and sounds I was making. You can probably imagine it. Then my host mom tried to give me sugar to neutralize the taste of burning, but she kept pouring it and it just went all over me. Ahh, power. That’s my cue to exit…for now.
September 6, 2003
On a bus returning fom my site visit to Dinajpur right now. We went down, or actually up, seeing as its North of Shavar, on Wendesday morning, and now its Satuday. It was a really good trip, not only b/c it got us away from Shavar, out of the routine which can be pretty bland day in and day out, but also b/c it really gave me some insight into what it will be like when Im off on my own, which is really how most of my time will be spent in my two years hee. It really helped me feel reassured about being here; not that Ive really been doubting anything, but rather, these last few days showed me what my life will be like over the long haul. This bus is incredibly bumpy. Im listening to Simon and Garfunkel greatest hits, a nice mellow mix, in complete contrast to this insanity on the road. I really cant convey the driving techniques here, if there are any. Its somewhat like a constant game of chicken, who will move first. There seems to be no problem driving on either side of the road, but you have right of way on the left side.
So lets see what we did on this little trip. It was me and two girls from my group, and we went to stay with this kid Scott, who has been here for a year now. Hes called a B4, because hes in the fourth Bangladesh group. Im a B6. They bring in a new group every 6 months. The bus ride was about 7hours, including a stop and traffic. Exciting, huh? I slept most of the way, much to the amazement of my companions, who were kept up by the constant honking and traffic induced teror. We met up with Scott, and went out to dinner at some Chinese food restaurant - Chinese food simply means not Bengali food; we were all kind of ithcing for something wihout dahl. Then we kinda just chilled, hung out, good stuff. The next day we kinda took it slow too. I made french toast for everyone in the morning, it was really nice going into someones kitchen where you wouldn’t be observed by three people as you cooked (like I am with my host family). Cooking tends to be very theraputic for me, so this was really nice. We didn’t really do much. Oh wait. We went to an internet café. Just checked some stuff. Slowest computers ever. 4 computers attached to one dial up connection. Wonderful. We kinda walked around this guy’s town a bit, saw what another place was like, what a potential site would be like. Talked about what he does on a daily basis, teaching, etc. His site is SO much nicer than where we are (Shavar). Very few cars = less pollution and less honking ‡ the worst things EVER. But the sceney there was goregous. I knew there would be things worth seeing, it just takes a little time and effort to find them.
Later that day we went to this lake, where we went swimming, which was basically tuned into a show for about 20 Bangladeshis. This became even more of an issue the next day. Yeah, yesterday was the one really worth describing. We went out to this Hindi temple, which is one of the great sites in this country. It was amazing. The detail rivaled stuff in Rome. But the best part, is its just in the middle of nowhere. Anyone who has ever been to Europe always says they wish they could see amazing things, without all the annoyance of other tourists and people selling crap. Well, that was basically this place. There was nothing exccept thatched roofed cottages (TROGDOR!!), palm trees, fields of banana trees, and a few people. No cars, some rickshaws, just amazing. Oh yeah, to get to the temple we had to cross a really small river in this basically handmade boat. So cool. And it didn’t sink. This was really ideal Bangladesh. After seeing the temple, which by the way, is made up of 10,000 tiles, each with a unique engraving, and each side reperesnting a different age in Hindi religion time. So afterwads we went back to that river and went swimming again. There was a nice little current, and the water temp was perfect, a little cool, which was nice b/c it was so hot outside. We swam futily against the current a bit, I just dug my feet into the sand underneath, and leaned against the current, defying gravity by leaning at 45 degree angles wihtout holding onto anything.
Then we hopped on a rickshaw van, basically a rickshaw with a big wooden thing on the back, so a bunch of people or stuff can be put on it. All fou of us rode back, then took the bus back to Danijpu. Then came the highlight of my day. I had been wanting to get a drum, so I could have some creative outlet that didn’t require too much thinking, but I had failed in all attempts so far. But Scott took me to a really cool place where I got a drum (its part of a setup with one more drum, you play this one with the right hand, the other with the left). It was 600 taka, which is 10 dollars, and its all handmade and really cool. Its very different than most drums ive ever seen. Kinda hard to describe, but basically you can make about a billion different sounds on it. Im gonna play it every day.
I think its called a TAMba. Phonetically spelled there. Ill get the other one in time, but one is good for now. So I got my drum, we went back, cooked up some dinner, and watched the Two Towers on my computer. Now Im on my way back to my host family, get back to some more Bengali cuisine. Everyone else seems to be getting tired of it, but I really like it. Its fun to eat, and as long as I get some kind of varriety in the vegetables (shoapji) or meat (mongsho) Im happy. Even with rice and dahl everyday. By the way, if some of my words are missing “r’s, its b/c I have to hit that key really hard, and sometimes I don’t notice when it doesn’t come up. So that’s that.
Im ready to get back to my host fam, and continue to develop my Bangla. This next week should be pretty intense, but Ill be alright. Ive had a lot of nice breaks, with the hartal last week (the strike) and this week the site visit. Also, the night before I left last week, I got to go with 7 other people for dinner at my country directors house in Gulshon, which is a really nice area of Dhaka. He and his wife were volunteers long ago (they are pretty old), and their daughter was a volunteer. A different group goes to their house every week. She made meatloaf, potato wedges, green beans. IT was nice having a taste of food from home, but it was weird using silverware and napkins. And sit down toilets. Etc.
Okay, that was supposed to be the last day, but I just havent had a chance to go to Shavar, where the internet café is, hence I havent sent any e-mail. See, that’s causality. Or something like that. I feel like Im getting eaten alive by bugs right now for some reason. I don’t really have anything too exciting to wite about right now, but I just really don’t feel like studying. Probably should, but my brain is exhausted. Long days of language, training, heat, seeing the same 40 people day in, day out. But its all good, Im just a little drained. This has been a pretty intense week, just getting back into the routine after the site visits. Just got my first Bangladeshi haircut. Def an expeience. About 2 minutes into it the power goes out so I just sit there with all of these guys talking to me and me understanding very little of what they are talking about. My host brother took me, and they actually did a pretty good job. Its kinda weird having my hair cut with a real razor to clean up the back and sides. Never really experienced that before. Wanted to get a shave too, but Shubo (my host brother) didn’t think it was such a good idea, for reasons I wont get into so I don’t uncessarily worry anyone (Grandma, ahem). I should probably study a little bit at least tonite, so I probably wont write much more. I don’t think Ill get to send this till I go to Dhaka on Thursday (hopefully), so Ill write more tomorrow. Today is Tuesday. Or Mongelbar. But now imagine that word in completely different letters that make no sense. Yeah, that’s my life. I actually like the language though. Im doing pretty well, just need to keep practicing. Oh, something kinda cool. Satruday we start “model school”, which is basically a practice three weeks of teaching, using people from the community who want to be taught by white people AKA bideshis (I get that one a lot), meaning foreigner. So that should be interesting. Model school that is. We teach with a partner on a topic of our choice. Im doing foods. I know a little bit about that. So Ill keep you updated on how that goes. Alright, johesto (enough).
Trying not to get hit by a car in Shavar,