Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Battling Bangladesh

There are a number of battles here: climate, traffic, the dense population, politics, economics, and who knows what other battles go on.

The climate is hard if you don't like heat and humidity, but even if you do, and you're from here, you might be a farmer losing your crops to the severe flooding that has plagued a number of regions in this tiny but densely packed country. My flight made a stopover in Sylhet in the north (by the way, I've been advised never to fly Biman Bangladesh again for a variety of reasons! haha), and flying into the city, I couldn't figure out how there could be a city there, much less a runway--or even how anyone found enough dry land to live on because there was so much water. I know that there is lots of rice grown here, but people still need to sleep on something dry so they have enough strength to harvest it! To the north of Sylhet are some beautiful hills, and a wide river with silt and sand spreads out into these floodplains, if indeed, that's what they are. A lot of really well-to-do looking British citizens of Bangladeshi heritage got off here in Sylhet, which surprised me. I thought for sure they would be headed to Dhaka. Again, not much land to live on here, so I was surprised this was their destination. I've been told that there are lots of ties between this city and England and that a lot of the students from this city will go to do their higher studies in the UK. I'm not sure what the historical relationship is, but it's worth finding out.
It's not surprising to me that there have been predictions of Bangladesh slipping completely under water and climate change raises ocean levels. Where will these millions of people in the most densely populated country in the world go? Who will take them, or will it just be the rich that get out, and the rest drown because they were born poor? It's not a pleasant thought, and the prospect brings tears to my eyes.

Upon arrival at the airport, I had to wait a bit as I had opted to do the visa on arrival. I wish more countries would have this, although I suppose it would mean longer line-ups and waiting, as opposed to just sending in everything to an Embassy or Consulate and then having them send it back to you. No line-ups there, except for at the post office where you need to buy your courier envelopes. There were some Chinese travellers ahead of it, but they were at least all in one group, so that helped in a way because it wasn't a separate application process for each one. By the time I sifted through that, I thought for sure my luggage would be waiting for me. I'm sure I had taken at least 45 minutes to come out from immigration by the time all the processing was through. When I got to the baggage claim belt, it wasn't even moving, and luggage was yet to surface! I probably waited at least 15 minutes more. A young guy waiting near me said "Finally", when the conveyer belt started moving, "you have to wait at least an hour for the luggage to come out. So frustrating, but still we come!" I guess he was a local that had moved away, but it gave me a chuckle. The weird part is that once it started coming, it was so sparse. They emptied 3 separate truck loads, and the luggage came out so slowly. Finally mine came, and I was on my way to meet the hotel shuttle waiting for me.

When I met the hotel shuttle greeter, he told me we would have to wait a bit before we leave because of the hartal. Did I mention that yet, that there was a strong possibility there would be violent protests known as hartal upon my arrival? That was just great timing. The last few trips I've taken, some sort of natural disaster occurred. In light of there not being one this trip, I guess I had to have a man-made disaster of a sort. Thankfully it was short-lived, and I could accomplish the rest of my work tasks here, but things were looking pretty iffy at one point. Our shuttle couldn't arrive too soon--as we neared the hotel, a group of protesters were making their way down the road, and if we had arrived even a minute later, we might have had to wait for the parade to pass before we were able to even get into the hotel. I was thankful we could get in right away. I had already been travelling for nearly 29 hours by the time we reached the hotel. There were threats of it happening again two days after I arrived, but I'm glad it didn't end up coming to fruition. Once was enough for me!

One of the things I love about Dhaka is the colourful decoration of the rickshaws. I saw a great book on them at one of the school libraries a couple of years ago, and unfortunately I can't find anything like it at home. The book must have been a local publication. I was so disappointed. They're much prettier than anywhere else I've seen them, so I wanted to have some sort of keepsake with them. Oh well! I was able to get a somewhat decent photo of some of them. I took another couple of random street shots, one of which was to highlight what the buses look like there. Most of them look like they will fall apart at any moment and look like pieces of scrap metal welded together. One of the colleagues I was with told me they might be made from re-purposed ship materials as there was a huge shipping industry there, so we're not sure. Only we agreed that the buses looked frightening.

One thing I really wish is that I could speak the local language so I could go out and do more things. It's not really a tourist location by any means, so it's difficult to get around, and a person could probably get lost easily in such a large, populated, chaotic place. I don't really feel like I've got to know the country or the city. I just stay there and work. I'm in India now. I arrived this evening, but I already can't wait to get back home again. Even in India, I'm in some new cities, and even now being in Kolkata, though I've been here before, I still won't really have time to see anything, I don't think. It's all work and no fun!


  1. I love Bangladesh! Dhaka is a crazy, chaotic, hot, dirty, noisy city but it stole my heart!

  2. I agree. There's something attractive about it. That's why I wish I could spend more time there. I'll bet there are some great textiles markets that I would fall in love with.