Saturday, August 09, 2003

Day Three In Dhaka: A Retroactive Itinerary.

8:30: Breakfast. Three tiny cups of coffee with hot milk (about half of my usual 20 ounce morning ritual), roasted potatoes, runny scrambled eggs. Once again I avoid the strange sausages and curries on the buffet line. Once again Henry is the last to arrive, although he looks the most conscious and coherent for it.

9:30: Travel to the Aga Khan school. George arrives in the school van to bring us to the school for a morning of lab-checking and furniture moving. He advises seatbelts, but the van has none.

10:00 – 12:00: Prep work at the school. The computer teacher slash school IT tech helps us set our laptops up on the Internet and the LAN, each of which has its own IP address and Ethernet cable – which means we cannot be on both at once, a situation none of us anticipated. Also unanticipated: there will be fifty teachers attending our workshop rather than the expected 35; at least two of the teachers will not arrive until midway through our first day; only two lab computers can be connected to the Internet. Luckily, all computers can communicate through the local network at once. Azra and I decide to use NetMeeting rather than AIM to teach chat, although without the ability to connect our students to the ‘net in groups, it looks like teaching email and forum use will have to be lecture-oriented and theory-heavy.

12:00: Travel with George back to the Hotel to pick up Patricia, who has just arrived from Kenya sans luggage.

12:30 – 5:30: Adventures with George:
  • Lunch at the Canadian Club, a walled-in-the-midst-of-chaos country-club haven for the 75 Canadian ex-pats who live in and around Dhaka. Burgers, fries, and perhaps the only beers in all of Dhaka in a beautiful courtyard overlooking the pool, tennis courts, and children’s play area. The two-acre oasis is essentially empty save for “Bernie,” a television-watching fellow who turns out to be the director of one of the largest shoe companies in all of Asia and Africa.
  • Pants shopping for Henry, who packed only shorts despite clear indication in every guidebook that shorts just “aren’t worn” in this conservative country, at an upscale and heavily-guarded men’s store not far from the hotel. Henry decides on two pairs of linen pants which we then rush to a tailor for emergency hemming. I proudly restrain myself from buying everything in the store despite the fact that these beautiful high-end clothes are just my kind of duds, and really do cost less than a quarter of what they’d cost at home.
  • High-end women’s clothing stores for local garb for Patricia, although Azra and I decide to do our shopping later, possibly at somewhere less artsy. George and I make fun of the clothing styles and colors while the women shop and Henry meanders – I think his ADD may be even worse than mine.
  • A supermarket, as hotel mini-bar water is getting pricey and fast. George buys 5 kilos of green lemons for about half a dollar; his house boy, he says, makes the best lemonade. Henry, a bottomless pit when it comes to eating, buys coke and a huge bag of roasted chick peas he later describes, after eating the entire bag over the course of an afternoon, as bland and hardly worth it. Azra buys cookies and a bag of Lays potato chips, made in America but costing about three times more than the local Stop and Shop at home. Patricia, new to the group, buys water and a few light snacks. I take pictures of weird fruit: custard apples, lumpy mangoes, sugar cane bundles and other unknowns and unfamiliars. Then I get scolded for taking pictures, which are not allowed. George, smiling, happily scolds back – if you can’t take photos, where’s the sign? – ultimately cowing the meek store employees into a vague and impotent frustration. I’m liking George more and more.
  • One of Bernie’s shoe stores – Patricia needs sandals, too. Shoes as cheap as clothes, relatively speaking, and much better made. Thanks, Bernie.
  • A mixed high-end mall of identical pearl necklace shops, art galleries, bakeries, and 80-year-old brass ship’s artifacts rescued from decommissioned British sailing vessels, now sporting a bright polished sheen. Nothing purchased; this leg of the trip being mostly a way of killing time while Henry is driven to the tailors to pick up his already-hemmed linen pants.

5:30 – 7:00 Wandering with Azra. Still unclear how, but it seems every time we walk from the hotel to the main street nearby we come out on a different block of the same main street. This time, we manage to find a mall whose second floor was teeming with tiny one-room internet cafes, all blessedly air-conditioned. The difference in speed between them is astounding – the first place we try, a brand new place with a grand opening offer too good to pass up is clean and cool, but our free 30 minute “trial” nets us barely an email message apiece; the next place down the line, however, offers a broadband connection strong enough for me to show Azra the blog, whereupon we immediately decide to incorporate them back into the workshop somehow after dropping them weeks ago out of time concerns. More sari shopping afterwards – the wedding saris are especially beautiful, although 10 thousand taka seems a bit steep for a spousal birthday present, no matter how nice Darcie might look in that deep red color.

7:00: Phone home – eventually. The phone system here is a bit inconsistent, as the lines overseas are always busy; it takes over half an hour to get Darcie on the other line for a happy birthday call. Call eminently worth it, even at 230 taka – about 4 dollars – a minute. Willow says “hi” and “bye bye!” Darcie says “I love you.” All is well with the world, if a bit teary-eyed when I hang up the phone.

8:00: Italian buffet with Azra and Henry. Finally, something familiar! Well, almost familiar: the mutton lasagna is excellent nonetheless.

9:00 – 10:30: Last-minute curriculum review with Henry and Azra. Tiredness abounds. We joke about sending Henry out for pizza while Azra and I work tomorrow night on our next-day curriculum. After three days of intense work together, pizza is funny.

11:00: Blog, looking forward to exhausted sleep.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:04 PM |

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