Up early this morning…the jet lag benefitted me last night by sending me to sleep at 10:30pm. Like a normal person.
I was up at 6am as a result and well rested. Took my breakfast downstairs and had the following: rice kanji, small pancakes, baked beans, chicken korma, instant coffee.
Bangladeshis don’t seem to be big coffee fans. Even in the office where the engineers work, it’s tea. There is instant coffee there, I suppose, in case someone like me shows up. Though I did revise this opinion later in the day when we visited a nice coffee shop (owned by Americans of course). But this type of establishment is not the norm. Tea stalls are.
Anyway, that may be an adaptation I need to consider.
News today out of the States: Hurricane Matthew is lumbering through the southeast. It seems very distant. I’ve not used the TV in my room and don’t plan to. Trump said something. Don't care.
My writing is picking up and the quietude of this place, the Nascent Gardenia, is washing over me. I feel at peace and the anxiety I was wrestling with has ebbed.
Anyway, later today, around noon, my boss and his wife fetched me from my appointed quarters and took me sightseeing. We went first to an artisan shop, very fair trade and high end. It was pretty amazing. Lots of handicrafts and specially made clothes (dyed with plants), etc.. Then we dove into lunch at the Chittagong Bull (Gulshan). Ok, if you are at all a fan of deeply complex spicy food, go there when in Dhaka. And if there is such a thing as Bangladeshi bbq (with a slow smoked meat with a bark on it), this is it. And my god, the flavors. Unlike any Indian food I'd ever had. It was unique. We enjoyed the bbq meat, beef liver in spicy gravy, rice and lentils, and a cucumber and onion salad (very typical). Along with freshly made naan where I watched the dough being handmade and stuck to the side of the pit oven to char. Incredible. They were worried it would be too spicy for me. In fact my boss' boss called and worried over the phone I had been taken to this restaurant.
No. No worries. I love hot, hot food. I'm not happy until I crawl out of there on my hands and knees with an endorphin high, quite frankly.
Spice notes so far: mustard oil, green chiles, garam masala, corriander, cumin, cilantro, tumeric. Keep it coming Dhaka!
Then we went to an upscale coffee shop (these are few and far between) and we enjoyed good beans and conversation and then eventually my driver dropped them off at a relatives home in Gulshan. But not before my boss needed us to pull over to a tea stand to buy two cigarettes. While he transacted this, I couldn't help but notice the old woman running the little stand with her jars of milk and sugar and so forth also had a special jar for bees and flies. They were swarming in there. She had put something in there so they wouldn't get into anything else. It was mesmerizing to watch.
Later, after going back to the hotel to rest, I summoned the driver...who by the way, just sits in the car for hours waiting for me to call. It's a bit unsettling. He speaks little English (actually, none) and I feel terrible about getting into the car after I've rested, etc.. I asked him if he'd eaten with pantomimes to underscore what I was asking. He just smiled and nodded.
Anyway, went to this festival today: Durga Puja. It's apparently THE biggest holiday/celebration for Hindus in Bangladesh for the whole year. A celebration of power. And it's complex. You can look it up. However, they built this temporary temple for it last week and it looks real. I had the driver drop me across the street and did my first Dhaka street crossing. No small task, really. But you just give over to fate and go with it. Stroll casually into the path of oncoming everything with the knowledge it will probably be fine.
The festival was really incredible, lots of ritual and lavish incense burning on the stage. Everyone there was completely tripped out by my presence. A Hindu woman dotted my forehead and three men painted my hand with something I don't understand, but admired.
Two boys standing in front of me were fanning me (it was hot) while I admired the ritural. Everyone smiled at me or expressed complete confusion. Seeing a western woman (or a Westerner) alone in Dhaka is just NOT a usual sight. I was the only Westerner there. And I felt so lucky.
Side fun note: the hotel nearby that had the "D" burned out of its neon sign. Which read "Hotel Sweet _Ream". Yeah.
Later I tried to go to see some folk music, but was out of taka (the local money) and cut myself on the bathroom door trying to make it out. The local ATMs weren't trustworthy of dispensing fraud free cash, so I pointed the driver (in pantomime and repeatedly saying the name) to the Westin Hotel. Where there I enjoyed a good buffet and a poolside bar. I will admit to taking comfort among Westerners for two hours there and enjoying it. Then I got the driver back out from the parking lot and had him take me to my hotel (no bar).
I'm exhausted, but have been writing and winding down. A full day. A good day in Dhaka.